Note: iOS 9 + Facebook users w/ trouble scrolling: #super sorry# we hope to fix it asap. In the meantime Chrome Mobile is a reach around
hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Destructoid review: Guitar Hero: On Tour

2:32 PM on 07.05.2008 // Nick Chester

On a long list of things we never thought we’d do, being able to play Guitar Hero on a subway -- or more importantly, on the toilet -- was certainly one of those things. Developer MachineWorks gave it a go with Guitar Hero III Mobile, which was a noble but ultimately poor attempt to cram the experience into the mobile gaming space. Disappointing as it was, most gamers assumed that the invention of wireless guitar peripherals was as liberated as they were going to get.

Enter developer Vicarious Visions, best known for their long line of technically impressive handheld works, and most recently the Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Guitar Hero: Aerosmith ports for the Wii. No stranger to the Nintendo DS or the popular music franchise, Vicarious Visions were tasked with bringing the impossible to life as Guitar Hero: On Tour. The result is some impressive engineering: a four-fret Guitar Grip peripheral that simulates the neck of the larger, less-mobile guitar control.

At the end of the day, though, is it really worth $49.99 just to be able to play Guitar Hero in an airport toilet stall? And more importantly, do you really want to?

Guitar Hero: On Tour (Nintendo DS)
Developed by Vicarious Visions
Published by Activision Blizzard

Released on June 22, 2008

The gameplay in Guitar Hero: On Tour will be familiar to anyone who’s poked their head out from under a rock these past few years. But for those uninitiated, here’s the short version: a vertical fret “highway” scrolls down the screen, indicating “notes” that must be pressed on the peripheral along with the (arguably) rock music coming out of the speakers. By moving the “strum bar” and pressing the appropriate buttons, you’re approximating the general experience of actually playing a guitar. The result is a slight feeling of musical accomplishment, and musicians (or wannabes) telling you to “just pick up a real guitar.”

The “Guitar Grip” peripheral that ships with the game slides into the Nintendo DS Game Boy Advance cart slot only has four fret buttons (as opposed to the console’s five), and you rub the touch screen with a guitar pick-shaped stylus instead of using a “strum bar.” To eke more points out of longer notes, rubbing the stylus anywhere on touch pad acts as the whammy bar. “Star Power,” the bonus mode that can help multiply your score, is activated by making noise into the Nintendo DS microphone (or if you’re in public or Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe, by pressing any of the handheld’s buttons). 

At its core, Guitar Hero: On Tour really does hit most of the same notes that its bigger console brothers do, and after a few songs (for either Guitar Hero veterans or newbies), you should be strumming along to your favorite (or not-so-favorite) hits in no time.

On Tour features a number of modes, including the expected career mode which lets you name your “band,” and select one of the game’s characters as your avatar, as you make your way through five tiers/venues, for a total of 25 songs (and one bonus tune). The single-player experience also offers a practice mode as well as a “Guitar Duel” game, where you’ll go head-to-head with a computer controlled guitarist in the game’s arcade-style “battle mode” (which we’ll get to in a moment).

The multiplayer experience of Guitar Hero isn’t ignored here, either; On Tour is full of both competitive and cooperative modes, which requires two copies of the title as well as two “Guitar Grip” peripherals. Some carry-overs from the console version include the score battles Face-Off and Pro Face-Off, as well as the cooperative modes where one player will play guitar and the other might play the song’s bass line or rhythm. For better (you’re not forced to play them in the game’s single player mode) or for worse (they exist), the “battle” mode introduced in Guitar Hero III also makes its way to On Tour in the form of “Guitar Duels.”

This modes has two players battling it out against one another playing the same song, but the key difference is the “Battle Gems” that appear on the note chart. If these notes are successfully played, a defensive or offensive power-up is earned that can be activated the same way “Star Power” is in other modes. Attacks like the “Photo Op” can make it hard for your opponent to see their notes, or the “Difficulty Up” power-up which gives your opponent a temporary, more difficult note chart to play. Vicarious Visions makes some interesting use of the DS-specific capabilities here, with powers up like the “Pyrotechnic Mishap” which causes a fire that must be “blown out” using the DS microphone.

It should be known that the music selection in Guitar Hero: On Tour is paltry compared to other games in the series, with a measly 26 tracks available, one of which is an unlockable bonus song. Whether or not you find the song selection to be of your liking is a matter of taste;  there’s certainly a more “mainstream flavor” found in the title than some might like. That’s not say the songs that are available aren’t solid choices, really.

The music is varied, from Maroon Five’s “This Love” to Ozzy Osourne’s recent single, “I Don't Want To Stop” and Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” to Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Pride and Joy.” Some choice are questionable, but nearly all of them are recognizable and have fun, playable guitar parts. A handful of the tracks are masters, with a few being respectable cover versions; interestingly, the further you make it through the game’s set list, the more cover versions you’re bound to hear. The sound quality of the songs is decent for the handheld, but sound pretty bad coming out of the tiny DS speakers;  headphones greatly enhance the experience, and are highly recommended.

In terms of the games note charts, they’re mostly fun to play, and make sense with the guitar parts you’ll hear.  Even with only four fret buttons, the most seasoned Guitar Hero veteran will find a challenge on the game’s “Hard” mode; it’ll definitely take a few songs to get used to the “Guitar Grip,” and figure out the timing of stylus. “Expert” difficultly is blisteringly annoying with the peripheral, and will likely cramp hands and break hearts after only one or two tracks; the jump between it and easier modes is immediately obvious, even on the easiest songs.

Thin set list aside, there’s certainly a lot going on in Guitar Hero: On Tour that do add value to the experience. In terms of modes and features, it’s most definitely as packed as you’d expect from other games in the series. The key is how it plays, and that’s really all down to how the “Guitar Grip” peripheral works. Let me start by repeating that the concept of a peripheral that slides on to the Nintendo DS is genius; there were far worse directions Vicarious Visions could have gone with this, including ignoring a peripheral altogether or making a mini ukulele-like controller. For the most part it works, but there are too many physical and mechanical problems to ignore.

To start, the “Guitar Grip” slides in to the GBA slot easily; on one hand, this is a plus, since it makes initial setup a snap. The downside is that it also slides out easily, which can happen even when first trying to adjust the strap on your hand and sometimes when you’re playing. This wouldn’t be a huge deal, since it’s easily enough to pull the “Guitar Grip” snug with your fingers; the problem is that every time the peripheral slides out, the game alerts you and requires a complete reboot of the Nintendo DS to continue play. As stated earlier, this rarely happens during songs, but can happen a lot while sliding the grip on and, even more annoyingly, when trying  to remove the peripheral from your hand between songs for breaks.

Breaks are definitely important when playing On Tour, because you’re going to need to take them often. Because the fret buttons are relatively small, those with larger digits (most adults) are going to run into finger cramping issues trying to keep their fingers steady. Even worse is how you must hold the DS, which is a book style manner; this requires you to crane your arm like it was in a sling just so you can get a more authentic “strumming” experience. Although in-game warning screens caution against it, it’s also natural to want to bend your wrist. Try as hard as you like, you’re going to find yourself in some uncomfortable positions that will lead to tender wrists and cramped fingers, and in the only “happy ending “ is completing a song.

Visually, the game is nothing to sneeze at -- Vicarious Visions knows how to pull a lot of the handheld -- but it’s also nothing to write home about. The artistic style has an ever-so-slightly more cartoon style than the console games, but it certainly fits in with the direction Activision has been taking the series. The in-game animations are what you’d expect for a Nintendo DS title; that is to say, they’re pretty bad, but are more impressive on a portable than the animatronic junk delivered in Guitar Hero III.

In the end, whether or not Guitar Hero: On Tour is worth your cash is a tough call. How Vicarious Visions brought the franchise to life on the DS is pretty amazing and works incredibly well, if only in small bursts. The multiplayer functionality is a nice touch as well, but requires a friend (or enemy) to have purchased the costly handheld title as well; the lack of Wi-Fi play is definitely noticeable in this case. The tiny set list (which you can blow through in well under three hours) and the cramp-inducing peripheral are the deciding factors here: Guitar Hero: On Tour is an interesting experiment for the Nintendo DS that might appeal to die-hard fans, but the franchise is ultimately better left in the living room.

To take a page from the book of elitist musicians everywhere: “Put down that toy and go play a real plastic guitar.”

Score: 6.0 (Decent. Slightly above average, maybe a little niche. But you wouldn't recommend it to everybody)

Full set list, for those who care about that kind of thing in a music game:

Venue: Subway
Do What You Want -- OK Go
All the Small Things -- blink-182
Spiderwebs -- No Doubt
Are you Gonna Be My Girl -- Jet
We’re Not Gonna Take It -- Twisted Sister

Venue: Subway
Do What You Want -- OK Go
All the Small Things -- blink-182
Spiderwebs -- No Doubt
Are you Gonna Be My Girl --  Jet
We’re Not Gonna Take It --  Twisted Sister

Venue:  Rooftop
All Star -- Smashmouth
Breed -- Nirvana
Jessie’s Girl -- Rick Springfield
Hit Me With Your Best Shot -- Pat Benatar
This Love -- Maroon 5

Venue: Parade
Heaven -- Los Lonely Boys
Helicopter -- Bloc Party
China Grove -- The Doobie Brothers
Rock And Roll All Nite -- Kiss – covered by Line 6
What I Want -- Daughtry

Venue: Greek Arena
Jet Airliner -- Steve Miller Band – covered by Wavegroup
Black Magic Woman -- Santana – covered by Line 6
Stray Cat Strut -- Stray Cats
La Grange -- ZZ Top – covered by Line 6
Youth Gone Wild -- Skid Row – covered by Wavegroup

I Don’t Wanna Stop -- Ozzy Osbourne
Anna Molly – Incubus
Knock Me Down – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Pride and Joy – Stevie Ray Vaughn
I Know A Little – Lynyrd Skynyrd – covered by Wavegroup

I Am Not Your Gameboy - Freezepop

Photo Gallery: (10 images)
Click to zoom - browse by swipe, or use arrow keys

Nick Chester, Former Editor-in-Chief (2011)
 Follow Blog + disclosure Tips
Editor-in-Chief @ nick at  more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

Status updates from C-bloggers

Bardley avatarBardley
My absolute finest moment in all of Metal Gear. Also, the first time I had driven a truck.
JohnSmith123 avatarJohnSmith123
Ok. That EDF 4.1 game is really really good. You can even sing and shout "EDF!" with your soldiers! Holy crackers.
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
I want to goad my wife into playing RE Revelations 2 with me but I don't know if she can deal with the whole 3D spatial movement thing, even if she plays the supporting character.
Lawman avatarLawman
Heads-up: Mega Man soundtracks are free right now at the Capcom Store. Guessing it's a glitch. All of them are digital downloads, except for Mega Man 9, which is a physical CD that requires money for shipping. Link in comments.
Solar Pony Django avatarSolar Pony Django
My Brawl in the Family books finally came! It took a while but Matthew (guy who made the series) has been super busy so I totally understand. =D
Dreamweaver avatarDreamweaver
Here's what a typical dinner with me looks like: Stouffer's chicken parmesan, Lay's potato chips, and a cold can of Mountain Dew, all eaten on a cold set of tiles. That's right, ladies, THIS is what you'd be missing out on. Eat your heart out, @SayWord.
thelivinglegend avatarthelivinglegend
Not digging the difficulty of Xcom 2 so far. I always thought the first one was tough but fair, but this seems that at times it won't matter what strategy you use, you'll end up losing and having to restart. Seems more trial and error than tactical.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
How's everyone finding XCOM 2? My first campaign isn't going well, half a dozen deaths so far and a sea of hospitalised vets in the roster :(
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Just tried the SFV kiosk demo. Impressions: Charlie is weird now. Chun Li now down-to-forwards her signature kick. Ryu, Ryu never changes. How to V-Trigger? Hah, Capcom does not explain such things! Needs more Rathalos and Feylines.
Ckarasu avatarCkarasu
For anyone wondering: Digimon Cyber Sleuth is pretty good. A bit easy, so play on hard mode for challenge, but it's like playing Final Fantasy 10, but with Digimon. You can even get Black Wargreymon if you buy it this month. Clearly, the best Digimon.
CoilWhine avatarCoilWhine
I bought Bloodborne and $30 in PSN moolah to top off my Playstation shopping spree.
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
I just made a thing of beauty.
Fuzunga avatarFuzunga
Nordic just saved a bunch of games from being delisted. Some pretty good ones! [url][/url]
Atleastimhousebroken avatarAtleastimhousebroken
Weird brutal death metal song about Majora's Mask (Reminds me of Gorguts)! My life is complete! Lyrics in comments.
Dreamweaver avatarDreamweaver
I SWEAR the Goddess is trolling me. I HATE having dreams where everything's finally okay with my life, only to wake up and realize it's all been a delusional lie. I'm starting to think this is a sign that maybe I should just keep sleeping forever... T^T
jak2364 avatarjak2364
It's taking every ounce of power within me to act like a responsible adult and save for this instead of using a credit card to get it now. Everyone, tell me bad things about it.
gajknight avatargajknight
My cat touched my dick.
ScionVyse avatarScionVyse
Oh boy, extra damage weren't Ike's only buffs this patch. They also made his n-air combo better, made his Fsmash better (sourspot damage and angle buffs) and increased the range of his f-air. Ike may be tied with Sheik for best f-air in the game now. :D
Voodoome avatarVoodoome
What's your guys thoughts on repros? I ran into these a couple years ago at a con and I just couldn't resist. I know there are some repro makers out there that reproduce official US releases, and that's wrong, but if a game was never released here?
Niwannabe avatarNiwannabe
There's people who defend WB putting season passes in LEGO games. Real talk for a sec, there is literally no reason a season pass should even exist, let alone in a LEGO game of all things. Preordering DLC is pointless. I'm saltier than I need to be.
more quickposts



Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -