Video Game Review: Guitar Hero III (Wii)

Before venturing any further, consider the following. I’m basically a noob at this whole Guitar Hero thing. I’ve played previous versions in retail settings and played with friends and parties and such, but that’s about it. Being loyal to Nintendo consoles, I’ve been consequently punished by not having a version of the game available to me previously. That said, I’ve always been utterly fascinated by what I couldn’t have. Not so many years ago, I had been pretty serious about learning and playing my guitar. I still casually play every now and then, but not with the mad drive to rock out like I had then. As you might guess, Guitar Hero III gives me the chance to do just that again without the finger calluses.

The Wii version of this game is probably the most unique out of all of the multiple different versions being released recently. Seriously, it’s on everything. Even the PC. Most notably, it has a guitar shell that allows the Wii remote to fit within it. This allows for a lot of fun and useful stuff that its other axe brethren can not do. Obviously, it is used to start your star power. Also, bad notes come out of the Wii remote speaker. And it allows for rumble at certain times. And honestly, each of these points are very effective. The sensitivity of the Wii remote allows for easy initiation of star power, the bad notes sound more realistic and separate, and the rumble works effectively well and feels pretty powerful.

And then there’s the possibly even unintended ability of powering up your console from the guitar. It sounds to be too simple of a feature to really be a selling point of any kind, but when you see your Gibson sitting there while you are watching TV from your couch, it’s awesomely nice to be able to fire up your Wii from the axe itself. And of course, it allows you to navigate the Wii menu with an analog stick that can also be used for selecting items within the game menus. The only real negatives about the Wii guitar is that you have to change out the remote when you want to play another game, and that the analog stick is a little wonky when using the Wii system menu unless you hold the guitar exactly the way the developers think you should. Other than that, the hardware included is just about everything anyone could have put on a wish list when the game was first announced for Wii.

And then there’s the game itself. Again, being relatively new to the series, I’m a bit biased. This consisting as my first real plunge, I’ve quickly become completely obsessed. I’ve played so much within a span of three to four days that I’ve gone from the type of novice who can only get over 90% of a song on easy to a moderately well shredder who can somehow finish speed metal songs on hard. It’s obvious that the developers stuck with what works, and for good reason. This game may only do one or two things, but it does it damn well. The way that it progressively teaches you different combinations of chords and key progressions is so addictive and intuitive, you can’t help but come back for more difficult songs along the way. And obviously, it’s exponentially more fun as you play songs from bands you know and love along the way. That’s a big draw as well, as more than half of the tracks in the game are master tracks from pretty well known bands and artists. I imagine that having bands like Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones or Metallica were simply out of the question when this series started. I mean seriously, when the liscensing team is doing so well that they’ve reunited the freaking Sex Pistols just to record a new master track exclusively for the game, you know that they’re onto something.

The new additions to the series from previous versions seem a little forced, but they’re still a lot of fun. At a few points within the game, you’ll do “battle” with one of the “Legends of Rock” that the title proclaims. Having Tom Morello from Rage or Slash from G&R is pretty cool, but they aren’t a Joe Perry or Jimmy Page. But I suppose “Pretty Rad Dudes of Rock” wasn’t as compelling as a title. The battle elements may be a little too arcade like for some, but even if that’s the case, these are few and far between. Instead of star power, you get the ability to screw with your battle mate by making the song harder or forcing him to fix a broken string or such. The mode is also an option in multiplayer, but it isn’t forced upon you or anything. It ruptures the pace a bit and seems a bit silly at first, but overall it’s a pretty cool addition.

As for online connectivity, it isn’t perfect but it gets the job done. Being online on the Wii at all is a plus, especially considering that it works virtually lag free. I’ve played around a half dozen matches with others and have yet to experience anything at all that hinders the experience. But being on Wii has its drawbacks as you have to use those ever annoying separate friend codes to connect with buddies who also have the game. Seriously, Nintendo. What does it take for you to realize that everyone hates this? Plus, voice chat would be very nice. But that’s a feature that’s at best way down the line for Nintendo. Additionally, the hope for downloadable content is all for naught until Nintendo wises up and offers some sort of external data storage. Other than that, it works relatively well and is at the very least passable for a random battle with a random player or one with a friend.

In summary, the game isn’t 100% perfect. There’s just a few nitpicky things about the game itself, but the rest of the fault lies within the online connectivity. And honestly, those are outside of the control of the developers and fall in the lap of Nintendo itself for not being completely on the ball with this whole online thing. But everything else, indeed rocks.

Edit on 11/3: I hadn’t had the chance yet when I originally wrote this post, but there is a pretty nice corresponding site that keeps up with your online info as well.  They still seem to be working out the kinks, but it does work fairly well for now.  You can see my profile here.

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