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SuperMonk4Ever avatar 5:19 PM on 05.14.2014
An Open Love Letter To Harmonix Part One: The Hero We Needed



The year is 2005. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all unveiled their next generation consoles that were all planning to launch soon. While all the hype was around the new consoles, one fifteen year old teenager could only dream of one thing... Guitar Hero. I have never played anything like it, holding a guitar in my hand while playing tunes that I have listened to throughout my childhood. Sadly however, there was no way I could ask my parents to purchase that game out of the blue. So I waited patiently, playing any in store demo I could get my hands on. Practicing up to the point to where I eventually could crank the difficulty up. 

Almost one year of constantly reminding my parents that I really wanted game; I thought to myself that I would never be able to get the game I desired. However, on my sixteenth birthday, my parents brought out a long box covered in wrapping paper. Having seen the game displayed in stores, I instantly knew what was hiding beneath the bright red wrapping paper. Tearing off the wrapping paper that hid my present, I was correct. I was finally a proud owner of my very own Guitar Hero. The smile stretched so far on my face, it hurt.

After plugging everything in and getting familiar with hammer ons and hammer offs, I played all through the night. Even after my friends crashed, I was jamming out.  Staring at the screen in the dark as my fingers tapped the frets all night long. I played some personal favorites like Killer Queen, Take Me Out and Stellar. Perhaps my favorite part of playing Guitar Hero however was discovering brand new music. The tracks that stand out the most to me are from bands that I have never even heard of. Bands like Shaimus (All of This), the Slip (Even Rats) and Freezepop (Get Ready 2 Rokk).

I played Guitar Hero for months on end. Throwing my arms in the air as I tried to play the guitar behind my head and singing loudly like no one was home. Burning through all the tracks in the set list until I hit the finale. Bark at the Moon laughed at me as I came in cocky only to get thrown out onto my ass as the crowd booed at my disappointing performance. I played Bark at the Moon back to back for a week straight. Trying to master this beast on expert difficulty was no easy task. I would fall down eight times in a row but get up nine. 


Hey, it isn't easy being a rock star. 

I remember getting off school on a Friday afternoon telling myself "Okay, this is it. I am going to conquer Bark at the Moon this weekend!" Since my parents weren't home yet, I decided to take the game out onto the big screen television in the living room. Tapping my foot to the rhythm as the board started to scroll, I knew this was it. I never knew my fingers could fly as fast as they did that day. Scoring almost every note that was thrown my way as my hand and wrist pulsed. Reaching the final note, I jump in the air and hit the ground. Doing that, however, knocked down one of my mother's glass ornaments off a nearby shelf. Even worse, my parents arrived just in time to see that happen. At that moment though, I couldn't care. I beat Guitar Hero on expert.

Not too long after that experience, I learn that Guitar Hero II would release shortly. I felt the same excitement and enthusiasm I experienced when I tried out Guitar Hero for the first time. A game that I love with updated mechanics, new songs and more awesome venues? I was more than pumped for the sequel to release. The Christmas that followed the release of the game in 2006, I got my wish. Guitar Hero II was waiting for me under the tree. I quickly flew to my room before even opening the rest of my gifts as the Christmas music was quickly drowned out with rock.

Playing through the first tracks in the game; I felt the same way I did back when I popped Guitar Hero in my PS2 for the first time. Blowing through the game on expert difficulty, I made my way to the final set list. While the previous songs were a cake walk, these final few songs pushed me harder than the previous game. The song that made me frustrated to the point where I wanted to break my guitar was Pschobilly Freakout. I cried out in pain as the monstrous rifts caused my wrist to flail back and fourth across the fretboard. Even through all the frustrations, I guess you could say I was a bit of an addict of the game.

Finally, I reached the ending of the Guitar Hero II, the crowd shouting for me to play Free Bird as the final encore. Taking the last challenge, I breezed through the song on my first try. I felt like I was unstoppable, finishing both Guitar Hero games, I was still hungry for more. Game magazines were my only source of gaming news back then, so I waited until the next announcement for the Guitar Hero series. However, Harmonix wasn't making the next Guitar Hero, they were making a new series called Rock Band. I remember reading the large announcement in either Game Pro or Game Informer, excited by what I was hearing. Bringing a bunch of friends together to join you in songs and fill out the other roles? That sounded like a dream to me but... I was only a teenager in school back then. There was no way my parents would be able to afford that for me. Disappointed by that fact, I tried to push that desire out of my head.

In Christmas 2007, I asked my parents for the first Guitar Hero that didn't have Harmonix's work, Guitar Hero III. I was very grateful and happy to receive the gifts that I was given. Hell, I was surprised to get my hands on Guitar Hero III. That very same Christmas morning, one of my friends called and asked if I wanted to come over and play Rock Band with him. The call came literally right after we opened our gifts but I wanted nothing more than to play Rock Band at that moment. So, my brother and I left our Christmas gifts in our rooms before quickly heading over to discover our new addiction.

 
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