Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 06/20/08

A fire in the sky...

Believe it or not, when Guitar Hero first came out, barely anyone knew about it. I remember the days when you didn’t see it plugged into a TV at every Wal-Mart across the country and when you saw it at a gaming store, no one even batted an eye, assuming it was just another one of those broken rhythm games with weird pop music. Well, Guitar Hero definitely caught steam, and now it is a worldwide phenomenon and single-handedly rejuvenated the waning rhythm-based music genre.

Anyone who doesn’t want to shell out all the extra dough in order to purchase the game alone without the guitar is a very stupid person. Sure, you can play the game using the controller, but that’s not fun at all. If you’re going to play a game, play it the way it was meant to be played, which is with a guitar controller in Guitar Hero’s case.

Brilliantly designed, this guitar controller has five color-coded buttons, with the colors green, red, yellow, blue, and orange. Of course, you can’t just tap the buttons on the neck of the guitar and expect to hit the notes. Instead, you have to strum every time you hit a note for it to count.

If that was all there was to the game, then it would be a very boring rock-n-roll journey, now wouldn’t it? While there are all of those regular notes you have to hit, some notes you’ll have to hold down the note on. While you’re holding down this note you can hit the “whammy bar” that is located near the strummer for some extra points depending on how fast you hit the whammy bar. Another kind of notes are the ones that are bright and shiny as opposed to the colors.

What do these shiny notes do exactly? Well, if you hit all of the shiny notes in succession then you fill your Star Power meter. In order to activate this Star Power you have to tilt the guitar, which multiplies your combos by two so you can really rack up some high scores. Unfortunately, the guitar isn’t always responsive with this system, but for the most part it works pretty well and makes you more involved with the gameplay.

As you hit so many notes in a row, your combo multiplier increases. The maximum the combo can increase to without Star Power is 4x, but if you use Star Power then that increases to 8x. This system makes using Star Power more strategic as you will want to use it when you have a multiplier of 4 already going and you’ll want to do it during guitar solos when there are a lot of notes for you to hit.

Obviously, not all of the songs are available to you right off the bat, and in order to unlock most of the songs you must play through the career mode. In career mode, you start out as a lowly new guitar player and work your way through the ranks. However, there is yet another way to earn new songs.

Bonus songs can actually be bought in Guitar Hero using money earned in career mode. Songs aren’t the only thing you can buy in the shop, though, as you can also purchase some new characters and new guitars. Unfortunately, you cannot create your own character or your own guitar, but the characters and guitars provided in the game are cool enough.

A no-brainer for Guitar Hero is a multiplayer mode, but sadly the multiplayer mode isn’t nearly as fun as you would expect it to be. While it will still provide for a mild distraction from the main game for a little while, it definitely fails to pack much of a punch and won’t impress you as much as it could have. Basically, the two of you duel, playing different parts of the songs, and the player with the most points at the end wins. It’s a shame that multiplayer wasn’t expanded on more in the original Guitar Hero.

Taking Guitar Hero deeper are the four levels of difficulty. On the first level of difficulty, only three notes are used, making the game almost mind-numbingly easy for people familiar with it, but still challenging to newcomers. The normal mode throws in one more note and picks up the pace a little, while the hard mode includes all of the notes. The infamous expert mode includes all of the notes and goes extremely fast, so it will definitely test your skills. These four difficulty levels are the most balanced difficulty levels I have ever found in a video game, which is a welcome change from games that end up being either too easy or way too hard on varying difficulty levels.

One of the major faults in the game is that it simply isn’t very pretty and there’s no excuse for that since it’s relatively short and while it does have a lot of songs available, the animations are limited. Characters look a little too weird for my tastes and there’s not much happening on stage that’s very interesting for anyone waiting for their turn to come up. Also, Guitar Hero suffers from “SD vs. Raw 2008” syndrome in that it loads quite often and during unnecessary places. Sure, the game does provide interesting tidbits about music and some funny little blurbs, but these repeat themselves too often to be entertaining for more than a few play sessions.

Being a music game, it is a no-brainer that Guitar Hero provides a memorable and recognizable soundtrack. There are some really great songs in here, but it’s a shame that there’s not really any newer stuff available. Still, the game’s soundtrack does get things done and even if you don’t like the gameplay, just think about purchasing the game as buying a super mix CD, because for some people, that’s what it essentially becomes.

The Career Mode in Guitar Hero won’t last you all that long, but the four different difficulty settings will take weeks to master. This is where one of the biggest problems of Guitar Hero comes into play and holds it back from getting a perfect score, and this problem is that you can greatly aggravate your wrist and forearm while playing. That’s really too bad because it can kill the fun sometimes. Anyway, there is some stuff to unlock, which always adds replayability, a multiplayer mode that while it isn’t very deep still does give you some more to do, plus the game is worth playing again and again just to hear some of the songs.

Guitar Hero breathed new life into the music/rhythm genre and because of its success popular games like Elite Beat Agents and Rock Band were able to find a home in our video game consoles and handhelds. Nowadays I always hear a lot of people complaining that there are rarely any new gaming franchises that really blow you away anymore, but the Guitar Hero games have proved them wrong. These games have introduced the world of gaming to a broader audience and have got a lot more people playing video games. With a great soundtrack, solid gameplay, and plenty to do, Guitar Hero proves that video games can still be imaginative and fun to this day.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Guitar Hero (w/Guitar) (US, 11/07/05)

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