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Guitar Hero on Tour: Modern Hits

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

Graphics & Sound:

Activision sure knows how to "exploit" a franchise on an annual basis, don't they? It seems at this point, Guitar Hero might be getting more releases on the DS than on the major consoles. The latest in the carpal tunnel simulator is Guitar Hero on Tour: Modern Hits which presents a near identical package as the last two DS Guitar Hero games and adds contemporary songs to the set list to keep you rocking.

The back of the boxes may say that the graphics are improved or there are more unlockables to earn, but this is the same game for a third time now. It is tiring to see the same characters like Clive Winston, Axel Steel, or Pandora in low-res versions of their console counterparts, but for what it is worth, they do look better than they did in On Tour and Decades. I couldn't help but notice there seems to be more outfits to choose from now for your ultimate Rock Star ensemble. Since the character model stays the same, most outfits are simply palette swaps. Which means any moment where I may have glanced away from the note highway long enough to see my character, I wouldn't have been able to see a difference in the outfit. For those that pay attention to these types of things in a Guitar Hero game, Guitar Hero on Tour: Modern Hits only has five venues and eight guitarists to choose from, but they all look good for a DS game.

The soundtrack is technically the best so far. Guitar Hero on Tour: Modern Hits supports wireless song sharing between the other two DS games so the possible song lists are pretty long now. There are 28 master tracks on the cart including Tenacious D, Weezer, Fall Out Boy, and Finger Eleven. All of the songs sound okay through the DS's puny speakers, but if you have a pair of headphones, it sounds much better. One thing I would like to point out is the AFI and Tenacious D songs present here were also a part of Guitar Hero III's song list as well. I know Activision doesn't have any problem re-using old songs and repackaging them (see Guitar Hero: Smash Hits), but for the handheld games, I would have liked to see more exclusives to make it a worthwhile purchase for people that might own multiple versions. But as it is, there is a strong variety in songs to pick from and considering the target age, I'm sure this is perfect for them.


As in every other Guitar Hero game imaginable, you start off as a budding rock band and have to work your way through different venues to become legends among Rock. A few years ago, working your way through Career Mode was the only way to unlock songs for Quickplay. Now, Guitar Hero on Tour: Modern Hits has taken note and unlocked all of the songs from the beginning for use in Quickplay Mode only, but it makes a big difference for a genre that is quickly replacing karaoke.

If you choose to start a career, there is a different way to measure your progress now and it affects how you move through Career Mode. In other GH games, you would simply need to "beat" the stage and move forward. In World Tour and Metallica, you are tracked by your performance stars and you were rewarded as you put on more awesome shows. Now, you are only as good as the fans you earn. After each performance, you gain new fans that are conveniently measured like an experience bar and it fills up as you put on more shows. The catch is that just playing the predetermined songs doesn't cut it anymore. You will have to perform "Encore" shows to earn enough fans to proceed to a larger venue. Encore performances are special events that are either the trademark Guitar Duels or playing the song again as the bassist all while completing certain challenges for each song. Some may say that the variety is a good thing, while others may argue it is a cheap tactic to extend gameplay length, but either way it definitely breaks up the pace a bit.

The last thing about Career Mode that you will notice is when you complete a venue, it bounces you back to the previously completed venue as a "Headliner." This means that the songs for each venue only have two or three songs at first, but when you return later, each one will have five when you are done. I like how it plays into the upcoming rock star storyline, but I would have liked it explained more before jumping in.

Multiplayer has always been a huge component for the franchise and Modern Hits also supports wireless play. Guitar duels also return with battle gems and a more competitive way to play an already deeply competitive game. But the biggest improvement has to be the song sharing. I mentioned it earlier, but being able to buy your own version of Guitar Hero on Tour and then share songs with your friend who bought a different version is really cool and works surprisingly well.


Guitar Hero on Tour: Modern Hits supports the standard array of difficulty options for people of all skill levels. There is Easy, Medium, Hard, and of course Expert for those who want to wear away their cartilage even faster than the rest of us. One thing a lot of people will notice is that the limitations of four buttons for the DS might seem to make songs easier, but in fact it makes them exponentially harder because the buttons are spaced so close together.

It isn't that hard until you start playing Expert and you notice you are at a major disadvantage. First, the touch screen has proven to be too imprecise for expert level play and the song tracking is insultingly insane. Three and four note chords are common and music fills that are fairly easy to play on a "real" guitar are made frustrating because it overcompensates for not having enough freedom of movement. You will be visually assaulted by colored circles until you turn the system off.

Game Mechanics:

Guitar Hero as a franchise is only successful because of the plastic instruments that you pretend to play along with. Guitar Hero on Tour: Modern Hits and the previous games on the DS try to capture the same magic with the fret button attachment, but the absence of a satisfying strum bar makes it more difficult to approach. As notes fall down the left side of the screen, you strum your virtual guitar that appears on the right to produce the music. When you are on a hot streak and have earned enough gems, you can activate Star Power by yelling into the mic (blowing on it also works too.)

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself how much do you want another Guitar Hero? If you liked the previous DS versions, this is the best one yet and the fact that all songs are given to the player when they start is great. If you haven't bought a portable version yet and are interested in one, then look at the song lists to find the version that best suits your tastes. I will applaud Guitar Hero on Tour: Modern Hits for its ability to cut through the nonsense and deliver some rockin' songs for a niche crowd, but I would never recommend any of the portable Guitar Hero's over the full band console versions.

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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