Guitar Hero World Tour for Wii pleasantly surprises (and gives hope to Wii Music?!)

Perusing the feeds this afternoon, I was surprised to discover an article that basically amounts to a ringing endorsement of the New Generation of gaming. Not the “Next” Generation, which is a farce created by video game marketers, but “new.” As in, all-inclusive, approachable games that place fun before competition, and game play over graph–well, I won’t go there again because I fear I’ve beaten that dead horse enough.

The article was a hands-on impression of Guitar Hero World Tour (Xbox 360/PS3 and Wii versions), and the site, I’m pleasantly surprised to say, was Kotaku. It remains to be seen if AJ Glasser’s write up will be torn to shreds by the Koyaku faithful (so far, so good), but what I do know is the Wii version–and the people who played that version at the demo (you’ll see what I mean)–were what impressed her the most.

One of the standout areas for the Wii version, which thankfully is as full-featured as its Xbox/PS3 brethren this time around, was the cutesy Mii Freestyle Mode. Glasser was impressed, and it again has me wondering if Nintendo was crazy like a fox when it paraded its execs onstage at E3 for the embarrassment of a lifetime:

The Wii has Music Studio, too, but it also has Mii Freestyle mode. And if just now, you’re rolling your eyes and muttering “Wii Music, feh,” I’ve got news for you: this mode was probably the most fun anyone had all night (next to getting sloshed and singing Michael Jackson’s Beat It without shame or inhibition). Mii Freestyle is just like jamming in your friend’s basement when you’re young and don’t know what you’re doing ”“ a carefree setup where there is no wrong and no right, with little cue cards and an optional looping drumbeat to get you going if you don’t know where to start.

Now, part of this praise was due to the fact that the mode indeed sounds more fun. The other part is due to the fact that the “hardcore” gamers at the demo event forgot how to have fun, and forgot what they were playing had the word “game” taking up 50% of the genre (video GAMES). The crazy thing is that a simple GH demo actually turned into a microcosm of what’s happening in the industry today.

[T]he attendees had divided into two groups without telling me ”“ and the 360 version was for Hardcore Only. So because I didn’t know the lyrics to Filter’s Hey Man, Nice Shot and I wasn’t alive during the 70s when Pretty Vacant came out, I wasn’t “hardcore” enough to play with that crowd

That’s my main problem with Guitar Hero: World Tour ”“ the peer pressure from other gamers. Rock Band has its fair share of performance artist assholes that refuse to play with anyone who isn’t rocking on Hard or above, but I think it was established by the consumers that Rock Band was for everybody and Guitar Hero III and beyond was for the hardcore (come on ”“ boss battles?). Thus, I encountered way more competitive jerks in just three minutes on World Tour than I ever did playing Rock Band for an entire year. The people I was playing with on 360 wouldn’t even let me try out Beginner and sneered at me when I chose Easy for vocals. Which is funny, since none of them wanted to sing at all.

Frankly, this kind of behavior disgusts me, for a variety of reasons, many of which go beyond video games. This mindset stifles creativity, suffocates innovation, and keeps individuals who might improve the medium fleeing the other way in disgust, fear or a combination of the two. I, for one, am secure enough to say that I wouldn’t mind rocking out with someone’s grandmother. Not one bit.

When I found my way to the Wii version, everything got better. It wasn’t just the Mii Freestyle mode that changed my outlook; it was the gamers that gravitated to Nintendo’s little white box. These were the guys and girls who didn’t care who was playing on what mode and were patient as people combed through the song list over and over again, looking for that one song they weren’t ashamed to sing (Eye of the Tiger was a big hit).

This, among many other reasons, is why I’ll be buying Guitar Hero for the Wii when it comes out. Small-minded folk call these people retards, or “casuals” — I simply call them what they are: gamers, just like me.

On a personal note, this has been the appeal of Nintendo consoles, games and peripherals this time around, at least for me. People incorrectly equated the term “power” with technology in video game land the past couple of years. In fact, that mentality was actually ass-backwards, and now developers are paying for it with cut backs (LucasArts), consolidation (EA and Take Two, if it hadn’t fallen apart), and outright closure (the guys who were making Halo Wars). As it turns out, the most “powerful” system on the market is the one that focused on what makes a game fun above all else–often this is with other people, and many times when they are in the same room as you.

It takes a good developer to see and then leverage that dynamic, and only today are the ones outside of Nintendo HQ really starting to realize that and capitalize on it. The others, well, they’re still out there trying to squeeze blood from a stone. Good luck to them.