Rockin' on the Go
Activision had people scratching their heads when they announced they would be publishing a DS version of their massively popular Guitar Hero series. There were many questions as to how they could shrink the Guitar Hero experience down to a handheld. Would they use a guitar peripheral, and if so how would they keep it portable? After much speculation, Vicarious Visions showed off their answer to the challenges of bringing Guitar Hero to the DS in the form of the Guitar Grip.
The Guitar Grip would either make or break On Tour, and I would have to say that it definitely didn't break it. The one issue with the Grip is the potential for causing major cramping in the hand. This really becomes a non-issue if you take the game's advice and hold your wrist straight and find the most comfortable playing postion. When I first played the game I had the strap too tight and I was holding my wrist at an angle. When I held my wrist straight and loosened the wrist strap to allow my hand to arch more around the grip I found that I could play for hours at a time without pain.
Turning the DS on its side also had the benefit of opening up the top screen for an elongated note highway and touch screen strumming. The ability to strum anywhere, in any direction on the touch screen allows players to hold the DS at any angle they want and still strum comfortably. They touch screen controls work well for activating Guitar Duel power ups or Star Power, which can also be activated by yelling or blowing into the microphone.
Not only did Vicarious Visions successfully shrink the Guitar Hero experience to the DS, they also created some of the best audio and best graphics yet seen on the DS. Although the tracks do suffer a little from the compression, there is a surprising amount of clarity in the audio. Even the slight tininess of the audio becomes almost unnoticeable during songs because your attention is much more on hitting the notes than analyzing the games sound quality. Visually the game is impressive. The characters animate fluidly and the characters and venues show a surprising amount of detail.
As for the set list, I can't say that I am too disappointed. I happen to enjoy a lot of the "pop-rock" that is in the game, and many of the tracks that I wasn't familiar with going into the game have turned out to be a blast to listen to and play along with. Songs like Anna Molly, Jet Airline, and China Grove have won me over, while old favorites like All Star, This Love, and Jessie's Girl have kept me coming back. In the end, whether or not you like the selection of songs in the game comes down to personal taste.
The game does have a number of set backs. The set list, while enjoyable, is fairly short. I would assume that the $50 price tag comes from the cost of the peripheral and the large SD card it takes to pack in all the songs. Still it would have been nice to see a few more songs for the money. Especially when you consider that Guitar Hero III had 71 songs and it only costs $90 with the full size guitar peripheral. There is also a minor annoyance when you accidentally shake the Guitar Grip out of the GBA slot. Because the GBA slot was not designed for hot swap, if you do happen to dislodge the Grip during play the game must be restarted before you can pick up and go again.
All in all Guitar Hero: On Tour does an amazing job of bring Guitar Hero to the DS, and it is an excellent edition to the already stellar library of DS games. Here's to more rockin' when Decades hits the shelves this fall!