It wasn’t all that long ago that if you wanted to play a rhythm game, your option was to play Dance Dance Revolution and all the neighbor-disturbing fake-dancing silliness that it implies. There were other entries that hit mainstream- Donkey Konga and Karoke Revolution come to mind, but none of them hit hard enough to stay there.
But then, lo from the heavens, descending from New England came a Guitar Hero. Our prayers to Valhallen, Viking God of Rock, were finally answered in the form of a plastic axe and a handful of songs “made famous” by rock and roll icons.
For a while, it would seem that I would never get to try Guitar Hero. My first time spotting it was at a party, where a line had formed of pre-teens to jam, and I knew I wouldn’t get a chance. Then Bartoneus was given a copy as a wedding gift, but he refused to let me play after a gaming session had wound down. It wasn’t until I was on a trip this summer that I finally got to play Guitar Hero 2, and in a very non-judgmental environment for my first few games where instead of Message in a Bottle the audience heard what sounded like Sting torturing a cat.
As if fate had decreed it, my old Xbox Sleepy finally bit the dust while playing season 2 disk 2 of House, and I spotted an ad offering extra trade-in dollars at the local Gamestop. An hour and some negotiation later (where they claimed my Gamecube was missing a part it never possessed) I left with a used Xbox 360, 20 GB hard drive, and Guitar Hero 2.
Over the next few weeks, I proceeded to tear through the game on my own in the basement, my family upstairs occasionally hearing me yell various rock slogans after completing a particularly hard song. My journey began with all the easy stages with Mr. Lars Umlaut, and after that was complete, moved on to medium with Ms. Judy Nails. I worked on blasting through the medium, and using the cash to unlock the bonus songs along the way (which I was a bit mad I had to do- characters, guitars, and costumes fine… but songs? Lame.) I was thrilled that the “final boss” of the game was (SPOILER!) the song Freebird, accompanied by several warnings making sure that you are really ready for what’s to come.
For a time, I went back and improved on some of the songs I had done less than stellar on to earn some extra cash, and being annoyed that the bonus songs didn’t get you any cash either. I finally decided that I had enough of Medium and blazed on to the easiest song on Hard. And soon found myself being virtually booed off-stage, the guitar suddenly seeming oh so much heavier. It seems that in addition to adding a fifth button, they also decide that you need 200 times more notes to play and the speed of everything increases a thousand fold. (I can’t even imagine the gameplay of the difficult above Hard, for fear that my brain would melt and I would be forever cast into Rock & Roll Limbo, like everyone on The Day the Music Died.)
Additionally, the fifth button proved to be far more problematic for me. A work injury years ago fractured my left pinky, and healed in an improper way, leaving finite control with it difficult. I was able to handle it in Medium with some extra mental effort, but Hard just leaves me with no extra nanoseconds to deal with my damaged digit.
So what am I to do? Well, one of these days I’m going to go back and try the training mode and put the Hard songs on a greater decreased speed and try to work my way up. However, it’s bordering on the dreaded area of games that I call “Work” where it ceases to be fun, and I find myself drawn to those things that are indeed fun.
Now my options involve my wallet, and a little bit of waiting. I have not yet figured out how to set up my Xbox 360 to get online (if anyone can give me easy instructions on how to do it with a non-Microsoft adapter, lemme know in the comments!), but I understand there are more songs that could be bought online. This still doesn’t fit into a structured play mode that helped motivate me on before, though.
There are two games coming in the next few months that will help alleviate this, which I’m sure you’ve heard something about by now. Guitar Hero 3 is a flat out sequel, and among a host of new songs for me to play on Medium, will also include the ability to fight against animated versions of famous guitarists. The band line-up looks great: Weezer, Tenacious D (a total no-brainer), Dragonforce, Muse, Beatie Boys, and the BOC.
Meanwhile, Rock Band is said to be able to be played with just the Guitar Hero guitar in the same fashion, so even if I don’t feel like shelling out the $200 in the hopes that I can get three friends over for the full music set, I’ll still have more songs to jam through, and (if I can get it working) I can find people to play with online. GamePro has a few videos of play, the first featuring a song by one of my all time favorite bands, OKGO. Hot song of Rock Band: Don’t Fear the Reaper (with the microphone operating as the infamous cowbell.)
Additionally, of course, there will be more songs for download for those games as well, with the promise to release full albums at a time for the games. Though I don’t like being stuck at having to advance to a mode I seem to be unable to in the current game I have, at least I know there are more options on the way for a Fufilling Rock Experience.
(And Penny Arcade proposes another game in the series… which also seems like I would be stuck at Medium on.)