Rhythm and music games have become the new darling of the Video Game world in the past five years. Thanks to the innovative gameplay of Guitar Hero for the Playstation 2, they have become the hot ticket for mainstream games. Lately, however, there has been a major influx of these games in all forms, literally saturating the market with three different versions of a guitar game on every system. Some try to be innovative with their creations, such as Harmonix and Rock Band, and some attempt innovation, only to fail due to some major miscalculation.
Enter Guitar Hero On Tour. The same series that began the sudden boom is now slowly dissipating into the realm of redundancy, and On Tour is perhaps their lowest point thus far. It’s kind of like watching other favorite game series, like Tomb Raider and Splinter Cell, show their age and finally descends into despair. While a lot of hopes are pinned on Guitar Hero World Tour, On Tour unfortunately might be the beginning of the final set for Guitar Hero.
The game itself is played on the DS through a new, semi-innovative peripheral which is essentially four colored fret buttons plugged into the Game Boy Advance slot on the DS. You then turn the machine on it’s side, and with a custom, guitar picked shape stylus, strum the notes with one hand while moving your fingers on the fret board with your other hand. At the very least, I applaud the developers for creating such a tool to do this, but the biggest problem is that the tool is extremely faulty.
The first problem is that it sometimes pops out from too much stress or wear and tear, and that alone can screw up any game. If you do have it in right, the next problem comes with stamina and comfort. It was very easy to get cramped up after several minutes of playing the game, as your fingers are forced to move with little room for any kind of true mobility. The game and the games manual even warn people to stop playing or change your hands position if the cramps start coming on, which is a bad sign already.
Another minor peeve is the fact that the games core gameplay, naming the strumming and button mashing at the same time concept, has been essentially watered down for the DS version. You have only four notes to work with, and for jaded Guitar Heroes, this presents very little challenge. In fact, the game is incredibly easy, right down to the fast strumming sections in some of the more challenging songs. Other little oddities like shouting into the DS microphone to activate star power or the still broken and horribly implemented battle mode are odd choices for the handheld version, and are really more of a miss than a hit.
Speaking of hit or miss, the team at Vicarious Visions was able to recreate the Guitar Hero feel with the graphics, albeit in blocky, pixilated form. The DS shows its full power once again, creating very fluid animations for a handheld, and it has the authentic look of Guitar Hero down easily. The biggest miss, and the final nail in the coffin, is the songs themselves.
It is not so much the sound of the songs, because even the covers sound great in the game (and frankly, I am amazed that the songs sound so good on tiny speakers like that to begin with.) The biggest nail is the really weak setlist that was created.
Now I am a fan of numerous genres of music, some of which that most people frown upon, but the setlist for Guitar Hero, On Tour is extremely bad because of the lack of variety or a killer app. The game boasts 25 songs plus five bonus songs after the game is beaten, and the biggest problem is that none of the songs stand out at all. Arguably the best song in the game is Pride and Joy by Stevie Ray Vaughn and that is the same cover version that was in Guitar Hero III. In fact, at least six songs from Guitar Hero III, and three songs form Rock Band make an appearance in the setlist. The remains songs are varied, including Incubus, Ozzy Osborne, Twisted Sister and the Stray Cats, but each song is forgettable after you finish it. Nothing hooks you in, because almost all of the songs are from the past 15 years or so, and remind me of the B-list side of a good single. And why the hell are guys like Smash Mouth and some dude from American Idol in here? I know they are trying to expand it a bit, but even that is stretching it now. I hated it when the Beastie Boys were in Rock Band and Guitar Hero III, and I still am apprehensive to the whole “Raprock” groups out there.
So where does this leave Guitar Hero? After the running success that the game generated five years ago, it is now at a crossroads of sorts. Rock Band has revolutionized the genre once again, and the gamble now is to follow in the footsteps of their main rival and totally revamp the series. The core gameplay of Guitar Hero has proven, at the very least with On Tour, that the series is running low on steam, and the revamp might just revive the series back to their glory days, but for now leave Guitar Hero On Tour the same place you leave the other, horrible sequels to the big franchises, because that is the only spot it will occupy years from now.
Final Score- D