game reviews and playing tips: Nintendo DS games
Guitar Hero: On Tour
Reviewed August 2008 by Edwin Kee
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Release Date: June 2008
ESRB: “E 10+” Everyone 10 years and older
Many people have played Guitar Hero across all the different consoles in the past, and the experience is something worth savoring. There is something about stepping into the shoes of a guitar demigod, shredding those notes while driving the crowd wild with your mad skills that’s just addictive and heart pounding. I would say previous rhythm-based games like Ouendan! and Elite Beat Agents set the tone for Nintendo's portable’s music genre, but Guitar Hero: On Tour brings it to a totally different level.
There are over 24 hard rocking songs for you to play, and it will take a fair bit before you master all of them on the Expert level. Of course, you can always go the extra mile and record your achievements on video, upload it to YouTube and become a legend, but that's another story for another day. In the meantime, read on and find out more on what Guitar Hero: On Tour has to offer for the discerning gamer.
So other Guitar Hero games in the franchise come with a unique controller – a separate “guitar”, so to speak, with five different frets for you to jam to. How is this going to work on the DS? Well, the developers have spent a fair bit of time thinking about the solution, and they finally decided to rest on the special Guitar Grip peripheral which is slotted into the DS' GBA slot. The Guitar Grip might look pretty awkward at first, but it will come to you naturally after a short while with the game, making this a much better choice compared to pressing the A, B, X and Y buttons to activate certain notes. The Guitar Grip boasts a quartet of colors, and you will need to press the corresponding color when the notes start to fall, strumming the strings at the right moment to keep the song going.
Since all guitars in real life come with a pick for you to strum with, how about this game? If you have lost your stylus and the spare, fret (no pun intended) not. Guitar Hero: On Tour comes with a unique Pick Stylus that has a sharp of an actual guitar pick but a lot thicker. The guitar pick has a stylus tip you can use to strum on DS’ touch screen. There won't be any need for the D-pad nor the six buttons, as this is an entirely touch based title with some help from the guitar grip.
There are four challenging multiplayer modes in the Guitar Hero: On Tour – Face-Off, Pro Face-Off, Co-op, and an expanded Guitar Duel battle mode. The user interface makes it a snap to set up and launch contests quickly. Of course, multiplayer gaming is achieved wirelessly so you won't have to worry about dropped connections anymore due to a pulled cable. Just don't wander away from your opponent too far and you should be fine.
Here is a video of the gameplay:
The controls are where the game really shines. Of course, it will take some getting used to in the beginning (especially for those who have not even touched the Guitar Hero versions on the consoles), but once you get the hang of it, you might actually end up wanting to go out and purchase your own real life guitar. The Guitar Grip comes with four frets in different colors – Green, Red, Yellow and Blue. Each time a note drops from the top to the bottom line, you will have to press the corresponding colored fret and strum your “guitar” by stroking the touch screen with the Pick Stylus. Sounds easy, but things really heat up as you progress further into the game and at greater difficulties – you will find different colored notes at alternating frets simultaneously, all dropping at an unforgiving pace. Those with larger hands might find themselves with a cramp after hours of non-stop play, but other than that we have had absolutely no problems whatsoever going at it for hours on end.
The only issue with the Guitar Grip is that it tends to slip out pretty easily from the GBA cartridge slot as it doesn't really connect too convincingly.
The DS isn't the hottest hardware on the planet when it comes to graphics power, and it does come up short where polygon count is concerned. Good thing in this game you will concentrate more on the timing of the notes and your strumming instead of what's happening in the background. If you take some time out and play through the tracks in Easy mode, you will be able to check out the great detail Vicarious Visions have paid attention to in the way of character modeling along with the lush backgrounds of various venues.
Your will have to choose from six different lead characters to start off your band, and as you progress through the game, you ought to be able to obtain more dough which can be used to exchange for new outfits, instruments and alternative paint finishes to add further unique qualities to your character. Notes will be depicted differently, letting you know what to expect and react accordingly.
The On Tour’s song list is one of the most diverse ones ever among the Guitar Hero franchise. You will be able to find classic rock tunes by Kiss, Santana and Twisted Sister as well as pop and alternative rock hits from No Doubt, Nirvana and Blink 182. Most of the songs are master recordings by original artists, and just like Elite Beat Agents, the volume level on this game is cranked up to the max for your gaming (and listening pleasure). Top marks in this aspect, and kudos to the developer for offering a hard-hitting selection of non-stop songs. R&B and hip-hop fans will probably give this a pass though as you won't be able to shake your booty to the tunes available.
It is interesting to note that the developer has allocated more memory on the cartridge so that you won't be shortchanged when it comes to the number of tracks available. The songs in the DS version of the Guitar Hero use three channels per track (similar to its console counterparts) while the audio mixes have been specially crafted to take full advantage of the Nintendo DS hardware. With master recordings used in most tracks, you can be sure that audio fidelity is not lost in translation.
Guitar Hero: On Tour is the first game of its kind using such peripherals for gameplay, and the developers have managed to pull it off spectacularly. I would recommend a buy rating for this title. Hopefully there will be future versions of the title that boast newer songs, allowing you to import your player statistics. This is still a long way off in the making (it might not even be possible), and I believe that things can only get better from here. If you loved Elite Beat Agents, Guitar Hero: On Tour will blow your mind away.
Tips & Tricks
− Best to use Star Power with a high Score Multiplier at areas where there are tons of notes raining down.
− Choose the right time to unleash your Star Power so as not to waste it.
− In duels, multiple attacks can prove to be devastating, so save them up and cripple your opponent once and for all.
− Always collect Battle Gems and unleash them when you've had your fill to collect even more. Just like handbags and shoes for ladies, you can never have enough Battle Gems.
− Never give up even if you're under the barrage of an opponent's attacks.
− Learn to pick both ways as that is one of the skills you will need to master if you want to complete the later stages in Expert mode.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
The entire game engine is well designed and you will find appropriate graphical references whenever you achieve “Star Power” in the game or complete a long run of combos. Of course, most players will be too engrossed trying to get their hand-eye coordination right to notice the background graphics, but once you've mastered a particular track, do play it over again and study the avatars and movement shown in the background. You won't be disappointed as the Guitar Hero: On Tour offers colorful and hard hitting graphics that are pretty much high up there compared to other DS titles.
Since most of the tracks in Guitar Hero: On Tour uses master tracks, you can be sure of top-notch audio. I would recommend you playing this using a pair of earphones (especially in public) for the best effect, but if you were in a room all by yourself, it wouldn't hurt to turn up the volume. Of course, I would also recommend hooking your DS up to a stereo system for greater effect, but that's entirely up to you.
This is a really fun title, especially when you start challenging yourself on a more difficult level. With multiplayer thrown in, you'll definitely find Guitar Hero: On Tour not short on fun. Have a few sessions with vodka and you'll know what I mean.
Music-based games are always part of a niche market, but the Guitar Hero franchise breaks the mold. If you're a hard rocking gamer who want to get your Guitar Hero kicks in on the go, it would be hard to draw a line on just how addictive this can get. Multiplayer is the way to go for extending gameplay. Future new tracks will breathe fresh air into the game.