A little bit of this, a little bit of that.
When it comes down to dollars and cents, Rock Band 3 is an expensive proposition. Keyboard peripherals don't grow on trees you know and they sure aren't going to be given away for free. When all is said and done, Rock Band 3 is probably cheapest to play on the Nintendo DS.
[image1]Without all the bells and whistles of a console Rock Band game, Rock Band 3 for DS has to bank on one factor pretty heavily: portability. Frankly, rocking out while you're on the bus can get a little embarrassing. Headphones are a must with this version of Harmonix's baby. Rocking out at home in the bathroom is okay, but don't strain yourself in there.
Players can choose from a lot of different ways to play, whether they want to dedicate themselves to one instrument or perform every part in the band. Those intimately familiar with Amplitude will recognize the normal mode of play, while more hardcore rhythm game aficionados will want to embark on expert mode.
Normal mode presents the player with four tracks: bass, drums, vocals, and guitar/keyboard. You'll start out on the first track when playing a song. Completing a phrase on a track clears it for a time, so that you can move on to the next track. Normal mode enforces a constant rhythm of switching tracks and playing phrases to keep the music going. Miss a note or two on any track and you'll start falling behind all of the other tracks. You don't want to get buried underneath all four tracks at once or your score will suffer.
[image2]Expert mode contains the same four tracks and tasks you with switching between all four, but it doesn't clear the instruments after you complete a phrase. It's up to you to balance each line to maintain a perfect streak throughout the song. If you're a one-instrument kind of artist, you can stick to one track, but don't expect to be breaking any score records.
Each instrument controls exactly the same. You'll use the same four buttons no matter what track you're on. The default button scheme puts red notes on the left D-pad button and yellow notes on the up D-pad button, while X and A are responsible for green and blue notes respectively.
The DS version of Rock Band 3 has a decidedly thin playlist to choose from. 33 rock songs on the go might sound like a lot, but the tracks ultimately get stale after on a few short hours of play. If you should happen to hate any of the songs, you've already severely limited by the already limited selection.
[image3]Rounding out the experience is the ability to unlock new clothes and other customization options for your on-screen band. Without a world tour mode, Rock Band 3 for the DS has your band show up whether you're playing Play Now or doing setlists in Career Mode. These visuals are obviously limited but is a nice touch to show that Harmonix is taking the portable platform seriously when they port their game.
While it's easily better than Activision's Guitar Hero portable series, Rock Band 3 is still an unsatisfactorily small piece of software. While it doesn't hurt your hands like the Guitar Hero peripheral does, it just doesn't translate the experience of playing Rock Band 3 on Xbox 360, Wii, or PS3 that well. The throwback to Amplitude is a welcome reminder of Harmonix's more electronically themed music games, but the experience is too limited. Still, it's a fine game on the go. At least you can take your band on the road and not have to ride around in a sweaty, junkyard bound VW bus.