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Rock and Roll, World! It's Guitar Hero III Day!!!

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We* have just returned from the front lines of the of the cutthroat video gaming industry (okay, maybe it was just the GameStop at the Burbank mall) and I'm proud to report we have arrived home in triumph, bearing before us the brand new Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. It's here, and yes, it rocks.

There were a shaky few minutes there when the controller took a few tries to connect, but we got it all rolling within ten minutes of opening up the package. The wireless guitar for the XBOX 360 is very nice: a shiny black Gibson Les Paul. The newer guitar is more sensitive -- a gentle shake will activate Star Power, and the fingerpad is much more precise (which led to some frustration when I kept missing notes I thought I'd nailed). It doesn't take too long to get used to the new gear, and the game has plenty of amazing features.

The graphics aren't wildly different, although certainly much sharper and more colorful. For the most part, you've got the same characters to pick from, plus additions like Midori, a Japanese pop rocker (errrr?), and "Lou the Devil" -- he's one of your unlockable dudes, just one of the many great rewards you can earn. Real-life guitar heros like Tom Morello and Slash become boss characters you must face off against, or you can choose to play alongside them: "Bulls on Parade" is wicked fun, by the way, and, I kid you not, a pair of go-go dancers show up in tight black pants and wiggle their booties all over the screen.

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A few quibbles: it's harder to see your star power meter, and it's kind of annoying to take your eyes off the notes to check your status. Star Power is very sensitive, as I mentioned: and if you're like me and you like to boogey a little bit while you're playing, you may find yourself inadvertently setting off Star Power at the wrong moment.