"Organization stands out as the major selling point of Guitar Hero: On Tour - Decades. Traditionally, games from this successful rhythm franchise grouped songs only by difficultly. Weezer would sit right next to Blondie; the Foo Fighters back to back with Boston. Here music is arranged by time period, so you'll find one steaming pile of Fall Out Boy, The All-American Rejects and Paramore rather than stumbling upon them throughout the ga..."
Organization stands out as the major selling point of Guitar Hero: On Tour - Decades. Traditionally, games from this successful rhythm franchise grouped songs only by difficultly. Weezer would sit right next to Blondie; the Foo Fighters back to back with Boston. Here music is arranged by time period, so you'll find one steaming pile of Fall Out Boy, The All-American Rejects and Paramore rather than stumbling upon them throughout the game.
Any fan of those bands can rejoice right away. Decades begins in the modern era, then inches back earlier into the 2000's to highlight Linkin Park and Jimmy Eat World. (What's the big difference?) But as it travels to the 70's five songs at a time, the game pulls in signature music from each ten year stretch. No Rain by Blind Melon and Are You Gonna Go My Way by Lenny Kravitz speak for the 90's. You Give Love a Bad Name by Bon Jovi and I Can't Drive 55 by Sammy Hagar rock the 80's. Lynyrd Skynyrd's Southern anthem Sweet Home Alabama and Edgar Winter Group's Free Ride sound from the 70's. To hear this kind of variety between the 28 total tracks (there are a few unlockable bonuses) is expected from Guitar Hero, but placing the songs together chronologically builds a more cohesive experience.
Here's another unsurprising detail: Decades uses the same special Guitar Grip designed for the original On Tour. The peripheral's input tab slides into the GBA slot, and its fret buttons, all four of them, line up along the bottom of the DS. (I still miss the orange button.) The grip part hooks around the back of the machine. You hold the portable sideways, use the Velcro strap to tighten your hand into place, and align your four fingers with the buttons. The basic idea is to press the correct combinations and strum in time with the music. The top screen shows the guitar's neck, where the note patterns slide towards you. The touch screen shows the body, where you scratch out the rhythm. Even with one less fret than its console counterparts, Decades isn't easy; it dishes out gnarly solos that place on emphasis on quick, precise picking.
And that's the main problem with the current On Tour idea. Ninety percent of the time, the controls sit well. Remember though, you're holding the DS in one hand for stability, but the fingers of that same hand are continuously slapping down on the buttons. It's going to shake around. Plus, the input tab doesn't click flush into the GBA slot, it'll sort of rub around while you're jamming, too. Then there's the special pick-shaped stylus. It's cooler than the flipper bar on the traditional axe, but it's also a smooth surface. While you're frantically moving it back and forth (or whichever direction you want) across the touch screen, it'll rotate and slide from your grip. In a game where achievement is based on perfection, any control that feels less than one hundred percent is not good enough.
Still, Decades manages a few more incremental improvements over its predecessor. In addition playing through on lead guitar, there are two other options for the Career Mode. First, you can choose to cover the bass. These parts are usually a step behind the lead in difficulty, and occasionally suffer long lulls in the action. But they're another way to enjoy and master your favorite songs.
The final career mode involves Guitar Duels. These were available in the DS predecessor, both against humans and the CPU, but now cash rewards are handed out for wins like in the in main mode. The objective behind a duel is to collect attacks and powerups that will screw up your opponent, while somehow weathering the storm they hurl in your direction. Your foe can cut one of your strings, and you have to trace it back from the bridge to the pickup. They can set your guitar ablaze, and you'll have to fan out the flames by blowing into the microphone. The chronological theme comes into effect when fans clamor fan an autograph. You have to quickly scribble your signature (or just enough squiggles) onto platform shoes, leg warmers, and skateboards.
Duels are the highlight of the multiplayer options, but there are also co-op and head-to-head score comparisons. The most convenient feature, though, has to be song sharing. If one player has the plain old On Tour and another Decades, they can compete in any song on either cartridge. Since both games only have local multi-card play, providing compatibility between separate versions of the game is a huge advantage.
Decades and the original On Tour share the majority of their DNA. They both represent the essence of the Guitar Hero franchise, with blazing rock 'n roll riffs, fiendish fret work, and sizzling strumming. They both have the same hand-cramping, DS shaking drawbacks. But even though the basic mechanics remain the same, Decades possesses a slight, but clear edge. Song organization brings it together.
Community review by woodhouse (December 21, 2008)
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