Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades marks the fourth Guitar Hero installment of 2008, the second for the Nintendo DS behind Guitar Hero On Tour, which introduced the music rhythm franchise to handheld gamers, back in June. Seeing how only six months has passed since the release of On Tour, it’s no surprise that Decades presents little more than a new set list to rock out to. But is an increase in song choice reason enough to keep this show on the road?
The Career Mode in Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades spans five decades in reverse chronological order, starting with Modern Hits and culminating with classic rock from the 70s. Unlike Guitar Hero On Tour, which featured a mix of master recordings and cover tracks, all 28 songs in Decades are master recordings. Some tracks make their Guitar Hero debut, like Journey’s “Any Way You Want It,” Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride” and “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi, while others are brought over from Guitar Hero World Tour like “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, “Sweet Home Alabama” from Lynard Skynard and R.E.M.’s “The One I Love,” just to name a few. In addition, you can play through the Career Mode as lead guitar, bass/rhythm guitar and guitar duel.
Last but not least, there’s a new Share the Music feature that essentially allows two players to connect Guitar Hero On Tour and Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades, using the DS’s local wireless capabilities, and play any song from either set list co-operatively or competitively. Other than these new features, Decades presents the same portable Guitar Hero experience, from the multiplayer modes (including the clever use of the touch screen for guitar duels), training section, and the usual array of unlockable gear, themed characters and venues.
Unfortunately the fundamental issues that plagued Guitar Hero On Tour are still present in Decades. From a design perspective, the guitar grip can be a pain, quite literally. The angle at which your wrist rests within the strap is likely to cause discomfort after a short period of time. To make matters worse, the guitar grip has a tendency to dislodge from the Game Pak slot and the game gives you no indication that the guitar grip has been disconnected. A message, such as “please reconnect the guitar grip to continue,” would be very helpful. I can’t tell you how many times I started missing notes, wondering whether I was pressing the wrong buttons or strumming the wrong part of the touch screen, only to find that the guitar grip was slightly displaced.
There is also the issue of portability. The game works well when you’re stationary but if you’re traveling, be it by plane, train or automobile, bumps along the route are sure to cause more than a few unwanted strums on the touch screen. And since one way of activating Star Power is through the microphone, those same bumps also have a knack of triggering Star Power when you least need it.
So, much like Guitar Hero On Tour, your enjoyment of Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades will depend largely on your ability to tolerate its design and gameplay issues. I generally like what Vicarious Visions has done to bring the Guitar Hero experience to the portable market, but I’d prefer to see them focus on amending the functionality of the game rather than expanding the song list of a still flawed product.