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Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Rhythm/ Action/ Party

Graphics & Sound:

Just like when Guitar Hero 2 was released, Activision pushes out yet another pseudo follow-up that largely doesn't change much. Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades is the sort of sequel to Guitar Hero: On Tour and while it does a few interesting things with multiplayer, it doesn't do enough to consider it a step up from its predecessor.

Visually, Decades suffers from the same problems that Guitar Hero 2: Encore had; mainly the developers used the exact same engine without any sort of refinement. The character models are the same as they were in the previous DS Guitar Hero, but now they have different outfits which don't have any effect on the core gameplay other than to say you have the super expensive outfit. Honestly, I didn't use any of the outfits that required a purchase.

This time around, the story sets up a music festival that you are touring with and there are different areas of the festival that you must play. The theme of Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades is music throughout different decades so each stage has its own visual theme. The different decades include Modern, 2000's, 90's, 80's, and the 70's and you see some pretty typical stuff for each area. The 70's stage has flowers and psychedelics and the 80's use lots of neon colors and day glow.

Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades manages to successfully utilize the DS's audio abilities. Each of the songs sounds clear and crisp through the system's speakers, but it would really be better to use headphones. Headphones are better so you can stay more focused on the rhythm and timing and also so you won't annoy anyone else in the room with a questionable song choice.

There are around 35 songs to play and unlock, and while the last three song tiers (70's, 80's, and 90's) are somewhat enjoyable, the first 8 songs made me wonder why they put them in the game at all. I am not penalizing them for the song choices specifically (All American Rejects, really?), but I am rather wondering why they included songs that are not inherently "Guitar" oriented. Those songs might be fine for Rock Band or World Tour, but the solo Guitar Hero games were about legends and masters of the instrument. So instead of getting more Steve Vai or Jimi Hendrix, you get Fall Out Boy and Jimmy Eat World.

On a personal note, I am really disappointed that they didn't include ANY metal. (The Darkness does not count, nor does Linkin Park.) You don't have to like the genre, but it is hard to deny that those were some of the most fun and challenging songs to play in the past games.


Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades plays just like the last DS version of Guitar Hero. You hold the DS system sideways like a book and strum on the touch screen while colored notes fall on the other screen. The fret attachment is the same one as the first game, so the same problems and successes still occur.

As I mentioned earlier, the theme Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades is obviously the different decades of music and this brings about one unique flaw: there is no sense of progression. Decades starts with Modern songs and works its way backwards to the 70's. The past games' song lists were designed to gradually increase the challenge and fun level by going through different genres or scenes of music. Since each section of Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades covers ten year increments, it feels more like a weak "Best of" compilation CD that you might see on the shopping channel than a real Guitar Hero game. On the plus side though, there are two fully fleshed-out career modes that include both lead guitar or rhythm and bass.

The single player mode wasn't the main feature of this version, though. The marketing really pushed the cross gameplay feature between Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades and Guitar Hero: On Tour. If you have a friend that owns the other version, you can play all of the songs across both games which ups the song count to around 70, which is very impressive. It is only locally though, you can't download songs from the older version to play in the newer one, so if you don't own both versions, you would be missing out on some practice.

The multiplayer in Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades is the same as it was in Guitar Hero: On Tour. Familiar modes return like Face-Off, Pro Face-Off, Co-Op, and Duel. Dueling is the new mainstay of the series and has players fighting over power-up gems to sabotage the other player. It is fun the first few times you play and see all of the different power-ups, but after the sparkle wears off, it is easy to predict and doesn't offer much of a challenge.


Keeping in the Guitar Hero tradition On Tour: Decades offers four different difficulty modes: Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert. The only difference between the DS versions and the console versions is the touch screen that has spotty accuracy. It has almost become a tradition to blame failure on the hardware. (If you suck, blame it on the controller.) Well, this would be one of the few times where that would be okay because trying to strum on the touch screen is awkward and cumbersome. It works fine and does what it says it is supposed to do, but I recommend playing on a flat surface to avoid the inevitable carpal tunnel that you might contract from Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades.

The only other issue that hinders an overall enjoyable experience is that there isn't a difficulty curve. The previous games would slowly ramp up the difficulty throughout different genres of music to make it faster and more technical, but I never felt that way with Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades. Since the song lists are broken up into eras of time instead of difficulty, you will inevitably find some songs in the middle of the campaign that are simply harder than songs in the last list.

Game Mechanics:

Since this is a DS game, the developers took advantage of the touch screen to make the game more fun. I am all for being innovative with new hardware and I think that the touch screen can be used in very creative and cool ways. To their credit, they did do a good job of putting Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades on the DS, I just feel that without a flipper to strum, it becomes inherently more frustrating.

Other than strumming, the touch screen is used exclusively throughout the rest of the game. The battle gems are activated by touching them with the pick-shaped stylus and some of the battle power-ups are kind of cool. They have a power-up that has fans throwing items at you in the middle of a song and you have to sign the objects before you can continue playing and I appreciated it. But then they have power-up that does absolutely nothing. It is called "Amp Overload" and it is when the speakers just blow out, but all that means is you stop hearing the song, but the game continues. How is that supposed to give an advantage to anyone? You can keep playing after the amp goes out and the notes still come at the same pace, so as long as your eye and hand coordination are solid, you can keep on rocking. I just feel they could have done more, that's all.

What it all boils down to is that it feels like Activision is literally trying to sell you the same game twice. Just like they did with Encore, Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades just feels like a half step instead of big stride forward. I would recommend a purchase if you were only getting one, but not both. Look at the song lists and see which appeals to you more and go from there. I say rent or borrow it first and then buy it if you have to have more songs to play on the go.

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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