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Guitar Hero: The Final Encore

Feature; Feb. 16, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Jenner David Cauton
Subtypes: Editorial
Guitar Hero has strummed it's last fret.

Since Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero has become a franchise responsible for causing the music video game genre to explode. The game was an answer for anyone who always dreamed of being on stage with a guitar, for anyone who wiggled fingers in the air to any song but lacked the skill to do the real thing.

Granted, Guitar Hero's finger waggin' is different. So different that even real guitarists sometimes have trouble playing it because they're too used to the real thing. It won't teach you any real skills to help you become a better guitar player, but it does give inspiration to those willing to commit. If it wasn't for the oddly colored piece of plastic, at a distance, it looks like you're doing the real thing.

Unfortunately, the franchise has been seeing a declining interest. Activision Blizzard has decided to halt the production of any future Guitar Hero and DJ Hero games due to a lack of profitability. There's no word yet on Rock Band shutting down, but its financial status is only somewhat better, according to MoneyBlog.

The reason for Rock Band's survival beyond financial reasons can be understood. Rock Band has proven to concentrate on a larger variety of songs in order to cater to a wider audience, including beating Guitar Hero to the punch with drums and singing. Guitar Hero, while still applying the use of drums and a microphone after its World Tour iteration, still held true to its name; the guitar riffs were far more difficult compared to Rock Band with its inclusion of many songs that require both complex and rapid fret charts, like finger-busting metal songs such as Buckethead's "Jordan," Dragonforce's "Through the Fire and Flames," or duels against an AI opponent with songs such as Steve Ouimette's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" remix. Both franchises focus heavily on band-central games, such as Guitar Hero's "Aerosmith" and "Metallica," as opposed to Rock Band's Beatles and Green Day.

This isn't to say the the music-game genre itself is declining; it's just going in a different direction. And that's the Kinect. For years, movies and television have been portraying the future of video games without the need of a physical controller -- just yourself. The technology is far from perfect, but the Xbox 360 has got the "no controller" part down.

Due to its nature, Kinect games don't exactly cater to hardcore gamers, but it's the perfect implementation for dancing games, going back to when the craze all started. While Harmonix might not be making any more guitar-based games, Dance Central could easily be called the DDR contender. The dancing video game craze has gone from hitting 4 cross-formed buttons over and over again in a semi-robotic pattern (albiet a fun way to shed those pounds) to, well, actual dancing. Because dancing requires being stationary in a general area and not moving around a room for long distances (currently Kinect's limitation; no one really knows how to program a "move forward" gesture in a 3-D space), the Kinect seems to be the perfect tool to adapt dancing into a game. It's really hard to see how a dancing game can become any more realistic than this.

The on-screen characters on Dance Central don't exactly mimic your movements; rather, you have to mimic them. The characters don't stumble if you do; the game simply acknowledges a failure, and the character keeps on going. Similar to music games, Dance Central shows several moves ahead of time as icons that you'll have to perform when it comes up in line, but it's up to you to remember what each move calls for. Being in sync with your avatar basically comes down to memorization of each move, (and stamina, of course), but once you do, it creates a a clever illusion that you're controlling the character instead, and it'll easily turn some heads.

The 360 isn't the only platform that's looking to keep the musical game genre going, but with the Kinect, it's admittedly the best. Micheal Jackon: The Experience on the Wii gives would-be dancers the chance to become the legend himself. Unfortunately, Ubisoft hasn't exactly chosen the best platform for its game. The game is essentially the same concept as Dance Central, but because of the Wii's stick, the game is limited to only reading your hand and not your whole body. You can technically just stand there and only do the required hand movements the move icons highlight. There's nothing stopping you from doing the entire choreography, but the game won't rate you any better or worse if you do so. It certainly doesn't do the King of Pop justice.

Ubisoft's curious decision could probably be boiled down to two reasons. The company either felt it wasn't ready, or the chances of any random non-dancer being able to imitate Jackson's moves perfectly is close to none. People who can are probably better off dancing in America's Got Talent instead of their living room. This is Michael Jackson we're talking about here after all.

However, The Experience is scheduled to be released for the 360 this April, so either excuse might not be the real case. Still, I'd like to see how Ubisoft pulls off programming easily doable gestures of Jackon's infamous impossible moves, like the one pictured above (if you've seen the real video, he goes A LOT lower than that) or his iconic Billie Jean spin-and-point-on-toes routine. Not all gamers know ballet.

Time can only tell how far the music genre will go if it only focuses on the Kinect. Actual dancing in a step-to-the-beat game is definitely a nice change, but unless "air-guitar" suddenly becomes cool, we'll have to say farewell for now to the guitar king that started it all.


brucethehoon - Feb. 16, 2011 at 11:11:29am

You fascist bastard! How dare you talk about Guitar Hero like this? You are clearly an agent of the man and just trying to take away our fake plastic rock.

note: kidding. This article is dead on.


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