By Nathan Meunier
October 16, 2008 - With the critically successful transition of the Guitar Hero franchise onto the Nintendo DS this summer and fans clamoring for more songs to rock their sweaty palms, it's no surprise developer Vicarious Visions is fired-up to quickly release a follow-up installment. Officially announced at E3 2008, Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades will bring improvements to the design and a slew of rock hits from the past and present when it ships next month. In a conference call with Cheat Code Central and other gaming press this week, members of Vicarious Visions' Decades development team dished out more details on the game and tackled questions ranging from how they wade through the difficult song selection process to whether or not the upcoming DSi's lack of GBA slot is of concern.
Decades of Rock
As the moniker suggests, Decades will feature a very similar gameplay experience to Guitar Hero: On Tour - only the song selection and visuals will revolve heavily around the iconic sights and sounds of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and today. However, Decades won't be a carbon copy of its predecessor. With the game's foundation already set out before hand, the Vicarious Visions team has had more wiggle room to spend time fine-tuning the gameplay, adding in new features, and improving various aspects of the original.
The rocking set list will feature 28 master recordings from the past four decades. A handful of tunes have been culled from the upcoming Guitar Hero World Tour, but executive producer David Nathanielsz confirmed over 80 percent of the songs are exclusive to the DS game. "We were really trying to find songs that work great on the DS, [songs] that people who are playing On Tour would be excited to play," he said. Hands-on accounts with an early build of the game report a partial track listing includes, "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" by The Darkness, "Can't Stop" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Tarantula" by The Smashing Pumpkins, and "You Give Love A Bad Name" by Bon Jovi, among others. A full set list hasn't been announced yet, and the team didn't confirm any additional tracks this week.
"We really do listen to what people on the message boards are saying about what songs they want, what bands they want, and what types of music they want," noted lead designer Jeremy Russo. "I think you'll really see that when you look at the set list for decades."
One of the biggest things the development team has been hearing from players is Guitar Hero: On Tour whet their handheld rock-n-roll palate; they want more songs. It's a demand they're eager to meet. Song length is a factor in determining which tracks are chosen, due to space limitations on the DS cartridges. The ROM space limitations also keep the number of songs that can be squeezed into each handheld Guitar Hero game much lower than its console counterparts. To combat this, a major addition Vicarious Visions focused on including is the ability to stream songs between On Tour and Decades - essentially doubling the amount of songs players can pick from. "This is a big feature we're really excited about," said Nathanielsz. "It's a great set of songs and some music that we're really happy to get in the game. And it's really just an opportunity for players to get more songs on their DS." Two players with different versions of the game can boot up and connect wirelessly to share set lists from both games, he said.
"We put a lot of work into getting this song sharing capability into Decades," said Nathanielsz. "To my knowledge, I don't think there are any other DS games out there that are communicating between different versions of a game. I think people are going to be pretty impressed by the smoothness of the sharing. We've shown the game to some people who haven't believed us that the songs are streaming from the other DS."
The song sharing capabilities of Decades has been a major focus, but other areas of the game are being expanded as well. This time around the single-player campaign will have multiple career paths, according to Russo. Players can select from lead guitar, bass, rhythm guitar, or guitar duel, and each has its own full campaign progression through the different musical time periods in the game. In addition to the music, the venues, guitars, and characters' clothing will run the gamut among the various decades covered in the game. While no licensed instruments will be in the game, the team promised a lot more guitar designs, including some outlandish and decade themed axes. Players can also look forward to two classic characters, Clive Winston from the first two Guitar Hero games and Midori from Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock - both of whom were absent in On Tour - making a return in Decades.