Although I'm a huge supporter of the Guitar Hero franchise, I've never been much of a fan of Activision's Guitar Hero On Tour line of portable games. There's something about the required guitar grip and crummy hit detection that drives me up the wall. And the fact that the company was able to produce three different versions in just over a year only manages to make the whole thing more intolerable. Knowing that I was going to review what looked a lot like the fourth installment in the On Tour series, I was understandably skeptical. Thankfully I kept an open mind, because what I discovered is that I actually kind of like Band Hero on the Nintendo DS.
Band Hero on the DS does exactly what Guitar Hero World Tour (ironically not Band Hero) did for the consoles; it gives you the option to play the part of a guitarist, drummer, bassist or the lead singer. This means that you not only get the standard guitar grip, but you'll also have a cool drum peripheral that fits the Nintendo DS like a glove. Toss in the DS's built-in microphone and you have enough pieces to form your own virtual band and tour the world.
The hardware has always been the big draw to these portable Guitar Hero games and Band Hero is no exception. If you've played any of the previous On Tour games, then you will have already formed an opinion about the guitar grip. The Band Hero grip is no different; in fact, best I can tell is that they just reused the pile of grips stacked up in the Activision warehouse. How else do you explain the "Guitar Hero On Tour" branding that is painted onto this Band Hero guitar?
The real addition is the brand new drum grip (their wording, not mine). This rubbery peripheral is places around the bottom half of the Nintendo DS so that the four colors (yellow, blue, red and green) are covering the D-pad and face buttons. While I've always had problems with how the guitar grip felt (a problem that has not been resolved in this installment), I found myself having a good time drumming using this rubber accessory. It's not the most sophisticated add-on I've seen, but it turned what was always an unpleasant experience into something I looked forward to going back to.
This time around Activision has completely ditched support for Nintendo's older, fatter DS. Instead you get a game that is intended to be played with the Nintendo DS Lite. The good news is that unlike the Guitar Hero On Tour games, Band Hero is partially compatible with the Nintendo DSi. While the guitar grip won't work (it still requires a Game Boy Advance slot to work), you will be able to use the built-in microphone and form-fitting drum peripheral. Of course, neither the drums nor the guitar grip will work with the upcoming Nintendo DSi XL. So either Nintendo is going to need to stop making new versions of their DS, or Activision will need to figure out a way to support four different systems at once. I don't envy their problem.
Wait ... did I say that there's no support for the older, fatter Nintendo DS? Well, it turns out that is not entirely true. Despite what the box says ("Exclusively for the Nintendo DS Lite"), people with older systems can still have a lot of fun. Assuming you already own an older, compatible guitar grip, you shouldn't have any issues playing guitar and bass. And all Nintendo DS consoles have microphones for you to sing into. What's more, there's nothing about the drum grip that requires you to use the rubbery attachment. Instead you can push the left and down buttons on the D-pad and the "A" and "B" face buttons to recreate the four colors. Everything is in order on the note highway, so all it takes is one or two songs before it feels completely natural. In a lot of ways this design made the game feel more like Rock Band Unplugged, a game I really liked earlier this year.
At long last Activision releases a portable "Hero" game that I actually like. While Band Hero isn't perfect, it does offer more than just painful, hand-cramping guitar mechanics. This time around you can drum and sing, two modes that prove to be a lot of fun on the go. Throw in some fun multiplayer gameplay and Wii connectivity and you have a huge step in the right direction!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!