Warning: this game will literally rock your wrist off.
It’s no secret how addictive and fun Guitar Hero is. The passion to beat venues, gain fans, make money, and achieve five stars or 100% is oftentimes uncontrollable, even for casual gamers. Despite trying very hard to satisfy these desires with its improved graphics and an enjoyable set list, Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits, misses the mark thanks to an uncomfortable wrist strap and the necessity to replay songs to progress.
The set list, limited to songs from the past five years, is pretty enjoyable. And while taste in music is subjective, I was looking forward to playing the game, sans Fall Out Boy and Angels & Airwaves. Perhaps Vicarious Visions anticipated this, because it is actually possible to beat the game without playing every single song in Career mode, thanks to the brand new Fan Requests system. Other than this new feature, Career mode offers the same format and controls as the other two DS titles, On Tour and Decades. Instead of going through each song in a linear fashion like the other two games, you now go through each song in a linear fashion with added fan requests. While this adds a lot of longevity , the majority of the game involves repeating songs you've already played.
The Fan Requests system works like this: after you beat any of the 3-5 songs per venue, you unlock Fan Requests and then have to replay the same songs you just did, with certain goals that need to be reached in order to gain the fanbase required for the next venue. The problem is that you just played these songs. Also, requests often repeat what you might have done the first time around, such as "Get a score of at least 70,000" or "Get a multiplier of 6x." If you already did that the first time it isn’t counted for the Fan Request. Also, venues cannot be beaten without a few Fan Requests being completed. You're forced to play songs and then replay at least one of them multiple times.
This artificial longevity goes hand-in-hand with the other means of making the game longer to beat: the Guitar Grip. You can't possibly beat the game in just a few sittings, because you constantly have to put it down to regain sensation in your fingers and uncramp your wrist or arm. It really does serve its purpose as it enables the player to bring Guitar Hero on the road, but it's extremely uncomfortable. Prepare to not be able to play as long as you desire, since your wrist will cramp up if you hold it incorrectly. If you do follow their guidelines for proper holding of the DS, your upper arm will start to hurt just as much as your wrist would the other way. I also lost sensation in my ring and pinky fingers more than a few times. All in all, don't have any expectations of prolonged sessions of rocking out, and remember to pace yourself.
In addition to the Career mode, there are three Quickplay options: Lead Guitar (the same as Career mode), Bass/Rhythm Guitar (good for practicing/replaying Fan Requests), and Guitar Duel (good for beating up other characters/practicing Fan Requests). The biggest perk about Quickplay in Modern Hits is everything is unlocked right out of the box. This does seem a bit self-defeating, since for many people, the reason to drudge through Angels & Airwaves is to get to something you actually like. On the other hand, it's nice to just play the songs that you really bought the game to play, then go back to Career mode and earn some bucks.
There is also a two-player wireless multiplayer mode. Be sure to make friends with someone who has any of the DS Guitar Hero titles, since set lists are combined from both games. This means you and a friend will have a giant set list of over 75 songs spread across the three games in the series to duel each other on, a very cool feature indeed.
While the noticeably improved graphics are a definite plus, there are still some issues with the game's display. Every achievement flashes on the left screen (or right if you employ the lefty flip), distracting you from gameplay. The majority of the time I messed up on my 52nd note, only because I was distracted and intimidated by the "4x Multiplier" and "50 Note Streak" messages that appeared on screen.
Like the previous game in the series, there's no reason to go back and beat the difficulty levels below the one you played thanks to stacked unlocks. If you beat songs on Medium, you get the credit and money for beating them on Easy as well. Also returning is the ability to use the money you earn to buy new clothes and guitars.
One of the best parts of Guitar Hero games is Star Power. It’s great fun to build Star Power all the way up and then use it at the most opportune time. However, the logistics of Star Power in On Tour is just awkward. You can't hit the Star Power meter in order to trigger it while you are playing without missing notes or hitting it in a lull where you'll probably just play 20 meters of one chord. There's always the screaming into the mic method, but not everyone is into yelling "Rock On!" while playing a single-player game, and one that is portable to boot. Who wants to be an obnoxious person who yells into toys on buses? Let's face it: I don't even like to yell into the mic when I play it in my bedroom alone.
You are also occasionally faced with the opposite problem, which is triggering Star Power when you don’t want to. Due to your focus on the fret board, you sometimes find your hand strumming closer and closer to the left side of the touch screen. You’re soon missing notes and triggering Star Power all at the same time.
In the end, Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits is a great way to bring Guitar Hero on the road, but its Guitar Grip peripheral does cause numbness of the fingers and a cramped wrist after just a few songs. The improved graphics do make the game more pleasing to look at when you actually get a chance to drift your gaze away from the fret board. However, constant repetition of songs makes the set list obnoxious after awhile – even the songs that you do like.