PopStar Guitar Review
A lot of people are going to be both very tough and extremely dismissive of Popstar Guitar, a new non-Guitar Hero/Rock Band music game exclusively for the Nintendo Wii, and at first glance, I can't say I'd disagree with those folks. After years of guitar-shaped special controllers, downloadable content, original music, master recordings and hundreds of millions of copies sold all over the world, it could be argued that Guitar Hero and Rock Band have not only found what works in a music game, but they've perfected it as well. A new contender to the guitar game scene, especially one that utilizes no special guitar controller, can seem like a bit of a joke, a cheap cash-in or both. But Popstar Guitar explores some interesting territory and even though nothing is pulled off with anywhere near the precision of the more popular music games, this game could still be right at home with the right kind of younger music fan.
I'm doing my best not to turn this into a dissertation or thesis on what makes these games and what doesn't, but to understand what is right (and mostly wrong) with Popstar Guitar, you need to look at the other two music games and what kind of voids they fill. The way I see it, the Rock Band games are like the "Now That's What I Call Music" compilation CDs, the Guitar Hero games are like cobbled together, no-one-has-ever-heard-of-this-stuff burned CDs stolen from a cooler older sibling's closet and Popstar Guitar is like the nails-on-a-chalkboard "Kidz Bop" CDs, that take top 40 hits and hand them to a chorus of eight-graders, to be sung with no bad or suggestive language.
Guitar Hero remains the "coolest" of the three, mainly for its much higher level of difficulty and its more outside-the-box musical choices. To even pass a song on Guitar Hero's Expert difficulty level, let alone perfect it, you need lightning quick fingers and, in my case, weeks and weeks of painstaking practice. Also, the Guitar Hero series has historically been riskier with its musical choices – indie (for lack of a better term) bands that have found their way onto Guitar Hero tracklists include Protest the Hero, Rise Against, Dragonforce, At The Drive-In, The Mars Volta, Bad Religion, Slayer, Reverend Horton Heat, Avenged Sevenfold, Dethklok, Silversun Pickups and quite a few others.
Rock Band offers a more "casual-friendly" experience. The note charts are nowhere near as difficult or demanding, the musical choices are far closer to Top 40 and all-time classic hits and the whole band experience has captivated thousands, bringing multiplayer offline gaming to a whole new level. I like Rock Band as much as the next guy, I just don't care for the drums, mic or any music that is currently played on a classic rock radio station, which leaves me behind the Rock Band train in a lot of ways.
This brings us to XS Game's Popstar Guitar for the Nintendo Wii. Serious Guitar Heroes need not apply, just as serious music fans don't want to hear their favorite songs sung by Mrs. Oppenheimer's third grade class (Kidz Bop). But casual players, as well as the very young might want to give this a shot. More than anything, I admire the idea and goal of Popstar Guitar, so I'm going to go into what I liked first.