We decided to get me an early birthday present today. I wasn't sure if I was going to get Guitar Hero or Rock Band. I wanted to be able to play with Solstice, who has Guitar Hero, and the Rock Band guitar doesn't work with Guitar Hero, so I thought Guitar Hero would be my first pick (and maybe pick up Rock Band at a later date, perhaps splitting the cost with Solstice or something). On the other hand, Rock Band comes with more instruments, which would mean my two boys would get to play with me — although it only comes with one guitar, and the cost of a second guitar is almost as much as the cost of Guitar Hero bundled with a guitar.
Although I was going to take my Best Buy 10% off coupon and pick one up, I checked the fine print: "Excludes new release DVDs, Power Price items, video game accessories and video game hardware; Guitar Hero bundles and accessories; Rock Band bundles and accessories." As it turns out, Sam's Club carries the games at prices more than 10% less than Best Buy anyway. And, since Sam's Club's inventory is often like a box of chocolates, I suspected perhaps that would decide which game I got today.
Turned out, I was right. Sam's Club only had the 360 version of Guitar Hero III (with "X-plorer" wired guitar), not Rock Band (full set, although they did have the game and the drum kit separately, which I think is more expensive than the full set right there). So that's what I got.
When we went to Wal-Mart, though, my wife saw Rock Band, and she actually pressured me a bit to get it, because she figured the kids would enjoy it. I couldn't deny they'd probably love banging on the drums, or that they wouldn't give me a moment's peace anyway if I didn't constantly let them have a turn on the axe. So yes, we ended up getting that, too.
In the end, I'm very glad we got both. My oldest son and I played Rock Band most of the day. (My next oldest isn't quite old enough to get rhythm down yet.) He first tried the drums. He went through the tutorials and was doing fairly well, until it started to put three things together. He's still just a little too young to get both hands and a foot to coordinate. (So that job went to the second son, who of course didn't fare any better in the actual game but has a lot of fun with the controller unplugged just banging the drums along with us.) He next tried singing, at which he did very well, especially considering his age. (Heck, I tried singing later, and I don't think I did that much better, honestly.) I give a lot of credit to how they implemented singing in this game, where you sing along with the band and you are shown the pitch you're actually singing in relation to what is expected, so you know how to correct it. (And credit to my boy for doing pretty well with the talent God gave him.)
Finally, though, he tried the guitar, and that's where he ended up having the most fun. And because we had two guitars, he could play along with me. We played most of the time, me playing lead guitar on medium, him playing bass on easy, and we were doing really well, even getting a couple 5-star scores.
So perhaps it was a bit of an indulgence getting both games, but I really think it worked out for the best. (Although we still can only use one guitar with Guitar Hero, which is too bad.)
Later, after the boys went to bed, Solstice came over with his X-plorer to jam with the new games. We started out with Guitar Hero III, since I happened to have that in the 360 when he came over (getting that "complete the training mode" achievement). We played through the first few songs, since I hadn't unlocked any yet (yes, I know there's a code to unlock them all, although I don't know if it was deactivated with the latest patch that fixed some of the other glitches — in any case, we had plenty of songs to play without going to look it up). Then we moved on to Rock Band and took turns trying out the various instruments. I had only done the guitar up until that point. I discovered that, yes, I am a bass, and no, I can't match the pitch of the singer; I do have to drop it an octave. It doesn't sound as "cool", but at least I don't get booed off stage. I also discovered that I am a lot better at the drums than I expected I would be. Not great, but hitting in the mid 80%s consistently just starting out. Solstice is a much better singer than he admits to (we'll get him singing in the church choir yet), and if he knows the song really well, he can even pull off singing and playing the guitar at the same time, which is impressive. He's more into rock music than I am, so he's more familiar with more of these tunes, which means he ends up singing most of them a lot better than I do. (So if he's a better singer, why am I in the choir and he's not? Good question... *cough* *cough* *ahem*)
I'll have to spend some time with Guitar Hero III before I do a comparison post, but it was definitely interesting when I put the Guitar Hero disc in after playing Rock Band most of the day. The mechanics of the game are almost identical, but with that much being the same, it made GH3 feel like so much less of a game than RB — and, when the tutorial in GH3 started talking about "battle mode", I almost felt like it was trying too hard to add a gimmick to make it different than "just another release of the same Guitar Hero game". But these are only first impressions. Like I implied, I really didn't get into GH3 yet, certainly not enough to get a real feel for it, and definitely not enough for me to say anything but "this is just a quick first impression; take with a generous helping of salt."