Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern HitsESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer - Vicarious Visions
Publisher - Activision / Red Octane
Players: 1- 2
When Guitar Hero first arrived on the DS many praised the game for its originality, innovativeness and for making a seamless transition from console to handheld. The set list rocked and made it the must-have DS game for Guitar Hero fans and DS owners alike. The sequel, Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades, was strong but I did have some issues and the novelty of a Guitar Hero game on the DS was starting to wear off. In less than a year, Guitar Hero is back for a third time on Nintendo’s handheld machine with Guitar Hero: On Tour Modern Hits. All the core elements of the previous two games are back but this time we have a new set list, new characters, and some new features. Sounds appealing, but is the game worthy of your hard earned cash and does it address some of the issues that plagued the previous games? Let’s find out shall we….
As with the two previous DS Guitar Hero games, Modern Hits is good looking game. As I played I couldn't help but thing that this latest version almost seems a tad sharper than its predecessors. It is not next generation visuals, but considering the hardware limitations of the DS the game does look good and the signature style of the franchise is displayed it all its glory on the DS. The Guitar Hero franchise is known for its rich colours and Modern Hits is no different. The look and feel to the game maintains that authentic Guitar Hero experience and there is no mistaking you are playing a Guitar Hero game but in portable form. The characters, the new environments, the backgrounds, and the scrolling notes all look great. Modern Hits uses the same graphics engine as the other On Tour games found on the DS, nevertheless the overall final product is seemingly much better this time around, but as with all games of this nature your focus is primarily on the falling notes and you will not have much of a chance to watch the goings on around you anyhow.
As with the games visuals, the audio appears a little cleaner this time around as well. The game features a solid set list with 28 songs out of the box. Granted, the tunes can only sound so good coming out of those tiny DS speakers, but I have to say the songs did not sound that bad at all. Sure, it is not digital sound quality, and can still have the quality of an AM radio, but it does appear slightly better than Guitar Hero: Decades and it is a step in the right direction. As with most DS games putting on headphones certainly enhances the experience, but again it can only sound so good given the limitations of the hardware.
As I suggest above, the set list in Modern Hits is a good one featuring tunes from current and relevant artists. The game features a diverse selection of songs targeting the young and the more mature folks. All 28 tunes are master tracks so you do not have to worry about listening to some cover band play your favourite tune. For those wondering what songs you will get to play, I thought it would be prudent to make a list of some of the songs available. You will find yourself rocking to the following:
12 Stones - "Adrenalin"
AFI - "Miss Murder"
Angels & Airwaves - "Call to Arms"
Atreyu - "Falling Down"
Black Tide - "Shockwave"
Coldplay - "Violet Hill"
Endeverafter - "I Wanna Be Your Man"
Evanescence - "Sweet Sacrifice"
Fall Out Boy - "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race"
Finger Eleven - "Paralyzer"
Foo Fighters - "All My Life"
Franz Ferdinand - "The Fallen"
Kaiser Chiefs - "Ruby"
Lenny Kravitz - "Where Are We Runnin'?"
Modest Mouse - "Dashboard"
Phantom Planet - "Do The Panic"
Sum 41 - "Still Waiting"
Tenacious D - "The Metal"
The Bravery - "Unconditional"
The Donnas - "What Do I Have to Do"
The Duke Spirit - "Lassoo"
The Fratellis - "Chelsea Dagger"
The Kooks - "Always Where I Need to Be"
The Offspring - "Half-Truism"
The Strokes - "Reptilia"
Weezer - "Everybody Get Dangerous"
Wolfmother - "Dimension"
Yellowcard - "Lights and Sounds"
Vancouver Canuck hockey fans will undoubtedly cringe when they hear The Fratellis “Chelsea Dagger” as the Chicago Blackhawks played the song repeatedly in the NHL playoffs every time they scored in their home building. Nevertheless, the set list in that bad at all and you can certainly tell the developers wanted to narrow the target audience a bit more this time around. To the hardcore Guitar Hero fan who has become accustomed to 40 plus songs, 28 may seem skimpy. I can’t speak for others but by the time I was done the last song, my hand was so sore that 28 seemed more than enough.
The core gameplay in Guitar Hero: On Tour Modern Hits remains unchanged from the console versions in the franchise and plays exactly like the other On Tour games on the DS. For those who have been living under a rock for the past few years and don’t know what this game offers, it is a rhythm based game where you hit falling notes that are represented on-screen as colored discs. While these notes scroll down the screen you press the corresponding colored fret buttons and strum to the beat. As you manage to hit notes in succession you increase your bonus multiplier and rack up your score. That is the essence of Guitar Hero in nutshell.
To adapt the gameplay of Guitar Hero to the DS, Modern Hits comes with a special peripheral known as the ‘Guitar Grip’. It is specifically designed for the DS and actually comes with an adapter that allows the game to be played on older Nintendo DS models. Unfortunately, the game is not playable on the DSi as there is no GBA cartridge slot for the Guitar Grip to plug into. Surely this will be an issue addressed in the next instalment of the series, but for now this is considered a huge drawback and I can see many DSi throwing their arms up in the air in a fit of anger over this issue. Here is to hoping there are some huge warning labels on the box in retail stores.
For those new to the DS Guitar Hero franchise, the Guitar Grip comes equipped with four fret buttons as opposed to the Guitar Controllers on the consoles which have five buttons. The four fret buttons are located on the side of the DS near the GBA cartridge slot. A slick wrist strap is attached to the underside of the DS to provide you with some support while playing. You hold the DS vertically and use a special guitar pick-shaped stylus to strum on the touchscreen of the DS with your free hand. The notes and the band playing are located on the left screen. Overall it is truly an innovative piece of gaming equipment, but just like last time it is not without its share of issues.
For starters, holding the Guitar Grip continues to feel awkward and ultimately makes the DS heavier than it should be. To this day I still haven't found a comfortable position where I can play the game longer than 10 or 20 minutes without getting sore. I tried lying down, sitting up, and even standing; but for the life of me I could not get comfortable while playing. Generally I am fine for a few songs but then my hand starts to cramp. Needless to say, you need to take a lot of breaks when playing Modern Hits. As I see it, part of the problem is the wrist strap prevents you from moving your hand and you inevitably start getting a cramp as you hammer away at those tiny fret buttons. I found I really had to loosen up the strap so I could move my fingers around better. The touchscreen strumming with the stylus pick on the other hand seems much more accurate and responsive this time around. I found I rarely had to adjust my position in this regard and strumming on the screen was as easy as strumming a set of guitar strings. Despite all my gripes, the Guitar Grip is a neat little device, but I hope the developers tinker with it a bit more in an effort to make the thing a little more comfy.
As with all Guitar Hero games, Modern Hits features a strong career mode and I spent the bulk of my time here. Before you jump into a tune you are greeted by your new agent, Miss Heather. From there you pick a band name, enter your initials, and select your on-screen persona from several different characters. You then choose a guitar, choose from one of the four difficulty levels, and away you go. I should mention that the difficulty is even greater this time around. After only a few songs the game becomes rather difficult, even in medium. All songs are certainly passable but to obtain perfect scores and win duals, some extensive practising will be required.
A new twist to Modern Hits career mode is the ability to progress any way you want. You can choose from any available songs in the opening act, headline act, or fan requests in any order. You are initially restricted to the unlocked venues; however once your career progresses more songs and concert venues become unlocked. The focus this time around is accumulating fans, which is accomplished by playing songs and completing fan requests. Fan requests occur every time you complete a song in the opening act or headline act. Every fan request has a specific goal which must be competed while playing the song. My favourite objective was the guitar duals. Just like previous Guitar Hero games, the duals pit you against another character. Battle items are earned by playing a string of star gem notes. These battle items are used to disrupt your opponents play and forces them to miss notes. The dual mode works very well in this game and is one of the main highlights of Modern Hits.
One of my main concerns with the career mode in Modern Hits is that I am not a fan of repeating songs early in the game. In fact, out of the first five songs I played, two of them were repeats. This is not a major issue, but I like to play all the songs at least once before I have to go back and re-do the ones I played earlier in the career mode. It would have been nice to have gone through fresh songs before having the game make some of the already available songs repeat.
Like the last game, Modern Hits supports five multiplayer modes: Face-Off, Pro Face-Off, Co-op, Guitar Duel battle and Song Sharing mode. The intuitive interface makes setting up a game easy as pie. I am not going to go over all the modes again, but I do want to touch on the Song Sharing mode which is simply awesome. Modern Hits utilizes a technology allowing you and a friend to play and stream songs from different versions of the game. So if you’ve have Guitar Hero: On Tour Modern Hits and your buddy has Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades you can double the songs you can play in any multiplayer mode. This is a very cool feature indeed and once again demonstrates how the franchise is not stuck in its ways as it continually looks for avenues to improve from the previous games.
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