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Mario's Shrine to Movies, Video Games, and Animation

Guitar Hero
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Air guitar players rejoice!  Now you can feel like a guitar god jamming out to your favorite tunes to a packed venue without actually taking lessons.  The premise is rather simple.  You have a peripheral shaped like a real guitar with five colored buttons on the neck simulating the frets and a lever that can be "strummed" and even a working whammy bar.  Those familiar with Harmonix's Frequency and Amplitude games should feel right at home.  All you do is watch as colored circles and lines fall towards the bottom, hold down the correct colored button or combination of buttons, and strum as the notes reach the bottom, thus creating music.  You're not even required to be as precise on the timing as the notorious Dance Dance Revolution series or its many imitations.  The challenge comes from getting your fingers to move fast enough to access the correct button.
 
There are four difficulty levels to choose from.  Easy only uses the first three fret buttons and throws out only basic sequences.  Normal requires you to use your pinky to access the fourth button, and the sequences become more challenging, with more chords and triplets.  Hard and Expert are where you start to feel like a real guitar player.  You'll need to move your hand up and down the neck to access the fifth button, and you'll start to see faster and more insane sequences, the encouragement of techniques guitar players call hammer-ons and pull-offs, and a closer correspondence between the notes of the real song and how often you press the buttons on the guitar.
 
As you play, your score multiplier will go up as you finish combos and restart if you miss a note.  The crowd energy will also go up or down depending on how well or badly you play.  You also have a bar for something called star power.  It fills up by playing good notes or by feathering the whammy bar on certain special sustain notes and chords.  Once the star power bar glows, it's time to strike a rock star pose by tilting the guitar vertical.  Your character will do something outrageous, the crowd will go wild, and your score multiplier will double.  At the end of the stage, you're given a star rating and some money depending on how well you do.  The star rating is for your own satisfaction, but the money you can use to buy stuff like new songs, new(and authentic) guitars, and even different skins for your guitars.
 
Fans of music and rhythm games don't have to worry about Guitar Hero having only a few good songs and some really terrible ones.  Save for one or two that don't strike my fancy, all the songs in Guitar Hero are loud and proud and just generally fun songs with ample guitar solo sequences.  The main songs are divided by rock styles to satisfy different tastes and include rocking classics like Thunder Kiss 65, Smoke On The Water, and even Killer Queen, and also some modern flavors like Cochise by Audioslave.  The bonus songs have an even bigger variety, from light, happy-go-lucky rock(All Of This by Shaimus) to techno(Get Ready 2 Rokk by Freezepop) to hard core stuff(Fire It Up by Black Label Society).  In short, Guitar Hero is exactly the kind of fun and revolutionary music and rhythm game that this era sorely needs more of.
 
Grade: Excellent

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