It would be easy to dismiss THQ's rhythm game Battle of the Bands as just the first in what will undoubtedly be a long line of Guitar Hero and Rock Band rip-offs (a rather ironic claim, given how much Guitar Hero resembles Konami's six-years-older Guitar Freaks, but whatever). That is, until you realize Battle, in a weird way, owes as much to Mortal Kombat as it does either of those musical games. At least that's how it sounded when we talked to Aaron Loeb, the CEO of Planet Moon Studios and the executive producer of this upcoming Wii game.
Crispy Gamer: So what is Battle of the Bands and how do you play it?
Aaron Loeb: Battle of the Bands is probably the world's first rhythm fighting game. It was actually built from the ground up to be a fighting game with rhythm. By using the Wii remote to gesture rhythmically, you order two bands to fight each other in the ultimate Battle of the Bands. Each band takes on a musical style, such as rock or country, and the band that is dominant actually controls how the song is being played. For example, if you pit a rock band against a mariachi band, and the mariachi band is winning, you'll hear the mariachi version of the song, but if the rock band is winning, you'll hear the rock version of the song.
Crispy Gamer: Did you get the original versions of the songs, or did you find some extremely versatile studio band do multiple versions of each song?
Loeb: We had a cover band do all but one song. We got a new song from B Real of Cypress Hill called "Fist Full of Dollars," which is from his new album.
Crispy Gamer: Some people are going to say this is just a rip-off of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. How do you respond?
Loeb: Well, looking at it, it does look like a similar game, but it's actually very different. For one, it's about physical gestures, rather than pressing buttons on an instrument-shaped controller, so it feels very different. It's also more about combat than about hitting the right notes at the right time. You can miss notes in this game and it's okay. It's about dominating the other band. It's always a head-to-head game, whether against a friend or the computer. You have special attacks, which you can use to mess up your opponent, so if you are better at using your special attacks, and are better at blocking his special attacks, which you can do, you'll beat someone even if they get 100-percent accuracy. So this is as different from Rock Band and Guitar Hero as Medal of Honor< is from Halo: Sure, they're both first-person shooters, but that's a very simplistic way of looking at them.
Crispy Gamer: How many songs will be in the game at launch?
Loeb: There are thirty tracks in the games, but there are five completely different versions of each one: a rock one, a country one, a mariachi one, a marching band one and a hip-hop one.
Crispy Gamer: Are there plans to add more songs via download later?
Loeb: No, since there's no support for online in the game.
Crispy Gamer: Is that true for multiplayer, as well?
Loeb: Yes, there is no online multiplayer.
Crispy Gamer: The look of the bands is very cartoonish. Did you also include a cartoony version of B Real?
Loeb: No! Dammit, we should've done that!
Crispy Gamer: Who do you think will like this game more: Guitar Hero freaks or Rock Band obsessives?
Loeb: I think Rock Band obsessives, because it's a very social game. I also don't think Guitar Hero fans are playing that game slavishly because of the parts where you face off against other people.