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Malik (1/5/09)

For better or worse, I'm now done with my vacation and my time of slacker weeks. I'm back to full time and all that...but with one exception. Today will still be a slacker half-assed post since I'm a bit out of touch with what is going on around me. Ignorance is bliss, and sadly it's time for my bliss to end.


Malik (1/7/09)

After what looked like some drama of the files not being posted to XBox Live, the new Roy Orbison Rock Band DLC did finally go online and live. This is good since I'd otherwise have nothing to really post about today.

Before I get to some complaints, I have to say these are fun songs. Then again, I grew up on these songs, so I'm always happy with something I know fairly well and enjoy. It's also nice to have another song I can handle on a not-so-plastic axe.

The songs are easy, overall. However, this isn't to say that no challenge can be found on expert guitar. While the songs are definitely much simpler than something like Chop Suey or metal or whatever, they have some nice tricks to keep them interesting. There's some quick chord changes, quick unusual shifts, and some individual notes flying across the fret board. So, if you want challenge, look away. Also, if you hate iconic music of the 60's and 50's, then you'd also be better off walking away from this one and waiting for something else. Still, it's nice to have more variety added to Rock Band, and this alone could be a good incentive to buy these tracks.

My two big complaints start with how I said I'm glad to add another song to RB that I can play in real life. Knowing the real way to play Oh Pretty Woman let's me see that the charting for the main riff (the intro, bridge, outro section) is pretty dumb. One pitch change is not represented at all (the three green in a row should only be two greens and maybe a red). More than that, the big misrepresentation is that hammer on to red. Each note in the actual riff is an individually plucked single string on a perfect eighth note tempo. No slides or hammer ons included. I can forgive this, but it's just feels wrong even if I didn't know the actual tabs. That HO or slide is just feeling out of place.

My main complaint goes deeper than the charts. It also goes beyond this pack. My main complaint has me wondering why these are listed as songs of the 1980's. Yes, these are all re-releases from the 80's, but then again it seems like Harmonix has not made a solid rule about decade placement.

First Fortunate Son (the cover, I might add) is listed as 1970. This is wrong in any way you look at it. It's a cover of a song from 1969 that was recorded (as the cover track) in 2007 or 2008 (my guess). So, the decade and year got corrected a few months back to 1969. Well, if Fortunate Son, covered and recorded in the 2000's is a 60's song then shouldn't the Roy Orbison tracks be 50's (Oobie Doobie is a song of the 50's...the first in RB for this era) and 60's (the rest of them are 60's songs)? However, in effect, Orbison covered his own tunes (in a re-recording) in the 80's. So, do these covers (even of one's own music) have two sets of rules? Apparently so.

This gets to me because it means the 60's challenges are pretty screwed to rarely, if ever, increase in size now that covers are being ignored for RB tracks. This also means that if you're in the mood for some 80's challenges you now have potentially six songs that really don't belong and break the feel of a 80's marathon.

I do have a hypothesis of why Harmonix did this. However, this guess does not mean I appreciate what they did on an enjoyment level. My thought is that Oobie Doobie may be the only 50's song we'll ever see on RB due to the "no covers" rule and how master tapes of the 50's are typically two-track recordings (no separate vocal, bass, drum, and guitar). So, it would require a new decade/era tag and a song that would not fit into marathons. Of course, a simple update could always correct this with something like changing the lack of a 50's header or making 60's into something like "60's and Older".

More than anything, I just don't dig this unestablished rule of when a track is listed as coming from since it makes for some misplaced songs in decade related challenges. I can see something like the Buffett and Devo tracks being listed as 2008, since many of them were re-done (not just re-recorded) to change the songs. For example, both Buffett and Devo added guitar solos when steel drum and synth solos were originally included. Plus, Buffett even change some lyrics ("I just want to be a couch potato, and play Rock Band every day" in Volcano). However, the basic feel of the Orbison tracks are not touched in the 80's recordings and no major changes were made. In terms of genetics (forgive me if this sounds lame...I am a molecular biologist), these songs have 99% identity (exact same DNA) and are 100% similar (no changes that change how the genes/songs are expressed) to the 50's and 60's versions. In other words, it's the same organism, so it should be a new classification. At least the Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden covers change how the vocals sound and this does make for a different experience.

Blah. Harmonix needs to establish a true set of rules for this. If for nothing else, they need it for the decade challenges.


Malik (1/8/09)

Over my long vacation (on which I am still in mourning over it's too short of a life) I played some LittleBigPlanet. My friend Tangwich (who also hooked me up with the AC/DC Track Pack for Christmas...I'll talk about that sometime in the future) had recently received a PS3. I think it was a Christmas gift or something. Anyway, he also went ahead and got LBP.

I won't go into too many details on the game itself. I could write about it for a whole week and not even scratch the surface of the user created level side of thing. Needless to say, the game blew me away in so many areas. I expected some sort of platformer, but that's all I could expect. I mean the ads for LBP don't exactly show much detail on specifics like what the hell is your objective in playing. All I knew from ads were about the levels you could make, and beyond that I knew little. I mean a console exclusive killer-app is only important if you ever think you'll have that console. I was not exactly excited about the PS3, so I thought LBP would be a one time experience.

First off, the game is awesome. It is a type of fun not seen since console makers seemed to give 2D the boot. LBP is not fully 2D, but it's damned close with only three levels of deepness (you can be in the middle, back row, or front row of the game). It also, much like the awesome Braid, only uses one main mechanic in playing; the jump button. No need for confusion or steep learning curves. You just pick up the controller and play.

After spending two different days playing LBP, I also got some firsthand exposure to Valkyria Chronicles. Once again, without going off about this awesome game I'd never even heard of before seeing it, this is a game that I didn't expect. It's a tactical RPG (think Fire Emblem, Shining Force, etc.) with some really interesting twists, like real time during a turn based game. It's hard to fully explain without going into a long ramble, but it is something unexpected if you haven't been following this game.

This is where my problem now enters. LBP is awesome. VC is awesome. Now I'm stuck in a place that usually leads to trouble. My wallet is trying hard to protect my money, but my head is trying to find a way to outsmart my wallet and get this money to buy, impulsively, a PS3. I want to fight, but reality is not helping me.

For example, with Christmas having just passed, as well as my birthday, I have a small amount of extra money. Also, with being paid, from my real world job, once each two weeks, on a Friday, I'm looking at what I call my bonus month (the month with three Friday paydays). I'm afraid to admit that I may soon be doing something I never through possible; buying one of those damned PS3. My only restraint currently is coming from the fact that there are only two games I feel I must have (that are actual PS3 exclusives). Rock Band is handled by my 360 (since my DLC and instruments are all 360 versions). GTA4 was already done on the 360 for this gamer. I think if word of another awesome game comes to the PS3, my resolve will finally be destroyed and my wallet shall, once again, lay in waste. Sigh...

On a final note for today, to end in something positive (at least for me), Harmonix says there is not going to be a new Rock Band this year. I guess you could argue, if you're inclined, that the Beatles game is another RB, but it's a tricky subject there. Anyway, I see this as good since it means a lack of forced purchases and so forth that you have to face with the Guitar Hero family of games. If I want a song, and I play RB, I always have a choice of getting it or not, and not being forced to get some extra garbage I don't want with it.

Now if only they would put out some updates to at least even things out on RB2. For example, make more randomization to the "Do you want to play an encore?" question. I already know, now, that it will be Any Way You Want It. Just like the "add a hard drum song?" always leads to Chop Suey, Lump, or Alive. Also, some new character options would be cool if it could be managed.


Malik (1/9/09)

This may be the last NFL related thing I discuss for a while, so I just want to get this out there. Favre, I'm begging you, just f#@$ing retire. I can't be the only one sick of this damned song and dance each year as the season ends. Yes, Favre, you are a great QB. You are a HoF member. There's no doubt about it. You have one of the most prolific careers of any QB to ever touch the NFL. You rank up there with all of the greats.

However, Favre, you fail to be with the greats in one important way; class. Yes, some great HoF QBs were classless asses. However, none of them have shown this audacity to, constantly, end a season with this whole "I will retire" bullshit. You have claimed to be retiring for the many damned years have it been? You completely retired last year, only to act like a spoiled brat after you surprised everyone by demanding to be back in the game. Stop it now. You would end on one hell of a high note.

You have a ring to your legacy, as well as being a QB who could turn the Jets into an awesome team (who unfortunately are in one damned strong division). You have pulled out so many amazing moves and you have a secure legacy. It's time to step back and let the next generation go at it. Actually, make that two generations since you've been doing this retirement shuffle long enough for a whole generation of QBs to come and almost go.

Favre, please, I'm begging you...just call it quits now. You own so many records that may never be beaten just from your length of service. Hell, you even own the career interception record. Maybe hitting so many milestones, including those bad ones, would teach you that you've gone on long enough.

Anyway, for Rock Band this up coming Tuesday, we will get a Lenny Kravitz 4 pack ($2/song or $7 for the pack) and two singles from Harmonix artists. There's an Honest Bob song and a track from Megasus. These each go for $1 (not bad for Honest Bob, who has always given me enjoyment in Harmonix games). Now I just wonder if/when we'll see some Freezepop in the post-RB1 world.

I would comment more on these tracks, but I don't want to. I mean I already said Honest Bob is cool with me (especially for $1). I don't know Megasus and will have to wait on that to see how it sounds. As for LK...not a fan. If the charts are good, I may look into them, but I'm not a fan of his work. Nothing against the man, since he is quite skilled, but I just don't dig his style. At least I still have a ton of good songs to play from all the other weeks of more interesting, to me, DLC. So, it's all good.

I said that last bit to show how an ideal response would be to this music versus my tastes. This is opposed to the typical internet anonymity (message boards) response of "OGM teh lamezor!1!". Really...with over 500 songs, it's fine if a week or two don't meet your desires. The only complaint I can honestly fault Harmonix for is when they hit a genre too many times in a short time frame (like the metal/nearly-metal DLC storm at the end of last summer...that was overkill). However, with the recent variety we've been getting, I say keep up the good work to Harmonix.


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