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Flux pad? Try cherry red Gibson.

4. Fun for the whole family

But what if you don’t really like rock music? What about the pretentious guitar players who refuse to be caught dead with the game? There is still hope yet. Guitar Hero isn’t the only game on the market. Several “DDR clones” have hit the scene, featuring new types of play and new types of music (including Latino and Korean tracks). These still might be very niche, but they are niches that haven’t been explored very well. Harmonix themselves are also the minds behind quite a few other music games which so far feature techno (Frequency), pop (Karaoke Revolution), and even country (um, Karaoke Revolution Country).

The genre is continuing to move into new areas, at least on Western shores. If the promise of even more games in the “Hero” series is true, then it won’t be long before just about everyone has a music game that they can enjoy. This is a far cry from earlier years when DDR was not only one of your only choices, but arcade owners weren’t even able to get machines without importing. More developers mean more games, more choice, and more competition.

Conclusion

With the popularity of Guitar Hero (and it sequels no doubt), the tremendous horsepower of the PS3, the beauty of Xbox Live Marketplace, and the possibilities of the Wii, I have a pretty strong feeling that the music genre has only just begun to rise in the West. There is so much potential still left, and companies like Harmonix seem eager to explore them. Perhaps Konami and its ilk will come along for the ride as well. I certainly hope they do. Regardless, we could be seeing an entire new generation of this genre in the next few years, and I for one can’t wait to see what it will bring. All hail the Mighty Axe.

One day Christian Wolfe will memorize “All of This” by Shaimus and serenade the ladies. Or just be laughed at.

5 Comments

  1. jay said on June 19, 2006:

    The problem is that people who aren’t into DDR think people playing it look stupid. Guitar Hero is a more layed back, and just cooler game. Dancing has always had its advocates (like Antonia Banderas in Take the Lead) but playing the guitar has always been and probably will always be cooler to Americans and probably all Westerners.

    I’ve run into a nmber of “real” guitarists who dislike GH. I don’t get it, I play guitar and still think GH is a crapload of fun.

    And the mention of GH on the Wii got me thinking. Will Nintendo let third parties use their technology to make new controllers? Imagine a guitar with a motion sensor in it and the awesome new showmanship that would entail. Even better, imagine a tiny pick controller you could use instead of buttons.

  2. Dan said on June 19, 2006:

    I have run into a large number of “real” guitarists who love the game. they too think the game is a “crapload” of fun. I think the people you met are just jealous that we musical mooks can actually evoke such a large amount of fun pretending to play the guitar, while they can hardly muster a smile when doing the real thing (unless they are Andrew W.K.).

    GH is great because it is game that you play with friends, who are actually in the same room, clapping their hands in enjoyment as you pound out “ace of spades.” Playing by yourself is fun (insert masterbation joke here), but honestly, aren’t we all just practicing for our friends? I think that the crowd aspect game of the game, in combination with simple yet addictive gameplay makes GH so damned fun. Of course I just described DDR too. I think DDR only looks lame to people because of the culture it is designed for, while GH is “just a cooler game” because it was designed for us.

  3. Vaga said on June 19, 2006:

    Guitar Hero 2 was one of the most popular games at E3 this year and I got a real kick just watching people play it. The lines were pretty massive, so I didn’t bother playing myself, which I have since come to regret. I even tore a little bit of hair out here and there, and now I have a sinking feeling I am going to be springing some cash for that plastic Gibson pretty soon. Well, a GH 2 Gibson, probably. If I can wait that long without pulling out more hair.

  4. Christian said on June 20, 2006:

    Since my reply to Dom in part 1 was so attrocious, I figured I ought to give him a proper rely in part 2. I’ll address some of his points, which I think the above posters highlight a bit in their own opinions.

    “The problem with raves is that newbies are far too intimidated to step up and learn during the event, and that DDR takes tons of practice to get to a usable level. In my experience, even if they were ecstatic about the rave and the game, they still don’t get much better unless they play the game on a regular basis, which not a lot of them get to do unfortunately. The ones that do, however, come back time and time again and become masters themselves.”

    There is no need to become master of a game that can be played infinitely on easy, or even beginner. Difficulty is not a deterrent in DDR when it offers so many options for customization.

    “Think instead if the game were Street Fighter or Soul Caliber: Yes, people would love to jump in or think the game is excellent, but they are still going to get beaten by the more experienced players that have logged more hours.”

    This argument has two flaws. Firstly, fighting games that are not well balanced can be won easily by people who simply button mash, just a new DDR player can fare well on a hard song by randomly stepping. Second, in an arcade fighters, there is only one option: two people fight, one person wins. That can certainly be a deterrent to someone who doesn’t play well. Again, DDR is only competitive if you want it to be. The person playing a song on hard can do so with a person playing it on easy by their side. And like I said before, most master players are very kind. I’ve never seen them force someone new into direct competition. They’re just happy to play along with someone, even if that someone is plying at half the difficulty. The only time a new player would feel intimidated by their lack of experience is if they choose to feel so, because no one is pushing that on them. I’ve never seen this kind of barrier of entry that you seem to believe in.

    I think I know what you’re talking about though; the person who steps on, laughs a bit as they screw up, get off and say “no more for me”. I think this person isn’t intimidated. Rather, they most likely don’t care. I hate to beat a dead horse, but I really think it is a psychological thing. The player has never seen this style of presentation, or heard this kind of music. Its all a little jarring at first, and it hits them like a Japanese punch in the face. At the same time they’re talking all this in, they still have to play. It is like an extra bit of difficulty. When they are finished, they probably don’t want to play again because they don’t have any interest in what they’re seeing or hearing. There’s no motivation to master a song you don’t care much for.

    Guitar Hero, at first, probably has a higher learning curve, considering your two hands are used for somewhat different actions. But most people don’t give up after their first try. The game is much more familiar, with a play area shaped like a music scale, and the background action is a band playing a concert. These are things they’ve seen before, it isn’t confusing, so they can focus on playing and nothing more. And when there are probably quite a lot of good songs that they’re dying to play, they have motivation to keep trying and improving. I know this may sound a bit far fetched, but it is the only explanation I can think of for this phenomenon.

    “Fecitious as it sounds, while one fun thing about DDR is playing it, another playing it for a crowd. DDR is fun alone, but the game becomes exponentially more fun and realized when you are being watched, and is truly what DDR is all about. DDR succeeds as a spectator sport in the way that no other game has, with perhaps guitar hero as a sole exception.”

    I don’t get this. I never mentioned DDR in a single player sense.

    “Comparing DDR music and guitar hero music is, I think, a fruitless exercise.”

    No it isn’t. This genre is all about the music. It is easily the most important factor. If the music isn’t likeable, someone isnt’ going to waste a lot of time with the game.

    “DDR music doesn’t need to be Americanized to be good stomping music. Konami’s attempts, with a few noteable exceptions, of bringing American music to DDR have been miserable, worthless additions to the game. (Brittney spears? BRITTNEY SPEARS? You couldn’t pay me to dance to that.)”

    Of course it doesn’t need to be American, but there’s no reason why it can’t.

    “I don’t know who Naoki and Captain Jack are, nor do I care to purchase their music or join their fan clubs.”

    Okay, I buryed myself with this one. You’re right, no one needs to know who they are, butif you play to their songs, my example was a bit extreme. But you don’t have to be in the fan club to like their music, and most people I know probably wouldn’t like it at all.

    “The fact is that most American music which might make good candidates for DDR songs are just too slow to even have good steps or be challenging.

    American music is listening music, not stomping music – which is exactly why it works so well for Guitar Hero. Guitar hero is realized best when the people watching think that the person with the guitar controller is really, actually, playing a song that they love. That stops and grabs people’s attention in the same way that seeing someone do Max300 heavy, double, stealth, backwards, blindfolded, and handcuffed does.”

    I call bullshit, 100%. Americans do make techno music you know. So do the Brits. Lots of rock and pop is very fast. I know one of your favorite songs is Long Train Running. You do realize that that song was performed by the Doobie Brothers? And I can at least give you one example of a popular song that I believe would work perfect in DDR: Holiday by Green Day. It is very much possible to make a Western centric DDR soundtrack, but as long as fans complain, and Konami is lazy (by, like you said, including Britney), it will never happen. But to say it is impossible or fruitless is silly.

    “If Konami wants to revive the DDR series, they need some more weirdass japanese techno-on-crack type of songs that are fun to dance to.”

    I know I risk sounding like an even bigger dick, but this statement right here proves my point entirely. DDR fans like yourself think the solution is even more quirky Japanese stuff. In reality that is only what you guys want. As for me, as for what seems to be most of the VL staff, and as for many other people, that is the exact opposite of what we want. You’re right; DDR fans are like arcade fighting fans. They’re so stuck in their niche that have no understanding of what it is anyone outside of the community is really thinking. The game can stay exactly how the fans want it to. That’s fine with me. But in that case I don’t want to hear complaints about a lack of players or a smaller community. The rest of us aren’t stupid Gaijins, we aren’t ignorant masses. We just don’t feel like dancing squeeky voiced idols. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, and unless both sides can meet in the middle, I don’t see a glimmering future for DDR.

    “Is it niche? You bet your ass it’s niche, but DDR is one of those games, like Katamari Damacy, that operates without the need for precedent.”

    Virtual On and Super Monkey Ball are arguably precedent for Katamari Damacy :p

  5. Christian said on June 20, 2006:

    PS – I’m not accusing Dom of calling anyone a stupid gaijin. That is simply a response I’ve often heard from the community that I wanted to address.

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