by Chris Scott
reviewed on NDS
An experience goes mobile
Red Octane and Vicarious Visions did a wonderful job of making the unique Guitar Hero experience a mobile one when they released Guitar Hero: On Tour on the Nintendo DS. Now, just a few months from that initial release, we are once again flipping our DS sideways for the second Guitar Hero game. Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades offers virtually the same experience adding an entirely new song list and one major adjustment. Do these changes make the game worth purchasing for owners of the original On Tour? We shall see.
Like Guitar Hero: On Tour, Decades comes with a special guitar grip that inserts into the Game Boy Advance slot on the DS (a stand alone cart without the grip is available for those that already have the grip). We play the game ‘book style’ again with the grip curved underneath, adding four buttons (frets) to the DS. A special guitar pick stylus adds to the overall guitar experience although a regular stylus can be used if need be. An adjustable stabilization strap can be used to position your hand as best as possible. Positioning can be a problem for some people and extended play sessions may not be possible due to this. This isn't so much a deficiency of the grip itself but of the DS's inherent design limitations.
Getting a grip
Once you have positioned your DS and the grip you will be ready to play. You are tasked with timing your button presses on the guitar attachment and strumming on the touch screen at the same time. In order to be successful, your presses should coincide with streaming colored circles coming down the screen. Strumming a series of notes correctly will increase your score multiplier while missing too many notes or hitting the incorrect notes on screen can cause you to fail the song.
Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades boasts every mode its console brethren do, Career, Quickplay, and Multiplayer. Developer Vicarious Visions has done a solid job of bringing the gameplay of the consoles to the handheld, although strum recognition is sometimes a little spotty due to the nature of the touch screen. Star power is still deployed by yelling, talking or blowing into the DS's built in microphone, unfortunately this can cause inadvertent star power deployments due to background noise, be it on the bus, the car or at home.
Modes and songs
The main game is the Career mode Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades boasts three complete careers: Lead Guitar, Rhythm/Bass Guitar and Battle. The Lead Guitar and Rhythm/Bass careers are virtually identical except for the note placements. The Battle mode takes the Lead Guitar career and has players run a gauntlet of guitar battles against the computer. All three start you out in the Modern venue and each subsequent tier progression takes you back one decade. Unfortunately this makes for some uneven gameplay as some of the earlier songs are harder than some of the later songs but if nothing else, the game does take its theme of Decades seriously. There are four levels of difficulty to play through and like the first On Tour the difficulty itself is kind of hit and miss. Due to the lack of the fifth fret, the game is inherently easier for experienced players but the strum detection may cause the game to be unfairly harder.
In music games, it ultimately comes down to the song selection and here Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades is all over the place. Once again the game features tracks that are available to play in the console versions and while they are still a blast to play it seems lazy to not have an entirely new track list. Decades features some great rock songs, including The Darkness' "I believe in a thing called love", Bon Jovi's "You give love a bad name", "Free ride" by the Edgar Winter Group, Journey's "Any way you want it" and a host of others, some of which are real stinkers that just aren't fun to play. Overall the 28 racks on the cart are more consistently fun than the original On Tour's were and that's a good thing.
I mentioned before that there isn't much new to be found Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades and this is especially evident in the graphics and sound department. Graphically the game looks almost identical except for the new venues. It is serviceable enough for a DS game but it doesn't exactly look like eye candy either. The sound is once again optimized for headphones and when used without headphones the music sounds rather tinny and generally unappealing almost like you are listening to a poor reception radio station.
The game does sport online multiplayer. If you can get your Wi-Fi connection to work the game has one addition that does bring something special to table: playing with a friend that has the original On Tour, both set lists will be available to play. A nice touch.
The gameplay is solid and still a blast but Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades is for all intents and purposes On Tour with new songs laced with some minor additions. For some people that will be more than enough. For everyone else it might be wise to just hold onto your copy of the original On Tour and play with a friend who gets a copy of Decades.
No Pros and Cons at this time