* Awarded Extreme Gamer's Best Nintendo DS Game of 2008

Guitar Hero spawns in an unlikely place, the Nintendo DS handheld. Without the guitar is there much reason to rock? Jimmy Page might not think so, but luckily Vicarious Visions has creatively though up a solution to this problem with the Nintendo DS fretboard attachment. If only Rock and Roll was that simple.

Guitar Hero is one of the most successful gaming franchises that have come out of the new decade. Making appearances on every console, it was only a matter of time before the popular Guitar Hero is one shape or another made its way onto a handheld. The Nintendo DS was the obvious choice, and really the only portable platform that a touring version of Guitar Hero could have been realized. Taking advantage of the DS’s touch screen and a fretboard cartridge was the answer to the question "How and the hell do you make a Guitar Hero game without the guitar?" Surprisingly, Guitar Hero without the guitar still rocks on the handheld.

Preparing for the Road
Inside the On Tour box you will find the new fretboard attachment called the ‘Guitar Grip’, Guitar Hero stickers to put a little style on your instrument and a stylus made in the shape of an oversized pick, oh and of course the game itself. Guitar Hero: On Tour for the Nintendo DS is definitely an interesting product and one that should please gamers who can’t get enough of Guitar Hero. Newbies to the franchise might want to investigate this portable version, but keep in mind that the DS version doesn’t quite capture the same feel as the upright, full rock versions of Guitar Hero. For a real sense of Guitar Hero you'll need to rock out with any number of its releases, the portable version does the trick, but its just not the same.

Gripping the Notes
If you’ve already burnt out your frets on your signature Gibson from Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, breaking down to the DS isn’t as horrible as you might think. Actually, the little handheld Fret board accessory is a great trainer for increasing your playing hands dexterity. Personally, as a guitarist in real life, I found the Nintendo DS to be a little more practical than the full version of the game. After a few hours of rocking away on the DS, my fingers are primed up and ready to move on the real deal. On Tour is like a version of this warm up stretch device they used try and pawn off to pickers in the music store, so having an interactive stretching tool is extremely handy.

While I’m still rambling about the hardware, the Guitar Grip attachment can wear down your wrist. It’s attached to the DS through the empty GBA cartridge spot and curls around the back to be held by the user. An adjustable wrist strap is also provided to hold your hand in place. With your hand locked into place you can move around the unit and position it any way you wish. I found lying in on my lap, or using a table to be the most practical. Holding the DS up in the air for a few hours might get tiring. The trick to On Tour is finding a spot that is comfortable for your pressing hand and for the hand that will be picking away. Once a balance is found there is no stopping the rock, but initially On Tour can cause a fuss until you find that sweet spot.

The Song Remains the Same
Now that the hardware has been overviewed lets look at the game itself. Guitar Hero: On Tour is set up almost identical to the big boy version of the game. The way you play On Tour also remains the same, strumming on the strings matching while matching the notes on screen with the proper button presses on the coloured fret board. Really, Guitar Hero is simple to understand that anyone can pick and up play On Tour after spending two minutes with the training tutorial. If you’re wondering about the whammy bar, it’s now continently placed on the screen with the guitar and can be activated by wiggling the stylus back and forth. The other aspect your probably questioning is the activating the superstar power which normally is done by tilting your guitar up. For the DS version you just yell or blow in the microphone to turn the rainbow coloured markers into that loveable shade of blue.

The career mode in On Tour is exactly like the console version only sized down in content. You start off by inputting your bands name and then working the shifts building your rock n’ roll legacy from the ground up. For artists, On Tour unfortunately only has 26 songs; thankfully most of the tracks are master tracks. For example the first level (The Subway) will have you jamming to “All the Small Things” – Blink 182, “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” – Jet, "Do What You Want” – OK Go, “Spiderwebs” – No Doubt and encored “We’re Not Gonna Take It” – Twisted Sister. A few of the other artists featured in On Tour are Steve Miller, Los Lonely Boys, Nirvana, ZZ Top and Maroon 5. If there is one short coming to the portable version of Guitar Hero, its right here in the amount of songs available.

King of the Shred
Co-op gameplay
is also explored over a local wireless network, and topping things off is a separated Guitar Duel mode that adds new elements to their version of guitar wars. Through a co-op connection songs can be played out splitting up lead parts of the songs, or in the Guitar Duel. The Guitar Duel is a little more interesting then the console version thanks to a few new additions and the functionality of the Nintendo DS. New power ups have been added and they include the standard breaking strings and increasing the difficulty level, but you will also get to blow out an enflamed guitar and franticly try and sign autographs while still competing against your opponent during a song. It’s too bad the new Guitar Hero III styled battles didn’t make it into the career mode, or this section of the game.

Unlock the Rock
For extras unlockable skins and instruments are offered up when you earn stars in the different difficulty levels in the game. The three rock n’ roll staples of are unlocked by default, the Les Paul, SG, and Flying V. If you want the Les Paul Dbl. Cutaway, or the Firebird you’ll have to earn your cash and win those stars. The skins in the game are pretty weak offering three skins per character (including new characters Gunner Jackson and Memphis Belle) and a few instrument skins to go along with this. Unlocking them can be fun, but it doesn’t affect the gameplay in one bit. If you’re really into the secrets then you will want to play through all the songs in the duel mode to unlock the final song “I Am Not Your Gameboy”.

Guitar Hero: On Tour is more than Activision trying to cash in on the success of the now legendary gaming franchise; it’s a solid product that can stand on its own. Doing the impossible, On Tour takes the excitement from jumping around in your living room with the console version and slims it down to a solid portable version. The amount of songs available and graphics are an obvious hit that should be expected on the limited DS platform. Aside from the lack of horsepower, Guitar Hero: On Tour is an excellent version of Guitar Hero that even includes a few sweet extras like co-op gaming and the excellent Guitar Duel mode. If you need an excuse to fire up your DS, On Tour is one of the best excuses this year. You can’t go wrong with Guitar Hero: On Tour. Bang for your buck, this is it!

Gameplay: 9, Graphics: 8, Sound: 8, Innovation: 10, Mojo: 10. Final: 9.0 / 10

Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 07.04.08

  • Rock out anytime, anywhere – Fans can now take the Guitar Hero experience wherever they go with Guitar Hero: On Tour. The Guitar Hero Guitar Grip is an ergonomic extension that mimics a guitar fret board and fits seamlessly in people's hands.
  • Strum with the stylus – Included with the game is a new Guitar Hero pick-stylus that allows gamers to strum away in style on the touch activated screen of the DS.
  • Jam with friends – On a local wireless network, friends can join together to play in co-op mode, or challenge one another in a Guitar Duel using new battle items unique to the DS platform.
  • Become a rock legend – Players can blow into the microphone to extinguish a pyrotechnics effects gone wrong, or use the touch screen to autograph a fan's shirt in the middle of their set.
  • Pick a song, any song – Fans can prove their shredding skills on the most diverse set list of master tracks ever offered on a Guitar Hero game, including classic rock, pop and alternative favorites such as Nirvana, OK Go and No Doubt.

Guitar Hero: On Tour

Vicarious Visions
Released (US)
June '08