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Band Hero Review Package Art
Vicarious Visions

Band Hero Review

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard scoring criteria.

The Guitar Hero franchise has found great success wherever it has gone, at least commercially. When the series first made its DS debut with Guitar Hero On Tour it was a rather ambitious undertaking, and while the presentation and sound quality was exceptional the gameplay was marred by a cramp inducing peripheral and major problems with the touch screen’s sensitivity to strumming. In keeping franchise tradition several sequels quickly followed, but none of them did anything to fix the problems. Thankfully, Band Hero offers a major step forward for the series’ handheld ambitions; full band support has been added, the game is rocking a new drum peripheral, the graphics and presentation have seen some major improvements, and some new mechanics have been added while older ones have been fixed.

First and foremost, everybody should be familiar with the core gameplay – choose a song and hit the notes in rhythm. The Guitar Grip peripheral remains the same, so larger hands and fans of Expert difficulty will experience the same cramps from the previous iterations. However, one major improvement has been made to the guitar gameplay. The touch screen’s accuracy has been significantly improved and has proven perfectly sensitive to even the fastest and most complicated strumming patterns; this has been a huge problem in the past and fixing it drastically improves the experience.

Band Hero Drum Silicone Sleeve

Drumming on the DS utilizes a new peripheral that is pretty much a silicone sleeve that wraps around the system and has colored pads that fit over the up, down, X and B button. Technically, you could use the buttons by themselves but the pads do have a nice feel to them even though it does require a fair bit of force to make sure the button beneath the pad is pressed so the game can recognize the hit. Overall, the drumming experience is fairly fun; higher difficulties can be quite hard to keep track of and the new peripheral is no match for the drum kits available on the home consoles, but it is easy to get into the groove of the song and have a good time regardless. Still, one can’t help but feel that the new peripheral isn’t entirely necessary the DS’s face buttons could have been used just as well by themselves, as is done in Lego Rock Band.

Part of the full band experience includes singing so the built in microphone gets quite a workout in Band Hero. Singing in the game won’t present any surprises, the top screen displays the lyrics and pitch and it is the gamer’s job to match them. The only real problem with singing is that the microphones rather unimpressive sensitivity forces the gamer to get their face pretty close to it, and being that close to the screen can make the experience quite awkward.

Band Hero Guitar Grip Action

Band Hero also features a new approach to progressing through the game. First of all, all of the songs are available from the start and after setting up a band the player is free to play as they so desire. Progress is made by unlocking a variety of rewards granted for accomplishing numerous goals on each instrument or just in general, such as five starring a song on guitar, finishing a song on expert vocals, or hitting all star power passages in a song. Earning rewards will unlock new items for the new customizable characters and open up new venues to play in. This new format does make the game feel much more open, but the general lack of structure might upset gamers who like having a more concrete goal to aim for.

Now to get to the core of any music game – the setlist. From the very beginning, Activision has been selling Band Hero as a more family friendly and less challenging take on the classic Guitar Hero formula with an extra emphasis on pop. While this is true for Band Hero on DS, it doesn’t feel quite as pop driven as the console renditions; Taylor Swift is nowhere to be seen and bands like Queen, The Rolling Stones, and Queens of the Stone Age help give the game a bit of an edge. However, the likes of Fall Out Boy, No Doubt, Avril Lavigne, and the Black Eyed Peas remain the overall focus of the game. Fans of the series who appreciated the inclusion of Joe Satriani, Black Tide, and Lynyrd Skynyrd in previous iterations might be less enthusiastic this time around.

Regardless of whether or not the setlist is everybody’s cup of tea, Band Hero’s many additions and mechanical enhancements easily make it the most solid of the franchise’s handheld iterations. However, Band Hero is still far from perfect; both peripherals have their fair share of shortcomings, including their incompatibility with DSi, and the overall experience still pales is comparison to the console versions. Four friends rocking out in front of a TV is far superior to four friends staring at their DS screens. Regardless, Band Hero is currently the best mobile substitute for gamers with a need to rock on the go.

final score 8.0/10

Staff Avatar Andy Hoover
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"There's SAND on my boots!"

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