They promised, and it’s true: either game can be played with either drumset.
However, “compatibility” doesn’t mean you’ll get a good drumming experience out of it. MTV’s gaming blog has a nice writeup on both scenarios:
- Using the “Guitar Hero: World Tour” drums in “Rock Band 2”
- Using the “Rock Band 2” drums in “Guitar Hero: World Tour”
First, you should know that the GH:WT drums are now the easiest way to use a real electronic drumkit in either game, if that’s what you’re into. Reldan explains:
The GH:WT drums have a MIDI In on the back. If you plug a device that outputs MIDI into the drums, you can trigger the different pads by sending the MIDI signals I outlined above.
Probably the two most common ways you’d do this would be with a keyboard (the musical kind) or a real electronic drum set.
Considering that Harmonix didn’t include this feature on their RB2 drums and instead opted to try and push that Ion Drum Rocker wannabe set, Activision’s set now provides an easy way to just take any real e-drum set and use it to play RB. If you consider that previously the only way to do this was to tear apart a RB drum set, add about $100 worth of parts, and then spend a couple hours doing some careful soldering (and praying you don’t destroy anything), this is a real boon for people looking to take the drums to the next level, even if you’re a RB fan and couldn’t care less about GH:WT.
Apparently the MIDI mappings are as follows:
I now own both the RB2 drums and the GH:WT drums so I can compare the two directly. As you can see, there’s a reasonable correlation with the stock Rock Band drums. Red to Red, Yellow to Yellow, Blue to Blue, Green to Green.
The one catch is that yellow is always a cymbal on the GH:WT drums, whereas in actual Rock Band gameplay yellow can be either a cymbal or a tom drum, depending on what the particular song needs at any given moment.
Although I love the GH:WT drums, I’m not so sure the 3 pads / 2 cymbals layout is a great idea. With the 4 pad Rock Band drums, the 4 pads can be redefined to play whatever the song needs at any given moment. With the GH:WT drums, 3 notes are always locked to the drums and 2 are always locked to the cymbals.
|Rock Band Drums||Guitar Hero Drums|
|Red||always snare drum||always snare drum|
|Yellow||tom drum or hi-hat cymbal||always hi-hat cymbal|
|Blue||tom drum or splash cymbal||always tom drum|
|Green||tom drum or crash cymbal||always tom drum|
|Orange||always crash cymbal|
Note that Guitar Hero: World Tour incorporates a four-pad note compression mode when playing GH:WT with the Rock Band drums. This means that the GH:WT drumkit orange cymbal hit is translated into a RB drumkit green pad hit — and as you can see from the chart, that’s perfectly equivalent.
The five-note “native” GH:WT drum charts are a bit problematic to me, and counterintuitively seem less flexible overall than the four-note RB drum charts, despite the GH:WT drums having an additional input. Reldan, as before, explains it better than I can:
Here’s a few of the issues I have with the 5-pad charts.
- Open/closed hi-hats. In RB these would be charted with closed hits on Yellow and the occasional open hit as Blue. In GH they don’t differentiate at all so it’s just charted as straight Yellow notes (See Living on a Prayer in both games for an example of this). This is an oversimplification; they are leaving stuff out of the Expert charts as a result. In RB they could use both Y and B for the hi-hat and have G be the crash, and they don’t have that option in GH.
- Only two toms. There are numerous examples of drum fill patterns that use Yellow, Blue, and Green toms in RB. In GH from what I’ve seen they chart what would have been Yellow in RB as Blue, and what would have been Blue and Green in RB as just Green in GH. Again this oversimplifies the Expert chart. I’m trying to imagine, for example, what the intro to Enter Sandman would look like in GH. They pretty much nailed it in RB but it would look quite off in GH.
Frankly, the most basic rock drumset is a snare, 3 toms, and 3 cymbals (hihat, ride, and crash). What the GH:WT set is is a jazz drumset – a snare, 2 toms, and 2 cymbals (hi-hat and crash/ride). I’m sure they could perfectly chart jazz drumming, but it doesn’t capture rock drumming very well at all.
While I am not sold on the overall layout of the GH:WT drums, I am a huge fan of the fake plastic cymbals they introduced me to! I’m starting to think the ideal fake plastic drumkit is the Rock Band 2 kit with the optional Rock Band 2 cymbals installed:
This gives you the best of both worlds — four pads and three cymbals (and of course the standard kick drum pedal). I have a very strong suspicion that these cymbal add-ons are preludes to something that will come as a standard feature of the Rock Band 3 drums.
Now that Rock Band 2 drums officially support add-on cymbals, all that’s needed is a configuration option in Rock Band to send alternate note gems down the green, blue, and yellow channels to distinguish between drum and cymbal hits on-screen. Making this an option means people without cymbals would get the same excellent gameplay experience. But those with cymbals get an optimal fake plastic drumming experience — they’d have to hit the “correct” cymbal or pad respectively, matching the drum note played in the song.