Band Hero


posted 11/24/2009 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
Platforms: Wii
There's yet another Guitar Hero game now? Are you kidding?? These things seem to come out more often than Prom Night zits. Didn't I just buy one chock full o' Beatles songs? What? That was Rock Band? Seriously, how is an old guy like me supposed to keep up with all of this??

Well, believe it or not, Activision has cranked out another Guitar Hero game. I think they're soon going to be giving the Madden franchise a run for their money as the most updated video game ever. While Madden gets new players every season, the Guitar Hero games get more songs. And while Madden adds refinements, enhancements, and improvements to the game play with each release, well, so does Guitar Hero.

In the case of the newest release, Band Hero, the refinements are easy for me to see as I have skipped the last few releases. The interesting thing about the core game play of Band Hero is that it seems as if the developers were able to hear my beefs with the earlier version that I have. For example, playing a set with my daughter always bred two arguments: who gets to play guitar (or, said another way, who gets demoted to bass) and exactly which of us bollocks up the song so badly. And, of course, I had always longed for the ability to create and save play lists. Absent the saving of play lists, all of that is available in Band Hero (and quite likely, older versions as well. How would I know?). With Band Hero, not only can my daughter and I both play the guitar and resolve any arguments concerning who missed the most notes at the end of each song, we could invite two other players to join us. Well, if we had two more guitars, anyway.

Also, having recognized that these games are often played at parties (and really, you haven't lived until you've heard Chuck singing 'Call Me'), it is now possible to allow new players to jump in (and presumably drop back out again) during a song. It is also possible to set the game style to allow the rest of the players to keep playing even if one of the other players is a complete beginner and can't hit a single note. And, from the very moment you slide the disk into the console, all songs are unlocked and available in the Quickplay list. I applaud this style of game play in all genres of video gaming. Nothing irritates me more than having to endure a long, drawn-out campaign/career mode in order to unlock content that I've already bought. There's a strong libertarian gamer streak in me; less structure and fewer mandates are always going to win my favor.

The second half of any new Guitar Hero game has to be the song list. All of that great game play would be wasted on a game with a song list limited to Ukranian folk songs unless, of course, you are one of the very few people on the planet that are thrilled with playing only Ukranian folk songs. Sure, they're OK now and then, but they wear thin after awhile. No, what you really want for a party game is a wide, varied, eclectic range of songs. You want everyone at the party to be able to scan the song list and say at least once, "Hey, I know that song! And I wouldn't even mind hearing Chuck sing it."

In the case of Band Hero that song is, of course, "YMCA" by the Village People. It's practically his personal anthem. He owns that song.

There are even songs that an oldster like me recognizes from groups like Cheap Trick, The Rolling Stones, Pat Benatar, Duran Duran, and Taylor Swift. Well, I only recognized Ms. Swift because I saw a NASCAR race once. Oh, and that little incident that caused me to drop my founding charter membership in the Kanye West fan club. Anyway, it's a varied mix and it's sure to ring a bell (so to speak) with just about everyone at your party. Interestingly, there is apparently the ability for your party guests to select songs to add to your play list from a Nintendo DS communicating with your Wii via WiFi. Your reviewer was unable to verify feature this because his daughter loaned her DS to a friend. It sounds neat, though.

At the $60 asking price, if you figure you're going to hate five of the songs it comes out to a buck a song, So, just about what it would cost to download from iTunes. And what if you find that you hate 20 of the songs? Well, just figure that it was worth $15 for the new game play and you're still coming out ahead.
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