Reviewed: December 2, 2009
Released: November 3, 2009
When music games first hit the portable scene, I was thrilled. Guitar Hero: On Tour was amazing at the time and progressively got better with the additional releases. Music games have continued to evolve on the console for some time now and the one thing that keeps be interested is the actual band aspect of them. Rocking out with a bunch of your friends till wee hours in the morning is undeniable fun. This aspect has been limited to the consoles until now. Activision and Vicarious Visions bring the newest iteration of the music game genre to the DS in the form of Band Hero.
For those familiar with the Guitar Hero franchise on the DS, Band Hero doesnít fall far from the tree. Band Hero which is built upon the GH system caters to a different audience. Gone are the truly righteous classic rock themes and tracks. They are replaced by some of the best tunes from the 90s and beyond plus a few oldies for good measure. The entire track list which is pretty sweet is listed below.
The initial presentation for Band Hero is basically the same stuff weíve seen in the other DS titles but with a more colorful flair. The biggest change to the formula is that you can now play each instrument in the band, thankfully not all at the same time. Players can now choose to play lead guitar, bass/rhythm, drums or vocals. The guitar modes utilize the included guitar grip like usual while drums requires the included silicone glove. Vocals are done by using the onboard microphone. The one thing I will caution potential buyers of Band Hero is that this can only be played on the Nintendo DS Lite. The guitar and vocal parts can possibly be played on the original DS using the original GH grip with the DS adapter but the silicone drum skin is designed exclusively for the DS Lite. If you have a DSi you are totally out of luck.
I wonít bore you with details on the guitar section of Band Hero because if youíve played one GH title on the DS then youíve played them all. I am rather happy that they actually give you the option to play bass/rhythm this time around as I am a fan of bass tracks in particular. Playing the drums in the console versions while it sounds cool has yet to share its joy with me. The same can be said for singing as I canít carry a tune in a bucket. The included silicone drum grip features miniature fingertip sized drum pads that fit over the D-Pad and A,B,X,Y buttons. It does require a fair bit of pressure to register hits but itís better than the slightest touch setting off hits accidentally.
As I said above Iím not a singer, but then again you really donít need to know how to do the vocals for Band Hero. Humming at the desired pitch can work or for those musically inclined just plain singing. I found it easier if you adjust the mic sensitivity. This allows you to easily blow on the mic to activate star power outside of vocal mode. The only real complaint is that you have to hold the DS pretty close to you face to for your voice to register. This makes it a bit uncomfortable to read the words as they come go across the screen.
One of the things that Band Hero does that sets itself apart from the GH franchise that it is based on, is how you select songs. There are no locked songs, leaving you only with a few songs to start with. All the songs are unlocked straight off the bat. The venues themselves you do have to unlock but that is simple to do. You basically play the songs in any order and play at least five songs at one venue to unlock the next.
Band Hero utilizes that same method of gaining star power as before but throws in another more interesting way to gain star power. While playing any of the instruments throughout the song you can enable one of several mini games to give you some star juice. Some of the mini games have you giving high fives hands while avoiding hitting babies or smashing equipment with a guitar which is also pretty cool.
Band Hero continues the classic look and feel of the GH visuals that we all know. The 6 venues are each well designed and really give it a younger feel that complements the music. Players can customize their band with threads that are unlocked and bought as you go. Unlocking gear and clothing is done by earning awards by completing objectives while playing any of the 4 instruments. The preset characters for GH return with an overhaul to soften up the edges of their rock origins.
The music is always the heart of any music game and the music of Band Hero is awesome. Most of it takes me back to my high school days and Iím pleased with the music selection. Among the 30 tracks listed above, Evanescence, Lacuna Coil and Vampire Weekend are my person favorites.
Band Hero will take several hours to beat completely if you take the time to do all 4 instruments. There is a fan request mode that players can do, like the last GH title, but with one major catch. You must have the Wii version of Band Hero to even access it. So if you donít have Band Hero for the Wii you're out of luck. There are five levels of difficulty to master from the super easy beginner to expert so there is something for everyone.
For those wanting to take the game to the obvious next level you can get together with 3 friends and become a full band via a local wireless connection and rock out. Each person must have their own game kit to do this. Players can also challenge up to 4 people in Versus Mode, which is pretty cool honestly.
Band Hero is a variation for what weíve been offered already on the DS. Sure the guitar parts havenít changed but the addition of drums and vocals make it a worth a try or in my case a must have. The music selection is great and the four person multiplayer is the real highlight. You can find Band Hero for the DS for around $50 at most retailers in time for the holiday season.