Rock Band Unplugged for the PSP!


It seems like after several long years, the PSP is finally coming of age.  Last month, Sony released Resistance: Retribution for the PSP (read our review here).  This is one of the first games on the PSP to make extensive use of the internet, and Sony’s Playstation Network.  Sony is finally starting to flex its muscles to offer more downloadable content, too… which means there are now “legitimate” reasons to have a 16GB memory stick in your PSP.

Sony had the potential all along, but it seems like only recently are they really a serious effort to push the whole DLC thing… One can only wonder if this is a direct reaction to Nintendo’s DSi and enabling their online store.  Maybe that’s Sony’s problem: they always seem to be reactive to the industry, rather than PROactive.

To help Sony’s portable device along in their newfound online interest, Rock Band: Unplugged is coming out for the PSP.  Not only will this be the first portable Rock Band game (Nintendo DS has Guitar Hero World Tour), but it will offer a lot of downloadable content, in the way of new songs.  The new songs will integrate directly into Sony’s Playstation Store, and apparently can download new songs without leaving the game.

The game will launch in the U.S. and Europe simultaneously on June 9, 2009 and will be a PSP exclusive and cost $39.99.

It seems like everything Harmonix touches turns to gold.  There is a long and complicated history to the “guitar” games, but several developers have been handed the franchise, and some do it well, and others not so much.  The latest rivalry has been between Rock Band 2 (which is awesome), and Guitar Hero World Tour (which is not so awesome).

The Guitar genre tried to go mobile before, with Nintendo DS’s Guitar Hero: On Tour, which was rather disappointing.  Even though the game had a custom fret controller, you just missed out on the whole “guitar feel”, and the game was simply frustrating.  It could also be that GHOT was developed by Vicarious Visions, which could be the reason the game tanked.

In the press release that EA sent across the wire, it appears that there will be no custom controller for the PSP, but they say that you will get the full band experience, and that “your hands are the peripherals”.  I have absolutely no idea what that means, and I’ve been trying to contact both Harmonix and MTV games to get more details.  Looking at the gameplay video, it looks like red and yellow notes are handled from the D-pad, and the Green and blue are controlled with Triangle and Square.  The video also shows a player switching instruments in the middle of a song, probably using the shoulder buttons.  I’m not sure how this will work, but it probably won’t have the same satisfying feel as playing a “real” guitar controller.  Seriously… I expect something way better from Harmonix.

It also remains unclear of how vocals will be supported in this game, because only the most recent (and unhackable) versions of the PSP have built-in microphones.

Multiplayer support is also unclear from the press release.  Will players be able to create online bands?  Will they be able to play with others in the same room?  Since it’s not mentioned: my guess is no.

There will be a new LImited Edition Rock Band-branded PSP bundle.  The bundle will include the game, a download voucher, a 4GB Memory Stick, and a Piano Black PSP.  I’m actually disappointed to see that the pack will not have a custom color or graphic, as other PSP bundles have done.  The bundle will be available for just under $200.

From what I can gather, this is a single-player experience only.  Apparently you must master all instruments to be able to progress, so I’m thinking that you may be locked at a certain gig until you play all instruments to unlock more.  There are new modes like “World Tour”, “Band Survival”, and “Warm Up”, and of course a robust character creator.

Rock Band Unplugged with feature over 40 master-recordings, including nine exclusive songs for the PSP.  I’m not sure how the PR folks define “exclusive”, because two of the titles on this “exclusive” list were available in the Guitar Hero franchise.  The following tracks will launch exclusively through Rock Band Unplugged on the PSP system for a limited time before becoming downloadable content for the other platforms:

  • 3 Doors Down – “Kryptonite”
  • AFI – “Miss Murder” *
  • Alice in Chains – “Would?”
  • Audioslave – “Gasoline”
  • Black Tide – “Show Me the Way”
  • Blink 182 – “What’s My Age Again”
  • Freezepop – “Less Talk More Rokk” **
  • Jackson 5 – “ABC”
  • Tenacious D – “Rock Your Socks”

* Previously available in Guitar Hero 3
** Previously available in Guitar Hero 2.  This is one of the funnest songs to play in the franchise

So, I am anxiously awaiting this game so that I can answer the questions posed by some of the ambiguous lines in the press release.  Will this game totally blow everyone away, or will it just blow?

You can read the full press release right here.  You can also read our exclusive interview with the best band in the world, Freezepop, right here.

Alan is a web architect, stand-up comedian, and your friendly neighborhood Grammar Nazi. You can stalk him on the Interwebs via Google+, Facebook and follow his ass on Twitter @ocmodshop.