Remakes are big business these days, so why can’t Guitar Hero have one? Vikki Blake’s certainly ready to rock out with a plastic axe again…
Guitar Hero vision. Did you ever get it? It happened when you put down your guitar after a punishing sesh, and the room around you scrolled upwards like you were still shredding your virtual fretboard. Sometimes it lasted just a few seconds, but sometimes – particularly after an especially frenetic session – it could last for ages. Man, I miss that. I miss a lot of things about that brief moment in time when every gamer had a plastic guitar under their couch.
I adored Guitar Hero. I loved it so intensely I needed – not wanted, but needed – a cheap plastic guitar tree in the corner of my living room to house my fake axe collection, and my toddler learned the hard way not to wander in front of the TV when mummy was in the middle of a no-dropped-note hot streak. Later, the cheap plastic guitar tree was joined by a cheap plastic drum kit and a mic stand because, of course, I fell deeply in love with Rock Band, too. Well, I think once you’ve had your first bite of the faux rock star lifestyle, it’s hard not to crave more.
But while I did attempt five-star performances on all instruments on all tracks – even on the drums, and I sucked on drums – that crappy guitar was my first love. I’ve never been able to play the real thing – being skint, left-handed, dyspraxic, and tone-deaf put a dent in my childhood I’m-gonna-be-a-guitar-rock-god plans – and not even Rocksmith could get me half-way there as an adult. But it sure was fun to suspend reality and pretend otherwise for a bit, particularly as you didn’t even have to pull off a flawless rendition of Through The Fire And Flames to feel like a rock god. That was its magic, I think – that dizzying combination of rocking out to Paint It Black or Sweet Child o’ Mine and moving your fingers in ways that felt authentic to the guitar solo was all it took.
That was almost 20 years ago now. Can you believe it? That toddler is a fully-grown adult man now (who still wanders in front of the TV with stroke-inducingly bad timing, by the way) and the few plastic instruments that survived my doomed Marie Kondo phase – yes, they spark joy, but they also spark dust – have been relegated to the attic. Most of us realised pretty early on that peripherals were too big to store neatly and way too expensive to replace, so no sooner were they here, everyone seemed to get utterly sick of rhythm games and the entire genre suffocated under the weight of its own dusty over-saturation.
My bank balance was happier for it, mind. Besides a couple of silly Destiny emotes, I live my life fairly microtransaction-free but good lord, did I sink some funds in the wider catalogues of both Guitar Hero and Rock Band back in the day. Then there were the spin-offs, like The Beatles Rock Band. Lego Rock Band had some absolute bangers, so I had to buy that, too, along with several SingStar instalments, despite being neither a star nor a singer. I tried to look back at my Microsoft/PSN purchase history to remind myself of exactly what I’d bought, but maybe it’s just as well I couldn’t scroll back that far; I’m pretty sure it was a small fortune when I could ill-afford to waste a small fortune.
How strange it is, then, that whilst it seems like you can’t throw a maraca without hitting a video game remake these days, Guitar Hero's seemingly still not on the list. No, rhythm games aren’t entirely dead – the excellent rhythm-FPS Metal: Hellisinger hits in all the right ways, even though I’m not naturally a metalhead, and Beat Saber sure looks awesome, but it’s only available on VR and way too physically taxing for a lardarse like me; even Trombone Champ's achingly-familiar UI reignites a small flame of desperate nostalgia in me – but I think I’ve realised that I don’t want something reminiscent of Guitar Hero or Rock Band; I want the real deal. Again. Here, in 2023. Just as Let’s Sing keeps the karaoke flag flying (did you know there’s an all-ABBA version? And a whole DLC dedicated to Eurovision?) I want a contemporary plastic guitar game, too, please. Now.
Will I get my wish? Probably. Eventually. Few things in gaming are certain – besides Valve’s irrational hatred of the number three, anyway – but if the industry’s preoccupation with remakes and remasters has told us anything, it’s that we sure do love to revel in nostalgia. Many games I long thought lost to the ages are back with shiny new licks of paint, reinvented and re-energised for an entirely new generation of gamers. I don’t know if we’ll ever see rhythm music games return, but I’ll be waiting here with a tambourine and a headful of unfulfilled rockstar dreams, anyway. You know. Just in case.
Vikki Blake has a column every week here at whynow Gaming. You can read her previous dispatch here.