• Published 15th Apr 2012
  • 18,616 Views, 463 Comments

The Elements of Gaming - HellRyden



The Mane 6 get mailed an Xbox 360 from Princess Celestia for beta testing. Shenanigans ensue.

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Rock Band

Elements of Gaming 4
Rock Band

By Ryden, Xephfyre and Krimzon_Flygon

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Author’s Note: In this chapter, we would advise you to not look at the titles of the youtube videos in the hotlinks - it helps keep the suspense when you don’t know what the song is, and makes it all the more satisfying when you hear the opening riffs to your favorite rock song once you click on the link.

---

In all Equestria, few adore Princess Celestia more than Twilight Sparkle, personal student, protege and to some, admirer of the solar monarch.

Truly, there were very few times Twilight ever questioned anything the Princess sent her way, even when it seemed that the things she asked of her student were utterly baffling to the impressionable young unicorn.

With all her heart, she had always placed the utmost faith in her Princess; the entire Nightmare Moon incident served only to reaffirm her belief in her mentor’s inscrutable wisdom.

Yet sometimes, despite all the trust she placed in Princess Celestia, she found herself questioning whatever ran through her mentor’s ageless mind.

Needless to say, the numerous instruments scattered in front of her did little to help her unravel that mystery. Finding her eyes scrunched in thought, Twilight could only ponder just what manner of machine her beloved Princess Celestia had seen fit to send up Spike’s digestive system.

“Ya shure Princess Celestia sent you the right thing here, Twi? Ah don’t know nothin’ ‘bout them fancy musics y’all like over in Canterlot - ah mean, we got gitahs over at the farm, but we like our acoustics the way they are.”

“Of course it’s the right thing, Applejack.” Twilight replied confidently, stepping forward to appraise the numerous instruments before her. “Princess Celestia would never send me anything she didn’t intend for me to receive! Still... I wonder what exactly all of this is supposed to do...”

“Well, we play ‘em, duh!” In Pinkie Pie’s mind, the most obvious thing to do when faced with instruments of any sort was to play, loud. Slinging one of the guitars over her neck, Pinkie proceeded to launch straight into one of her impromptu routines.

Soon enough, she was bounding up and down Twilight’s library yelling “da-na-na-na” over and over, hooves flailing about as she playfully “strummed” the guitar.

“Whoa now, settle down there, girl.” Came Applejack’s immediate intervention, still apprehensive about anything to do with Pinkie Pie and sensitive electronic equipment. She knew all too well what happened the last time.

“C’mon guys, what pony wouldn’t want to hear my signature rock ballad?” inquired the ever-impatient Rainbow Dash. “...If I could figure out how to play my signature rock ballad.”

“Rainbow...” Applejack deadpanned. “you couldn’t play tha’ harmonica, much less a gitah, I’m ‘ssumin.”

Rainbow gave a little snort. “Oh c’mon, Applejack, ya gotta learn to fly before you can flap, did you and Rarity both miss out on elementary fillyschool?"

Twilight paused, wondering whether to correct Rainbow on her rather horrific butchering of an old pegasi proverb. Her scholar’s mind winning out, she raised a hoof to begin explaining the finer points of the cultural significance of pegasi philosophers and their tenets of wisdom.

Sensing her friend’s dilemma, Rarity quickly intervened, shaking her head furiously to indicate the universal “Rainbow Dash and sense don’t mix” sign, pleading with Twilight not to get embroiled in a battle of exposition.

“Regardless, Rainbow Dash,” the lavender unicorn began, thankfully taking heed to Rarity’s warning, “I think you’d better take it a little slower on this one - and at least try not to jump into the hardest difficulty straight on, will you?”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, I’ve learned my lesson.” Rainbow Dash waved her friend off casually. “Ain’t gonna stop me from kickin’ any less flank, though.”

“Rainbow,” Twilight interjected, hoping to nip Rainbow’s over-zealousness in the bud, “we need to figure out how any of this works before we kick anything, alright?”

“I believe we can help with that.”

Craning her head around to the source of the noise, Twilight, Rainbow Dash and Applejack found Rarity and Fluttershy deep in concentration, pouring over a small paper booklet that they deduced, had to be another one of those ‘manual’ things- if the freshly opened box was any indicator.

---

The manual’s instructions were, thankfully, idiot-proof for the better part. Dotted with helpful diagrams and clear instructions, even a certain lazy-eyed pegasus would have been able to make heads or tails of it.

For that reason, the minute Rainbow Dash volunteered to set it up, they thought even somepony of her... haphazard disposition would have little trouble with anything.

As time passed, and what was originally supposed to be a quick, simple endeavor devolved into a mish-mash of wires and a very frustrated pegasus.

Nopony knew how it had all gone so very...badly, to say the least. The connector cables were right side-wrong, the receivers strewn about, and Twilight swore the cyan pegasus had almost broken one of them by trying to plug it in! Thankfully that was a disaster quickly avoided, with the lavender mare quickly wrenching the device out from Dash’s callous hooves.

Taking the reigns from her technically-challenged friend, Twilight’s masterful supervision saw a complete turnover in no time at all. Soon, Twilight’s taskmaster skills saw the electric guitars, drums and microphone made fully functional, connected and working; even then it was still quite the challenge, considering the mess of wires Rainbow Dash had managed to create.

“Well,” Twilight panted, “I think, whew- we did it! Now it’s just a simple manner of putting in the disc and-”

At speeds that would have made even the Wonderbolts jealous, Pinkie Pie zipped past Twilight, disc apparently in mouth as she jammed her hoof down on the ‘ON’ switch, prodding it faster and faster as if to goad the machine into speeding up.

“Comeoncomeoncomeoncomeoncomeon!!!” The pink earth pony chattered excitedly as she bounded up and down, over and over on the same spot at breakneck pace. To anypony not otherwise acquainted with Ponyville’s resident party artiste, they would think her dosed up on one too many teaspoons of sugar.

“Pinkie,” yelled an incredulous Twilight Sparkle, “we haven’t even read the manual! WHAT do you think you’re-”

Flickering to life, the TV screen blazed a startling white, the stylized text “Harmonix” spelt out clearly before the now intrigued ponies, eyes riveted to the screen, expecting a vibrant kaleidoscope of color to burst out on screen any second.

Instead, all they got was a simple fade to black as the introductory logo slowly phased off-screen, eliciting a couple of surprised looks from the ponies assembled. Even Rarity, normally always prim and proper, had a rather incredulous look plastered across her features.

“That’s... it? My word, you don’t suppose they’re getting lazy, do you?”

“Sure looks that way, Imma willin’ ta bet.”

“WHAT THE HAY WAS THAT?!”

Cringing from her rainbow-maned friend’s passionate outburst, Twilight turned to reassure her friends that Princess Celestia “knew what she was doing.”

Or at least, that’s what she told herself.

Yet, before she could say a word, the screen came to life once more, vibrant colors taking the place of a once dull screen that panned out to reveal a desolate desert highway, slowly focusing in on a lone chariot barreling down the road at breakneck speed.

Straining their eyes to get a better view, everypony assembled, even the normally reserved Fluttershy, literally glued their eyes to the screen in anticipation. Soon, two stallions and a mare emerged from the speeding chariot, still in the middle of speeding down a highway.

It didn’t take long for each jaw in the room hit the floor with a resounding ‘THUD’ as one by one, the four ponies began to play a rock song.

On the chariot.

While speeding down the highway.

Demolishing their way through a ghost town.

With MUSIC.

“So... AWESOMEEEEEEEE.” Came the characteristic squeal of the Rainbow-maned pegasus as she brought her hooves up to her cheeks, squeezing them together to form an expression that Twilight could swear her mother pulled on her one too many times in her fillyhood years.

Soon, the cutscene came to a close, leaving the cyan pegasus even more excited than before, if that was even possible. Rubbing her hooves together in anticipation, her usual ‘go-time’ grin stretched from ear to ear as her eyes blazed in steely determination.

“Oh man Oh man Oh man, I can’t wait to rock somepony’s socks off!”

If Twilight didn’t know better, she would have sworn the game actually responded to Rainbow Dash’s hyperactive display, the image on screen changing in time with her words to present them with what they could only assume was another main menu.

The familiar row of options that read ‘Solo’, ‘Multiplayer’, ‘Options’, among many others, adorned the screen, overlapping what appeared to be a black-and-white video of a pony screaming into a mic on a stage, belting out lyrics to a cheering, adoring audience.

Rainbow Dash was practically jittering with anticipation now. Pinkie Pie even more so, her inner bard literally begging for a chance to stretch it’s lyrical muscles.

“C’mon, Twilight, what’re you waiting for?! Let’s get this show on the road!”

“That’s the thing, Rainbow, I don’t think-”

Apparently either hearing nothing or choosing to hear nothing that came out of Twilight’s mouth, Rainbow Dash snatched up a guitar and haphazardly swung it over her shoulder, raising her right hoof to play the most awesome rock ballad to ever grace the ears of Ponyville’s denizens - only to realize she hadn’t the foggiest idea how.

“Uh... Twilight...”

“One step ahead of you.”

Grabbing another guitar off the floor, Twilight quickly thumbed the small switch-like extension that lay in place of the strings and promptly selected ‘Multiplayer’ before tossing the guitar back to Rainbow Dash.

“Awww sweet, now I can finally-”

“Whoa there Nelly,” came Applejack’s firm tone, the one she usually only broke out to stop a certain over-implusive pegasus from doing anything she might regret. “I reckon y’all better leave any singin’ here to me. Get some experience on that there gitah o’ yers.”

“Now wait just a hay-pickin’ second there! I-”

“Rainbow...” this time the voice unmistakably carrying Twilight’s trademark nagging tone, “it’s about time you let somepony else get first try, don’t you think so?”

Rainbow Dash raised a hoof in in protest, only to be met by Twilight’s piercing gaze as her friend’s normally warm, caring eyes narrowed to snake-thin slits that Dash could swear literally made her blood curdle for a second or two.

Needless to say, she quickly lowered whatever hoof she raised.

“...I think Applejack deserves a turn.”

“That’s very noble of you, Rainbow. I’m very proud.”

“Yeah yeah, proud shmoud...” muttered the cyan pegasus, sulking off to find another instrument and a manual to read.

“Right, lessee here...” Applejack squinted at the screen as she scrolled through the game’s setlist, trying to at least find a song that the one she could at least try to sing. Playing a little bit of guitar was all fine and dandy, surely her time on the farm would help a bit... but lyrics, especially those of a song she didn’t know from heads or tails was a little too much.

Sifting her way through the setlist, Applejack was about to call it quits halfway through after seeing song after song that sounded positively alien to her.

That’s when she saw it. She almost missed it, but a familiar title managed to catch her eye; one she swore she couldn’t mistake. Doubling back at breakneck speed, she flicked through song after song until her eyes came to rest on a very familiar title, one the orange mare couldn’t help but jump for joy at.

“Sweet Celestia! They’ve got Colts N’ Roses on here!” Applejack cried out in joy, jamming her hoof down on the select button as she quickly got on her hind legs, grabbing the microphone stand with her free hooves. “Ahm no singer, that’s fo’ sure, but boy howdy, Imma gon’ give this mah best shot!”

“Colts N’ Roses? Oh man, if there’s one pony in this room cool enough to play lead guitar on one of Slash’s classics, it’s gotta be me!” Sulkiness completely forgotten, Rainbow Dash sprung up on her hind legs with renewed vigor, assuming a classic rock n’ roll stance as she spaced her hooves apart with the trained precision of a rabid fanfilly.

“Let’s... ROCK!”

“YAAAAAAYY! I call dibs on drums!” Not wasting a second, Pinkie Pie leapt right behind the drumset and immediately proceeded to hammer away at the pads with two drumsticks she mysteriously procured from thin air. Nopony, least of all Twilight, even tried pointing out they weren’t playing yet.

“Lesse here... one, two, three...” Counting off her hooves, Rainbow Dash realized something was off. “Hey, wait, we still need one more! Wanna give it a shot, Twilight?”

“Umm... I’d actually like to give it a try... if you’d be so kind...” Fluttershy gave her usual, modest smile as she slowly stepped forward to gently sling the second guitar’s strap around her neck. Rearing up on her hind legs like her other two friends, she found herself nervously fidgeting around with her controller’s buttons, seemingly lost.

The rest was, thankfully, hassle-free for the better part. The only ‘hiccup’ was Rainbow Dash actually choosing to start off on Normal difficulty, at which everypony almost dropped whatever it was they were holding to rub their eyes in disbelief.

Soon enough, everypony had selected their settings, and the song was right about to start, with Applejack on vocals, Rainbow Dash on lead guitar, Fluttershy handling the bass right next to Pinkie Pie, who seemed utterly content with hammering away at her drums like a pony possessed.

As Rarity and Twilight watched with rapt attention, the screen came to stunning life as four ponies, gathered on stage, faced a cheering crowd of hundred of adoring fans.

Almost immediately, four display bars, clearly matched to each of the four ponies, locking in place on-screen, obscuring much of the pomp and fanfare. Clearly, it was to serve only as a backdrop - the real challenge was yet to come.

The tension in the air was almost palpable as everypony fixed their gaze intently on those bars, waiting for the inevitable. Even Pinkie Pie, however impossible it may have seemed, actually quietened down. True, the pink pony was still bouncing about in her seat excitedly, but it was a unbelievably rare sight to see her doing little else.

Silence filled the air, hanging over the four as a silent precursor to a slow but steady approach. Gradually, the characteristic sound of two tapping drumsticks echoed soundly through the room.

Tik. Tik. Tik-tik-tik-tik.

Then the first notes descended from Rainbow Dash’s bar.

It was a steady, catchy rhythm, and Twilight found herself subconsciously tapping her hoof in time with the beat as Rainbow Dash actually managed to hit all the right notes in the right places.

Surprisingly, the rainbow-maned pegasus and her attraction to all things rock was paying off! She hit note after note with almost rhythmic grace with natural ease, swaying perfectly in time with the music.

As her cyan pegasus friend hit the last note of her first verse, it was Fluttershy’s turn to shine as her bassline came into the mix, closely followed by Pinkie Pie’s drums. As the two hit each note with almost perfect timing, Twilight and Rarity couldn’t help but stare dumbstruck for a while. Granted, they were playing on Normal, but seeing as it was only their first try, this was by no means any small feat.

Soon, Rainbow Dash's opening solo died down, gradually coming to an end as the ever-flashy pegasus finished off her solo with an textbook rocker’s shred, her strumming hoof pointing right in the air before bowing off to make way for Applejack’s opening verse.

The blonde-maned farmpony was no stranger to music. Often, she’d pour her heart and soul into a nice country ballad after a hard day’s apple-bucking. If anything, all the times she’d spent strumming on the Apple family’s old acoustic while she sang to one very fascinated Applebloom filled every last word with every ounce of spirit she had.

Yet her only gripe, loathe to admit it as she was, rested on her trademark southernpony accent- it was a truth she did not like to admit, but she swallowed that bitter pill and carried on singing. Vocals were her responsibility, and the Apple family never shied away from their responsibilities.

Turning around with a hopeful grin, Applejack expected Rarity to be rolling on the floor in mock pain at the sound of her accent, but what she did not expect was a warm, supportive smile from the purple-maned unicorn. She could almost swear Rarity was actually rocking to the beat of the song as she motioned for Applejack to continue playing.

Her spirits lifted by such an unexpected show of support, the orange mare turned back to face the screen, and continued to sing.

Fluttershy certainly looked like she was enjoying herself - the normally quiet, unassuming pegasus was bobbing in time to the rhythm, steadily swaying forward and backward amidst the bass’s low, steady notes.

In contrast, Rainbow Dash had assumed a wide power stance across the floor, whipping her rainbow-tinted mane around in a frenzy as she threw her head in all directions, belting out a steady rhythm on her guitar.

Pinkie Pie, now furiously pounding away at the drumpads with a vengeance, complemented her cyan friend perfectly. Together, the two ponies were a natural stage duo, all the life and personality they injected into the song almost made the atmosphere feel alive with sheer energy.

It was truly a spectacle to behold. Even Twilight and Rarity, ponies who were quick to dismiss this particular genre found themselves completely immersed in whole experience, moving in time with the music as it thundered through the library’s speakers.

Watching the song came to life as each of their friends put their soul into every last note, key and drumbeat, Twilight and Rarity couldn’t help but let a smile of pure joy stretch from ear to ear.
Truly, seeing such a piece come together, given life through the combined efforts of each and every one of their friends felt almost... magical.

Rainbow Dash’s guitar rhythms, Applejack’s vocals, Fluttershy’s stable bass background, and Pinkie Pie’s steady drum beats... it all made Twilight want to be a part of it even more than she already did, and she already wanted that quite badly!

Just as Applejack finished off her segment, Rainbow Dash leapt right into it, her notes following hot on the heels of the farmpony’s vocals.

The cyan pegasus erupted into her first true guitar solo, answering to a barrage of notes that descended upon her from her note chart as it suddenly turned blue.

Throughout the entire course of the song, Rainbow Dash had been hitting white glowing notes that she had read were called “Energy Phrases”. Apparently, hitting those phrases gathered energy she could use to double her score for a time, something the game called “Overdrive”, should she put it to use.

Of course, to Rainbow Dash, awesomeness was an art. So far, she had not seen fit to unleash a truly mind-blowing performance yet. The time was simply not ripe...

Until now.

Taking centre stage over Applejack’s in-game persona, Rainbow Dash’s avatar gave her guitar one mighty tug as she jerked it upwards, entering the spotlight as her note chart lit up like a christmas tree from entering Overdrive. Inch by inch, the rainbow-maned pegasus found her score climbing ever higher, leaving a couple of her bandmates in the proverbial dust.

Granted, Rainbow Dash actually missed a couple of them here and there, no thanks to the sheer speed those notes seemed to possess, but by the end of it her performance was great enough that her bar displayed she had hit about 96% of them, followed by a resounding cry of “Awesome Solo!” from an unseen announcer.

“OH YEAH!!!” The speed-loving pegasus whooped in delight as she continued strumming chords as they came, but they did nothing to dampen her elation. “WHO ROCKS?!”

The rest of the song was rather subdued in the immediate aftermath of Dash’s solo, probably to give everypony a breather after that very intense performance. As Applejack lowered her vocals to a near whisper, the once dizzying flurry of notes slowed to little more than a trickle at a time.

Giving Rainbow Dash a hooves-up to acknowledge her friend’s job on the solo, the pegasus answered with a grin and a riff, the notes timed perfectly with the end of Applejack’s line.

Mere seconds later, the song skyrocketed into a crescendo, sending Rainbow Dash into a shredding frenzy as she hit notes left and right. Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy followed suit, keeping in time with Dash’s guitar riffs as they executed note after note with near-flawless precision and speed.

“Sweet foaaal, sweet foaaaall of miiine....” Applejack finally finished off the song, leading off to Rainbow Dash’s final echoing riff. As if on cue, an explosive finishing animation lit up the screen with sparks as the note charts disappeared, the in-game band bowing to the crowd, as legions of adoring fans whistled and screamed for an encore.

Apparently, the four of them had done quite well, if the scores on-screen were any indication. Netting at least four out of five possible stars on the song, everypony had managed at least ninety percent of their notes. Being the lead guitarist, Rainbow Dash’s name was first in the row displayed on-screen, a title proudly emblazoned with the words ‘Solo Legend’ right beneath it.

“Hoo yeah!” The rainbow-maned filly crowed triumphantly as she pumped a hoof into the air. “Who’s the solo legend? I’M the solo legend!”

“Yeah, yeah, keep tootin’ yer own horn, missy.” Said Applejack, throwing her pompous friend a slightly satirical grin before looking over the rest of the titles. Apparently, she had gotten the title ‘Most Energy’, her notes percentage at a modest 91% compared to Fluttershy’s 98%, or Rainbow Dash’s 94%.

The yellow pegasus, on the other hand, had received the title ‘Authentic Strumming.’ Seeing that she was the bassist, Applejack and Rainbow Dash could only assume she must have had some theoretical knowledge of how to play the instrument. Then again, nopony ever saw Fluttershy so much as play a simple castanet, let alone a bass guitar.

As her eyes drifted over to Pinkie’s score, Applejack swore her eyes nearly bugged out of their sockets, even rubbing them a few times to make sure what she was seeing on screen wasn’t some kind of illusion.

“A... a hundred percent, Pinkie Pie!?” The farmpony spluttered out as she looked over to where her fellow earth pony was sitting. She swore her eyes were deceiving her, but instead of whooping around in joy like everypony expected her to, Pinkie Pie looked positively bored.

“Oh come on, this is way too slow! It’s gotta be much, much much much much faster than this!” The pink earth pony gestured at the screen in irritation, apparently still dissatisfied despite the big, fat 100% and her title that proudly displayed the word ‘Flawless’.

Rainbow Dash raised an eyebrow in surprise. Knowing Pinkie Pie, it probably wasn’t more than another random tirade that the earth pony had earned great renown for. Then again, given the fact that her pink-maned friend played her song from start to finish without a single flaw, Dash couldn’t help but feel a trickle of doubt seep through.

Dash quickly dismissed the thought, partially thanks to her own minuscule attention span, and quickly returned her attention the the awaiting setlist.

“Alright, it’s MY turn now!” proclaimed the boisterious cyan pegasus, quickly thumbing her way through the setlist with the fervor of a rabid fanfilly, rifling through track after track as her eyes darted over each one with phenomenal speed.

Almost immediately, she paused; her eyes ground to a halt as she slowly thumbed her way up the setlist, finally coming to rest on a lone track. Twilight had only ever seen Dash’s eyes go THAT wide once, and it had taken the Wonderbolts to do that.

“Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh!” Whooped Rainbow Dash, jumping off her hind legs to do a quick double airflip. “Can you believe it, they have Pegasus on this thing! Th... This is better than awesome! This game just got SUPER-AWESOME!”

Twilight and Rarity were, needless to say, more than a little surprised. They’d never seen their flier fanatic of a friend flip out over something other than a chance to “hang” with the Wonderbolts.

“Beg pardon, Rainbow Dash, but do me a favor and enlighten everypony not so... illuminated. Who or what is this... Pegasus you speak of?”

With blinding speed, Rainbow Dash whipped around until she was eye-level with the fashion diva. “WHO’S PEGASUS? You’re kidding me, right? They’re only the most rockin’ band to ever tear up Equestria!”

“You guys really need to get out more.” Sighed Pinkie Pie, shaking her head as though Twilight and Rarity had just asked a question that even a filly-school student would know the answer to.

“Well, ah’m no fan of these Pegasus fellas here, so I guess I’ll sit this here one out, Rainbow.”

In response, the cyan pegasus could only shrug her shoulders, half-sorry that her orange friend would pass up on a chance to perform such a righteous tune.

Then again, she wasn’t about to let just anypony here belt out a song by the legendary Pegasus! This song called for some direct intervention, Rainbow Dash style.

Sauntering over to the mike, the rainbow-maned pegasus slung her guitar over her shoulders and reared up, throwing out her chest in confidence as she jammed her hoof over the select button.

As the game quickly changed to show the difficulty select screen, a mischievous grin spread over Rainbow’s face.

“Let’s kick it up a notch!” She yelled, quickly jamming her hoof over the guitar as she assumed a cliched stage pose, her right hoof held up high over her now slumping head as her rainbow mane fell forward, completely obscuring her eyes, before she slammed her hoof down on the strum bar and the guitar’s select button, sealing her choice of Hard difficulty for both her guitar and vocals.

“Stop right there, Rainbow Dash!” Came Twilight’s voice, this time a bit more forceful than usual. “If you’re going to take on both the vocals and the guitar on at the same time, somepony’s gotta be there to bail you out if you fail the song. I’m going to direct this personally.”

As she stood up, Twilight’s eyes immediately fell on Pinkie’s drumset; needless to say, Pinkie Pie’s danger sense lit up like another one of Princess Celestia’s over-the-top royal parades. Leaping to shield her drumset like a mother would her foal in danger, her eyes almost begged Twilight to stay away.

Left with only the bass to choose from, Twilight looked over to Fluttershy, who immediately unslung the guitar from her neck, politely handing it to the lavender unicorn.

“It’d be my pleasure.” Replied the yellow pegasus, quietly bowing out of the way to let Twilight assume her position as bassist. “I just hope I didn’t do too badly...”

“Don’t be silly, Fluttershy!” Came the unicorn’s firm assertion. “I just need to make sure that Rainbow here doesn’t run herself into another proverbial mess.”

Twilight flashed an impish grin at her boisterious friend, and Rainbow Dash’s cheeks flushed a colorful shade of red as she turned her snout up, trying to maintain some sense of dignity.

“Yeah yeah, we’ll see who bails who out, Miss smarty-pants. Now stop talking and start rockin’!”

“WHOOOOO! YEAH! Normal mode is too easy for me, so I’ll be joining Dashie on Hard Mode!” A delighted Pinkie Pie gave a high-pitched squeal as she smacked her drumpads to confirm her difficulty selection as well, eliciting a rather shocked look from the level-headed Twilight Sparkle.

“Are you serious, Pinkie?” The lavender unicorn raised an eyebrow before giving a resigned sigh and selecting Normal difficulty for her bassist. “Well, somepony’s gotta keep a level head here. I’ll stay on Normal and bail you out in case any of you fail the song.”

With everypony’s cards in play, the stage was set for Rainbow Dash’s shot at rocker ‘stardom.’ Before anypony knew it, the loading screen came up before rapidly being replaced by the very familiar stage of four ponies facing down a roaring crowd of adulating fans.

Just like before, the ponies on stage were waving and gesturing at the fans to turn it up a notch, bringing the crowd’s screams to a fever pitch as the four note charts made their appearances on the screen.

“This is gonna be... so AWESOMEEEEE!!!” squealed the overexcited Rainbow Dash, eyes wide with anticipation like a textbook fanfilly as she jittered excitedly in place. After a few seconds, the familiar tik of the drumsticks made themselves heard of the speakers, signalling the start of the song.

Tik. Tik. Tik-tik-tik-tik.

Abruptly, the sound of tambourines came over the speakers, bringing with them Twilight’s first notes in a slow, steady rhythm. Being on Normal difficulty, the lavender mare had little trouble hitting all of them with little error, spieling out a lively beat that set the backdrop for the rest of the song.

Dum dum dum, dum dum, dum-dum-dum-dum

Rainbow Dash perked up, her eyes flashing as she immediately caught on to the rhythm. Clearing her throat in an almost comical manner, she began tapping her right hoof in time with the sonorous bass beats.

Dum dum dum, dum dum, dum-dum-dum-dum
Dum dum dum, dum dum, dum-dum-dum-dum
Dum-dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum dum dum

Hitting her second verse, Twilight’s bass notes soon found a companion in Pinkie Pie’s drumbeats, the earth pony’s steady thumps beating out a rhythm in perfect synchrony with Twilight’s low, baritone strums.

As the duo kept the rhythm for another verse, Pinkie Pie ended off her drumbeats with a double whammy, hitting two of the same drumpads in perfect synchrony. As she bowed out and extended a hoof to the cyan pegasus waiting in the wings, Rainbow Dash gave her a quick nod - it was her time to shine!

Right on cue, Rainbow Dash immediately picked up from where the Pinkie left by unleashing an intense, massive riffing of guitar chords that perfectly echoed the ending of Twilight’s bass verse.

DA-NA-NA, NA-NA, NA-NA NA NA!!!

As Rainbow Dash practically screamed into the mic, the oncoming flood of notes began disappearing as everypony played in complete unison, belting out a highly electrified, powerful version of the bass verse that Twilight played at the beginning of the song.

Rainbow Dash was in full rock mode now - nothing could stop her rhythm. Not errors, not missed notes, not even failing the song in front of her friends would have stopped the spirit of her inner rockstar as she moved in time with the very essence of the music.

Not even paying heed to the fact that she had already missed a significant number of notes on both her guitar and vocals, nothing was going to bring the enraptured pegasus out of her rocker’s trance- she was having way too much fun to even think of letting that bother her.

Saving her best for last, Rainbow Dash gave her guitar controller her mightiest buck yet, jerking the device upwards as her character spiraled right into Overdrive mode. Soon enough, even her guitarist’s progress bar, which had come at least halfway towards failing the song, was neck and neck with the rest of her teammates.

The cyan pegasus then whooped into the mic, igniting her singer’s Overdrive mode and thrusting the lead star of the band right back in the spotlight, rocking both the virtual stage and the imaginary one in Twilight’s basement as she whipped her mane back and forth in excitement.

Abruptly launching into another barrage of chords, Rainbow Dash finished off the brief verse with a grand, exaggerated flourish. Leaning in close to the mike, she let her sweat-slicked mane fall over her eyes as she utter the next few words in a smoky, seductive murmur that nopony ever expected from the tomboyish athlete.

In a flash, the music returned in full force, snapping the four ponies out of their Dash-induced stupor. Pinkie Pie hammered away at her drums like a madpony while Dash resumed shredding chords on her guitar with such fervor they made Twilight, who was standing next to them rather stiffly, look extremely awkward in comparison; the lavender unicorn was so focused on hitting her bass notes right that she did nothing else.

The song’s following verse and chorus played out the exact same way - Rainbow Dash completely stole the show from the rest of the band with her killer riffs; even if she had missed several notes here and there and went off key more than once.

Nopony could call Rainbow Dash’s playing perfect, but the sheer passion that pulsed through her voice left even Applejack and Rarity in rapturous applause. Fluttershy, of course, was cheering for her pegasus friend, but as always, she scarcely managed little more than a timid “yay.”

As for the guitar solo... saying Rainbow Dash slaughtered it would be a sizable understatement - it was as though she knew the song by heart! Then again, given how much of a rabid fanfilly she was about her favorite rock band, it had to be kind of expected.

At last, the music died down, the guitar’s electric notes dying a slow, distorted death as they faded off the screen, making way for each pony’s individual score.

When the final tallies came up, glances full of worry and concern were cast over the cyan pegasus, hoping that Rainbow Dash wouldn’t fall into a slump after seeing her score. These ponies were her rock idols, and everypony knew just how far Dash took idol worship sometimes.

Deep down, the exhilarated pegasus could care less.

“Eighty-ish percent on each? Ah, who cares, that was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life!!!” The aspiring Wonderbolt let out a final, raucous whoop as she reared onto her hind legs, right before she collapsed onto her rump, panting and gasping for air.

Letting gravity take over, Dash fell wings-first onto the floor, letting out a long wheeze as she allowed a brief, calming silence to fall over the room as she tried to catch her breath, adrenaline still pulsing through her veins. Slowly, she let her limbs hang loose as her breath came back to her in short rasps.

In the blink of an eye, Dash’s silence was broken by an ear-splitting whine. One she knew all too well.

“SO SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW” came the high-pitched voice of the ever-hyper Pinkie Pie, apparently once again completely dissatisfied by the game’s already breakneck pace.

Sitting up, Rainbow Dash glanced over at Pinkie Pie’s score, quickly rubbing her eyes just to make sure she wasn’t seeing a few extra zeros.

“Pinkie,” exclaimed the rainbow-maned pegasus, her eyes wide with incredulous shock, “you got a - hundred - per - cent! On Hard mode! How are you still not happy?!”

“It’s toooo sloooooooooooow, Dashie!” griped the pink earth pony, “It’s like they’re going slow on purpose! It’s like they NEVER SAW ME COMING!”

Darting forward to snatch the guitar out of her cyan friend’s hooves, Pinkie Pie started flicking through the setlist like a pony possessed; even Rainbow Dash’s shrill cry of “what the hay!” falling on completely deaf ears.

Pinkie’s frown deepened as she took split second pauses for each song, quickly dismissing each one with a shrill “too slow!” or “too boring!”

Burning her way through the setlist, Pinkie’s rapid-fire song selection showed no signs of slowing down one bit. Soon enough, Rainbow Dash and Applejack were taking bets on whether Pinkie Pie would even find a song “fast” enough for her.

As she neared the end of the sizable tracklist, the pink earth pony was almost ready to throw in the towel and give up. Just as she was about ready to hand the guitar back to the pegasus, a very special something caught the corner of her eye that almost flash-froze her guitar hoof, lighting her eyes ablaze with the fire of excitement.

Slowly, but surely, her formerly annoyed expression melted off to make way for a smile that almost literally stretched from ear to ear as she landed right smack on the setlist’s very last piece.

As everypony listened in stunned silence to the preview, their eyes slowly widened in shock, jaws loosening as their mouths started to hang agape.

“Oh... my...” Fluttershy’s voice, soft as always, was almost lost in the din that filled the room.

The music that emanated from the speakers was so fast, so complex, so completely and utterly righteous...Pinkie’s eyes were actually watering in awe. This was a song written for someone like her. This was a worthy test of her skills.

THIS was her jam.

“OH YEAH!!!” The pink earth pony slammed her hoof down on the select button, and Twilight’s jaw extended from merely hanging agape to actually hitting the floor as Pinkie Pie selected the very last song under the “Nightmare Songs” section, and proceeded to pick Expert difficulty for both her guitarist and her vocalist.

The pink earth pony stood there for several seconds, still waiting for something to happen, before turning to the rest, who were still sitting there and watching her with their mouths agape.

“What are you silly mcsillysons sitting there waiting for?” Pinkie Pie gushed as she bounded over to Applejack and nudged the orange mare over to the drumsets, before looking over expectantly at Rainbow Dash and Twilight. “Well??”

At that, Twilight immediately unslung the guitar from her neck and quickly shoved it in Rainbow Dash’s direction, still staring incredulously at the pink earth pony as though she had sprouted a second and third head.

After a moment, the cyan pegasus noticed the instrument that had been so suddenly offered in her direction, and she quickly reared back, eyeing the instrument nervously before she darted her gaze to the television set, where that infernal song was still playing its insanely blistering tune.

“Ehhh heheheh...” Rainbow Dash was normally a lover of the fast and the furious, but this...this was pushing it. The song SOUNDED incredible, sure. It was the kind of song she would have gushed over if she had heard it on the radio or at a concert.

But now, faced with this unfamiliar tune with its complex, chaotic rhythm and breakneck pace, Rainbow began feeling an all-too-familiar twinge of fear.

“Well...” The normally overconfident pegasus gave a nervous swallow, and stepped forward, taking the guitar controller from Twilight, mustering all the bravado she could still summon in the face of such a savage tune. “Never let it be said that Rainbow Dash was ever one to back down from a challenge! I’ll beat this song all right!!! Although I guess it couldn’t hurt to play on Normal on this one...”

“Ain’t no shame in that, Rainbow.” Applejack reassured her cyan-coated friend as she took a seat behind the drumset, before selecting Normal difficulty as well. “Ya ain’t gonna be alone on this one. ‘Sides, it’s just a game. Ain’t like the fate of Equestria’s hangin’ on it, right?”

“Yeah.” Rainbow nodded, trying to keep the plastic grin on her face. “As long as we don’t plan to use our hooves for the next few days... right?”

“Shush!” Pinkie Pie suddenly hushed the gathered ponies as she jabbed a hoof excitedly at the screen, bouncing in place with anticipation. “It’s startiiiing!!!”

As the four ponies made their appearance on stage, greeting their legion of adoring fans, once again the four note charts made their appearance, but instead of excitement, there was only tension, and in the case of Rainbow Dash and Applejack, dread filling the air.

In fact, the only one who even seemed remotely excited was Pinkie Pie, but then again, the party-goer was always excited about everything.

Whatever was coming their way, it was bound to be one moon of a manure-storm.

Almost as if to warm up, Pinkie Pie started strumming away at her guitar, tapping away at her fret buttons in some unidentifiable pattern, sometimes even using both hooves instead of just one, and it was just in time - the familiar tik of the drumsticks once again sounded from the speakers, and she readied herself just in time for the first of the notes to descend.

Tik tik tik-tik-tik...

DANANANANANANANANANANANANANANANANA
DANANANANANANANANANANANANANANA-

It was chaos. Down came a stream of notes that moved so quickly that none of the gathered ponies would have even dreamed of having been able to hit it at all. A merciless, confusing barrage, too fast to keep up with, notes everywhere, all the five fret buttons... Even Rainbow Dash gave up trying to follow after a matter of seconds.

Yet somehow, in defiance of what seemed at all ponily possible, Pinkie Pie refused to falter, hitting every note with perfect timing. Her brow was furrowed now, sure, this much would take the wind out of anypony, but Pinkie never missed a beat.

From the moment she strummed the first guitar note, Pinkie Pie’s right hoof immediately shot up to her fret buttons, where she started pressing them with the same infernal pattern that she had been using to warm up just before.

Twilight had read in the manual something about hammer-ons and pull-offs: notes that didn’t need any strumming in order to be played. Made enough sense, Twilight had read enough about acoustic theory to understand the benefit of salvaging the vibrations of the strings for multiple notes... but this... an opening solo composed of nothing but hammer-ons and pull-offs was just madness!

“My... my word! Pinkie Pie, exactly how in Equestria are y-?” Rarity stammered to a halt as a yellow hoof came up inches from her face. Fluttershy shook her head ever so slightly, eyes riveted on her friends performances. Rarity got the picture and sat back, silently trying to wrap her brain around what she was witnessing.

“They’re... hammer-ons!” Pinkie Pie ground out from behind clenched teeth just as her opening solo of hammer-ons and pull-offs erupted into a sliding stream of notes that sent everypony cross-eyed simply just trying to follow it... and then the real riffing began.

Rainbow Dash had been having an easy time right up until then. Compared to Pinkie Pie’s blistering barrage on Expert, her bassist had been having a relatively tame time on Normal... right up until the last three notes she had hit simultaneously with Pinkie Pie’s sliding stream.

And then the pegasus let out a barely restrained squeak of terror as another barrage of notes comparable to Pinkie Pie’s suddenly descended, upon her note chart!

In a frenzied panic, she began jamming away at her fret buttons as fast as she could in an attempt to keep up, but it was just too fast - she missed more than half of the notes as they streaked right over her head, and she still had no idea how the hay Pinkie Pie was doing all that!

Applejack was hardly faring any better. The farmpony’s teeth were grinding together as she haphazardly hammered away at the drumpads in an attempt to keep pace with the torrential beat that descended upon her like a tidal wave, but her efforts were in vain. She just couldn’t... keep... up!

Her progress bar, right alongside Rainbow Dash’s, slowly began their inexorable decent to the bottom, right where they were on the verge of failing the song, when abruptly they were saved by Pinkie Pie, who finally ended off the blistering opening solo with an unbelievable series of pull-offs that signalled the end of the breakneck pace - and the very beginning of the lyrics.

And then the barrages resumed, drowning out Rainbow Dash’s scream of terror. Applejack continued struggling to hit the unstoppable tsunami of drumbeats, but there was no stopping Pinkie Pie.

There was no denying it. The hyperactive party-goer was blowing away the song the way the Elements of Harmony had blown away Nightmare Moon... and was Pinkie Pie elbow strumming!?

Even as they watched, the pink earth pony was practically hollering into the mic as she pulled off an incredible series of consecutive hammer-ons and pull-offs that would have put any self-respecting guitarist to shame.

To say that Pinkie Pie was single-hoofedly keeping the band on its feet would have been a sore understatement. Rainbow Dash and Applejack had both come close to failing the song numerous times with every single barrage of notes that came their way.

Yet each and every time, Pinkie Pie would save them from falling into the proverbial gutter with a well-timed surge of Overdrive, bringing their progress bars flying back up neck-to-neck with her own, where she stayed, right at the very top.

“WHAT THE HAY IS THIS?!” Screamed a panicked Rainbow Dash as another unstoppable stream of notes descended upon her, and she tried her very best to keep up, still strumming away madly as she hammered away at her fret buttons, barely managing to keep her progress bar from falling any further.

“Oh, silly Dashie... this is just the greatest song in Equestria, that’s what it is!” Pinkie Pie whooped excitedly as there finally came a brief lull in the music, allowing Rainbow Dash and Applejack to finally take a breather... right before the next barrage came.

“Aww HAY NAW!!!” Applejack groaned as the music started up again, her aching hooves hammering away at the drumpads with her drumsticks in a panicked rush.

After flawlessly answering a barrage of notes that would have made the musicians at the Grand Galloping Gala look like an elementary school marching band, Pinkie Pie finally breathed a huge sigh of relief as the music came to yet another lull; the hyper-active partygoer seemed actually mildly tired for once.

The pink earth pony was shaking her strumming hoof sorely while giving her other one several good rotations, trying to get the kinks out of her wrists - and just in time too. Right as she readied herself once more, the next few notes came down on her.

Yet another huge barrage of nothing but hammer-ons and pull-offs swooped down upon Pinkie Pie’s note chart like an angry griffin, and at this point in time Twilight Sparkle was convinced that Pinkie Pie was somehow channeling Dragon Force’s lead guitarist.

Other than that, there was no other way in Equestria she could have possibly been pulling off those impossible hammer-ons and pull-offs with such inpony speed and precision!

Rarity had already long given up on trying to follow the impossibly complex sequence of notes - Pinkie Pie was just... beyond understanding.

However she was doing it, the white-coated unicorn had long since dismissed the notion of the pink earth pony actually missing a note, given how flawlessly she seemed to be performing right now.

“WHAT THE-!?” Rainbow Dash suddenly shouted as the music suddenly went crazy - literally!

The unintelligible cacophony of sound that blared out of the speakers in tune with the... the onslaught of notes that suddenly assaulted her note chart, Rainbow Dash could hardly even believe she was being faced with a guitar solo here; and it was a guitar solo that was sending her character into a rapidly descending spiral towards failing the song!

“OH MY CELESTIA-” The cyan pegasus cried out mournfully as her avatar finally could no longer take any more missed notes, and the on-screen pony flung his guitar onto the stage before kicking at it frustratedly as a huge red X appeared on the screen, crossing him out from the band as the crowd jeered and booed at him.

“Don’t worry Dashie, I’ll save you!” Pinkie Pie suddenly cried as she jerked her guitar upwards, and abruptly the screen lit up like a gold bar as Dash’s avatar shrugged and picked up his guitar again, beaming as though nothing had gone wrong before resuming shredding away at chords like his life depended on it. The inpony guitar solo that they were faced with... there was just no describing it.

An endless barrage, an onslaught of notes from all five fret bars, it was nearly a miracle that Rainbow Dash and Applejack could even go for a few bars without coming dangerously close to failing the song again. Pinkie Pie, on the other hoof...

She was unstoppable.

Every single note that come down on her note chart was flawlessly answered, her strumming hoof alternating between the strum bar and her fret buttons with shocking swiftness - so swiftly that even when she made just one mistake, one slip-up that cost her the note streak that she had been so close to building up to a whopping 3000, she recovered so quickly that almost nopony noticed she had even made a mistake at all, and she was back to the x4 score multiplier before Fluttershy had even blinked.

Several barrages of notes later, the song finally came to a blistering, mind-blowing end, and by then, Rainbow Dash and Applejack’s hooves had all gone numb from all the strumming and smacking of the drumpads - both mares immediately flopped down limply onto the floor, panting and thoroughly exhausted.

“We- wheeze- we did it!- wheeze wheeze-we actually made it...!”

“We- haaaaack- we’re never doin’ that song again, partner.”

Utterly exhausted, the two rivals slumped to the floor, near-unconscious from the mental strain. The world around them swimming as their now-tired brains failed to even notice their pink-maned friend’s whoops and jumps of pure, unbridled satisfaction.

Twilight wasn’t sure it was even possible for her jaw to even drop that low.

“OHHHHHHHHHHH YEAH! NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL A JAM!” Came the ecstatic whoops and shouts of the barely-winded earth pony, who, against all odds, had defeated what had seemed sheer impossibility without so much as breaking a sweat.

With the shouts and yells from the in-game audience dying down as the screen faded to black, the characteristic sound of scoreboards sliding into place snapped the sugar-dosed pony back to reality.

Now Twilight was SURE her jaw couldn’t drop that low.

“Pinkie... how did you... I mean... but... it shouldn’t be physically possible...”

“Oh. my. word. Pinkie... how...”

Able to manage little more than incoherent babble, the two unicorns stood shock-still at the numbers before their eyes. Surely, there had to be some manner of mistake- perhaps the game was broken, or something!

“Ugh...” groaned Rainbow Dash, still relatively groggy but somehow managing enough strength to push herself up on her haunches. “What’s goin’ on here...”

Her friends could manage no response, able to accomplish little more than point a shaking hoof as they gestured to the TV screen in stunned disbelief.

“Oh c’mon guys,” said the pegasus, twirling her hoof about as she rolled both her eyes upward. “You’re blowing things outta proportion...”

Giving herself a sort of half-hearted chuckle, the cyan pegasus tried to dismiss her friends’ dumbstruck looks as pure and simple exaggeration. Surely, no matter how well she saw Pinkie Pie perform, nopony could even hope to manage anything close to a good score on that.

“Uh... Rainbow...” came the voice of an apparently shell-shocked Applejack. Twilight tended to blow things out of proportion, but Applejack was a different kettle of fish altogether.

“Oh c’mon, not you too, Apple...” glancing at the screen, all traces of disbelief falling off the rainbow-maned pegasus’s face as her pupils shrunk to pinpricks.

“...Jack...”

It seemed unbelievable, but Pinkie Pie had somehow, against all manner of easily understood modern magic, managed to hit 99% of every single note that had come her way, her score now easily more than even the mathematically inclined Twilight Sparkle could even think of counting to.

Looking at her own score, Rainbow Dash immediately flushed a deep shade of crimson as she buried her flushed face in her wings. Almost steaming from the embarassment of her paltry 40% that, alongside Applejack’s modest 50%, the otherwise rambunctious pegasus felt like digging herself all the way to the center of Equestria.

Pinkie, on the other hand, was on cloud nine after finally playing something worth her mettle, her search for the ultimate jam now satisfied. Turning to the ponies assembled, her gaze fell on Fluttershy, who immediately took an instinctive step back.

“C’mon, Fluttershy!” Squealed the jittery earth pony, still in high spirits despite conquering a song that had utterly wiped out almost all of her teammates. “We’ve had our fun, so now you’ve gotta show us your stuff!”

“Oh no, really... it’s fine. I...”

Fluttershy paused mid-sentence,the rest of her timid reply catching halfway through her throat as she found herself yet again face-to-face with Pinkie’s notoriously irresistible puppy-dog eyes. The ever-unassuming pegasus had lost count of how many times she’d told herself not to fall for Pinkie’s trademark ploy; soon she would have to start keeping track of how many times she’d failed to actually resist.

Letting out a sigh, Fluttershy knew this battle was lost.

“...Okay.”

“WHOOPEE!” Came Pinkie’s trademark squeal of excitement, apparently re-energized, no matter how physically impossible that was, by the prospect of hearing Fluttershy sing.

Tossing her yellow-coated friend the microphone, Fluttershy gave a quick squeal as she quickly jumped to catch the device, barely managing to avoid turning it into a very important piece of royally-sanctioned scrap metal.

Twilight, on the other hand, hit the floor with a resounding ‘thud,’ half-unconscious from the shock.

“Twilight-!” Gasped Fluttershy, quickly rushing over to the purple unicorn to make sure she was alright.

“Don’ wurry ‘bout me, Fluttashy....” mumbled the groggy unicorn, “just a little shocked s’ all.”

“Well, if you say so...” whispered the pink-maned pegasus. She couldn’t help but worry for Twilight’s mental health whenever anything involving her friend’s beloved mentor came into play. That last party she threw wracked the poor unicorn’s nerves so badly...

Turning her attention back to the TV, Fluttershy hesitantly thumbed her way through the setlist, alternating her attention between selecting a song and glancing over her shoulder to check on Twilight, the lavender mare’s eyes apparently still spinning from the shock.

No easy task either, seeing as how asking Fluttershy, probably Ponyville’s quietest denizen, to choose a song from a game entitled “Rock Band” was pretty much tantamount to asking Applejack to speak proper Manehattenite.

Unsurprisingly, everypony immediately set up ramrod straight upon realizing that the quiet, timid pegasus had actually found a song. Even Twilight had seemingly lost all traces of her headache, now staring at the screen with her full attention.

“Hotel... Coltlifornia?” Queried Pinkie Pie, raising an eyebrow in complete bewilderment.

“Ah know that song! Land sakes! They’ve got the Gryphons on here!” Applejack wore a wide smile at the sight of the band name. Pinkie blinked.

“The who now?

“Ya mean to tell me ya ain’t never heard of The Gryphons, Pinkie? They’re almost legends when you’re talkin’ ‘bout some good ol’ down-home country music! Momma and Poppa used to listen to ‘em all the time on the radio!”

“Hellooooo... Rock Farm?” drawled the pink pony, apparently stating a fact only Applejack seemed to get.

“Oh yeah, y’all are them Amish types, ain’t ya? No radio or nuthin’... must’ve been pretty gray over on that there farm, Pinkie.”

“My parents weren’t all that big on music in general anyway...said it took up time we could’ve spent working. We had psalms, though... and that’s... pretty much it.”

Pinkie shifted uncomfortably; clearly those were bad memories for her.

Taking the hint, Applejack quickly backed up and shut her mouth. Being a farmer in the southern parts was a pretty serious thing, and fewer took their duties more seriously than the Amish ponies. In comparison to them, the Apple family’s harvesting would be a luxurious vacation.

Quickly turning her attention back to the game, Applejack tried to lighten the mood by volunteering to take up her old guitar position, shunting into place right alongside Fluttershy.

“Well, seein’ as you’ve here’s been on those drums all day long, Pinkie, I think ya deserve a breather! Somepony else wanna gives this here game a try? Twi’, Rarity, y’all good?”

Casting quick glances each other, the two unicorns furrowed their eyebrows for a second before quickly giving each other a brief shrug of the shoulders and stepping forward towards the TV.

Looking over the instruments assembled, Twilight made a beeline right for the bass as she immediately assumed Fluttershy’s former position, slinging the controller over her neck as she reared up on her hind legs to position herself. Rarity, on the other hand, instead opted to try Pinkie Pie’s drumset, apparently still quite impressed by her friend’s unbelievable performance.

“Huh... didn’t think this’d be your kind of game, Rarity. I thought you hated Rock and Roll.” Rainbow asked the white unicorn, who had picked up the drumsticks and was giving them a few experimental flicks.

“I do. Even so, I hardly see that a reason for me to sit out of a perfectly interesting experience. The preview didn’t sound too intense, either.” Rarity said airily. “I suppose I could give these ‘Gryphons’ a shot.”

Rainbow decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth, electing instead to shrug and sit back on the couch next to Pinkie, giving a groan of relief as her exhausted body sunk into the cushion.

“Man, you look BUSHED, Dashie!” Pinkie said as she looked her friend over. “Now THAT was a rock song, right? Those Dragon Force guys are something else!” Her eyes had adopted a dreamy sort of look. “I wonder if there’s any other songs by them I could play...”

It was only her exhaustion that kept Rainbow Dash from leaping off the couch and screaming out the front door.

Quickly averting her gaze from Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash watched in mild interest as Fluttershy slowly thumbed her way through what now appeared to be the difficulty selection, her hoof trembling as she tried to hesitantly thumb her way between ‘Normal’ and ‘Easy.’

As much as Fluttershy was one of her best friends, the cyan pegasus couldn’t help but apply her hoof directly to her face, letting out a short sigh of exasperation.

Five minutes of flipping between the two easiest choices on the menu, Fluttershy’s trembling hoof came to rest on the modest ‘normal’ difficulty as she slowly, hesitantly locked in her choice.

Quickly following suit, Twilight, Applejack and Rarity confirmed their difficulties as one, smiling warmly at the trembling yellow pegasus to let her know that her friends were behind her on this, every step of the way.

“Ummm... all right... I guess I can... give it a shot...” Fluttershy mumured almost inaudibly as she gave the screen a nervous look, where the four ponies were once more gathered on the stage, this time having set up in a much quieter, homely venue not unlike a jazz bar, with a smaller but no less supportive crowd who were applauding the bowing ponies on stage.

Slowly, as the notes came down on Applejack’s guitar and Twilight’s bass, they formed a melancholy tune, a melody reminiscent of days gone by; a song of silent solitude that would not have been out of place had they been travelling down a long, winding desert road, all by their lonesomes.

Applejack was slowly rocking to the tune as she masterfully plucked away at the strum bar of her guitar, and even Fluttershy was slowly beginning to loosen up, the yellow pegasus’s body beginning to sway slightly as well as she gave a shy smile, determined to give her very best shot for her virtual audience.

And as Rarity drummed out her first two beats of the song, Ponyville’s shyest, sweetest resident began to sing the softest, most beautiful lullaby that had ever graced their ears.

At that, the music began to pick up slightly in volume, and Applejack began to strum ever so slightly harder, her innate love for country rock bringing out the little bit of soul she needed to make playing the song completely worth her while.

Twilight and Rarity were playing out their own smooth, mellow beats, satisfied smiles on their faces, but they served merely as the most wonderful backdrop to the highlight of the song - Fluttershy’s singing.

There was no doubt about it - this was her show.

Fluttershy’s voice was soft and velvet-smooth, dainty yet rich beyond compare. Even as Rainbow Dash continued to listen, the exhausted pegasus had to fight the temptation to fall asleep right there and then, so soothing was her friend’s melody.

The music came to a sudden stop for just a beat, right before it resumed - and it was just enough to snap Rainbow Dash out of her fatigued stupor. Shaking her head, the cyan pegasus continued watching Fluttershy’s performance, in awe of her yellow friend’s masterful symphony of words and emotion.

With a brief, rapid series of beats from Rarity’s drums, Fluttershy, now completely submerged in the song, poured forth every fiber of her being into the melody. All else seemed to fade into silence as everypony in the room fixed their eyes on Fluttershy, their ears held captive by what could be described as... ‘Da Magics.’

As the vocals ended, Applejack went straight into a guitar solo that captured all of the attention that had been once been on Fluttershy, the yellow pegasus quickly darting out of the limelight to make way for her orange-coated friend.

Having had plenty of experience on her farmstead with her acoustic guitar, Applejack strummed away at the notes that descended upon her perfectly. Hotel Coltlifornia was a slow, relaxing song, the polar opposite of the metallic nightmare that Pinkie Pie had them playing earlier, and the farmpony had loved to listen to country rock ever since she had been a little filly.

The orange farmpony’s soul completely in tune with the music, she finally played the final few chords that marked the end of the song, and let out a long, satisfied sigh as she unslung the guitar from around her neck, inspecting the scores that soon appeared on the screen.

Applejack, 97%. Rarity, 92%. Twilight, 95%. Fluttershy...wait, huh?

Applejack stared at the dismal 13%. How...how in the name of Celestia did THAT happen?!?

“Oh...oh no...”

Fluttershy’s lip was trembling, her face flushed with embarrassment. “I pulled everypony down, didn’t I...”

Applejack blinked a few times, thinking maybe the score was just some strange trick of the light, or...or...Fluttershy sang like an ANGEL, how could her score be so low?

“H-hand that mike over, sugarcube...this ain’t right...”

Applejack grabbed the microphone from Fluttershy’s outstretched hoof, immediately giving it a few experimental taps with her hoof.

“There’s gotta be some sort ‘a testin’-mode for this thing...look under options or sumthin’, Fluttershy.”

Twilight had unslung the guitar from her neck, staring over at the two with a concerned look on her face. “You don’t think it’s broken, do you? It was working just fine before...”

Applejack managed a shrug. Fluttershy had found nothing under options, instead electing to select a random song from the list. Applejack raised the microphone to her mouth as the first words appeared.

Ya could have beeeeen all Ah wanted, but you weren’t hoooooneeeest, now get in th’ ground...”

To her surprise, the microphone worked, pulling some decent scores before she paused and handed it over to Fluttershy.

“”Ah don’t get it...if if it gave me some scores for mah singing, I don’t see how it couldn’t have for yours...”

“Perhaps it’s just a temperamental device?” Rarity suggested.

Applejack’s brow was furrowed in thought. “Yeah, it’s that, or...” She turned to face Fluttershy, who jumped and nearly dropped the mike again. “Fluttershy, try singin’ the rest o’ that there song.”

“O-okay...” Fluttershy said in her ever-small voice. Raising the microphone again with trembling hooves, she hit the pause button again.

...you choked off the suuurest of favors...but if you really loved me, you would have endured my wooorld...”

Immediately, Fluttershy’s score began dropping. And now that everypony attended wasn’t mesmerized by her singing, they could see the reason.

The tiny input arrow at the side of Fluttershy’s bar had planted itself resolutely at the bottom, quivering ever so slightly with each of Fluttershy’s words. Beautiful as the pegasus’ voice was, the microphone wasn’t picking it up, the notes sailing right over her head.

H-hang on to the glory at my...right...hoo-”

WHAM! Fluttershy jumped and squeaked. A massive red X had slammed down on the screen as her bar hit zero, the crowd booing as the singer stormed off the stage. Applejack leveled a hoof at the screen, a look of satisfaction on her face.

“Yeah, see, that there’s th’ problem! ‘S not that ya can’t sing, yer jest too quiet fer the mike ta pick ya up, Fluttershy!”

Fluttershy’s humiliated expression slowly faded, though she still looked somewhat confused. “I-I was singing at the top of my lungs...”

“She was...trust me...” Rainbow Dash piped up from the back of the room.

Twilight decided to ignore her, instead choosing to unsling the guitar from around her neck and hand it back to Fluttershy.

“Chin up, Fluttershy! I think you did just fine.” reassured the purple unicorn, flashing her quiet friend a warm, heartfelt smile. “I think you’d like your old position back, though.”

“Thank you... Twilight...” mumbled the yellow pegasus, a brief smile flashing across her face as she handed her friend back the microphone.

“But who’s gonna siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!” Groaned Pinkie Pie, her high-pitched whine almost causing Twilight and Applejack to recoil from the volume.

Turning her head towards Twilight, the lavender unicorn immediately sensed Pinkie’s intent, quickly shaking her head to hopefully deter her “persuasive” friend from forcing her into the vocal spotlight.

“No thanks, Pinkie Pie.”

Turning her head towards the rest of her friends, the pink earth pony found herself with the same response, try after try.

“Already had mah turn, sugarcube.”

“Yeaaaah... I think I’m gonna take a nap right here.”

“Sorry, Pinkie...”

“I wouldn’t mind, dearest.”

“ARGH!” Yelled Pinkie, tearing at her puffy pink mane in exasperation. “Why doesn’t anypony- wait, what?”

“I said, I wouldn’t mind giving it a try, if that’s what you’re asking of me.” Pinkie swore she almost dropped her drumsticks when she recognized that ever-refined tone.

“R-Rarity?” She stammered, almost in shock.

“Oh close your mouth darling, you’ll attract flies with all the drool that’s spilling out.” Chuckled the purple-maned fashionista as she gave her elegant coiffure a sideways toss.

Quickly trotting forward to lightly snatch the mic out from a stunned Twilight Sparkle, Rarity could only raise her hoof to cover her mouth as she gave a chuckle, slightly amused at the reactions she was getting.

“Honestly, Twilight. It’s not like all I do is design! Music is carrot soup for the soul, is it not?”

As the purple unicorn slowly bobbed her head in response, eyeing her friend apprehensively, Rarity raised her right hoof to her mouth, barely stifling another chuckle.

“Now, let’s see here...”

Hastily thumbing her way through the selection, Rarity furrowed her eyebrows in minor irritation. Surely the title “rock band” wasn’t literal in meaning; surely there were a few songs more suited to her... alternative palette.

“Surely there must be more than just-”

Pausing right in her tracks, the ever-refined fashionista found her eyes glued to the screen, gaze riveted on one track.

One song.

One name.

One artist.

“Oh my stars...” stammered Rarity, her normally ladylike voice actually faltering for a single, fleeting second. “Th-They p-put Pony Gaga on this! Can you believe it?!”

“Uh, beg pahdon, Rarity,” interjected Applejack,” but who in the hay’re you talkin’ ‘bout?”

Rounding on her friend with lightning speed, Rarity stared deep into the orange mare’s eyes, affixing her friend with a terrifying, icy gaze that everypony swore could make even the most stout-heart of stallions cringe like a whimpering filly.

“Who... is Pony Gaga?! Oh, I suppose you’ll be asking who PRINCESS CELESTIA is next!” Yelled the white unicorn, clearly outraged.

“Sheesh, Rarity,” mumbled Applejack, massaging her ears. “Nuthin’ more than a simple question.”

“It’s alright, Applejack,” intervened Twilight, deftly stepping between the two mares. “Pony Gaga is just another one of Canterlot’s most highly regarded alternative music performances. I’m sure you’ve heard of Sapphire Shores?”

“Well, yeah..” Said the orange mare, “didn’t Rarity go jewel-pickin’ for some fancy-shmancy costume before?”

Five sets, thank you very much!” snorted the designer, obviously taking offense. “Which would have been a daunting enough task even without those...ruffians spiriting me away!”

“What Applejack MEANT to say,” asserted Twilight, “was that we’ve all heard about Sapphire Shores one way or another. Pony Gaga is about the only other performer held in equally high esteem as the legendary ‘Pony of Pop.’ I hear, she even performs for the Princess’s Summer Sun Celebrations every now and then.”

“Oh... I know about her too,” mumbled Fluttershy. “Photo Finish would go on and on about her concerts or something. They really do look like the same pony, if you think about it...”

“Nonsense, Fluttershy,” interrupted Rarity. “That’s just conjecture! You wouldn’t be the first to come up with such a notion, though. I swear, those Manehatten tabloids are utterly pretentious when it comes to celebrities.”

Making a sharp turn on her back hooves, Rarity returned her full attention to the screen before her, promptly locking in her choice as she jammed her hoof down on the ‘A’ button.

Glancing back at her friends, she gave a quick yell. “Well, come on now! There’s no lollygagging about when you’re on a quest to emulate aural perfection.”

Before the rest knew it, the four-pony band of musicians had appeared on screen again, this time on the stage of a massive concert hall, with thousands upon thousands of spectators screaming and yelling for their idols.

Making their oh-so-familiar appearances, the note charts snaked into place as the starting beat of the song began thumping its way out of the speakers.

Only this time, instead of the familiar, soft tik of drumsticks, a heavy, revebrating bass resonated throughout the room, thundering through everypony as it shook them to their core.

Rarity found herself completely taken away by the rhythm and beat of the music. As the lyrics started and the bass beats of the song resonated through every fibre of her being, the fashionista found her inner dancing queen begin to emerge, in all its stage-dominating glory.

Rarity was belting the lyrics out in a stunning rendition of Pony Gaga’s vocals - and the dance moves that she was pulling off, the way her body was waving, her hips were swaying; it was more than enough to send any hot-blooded male pony into a tizzy.

Right at that moment, Twilight was grateful that Spike was not in the basement, otherwise the place would have immediately turned into an impromptu steam bath.

Abruptly, the music picked up in volume and beat, and though it hardly seemed possible, Rarity’s dance moves just got even saucier, and more intense.

If anypony had been missing any notes of theirs, it went completely unnoticed - all attention was on Rarity as the white unicorn continued belting out dance moves like she had been born on the dance floor.

It was almost a sheer miracle that none of the ponies who were actually playing the instruments failed the song at all, given the fact that they were heavily distracted by the dancing unicorn right in the very centre of the proverbial spotlight.

Repeating the chorus again in a stunning replication of Pony Gaga’s routine for the song, Rarity ended off her entire dance in a grand finishing pose that was, most certainly, “da magicks.”

In the wake of the band finishing up the song on screen, the ponies gathered burst into racuous applause as Rarity placed herself back down on all four hooves.

Disheveled, panting and gasping for breath, Rarity couldn’t begin to imagine a time she’d felt so messy... so untidy... so unfabulous... and enjoyed every last moment of it.

“My word, Twilight...” Came the strained wheeze of the frazzled fashionista, “that... was most certainly something else!”

“I hear you, Rarity.” Twilight said, working her wrists in a circle. “My hooves feel like they’re gonna fall off, but I’m having a blast over here. Out of all the games we’ve been sent, I’ve been really enjoying THIS one in particular.”

True to form Pinkie’s exited bouncing hadn’t shown any signs of slowing down throughout all of this. “Come on! Let’s do another one!”

“Hey, Twilight, your dinner’s ready! Made some for the others too if they want some!”

Twilight ran to the stairs, staring at the dragon standing at the top of the stairs. “Wait a minute. Did you just say dinner?” She turned back to Rarity, who was standing by the microphone trying to get her mane back under control. “Rarity, what time is it?”

Rarity gave a quick tap to the dashboard key on the microphone, a small white box popping up in the center of the screen.

“Goodness! It’s almost eight at night!”

“WHA-?” Twilight ran to the screen, staring at the tiny clock at the corner of the box. “Holy...we’ve been here all day!”

“Sakes alive...this game’s plumb dangerous, ‘ain’t it.” Applejack couldn’t hide the awe in her voice. “We gotta make sure we keep track ‘a time next time we pop this thing in.”

Twilight gave a cavernous yawn. “We’d better call it a night, girls. Wanna eat over? Spike said there’s plenty for everypony up there.”

“Whaaaaaaat?” Pinkie groaned. “We can’t stop now! We’re on a roll!”

Twilight furrowed her brow. On one hoof, it had been over four hours since they first started playing Rock Band, she was starving, and it was late. High time they stopped, right? On the other hoof...

One more song couldn’t hurt...”

“WOOHOO!” Pinkie grabbed the mic in her typical never-ending frenzy of energy, a total contrast to the other five ponies who were already starting to show a few signs of fatigue, despite all the fun they had been having so far.

Rainbow Dash felt her stomach begin to tie itself into knots. In her mind’s eye she could already see Pinkie’s gaze lighting up as she discovered yet another Dragonforce song hidden in the tracks, this one even more blistering than the last metallic nightmare...

Except that the preview that came off the speakers was actually pretty catchy - in fact, the heavy bass beats seemed a lot more at home on a pop song like the Pony Gaga song they had just been playing, yet somehow this lively, upbeat song too had ended up on what they had thought to be a game just for rock songs alone.

“Hey, this here song actually ain’t all that bad!” Applejack remarked as she rocked slightly to the beat of the preview.

“OHHH YESSS!!! I think we’ve found our last song, girls! Nopony does a jam better than Kitey Berry!” Exclaimed Pinkie Pie right before she hammered her hoof down on the controller’s ‘A’ button, confirming her selection and difficulty - no surprise that she picked the vocals on Expert, but thankfully, this time, nopony had an objection to her song selection.

After all, the preview itself had sounded tame enough, how hard could it possibly be?

Eager to wrap up the session and finally get on with some much-needed dinner, Twilight took up the guitar controllers along with Fluttershy, while Rarity took the the drums again, holding the tip of one daintily to her lips as she awaited the start of the song.

For the final time tonight, the four ponies made their appearance on the on-screen stage, greeting their loyal fans with aplomb as they got ready to play in a concert hall comparable to the one they had last.

Impressive as the environment was,Twilight barely registered any of it - the rumbling that was beginning to manifest in her gut belied just how hungry she was!

It would be pretty nice if this song would quickly wrap itself up and they could get on to some dinner!

There was another loud rumble as the four note charts made their expected appearance, and Rainbow Dash grinned sheepishly before letting out a short “Oops.”

Yep, they definitely had to wrap it up quickly!

So anxious was the lavender unicorn to get the last song over with so they could begin eating that she almost missed the first few notes as they came down on her note chart - picking herself back up in a near panic, she barely managed to hit them, right as the lyrics began and Pinkie Pie’s lit up from within with proverbial stars.

“Ooooh, this is my JAM!

“C’mon, everypony!” The pink earth pony suddenly cried out as she came right up next to Rainbow Dash, the mic right between their mouths, and the pegasus shrugged - what the hay, no harm in a little fun, right?

Everypony gathered in the room had suddenly burst out into song once the chorus had come around - everypony knew the most famous song in all of Equestria, and they had to remember at least how the chorus went. Heck, even Fluttershy was joining in the vocals, even though her voice could barely be heard over the rest of their singing.

The music’s once-feverish rhythm now quietly drawing to a close, the last few, steady beats died off into the distance as everypony’s in-game avatars took their places for one final bow amidst hordes of raucous fans, chanting over and over for an encore.

Panting, and slightly out of breath, Twilight Sparkle gave a little wheeze as she flopped on her hindquarters in exhaustion. Sweat pouring from her brow, the disheveled unicorn couldn’t even bother looking at the score as she leaned back for some much needed respite as a single thought swam through her now hazy mind.

That. Was. Awesome.

It didn’t take long for five pony hindquarters to hit the floor with one loud, resounding ‘thump’, the lavender unicorn allowing herself a brief smile as she came to the realization she wasn’t the only pony thoroughly tuckered out.

“My word, Twilight... that was quite the... ‘jam,’ as you would call it, I suppose.”

“Fer once, Rarity, I agree wit’cha.”

“So... Awesomeeeeeeee...”

“BEST PARTY EVER!”

“It was...nice.”

Trying to collect her thoughts, Twilight vaguely seemed to recall something about dinner and Spike telling her to come down for it. Shaking her head, she glanced around and tried to rally her friends for dinner.

“C’mon everypony,” mumbled the obviously-tired unicorn. “We’ve got a- yaaaaaaawn- dinner... that needs eating...”

As a symphony of snores hit her right smack in the face, Twilight gave her head another shake and stared at her now-comatose friends, some happily snoring away as they lay collapsed all over Twilight’s floor, hoofs strewn everywhere as drool spilt out from Rainbow Dash’s gaping mouth.

Her own eyelids now feeling as though they weighed just as much as the sun itself, Twilight could only shrug her shoulders in humble loss, mumbling something quietly to herself.

“Well... If ya can’t beat ‘em...”

With a loud ‘thump,’ Twilight fell hoofs-over-backward as she lay on her floor, slipping happily off into a blissful rest.

“Join ‘em...”

--

Downstairs, a frustrated baby dragon continued rap his claws against the elegant wooden table, brows furrowed in annoyance as he tried waiting patiently for a certain purple unicorn and her five friends to show up and eat something.

“HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO FINISH THIS ALL BY MYSEEEEEEEEEEEELF?!”

--

Dearest Princess Celestia,

My friends and I have had a wonderful time with the Xbox 360 over the past few months. We’ve fought in wars and commanded troops, solved puzzles, and played for crowds of thousands, all without leaving our home.

We have gone on adventures most ponies only dream of, and I am sure with the games that we will see from the University in the future, everypony will have the chance to go on even more.

Therefore, as the unofficial Head Beta Tester for the University of Canterlot, and consort and apprentice of her majesty Princess Celestia, I declare the Xbox 360 to be a resounding success!

Your faithful student,
Twilight Sparkle