Thursday, December 13, 2007

I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more "Guitar Hero"

I learned a long time ago that knowing how to play guitar doesn't mean you're qualified to play "Guitar Hero."

The last time I tried, right about this time last year, I walked up to the Best Buy try-it-out booth. And failed, miserably.

But this year, something clicked. "Guitar Hero III" just came out, and Pearl Jam's "Even Flow" was blasting from the Best Buy display during a recent visit.

"Goddammit," I said. "I can do this."

So I strapped on the cheap plastic Les Paul knock-off, selected "Even Flow" on "easy," and scored a decent 93% by the end of the song.

I finally go it.

And that's when something transferred from the Xbox 360, through the cable, into the guitar, and up my fingertips. "Guitar Hero" got to me, and it's all I can do to stop myself from returning to Best Buy and try it out again. Or buy a copy for myself.

The idea of selling designer guitar straps and faceplates for a video game still seems ridiculous to me, but I can see why the game is so popular. It's fun, challenging, and offers a level of interactivity that I've never experienced before.

Then along comes "Rock Band," and ups the ante. I gave that one a try for the first time last night, and let me tell you - I know want to be a drummer.

"Rock Band" lets you play the full ensemble: guitar, bass, singer, and percussion. The demo at Best Buy also gives you more songs to play. Scrolling through the list on the drum pad, I saw Nirvana's "In Bloom," and my heart leapt. I've always wanted to play that song on drums, in all its bombastic simplicity. I finally got my chance, and it was just as fun as I dreamed it would be.

"Rock Band" seems to give each instrument its own focus for each song. When I tried out Faith No More's "Epic" on guitar, there was a lot of downtime because the guitar doesn't have a lot to do in the song. It's a drummer's song.

But throw together a group of friends with some music experience, and you've got a helluva evening planned. Toss in booze, and watch out organized sporting events: your sun has pretty much set.

I've been thinking about Nintendo's Wii, especially after "Super Mario Galaxy" came out, and thought what a great addition it could be to Don's and my living room. After finally playing "Galaxy" last night (it was a Best Buy kind of evening), I realized what a powerful combination the Wii's controls together with games like "Guitar Hero" could be. Having grown up with video games, you can only play so many control-based games without growing out of them.

Drums? Guitars? Flicking a nunchuck to make Mario perform a spiral attack?

It's like I was 13 all over again.

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