We Salute You, Our Half-Inflated Dark Lord!

November 21st, 2005  |  Published in old and busted

If it isn’t already, it will soon be video game review industry standard practice for the author to acknowledge that he always harbored a secret wish to be a rock-n-roll star. From there, he can segue into a litany of the ways in which “Guitar Hero” has made that dream possible, etc. etc. etc., then note that it’s actually a rhythm game but that you don’t mind because it’s so effin’ cool.

guitarhero.jpgI’m gonna post the outlier note on this game and point out that I never really cared about being a rock-n-roll star. During my ill-advised period of Doors adoration in late high school (and early college), I aspired to be maybe, you know, a bacchanalian snake-charmer. I think I’ve always focused on the singer in every band. Perhaps because, as Phil has kindly noted, I tend to prefer music that speaks more to my head than my heart, and singers are often the conduit for the thinking part of the music, except in albums where they’re a puzzling distraction.

Anyhow … didn’t care about being a rock-n-roll star, but in the past few years I’ve harbored a secret longing to be good at rhythm games. The formative experiences in that desire are a horrible run-in with Dance Dance Revolution at the nickel arcade down on Belmont and Alison’s consistent ability to smash me into the dirt during the occasional “Bust-A-Groove” session at home.

Because “Guitar Hero” wraps the rhythm game up in rockin’ instead of, uh, boogyin’, I can handle it because one of my other secret desires was to be able to publicly like (in an intense, genuine way as opposed to a phony ironic way) songs like “Iron Man” and “Sharp Dressed Man” and “More Than a Feeling,” and so I’m intimately familiar with how those songs move, even if I’ve always pinched myself discretely on the leg to keep from bobbing my head or wiping the sneer off my face.

To a certain extent, the added guitar accessory (with whammy bar!) is unnecessary for me … I’ve never played an air guitar with any particular gusto. It’s still fun, though, and the special ridge on the middle button simulates a puny nylon string of the sort that might vex a young boy trying to work up an entry-level collection of calluses. The whammy bar adds some appreciation for how much art is involved in that accessory’s deployment … you don’t just go thwacking that thing willynilly, because some sustains are meant to be pure and clean … not all crazy and wiggly.

On the technical side: The graphics are good, and the covers that comprise the song list are competently executed. The worst in the lot is probably the one I anticipated the most (“Take Me Out”) because it manages to capture the part of Franz Ferdinand that owes its particular flamboyance to covert marathon Dead or Alive sessions without also including the sweaty funk (in both the musical and excretory sense) that gathers in their leather pants. Most of the others are nicely done, though.

Shame they couldn’t score the licenses, since the reminder of recording industry greed the covers leave lingering dampened my interest in putting together a quick iTMS shopping expedition. Except, I guess, most of “Boston.”

It’s been almost 30 years … Time to own up.

For the record: Very, very fun.

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