Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection
Anyone who knows Activision knows that they truly are immersed in releasing a vast number of music/band based games onto the gaming masses. Band Hero is a new franchise aimed squarely at casual gamers as well as family oriented gamers. Fellow reviewer Trevor H had a chance to review the Xbox 360 version of the game. This was the game only. I on the other hand had the opportunity to review the full band kit version of the same game but on the Nintendo Wii. So what did I think? You will have to read on to find out.
Band Hero is a good looking game that manages to continue the improvements that were found in Guitar Hero 5. The characters look pretty lifelike and they animate quite well. The colors are bright and vibrant too which is good given that this game is targeted towards a more casual or family orientated audience. The menu is also worth mentioning as it too seems clean, sharp looking, and quite easy to navigate. If there is any complaint here it would have to be that the crowds don’t look as detailed as they could, but this is a minor oversight given that you are quite focused on the falling notes to play the game. One of the features that I really do enjoy in the Wii version is the ability to use my Mii in various modes. Nothing makes me smile more then to see my Mii likeness up on stage jamming away to various songs on the disc. Overall most people should be happy with the visual package that Band Hero presents.
Out of the box Band Hero features 65-tracks featuring 'Top-40 pop hits' spanning over several decades. At first glance 65-tracks seems like a fairly large track list, but compared to Guitar Hero 5's 85-tracks, Band Hero falls a little short. As for the songs themselves, there is some question as to the song selection as it does seem to lack some focus. The opinion here in the office is that Band Hero would have been better served to stick with modern pop tunes and stayed away from some of the oldies. Playing American Pie or ABC just seems a little odd after a couple of Pink or Taylor Swift tunes. On one hand, parents will enjoy some of the oldies but the tweens and teens will inevitably want to skip some of these same tunes. I should also mention some of the songs are censored which can be an annoyance at times. My question is why include the songs at all if some of the lyrics had to be screened out? One of the redeeming qualities of the games songs is unlike previous versions of the Guitar Hero series, in Band Hero all the songs are unlocked and available to play from the start.
The overall sound quality is good. Like the last few Guitar Hero games before it, the songs in Band Hero are master tracks which is expected in today's interactive music market. Gone are the days of listening to some cover band play your favourite tunes. Although the Wii is not capable of 5.1 surround sound, you still manage to hear some pretty good quality sound. All in all, anyone who enjoys top-40 or pop hits should be happy with the whole audio package offered in Band Hero for the Wii.
No matter how many times we review a music/band based game, there are bound to be a few people who have yet to experience what the genre is all about. So I need to do so before continuing. For those veteran Guitar Hero or Rock Band gamers out there, you can move past this paragraph given that you already know what the genre offers. Band Hero is a rhythm based game where you hit falling notes that are represented on-screen as coloured discs. When playing with the guitar you must hold down the corresponding coloured fret button(s) in time with the coloured discs while strumming to beat. As you manage to hit successive notes you increase your bonus multiplier and rack up the score. Similarly with the drums, as the on-screen coloured disks drop you need to bang on the corresponding coloured drum or cymbal with your drum sticks or push the foot pedal for the kick drum. The microphone works similar to other rhythm based games, such as SingStar and Rock Band, as it uses a system which gauges your pitch. The pitch level required is displayed via horizontal bars and these bars correspond with the lyrics of the song. Your pitch is compared to the pitch of the artist(s) singing the song and the better your singing abilities (e.g. the better your pitch and timing) the better your score. Everything that I just described is the essence of Band Hero in a nutshell.
Band Hero is a stand alone game that makes a valiant effort to tap into the casual game market, as well as target families who have shied away thus far from picking up any of music/band based games. The music is based on pop and top-40 type songs, and they are generally more ‘family friendly’ in terms of their content. There is no doubt that Band Hero makes an effort to appeal to these groups, but there is too much familiarity to the gameplay experience. Band Hero is truly a re-skinned version of Guitar Hero 5 which was released in September of this year, so many of the modes that are already available have been experienced before, well at least experienced by those who have previously played Guitar Hero 5.
Band Hero has the traditional Career Mode. Here you will find your self playing in your first venue and as you progress you earn stars by playing the songs that are available in that specific venue’s setlist. As you earn stars by playing well you open up new venues and even more setlists in your career. Career mode is the meat of Band Hero and you will find yourself playing through setlist after setlist in and effort to complete the game. It won’t take a lot of time though given there are only 65 songs included on the disc. To its’ benefit, you can change up instruments or the difficulty anytime during your career by simply going into the main menu and doing so. This is a plus given that many will find that they get better as they progress. Should you hit a song you just can’t master you can go and lower the skill setting should you desire.
As much as I enjoy playing the career modes of music/band games, multiplayer is where it is at. The Party Play mode makes the trip from Guitar Hero 5 to Band Hero and it is arguably the best mode. This mode is geared for families and friends to play the game together with no hassle. The ability to play together with no aggravations is fantastic. In Party mode you can dive right into the game without any fuss of trying to set up a game only to have to exit as something was not to another gamers’ liking. By simply pressing the yellow button on any controller you, or any other person, can immediately start playing along. Players can drop in/out at any point in any song without disrupting any others. Players can also change personal settings such as difficulty level on the fly without interrupting the jam session. It makes for a seamless experience and it comes in handy when you are playing with that one guy who always likes to tinker with his settings. Party mode can randomly shuffle through the entire setlist or you can create a specific setlist to play. The Party Mode's only downside is you cannot play online in this mode as it is truly intended for in-house parties. All in all, the Party Play mode is perfect for Band Hero and gives families an easy way to jump into a song and play like a band.
Also making appearance on Band Hero from Guitar Hero is the ability to make your own music in the GHStudio (why do they call it that when the game is Band Hero). Here you can be creative and try your hand at making some custom music via the in-game tools. I found that although this aspect is neat, and had its place in Guitar Hero 5, in a game that is tailored for casual gamers, younger gamers, and families, this feature is a little too advanced for this type of audience. Hardcore fans of the franchise or genre will make use of this, but I think the target audience of this particular game will shy away from it.
When Guitar Hero 5 was released on the Wii it added quite a few Wii exclusive features and they return for a run in Band Hero. In Mii Freestyle Mode you can rock-out any way you want with your custom Mii’s. You can jam with the Guitar Hero controllers and create your own note tracks utilizing multiple music genres or simply rock out using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to “air drum.” The Mii Freestyle Stage Manager allows DS players in the audience to get in on the action by controlling lightshows, and changing cameras. There is also the opportunity to once again experience the life of a band roadie in the Roadie Battle mode. Up to two DS players can connect with two Guitar Hero Wii guitar players for a head to head battle. While the guitar players jam out on stage, the DS players navigate their virtual roadie from one side of the stage to the other trying to mess up the opponent’s equipment while repairing any damage to their own.
As I mentioned earlier, I got to review the full band kit that came with Band Hero. What I found shocking was the instruments were basically the Guitar Hero instruments, even still branded with the Guitar Hero logo. What was new though was the drum set. There are some changes that have been made to it such as the controller slot being found at the bottom of the pads, circular symbols, two kid pedal ports, and a drumstick holder under the pads. I found the drums to be pretty solid and I didn’t have any issues as I played with them.
On a final note, you can also import your Guitar Hero World Tour, Guitar Hero Smash Hits and of course your Guitar Hero 5 tracks into Band Hero, the trick being: for a price.
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