In Memoriam: Guitar Hero

Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today in this column to mourn of the loss of a great franchise, a franchise that took dreams previously thought unattainable and made them a reality, a franchise that, despite its creator’s best efforts to run it straight into the ground, still brought many a gamer musical enjoyment. Yes, the plastic instruments used to play the game will forever be a part of the dust-collecting items in our houses, but we must remember the good times, when Guitar Hero reigned supreme.

Think back to 2006, when Guitar Hero II was just becoming the next big thing on PlayStation 2. The gameplay was unique (unless, of course, you ask Konami), the characters were outlandish, and the music was, well, actual music. Sure, in those days the songs were covers, but still this was music that everyone could enjoy! Who doesn’t know Lynryd Skynryd, Kansas, Guns N’ Roses, or The Rolling Stones? This was a product that brought families together even before the advent of the motion controller.

The game’s luster was improved over the years, and every Guitar Hero to follow seemed to care more about the aesthetic value of the experience (adding big time rock stars, newer animations) than the actual gameplay. Sure, the band instruments were eventually included, but the true essence of the entire franchise was being slowly taken from us.

Some will remember Guitar Hero as a game that allowed the non-musicians to get a crack at rock-star life. Others will remember it for its uncanny ability to attract a crowd. A select few, however, will remember and forever be grateful to Guitar Hero for introducing them to music they otherwise would have skipped right over. The following are some examples of songs I didn’t even hear of until I first played this historic franchise.

Megadeth – Hangar 18

I called myself a metal fan back in the day. I gravitated toward heavy-hitting, get-out-of-your-seat music, and songs heavy enough to break your ears. I thought that “metal” mean Limp Bizkit and Korn, but this song changed all that. From Megadeth I went to Pantera, from Pantera to Slayer, etc.  This quickly became one of my favorites not only in the game, but overall. The guitar odyssey at the end makes the Guitar Hero experience: fast notes coming at lightning speeds. It’s a fantastic song all the way around, and one I wouldn’t have known without Guitar Hero II.

Slayer – Raining Blood

This one I feel is more embarassing, considering what I thought was metal. Slayer may very well the quintessential metal band of their time, and no song puts them in that light better than “Raining Blood.” The rhythms are all over the place, the guitar work is fast and furied, and the pace is so skewed you’d have to play the song three times just to understand where the changes were. If the Guitar Hero games did one thing well, it was introduce metal music to the masses. Without it, I’d have never gotten into Slayer.

Muse – Knights of Cydonia

Guitar Hero had this uncanny ability to take a song and ingrain it into your skull so much that even when you hear it outside of the game, you’ll be wondering where to put your fingers next. For my group of Guitar Hero players, “Knights of Cydonia” was that song. Muse is a terrific band anyhow, but hearing this come through my speakers for the first time made me want to kick some ass. “Knights of Cydonia” also features a rockin’ synth area, and the game does not hesitate in making it awesome.

These are merely a few of the songs that this gamer would have never had the joy of listening to were it not for this gaming franchise. With every Guitar Hero entry I play, I find more and more music to add to my personal collection, and not many games with licensed music can do that to me.

We will all always remember Guitar Hero fondly as it brought a whole new genre of gaming into the limelight: music. Without Guitar Hero leading the way, games like Rock Band, Power Gig, and of course Band Hero and DJ Hero wouldn’t even exist.


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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