One of the reasons I was looking forward to Guitar Hero: World Tour is the improved drums with cymbals.
After getting a little throne time with the drums in GH:WT, I have to say that playing with cymbals does provide a much richer fake plastic drumming experience. It goes from being a 2D experience to a 3D one — you have to plan your hand movements not only left to right but up and down as well. It’s more challenging and interesting.
But that’s not all. Thanks to the GH:WT cymbals, I can now tell the difference between drum notes and cymbal notes in songs. I am embarrassed to admit that my ignorance of music performance is so profound, but I totally didn’t realize how many of the drum notes were, in fact, cymbal hits! Tons of them! As I played through song after song on GH:WT I saw that the cymbals got a heavy workout in almost every song. It was sort of a revelation to me.
(Yes, I am an idiot. A music loving idiot.)
The Rock Band 2 drumset includes three extra color-coded plugs on the rear that connect to each cymbal. This is a new feature of the RB2 drums, along with all the other new features I’ve mentioned before. I must say I am quite impressed with the RB2 drums overall; I wasn’t sure they’d be that much better than my heavily modified RB1 drums, but they really are. They’re wireless, of course, and the built-in rubberized coating works better than I expected to impove bounce and reduce noise. Naturally I transferred over my goodwood support struts to give the red and green pads the structural support they deserve.
Anyway, back to the cymbals. Here’s a video of the cymbals in action:
In short — they rock! You can buy them in packs of one ($20), two ($30) or three ($40). The only item in stock at my local EBGames was the dual cymbal kit, so that’s what I went with.
Realize, however, that the cymbals in Rock Band are totally optional — there’s no visual indication in the note chart that you should be hitting the cymbal. You can, of course, hear the cymbal when you play it in the song, and that’s your audible cue to switch to the cymbal instead of the pad. But for the purposes of playing the song, there’s no difference whatsoever between hitting, say, the blue pad, and the blue cymbal. Either will work.
One advantage of the 4-pad RB layout is that the pads can be redefined “on the fly” to fit whatever the song needs at any given moment. The Rock Band manual defines the existing 4 drum pads like so:
The red drum is your snare, the green drum is your crash, and the yellow and blue drums are your cymbals (that turn into toms during fills).
So really, the cymbals are tools for advanced drummers to make playing songs more realistic and immersive. When you hear a tom, you hit the blue pad. When you hear a cymbal, you hit the blue cymbal. (ditto for the green and yellow pads.) I know it sounds like a cop-out for gameplay but it’s totally fun! This dual-input has its advantages — you can intermix the pad and cymbal as much as you want while you’re learning which is which, until you get used to it. One easy way to start is to use the green cymbal exclusively to activate the drum overdrive activation green gem — that’s a natural cymbal crash.
Note that Rock Band 2 does treat the cymbals and pads as seperate and independent inputs. During fills and in the drum trainer modes (which, by the way, are a ton of fun if you haven’t checked them out yet), the cymbals and toms make different sounds when you hit them. And like the pads, the cymbals are pressure sensitive. Hit them harder to make a louder sound.
I think the cymbals are one area where Guitar Hero: World Tour has a clear leg up on Rock Band. If you really enjoy drumming in Rock Band, you need these add-on cymbals! They’re crazy fun. Although the Mad Catz Cymbals are a bit louder and “looser” than the fully integrated GH:WT cymbals, they offer a similarly great gameplay experience. I’d also say that having the four-pad layout with (up to) 3 cymbals offers a richer drumming experience than the oddball 3 pad / 2 cymbal arrangement of GH:WT.
(note that the cymbals are a little hard to find at the moment — there are some eBay sellers that have the cymbals, though.)
It is my hope that future versions of Rock Band will show slightly different drum “gem” notes to distinguish between the pads and cymbals. Sort of like hammer-on and pull-off notes for guitarists. The game could even enforce hitting the right input if you happen to own the cymbals. Perhaps that could be a setting in the game options, much like the GH:WT settings option to support the 4-pad RB drums.
Thanks to my new fake plastic cymbals, I now know the difference between:
- hi-hat cymbal
- splash cymbal
- crash cymbal
- tom drum
- snare drum
- kick drum
Maybe improved cymbal support is something they’ll do for Rock Band 3… hmm. How much do you want to bet that the RB3 drums include cymbals?