Guitar Hero: On Tour [Bundle]
Game: Guitar Hero On Tour
Platform: Nintendo DS
It’s hard to remember how much of an impact Guitar Hero had on the gaming world when it was first introduced, waaaaayy back in 2005. Today, we seemingly have several thousand rhythm games to fill anyone’s needs. You’ve got your Rock Band, your Battle of the Bands, and I’m sure that out there somewhere, someone is working on Accordion Deity. But the fact is the Red Octane started the whole thing, bringing a mini Gibson SG to PS2s all over the world and basically creating a billion dollar a year market. Cut to today where the market is inundated with duplications and imitators. But Red Octane is at it again, hoping to redefine the genre with Guitar Hero On Tour, the franchise’s first attempt at a handheld version.
Before I get into the breakdown of the game, I have to talk about the controller. Guitar Hero, and other games of similar ilk, are essentially defined by their controller. Sure, you could unplug the guitar and play GH on your console’s control pad, but that’s not the way the game was meant to be played. Similarly, On Tour brings the "Guitar Grip" to the DS. Where the home versions have five buttons, On Tour has four. Where the other consoles get a strum bar, the DS version has you strum on the touch screen with the stylus. Star Power used to be unlocked by tilting the guitar up, but now you yell (or blow) into the DS microphone.
Holding the DS with the Guitar Grip attached definitely takes some getting used to. in spite of the pre-game warnings, you’ll end up holding your wrist at an awkward angle for extended periods of time, which led to some noticeable soreness for me. It did eventually go away, which made me think that it was just stretching a muscle I don’t normally use, and not carpal tunnel syndrome. Using the DS’s internal microphone to unlock star power is wrought with some problems too. Since you’re strumming every note on the touch screen, chances are you’ll end up hitting the screen with a bit of force sometimes. If you hit the screen to hard, the microphone picks it up, and your star power is unleashed ahead of schedule. There are also some weird synchronization issues that pop up from time to time with the touch screen; you’ll end up missing some notes that you’re pretty sure you hit.
One of the things I found to be the most pleasant surprise of GHOT was the quality of the sound. Each song is reproduced with almost CD-like quality, which is quite an accomplishment for a DS cartridge. But as great as the songs are, they are also the biggest problem. The game comes 25 songs on it. That’s it. Five times five songs. Now I understand the limitations of what you can fit on a DS cartridge, but the fact is that in the year 2008, a full-priced game coming with only 25 songs on it is just about as close to unacceptable as you can get. And since there is no storage on the DS, there’s no chance for DLC.
The graphics for the game are okay. You can tell Red Octane was more concerned with the sound quality than with creating the polished look that DS titles like Phantom Hourglass deliver. Fans of the franchise will recognize several of the playable characters: Axel Steel, Judy Nails, Johnny Napalm, and Pandora are all back for encores. But new to On Tour are two rockers: Gunner Jaxon and Memphis Rose. There are five venues and four skill levels to master, so depending on how long you’ll be able to play will depend on how long it takes you to adjust to the differences.
There are several multiplayer game modes, both co-op and competitive, played over Nintendo Wi-Fi. You have your standard co-op Guitar/Bass tracks, and the head-to-head modes we’ve come to love. But the GHOT has also brought in the "Guitar Duel" mode introduced in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. Essentially, you earn power-ups in the form of distractions you can thrown at your opponent. The opponent must then utilize the DS touch screen or microphone to clear them out of the way. It’s a gimmicky mode to be sure, but it does serve to give the game a bit more depth.
Outside of the lack of songs, I had one major issue with Guitar Hero On Tour: portability. I tend to buy handheld games to play on train rides, or while flying. The combination of the cumbersome Guitar Grip, the non-ergonomic angle at which you hold the DS, and gameplay interface make this a game I was actually embarrassed to play in public. And if a handheld game can only be played at home, what’s the point? I would say that GHOT is worth the price for fans of the series, or those who want to be stared at on public transportation. Otherwise, stick with the home version.
PLEASE NOTE: Yes, I have slated this game as a “Rent It”. No, you cannot rent this game from most rental businesses (due to the Guitar Grip). However, it is not worth a full buy, nor does the game deserve to be trashed. So... I don’t know... borrow it?