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    Jan 12th, 2007 at 19:35:42     -    Guitar Hero II (PS2)

    So, I just finished playing a little Guitar Hero II on Hard difficulty. It was a humbling experience. One issue that I've heard about Guitar Hero II is the steep difference in difficulty from Medium to Hard, and I'm forced to agree. I shudder to think of Expert difficulty. Anyone who can play Expert difficulty with ease has my respect.

    I've noticed that what I enjoy most about Guitar Hero II are the subtle things that were added to make the game feel more like playing a guitar. Much of it lies in the fret board. Most people who play Guitar Hero know that for multiple notes of the same color, they can hold the color button down and just strum the "strings". What most people don't know (and can't seem to wrap their heads around, no matter how many times I tell them) is that the buttons higher on the fretboard than the desired note do not count against you if pressed.

    Let me explain. From the top of the fretboard down the colors are green, red, yellow, blue and orange. If a yellow note comes up, as long as you're holding down the yellow button, it doesn't matter whether you're also holding the green and red buttons (however, blue and orange would count against you). This makes sense, as this is how string instruments behave in real life. When playing "Beast and the Harlot" on Medium difficulty, one of my favorite parts is a section that alternates two colors (red/blue, then red/yellow, then green/yellow). I just keep my finger down on the one note and alternate with my other finger the other note. I don't know why I like that so much. It just feels right.

    The other thing that really sets the mood is how your playing affects the music. Of particular note, how the whammy bar can be used to add reverb to notes. It would seem that the guitar track was recorded separately from the rest of the song, as that's the only way I could think of being able to manipulate those notes without it affecting the other sections of the music (drums, vocals, etc.).

    Again, these are all subtle things that really add to the experience. You don't really notice it while you play; it's afterwards that you realize just how profound such little nuances can be to the gameplay.

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    Jan 12th, 2007 at 18:54:54     -    Guitar Hero II (PS2)

    First off, let me say that I've been playing Guitar Hero II off and on for a couple of months now. I am currently playing on Medium difficulty, and can get 5 stars on nearly every song without much difficulty. For my next entry I'll talk about Hard difficulty, and perhaps multiplayer.

    Guitar Hero is an excellent game, both in its concept and its execution. The concept is brilliant: Take people's love for Air Guitar, combine it with a timing game in the same vein as Dance Dance Revolution, and the result is Guitar Hero. Genius.

    However, a good design alone does not a good game make. What causes Guitar Hero stand out in a crowd is how well it succeeds in implementing its key concepts, namely, in feeling like an upgrade to Air Guitaring. Once I became good at the game, it really felt like I was playing on a guitar, rocking out to the crowd.

    What makes Guitar Hero II so much fun? Ninety percent of it lies in the guitar controller. I've played Guitar Hero using just the regular controller, and it loses much of its magic. Much of the controller's success is in its simplicity. Five different colored buttons on the fret board, a tab in the middle to represent plucking strings, a whammy bar, and the Start/Select buttons. That's it.

    Yet, this simple and elegant design does a really good job at capturing the feel of playing a guitar. Holding down one of the buttons while stringing your hand up and down feels...right. It's one of those things that has to be experienced in order to fully understand; it's difficult to explain.

    Nonetheless, I'll try...in my next entry. But first, more rocking!

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