Reviewed: September 2, 2009
Released: September 1, 2009
Guitar Hero continues to be one of the hottest properties for the Nintendo Wii, outselling other consoles and vanishing from store shelves the day it gets restocked. Personally, I never felt the Wii version had that graphics or audio edge required to compete with the 360 and PS3, but as Nintendo clearly stated when it launched the Wii – it’s not about the graphics.
What the Wii has going for it is a sense of “family” and an air of “casual fun” that doesn’t rely on flashy graphics or hi-fi audio. Past installments of Guitar Hero have been a mixed bag but if anybody knows Nintendo hardware as good as Nintendo its Vicarious Visions and they have gone above and beyond in creating the best Guitar Hero game ever seen for the Wii – a game that might even outshine its next-gen console cousins in a few areas of originality.
Guitar Hero 5 has arrived, complete with 85 rocking new tracks and import support for many songs from World Tour and Smash Hits, so rest assured there is no shortage of music. And if you need to store that music this is the first game to make use of the SDHC memory cards (up to 32GB), not only for storing music but streaming it live into the game. The online music store has also been updated so you can download track packs and albums rather than one song at a time.
With so much new music at your disposal you will certainly appreciate all the new ways to play it. You can start jamming right from the title screen with a randomly selected song. Once in the game you have the standard Quickplay and Career modes as well as multiplayer for co-op and versus play in the exciting new RockFest mode like:
And what’s really cool is that in the new Party Play mode you can have people dropping in and out of the game, even in mid-song. Just tap a button on your chosen instrument and your “note highway” will appear and you are ready to rock. Party Play is a “no fail” mode, so you can experiment with difficulty levels you would never try during your career. You are scored merely on how well you do for as long as you play, and can even switch difficulty levels during the song.
While nobody has come close to matching Rock Band’s tour mode, Guitar Hero 5 gets pretty close with an amazing selection of 14 venues, each with their own unique and incredible visual design, special effects, guest performers such as Matt Bellamy (Muse), Johnny Cash, Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), and Shirley Manson (Garbage), and venue-specific song lists that includes one or more wildcard slots where you can choose your own song best suited for the challenge.
The biggest change to the career mode however is the new star ranking system and song Challenges. Much like before, as you play a song a progress meter builds up. When it fills you get a star. You can get up to five stars if you do really well and if you don’t miss a note you can get a bonus sixth star. Stars are used to mark your progress through the game and unlock new venues. Each song now has a specific Challenge associated to it. Some require two or more players to complete while others are instrument specific. Each Challenge comes with three tiers of success, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond.
Your guitarist might need to whammy for 15/30/40 seconds or your drummer might need to hit his snare 322 times on a specific song or your bassist might need to up-strum 300 notes. These challenges not only offer a great incentive to replay the various songs in the career mode, but usually earning a Gold record will unlock designer wardrobe and licensed guitar skins in the customization store.
Other smaller changes include new individual Star Power meters. No longer do you have to share the blue juice with your band mates, but if you do fill your meter and continue to earn more Star Power it will spill over to the other players. You also have Band Moments where notes catch on fire and everyone in the band needs to nail those notes for special bonuses.
And then we have the Wii-specific stuff – the reason it is so surprisingly easy to overlook the visual and audio shortcomings and simply regress into a kid again. I challenge anyone to play Guitar Hero 5 for more than ten minutes and not have a smile on their face. Mii Freestyle is back – the mode for casual gamers to simply rock out with no worries of failure using your own Mii character (something the Xbox 360 borrowed with their new Avatar support).
This year we get some amazing DS connectivity features that might just send you scrambling to the store to purchase a DS if you don’t already own one. First up is the ability for one person to use their DS to control the camera, tweak the lights, and trigger the stage effects while two other players jam in Freestyle mode. I was requesting this feature back on Guitar Hero II on the PS2. Nice to see somebody listened…finally! You also have the creative freedom to lay down individual tracks for each instrument, mix them, add your own stage effects and lighting then shoot them with custom camera angles and make your own concert video which you can then share of Wii Connect.
And then we come to the Roadie Battle – perhaps the best and most inventive game mode to ever grace any game on any system to date. Picture two guitar players rocking out on the big screen while two other players, each with their own DS systems linked to the Wii, serve as roadies – one per guitar player. While the musicians play the roadies engage in their own backstage battles that will certainly spill onto the stage and affect the guitarists.
Roadies attack other roadies and the opposing guitar player using a menu of touchscreen icons and interfaces cleverly integrated as mixing boards, light panels, amps, speakers, and such. Not only must you attack the opposing roadie and his guitarist, you must also defend and repair against the damage they are inflicting on your team. Your enemy may start a fire that you have to blow out or you can cross wires on an amp or crank up the stage volume causing your opponents note stream to go into hyperspeed or even engage Lefty Flip.
The ultimate attack on the guitar player is also the most involved for the roadie and requires the roadie to go backstage and break into the locked guitar case, scratch on the strings until they snap, then restring the guitar changing up the color assignments. You then take the sabotaged guitar onto the stage and try to drop it into the guitarist’s hands much like the old crane game. Once completed the colors will be all mixed up for the guitar player until his roadie can repair the damage.
Not only is the Roadie Battle enough fun to warrant a double-dip purchase of this game on the Wii, it’s reason enough to invest in a DS – just think of it as another required controller for this game. I was blown away by the polish Vicarious Visions put into this mode, both in gameplay and visuals. Even though it only works when connected to Guitar Hero 5 this “subsystem” of a greater game trounces many standalone DS titles. Roadie Battle also works with all 85 included songs as well as DLC and even custom music from GH Tunes.
Speaking of 85 songs - here is the list of included songs listed by artist:
Just about the time I decide to unload my Wii somebody makes a great game that keeps me hanging on just a bit longer. In this case that game is Guitar Hero 5. While I still enjoy my PS3 trophies and 360 achievements and I’m still a slave to 720p or greater graphics, there is something to be said for totally entertaining and addictive gameplay, and Guitar Hero 5 on the Wii obliterates the other formats on pure originality and game design.
It would have been so easy to just release another knock-off port, but Vicarious Visions has designed Guitar Hero 5 from the ground up for maximum enjoyment for the entire family. I can only imagine mom and dad jamming on their guitars while the kids are waging their own Roadie Battle next to them. This is a game everyone with a Wii needs to buy, and if you don’t already own a DS…well, you soon will.