In 2005, the original Guitar Hero was released. And with it came a new wave of games to the video game industry. While music rhythm games had been present in Japan with Konami's Guitar Freaks for quite some time, it wasn't until Harmonix brought out Guitar Hero that the states final got what is now the cultural phenomenon of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. In 2008 we saw a plethora of both big and small music titles, both handheld and console. Both good and bad. The music genre is a rapidly expanding one. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of these music games, Guitar Hero and Rock Band particularly?
First off, above all else in my mind, Guitar Hero and Rock Band have great music. Especially the recent version of Guitar Hero: World Tour and Rock Band 2, with both disc and downloadable songs, there's a lot of fantastic tracks on there. There's great classic rock, metal, more recent alternative, and punk. There's bound to be some songs on the games that you like. And even if you're not particularly fond of rock music, the games are already beginning to expand, starting with country music DLC in Rock Band.
Another great thing about Rock Band and Guitar Hero is the gameplay. While it may seem strange at first and almost hypnotizing, playing the games turn out to be a rewarding and engaging experience. At least for me, the music playing combined with hitting consecutive notes is pure bliss and (almost) feels like you're really playing the music. That is until you realize you're holding a plastic guitar (or drums) and zoning out to a TV. Nevertheless, Guitar Hero/Rock Band's gameplay is some pure, unadulterated fun.
And finally Rock Band and particularly the most recent Guitar Hero, World Tour, are excellent multiplayer experiences. Going along with my previous point, getting a group of people to rock out with plastic guitars and drums is some of the best multiplayer fun you can get. When you really feel like you're all in this together, you'll know Rock Band and Guitar Hero and working their multiplayer magic.
Now for the ugly stuff. Let's start off with an obvious one: the cost. Sure all video games cost money, why should that be a horrible difference with Rock Band and Guitar Hero? Well for one, they cost a considerable amount more than your standard $50/$60 dollar game purchase. For example the recent iterations of Guitar Hero and Rock Band sell for an MSRP of $189.99. That's a huge investment. But nevertheless it can be justified with the content in the games. But then there's also the tendency to get ripped off with the more spin-offy versions that cost more for songs that could've been cheaper if they'd just been available as DLC.
The next big bullet point under disadvantages is the space. When the original Guitar Hero came out, the guitar peripheral took up a considerably larger space than the normal game controllers. Nowadays you'd most likely have one (maybe two) guitars, a drum set, and a microphone. And that doesn't even count any of those other third-party guitars or peripherals from other games you bought the full band packs of. Or maybe you even supported Konami by buying that huge, clunky Rock Revolution drum set. In short, prepare to have a large amount of space taken up by music game peripherals.
My last con doesn't really have to do with physical disadvantages; it's more of an in-game complaint. Particularly innovation. While every iteration of Rock Band and Guitar Hero provides some stellar gameplay, none of them does that much to innovate the genre. Sure Rock Band may have changed the one instrument approach of Guitar Hero and made it full band, but that's not particularly original. I mean, that's been done in the arcades for quite some time; Harmoix just perfected it and bought it onto consoles. And that's really all Harmonix and Neversoft have been doing: perfecting the formula. My money is on the next Guitar Hero polishing the studio mode, making the career modes a little more flexible, and maybe taking a few tips out of Harmonix's book in more multiplayer friendly gameplay. I'm pretty sure we're not going to see a whole lot of innovation. Which is why I feel it's the unique and crazy games like Elite Beat Agents and (dare I say it) Wii Music that are moving the music genre forward into new territory by changing up the formula.
I really do love me some Guitar Hero: World Tour every now and then. The great music and the rewarding multiplayer really make all its flaws seem unimportant. But if Rock Band and Guitar Hero continue to not particularly do that much other than polish and add new songs, you may have to count me out when it comes to the "big" music games in the future.
Comments or questions? Drop an email to email@example.com or leave a comment below...