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Editorial

The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Guitar Hero

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Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero was an incredibly niche series of games that found massive success in the face of considerable odds, yet a series of missteps inevitably caused its abrupt and unceremonious death. These events should have spelled the franchise’s definite end. However, the series has recently made an unlikely return thanks to still dedicated fans connecting over the Internet—a fascinating phenomenon that has not only revived an otherwise dead series but brought it to a whole new, modern audience.

The first Guitar Hero game was developed by Harmonix and released in 2005 to massive success from both critics and fans alike. Players had not seen anything like the game before, and were particularly drawn by the game’s unique rhythm-based gameplay that required the use of a special guitar controller. This interest would be the foundation of the franchise’s further success, establishing the Guitar Hero brand as an unlikely household name and spearheading a new gaming niche.


Following this success, Harmonix naturally released a sequel and spin-off in 2006 and 2007 respectively, and the series was quickly acquired by Activision with development of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock passed on to Neversoft. This entry truly proved the appeal of the Guitar Hero formula; even today, Guitar Hero III is considered the best in the series that fans consistently come back to, and being the first game in history to reach one billion dollars worth in sales, its huge success spoke for itself.

Despite being a clear win for Activision, this success only prompted the quick decline of the franchise that would inevitably spell its doom. Between 2007 and 2008 alone, a total of eight Guitar Hero games, peripherals included, were released across multiple platforms, each more rushed and less successful than their predecessors. This oversaturation promptly killed interest in the series and sales consequently fell, and in 2011, Activision announced that the franchise would be put on an indefinite hiatus. Of course, the series was revisited with 2015’s Guitar Hero Live which sought to revive interest in and reinvent the series, but in doing so only alienated fans and did not appeal to new audiences, resulting in similarly low sales and almost certainly preventing future releases.


However, a dedicated community of fans of the series remained, and the advent of social media conveniently maintained interest in the franchise by connecting players through their love of the games. Though the series itself had effectively ended, fans continued to share their experiences over YouTube and through forums, essentially keeping the games and their established community of fans alive.

Today, that continued interest has evolved into something much more, and Guitar Hero essentially lives on through a new medium. Aside from playing fan favorite Guitar Hero III, most have migrated to Clone Hero, a free standalone client for PC developed by fans that gives players the freedom to play custom songs and control every facet of a Guitar Hero title. Fans have also found new outlets for participating in the community, with streamers amassing thousands of daily viewers and hundreds of thousands of subscribers on YouTube. These new ways of experiencing Guitar Hero have modernised the franchise in a way that no one, not even its creators, could have predicted, turning what was once a fun pastime for fans and their local friends into a global phenomenon with a thriving community, even attracting those who had never played a Guitar Hero game beforehand to participate.

‘Acai’ streaming Clone Hero on Twitch.

Similarly, overall interest in games with custom peripherals like Guitar Hero have risen considerably as innovation continues to drive the creation of new ways of playing games. In particular, virtual reality has entered the mainstream with its advanced motion controls and more casual titles, even featuring those such as Beat Saber which clearly channel the appeal of Guitar Hero with similar rhythm-based gameplay. It certainly seems that now would be the perfect time frame to release a new Guitar Hero game that directly addresses this renewed desire for physicality in games.

Though it is unlikely following the recent failure of Guitar Hero Live, whose servers shut down near the end of 2018, the unprecedented revival of interest in the Guitar Hero franchise and others like it could encourage the release of further entries if done right; an official version of Clone Hero with similar customisation, for example, or a remaster of Guitar Hero III. If not, fans are still left with a thriving community, and the series somehow seems more alive than ever.

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Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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