Opinion: DJ Hero is FreeStyleGames' more solid music series0 Comments
While I have to admit that the novelty of picking up a guitar-shaped controller to perform a concert in front of hundreds of screaming fans is just lovely, the Guitar Hero series doesn't really appeal to me. I guess it's because I never really fancied myself as a guitarist, so even though it's supposed to be a video game, I always feel some sort of disconnect. While FreeStyleGames may be in charge of the current reboot, Guitar Hero Live, I personally prefer their previous musical entry, DJ Hero. Even before I ever played the game, I was immediately drawn to it. There's just something about spinning the turntable and scratching a disc that feels so fun, and I still have the urge to spin the vinyl disc even today.
It's very unlikely that we'll ever see DJ Hero rise from the ashes as Guitar Hero and Rock Band recently did. Low sales were the reasons for the series' demise in the first place. Still, I like to cling to the hope that it'll come back better than ever, especially since it holds up and plays so well.
The thing about DJ Hero that makes it so great is how satisfying it is to play. Like other music games, you see notes descend towards the bottom of the screen that you have to press on-beat. However, in addition to holding down one of the colored buttons on the controller, you also have to spin the disc at the same time to hit the note. Although it's essentially the same as strumming the controller in Guitar Hero, scratching a turntable feels a lot more interactive to me. You have to scratch it just enough for the game to register the command, yet not so wildly that it spins away from you and you can't regain control before the next note. This actually happens to me more often than not, simply because I get carried away with the music.
Speaking of which, the tracks in DJ Hero are just wonderful. While most popular music games simply feature famous tunes from the radio, DJ Hero takes it a step further by splicing two songs together to create a unique track. You might not have thought The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" would mix well with LL Cool J's "Rock the Bells," yet FreeStyleGames somehow managed to make it one of my favorite tracks in the game. There's a host of other weird combinations, such as Tears for Fears' "Shout" and Eric Prydz's "Pjanoo," that you probably wouldn't have heard if it wasn't for DJ Hero.
This brings us to another unique aspect of DJ Hero. The turntable has something called a crossfader, which is a slider where you can choose which of the two mixed tracks can be heard. When it's in the middle, both songs can be heard at playing at once. However, when it's set to either side, only one song will be blaring out of the speakers. Although most of the time the game demands that you slide the crossfader to the left or to the right accordingly, there are several spots in the song where you have the freedom to slide it whichever way you want. This allows you to remix the song to give it a personal touch, and I find myself actually feeling like a DJ every single time I get the freedom to experiment with a track.
Another reason why I prefer DJ Hero is that it's more suited for a solo affair. While you can play Guitar Hero and Rock Band alone, it feels off for the game to tell you that you're a part of the band, only to realize that you're rocking out in your room all by yourself. In DJ Hero, you're always the sole star of the show, because you're the only one mixing it up in the club. I do have fond memories of playing Rock Band with friends until the neighbors complain, but it isn't always easy to bring the whole gang together when schedules conflict.
It can also be a hassle to have to haul instruments, especially the unwieldy drum set, around without first taking it apart. The turntable in DJ Hero is small and compact, so whenever I get the urge to mix things up, I pull it out of my shelf and plug it in. It also fits in my room nicely, though I'll admit my humble abode isn't the most spacious of places in the first place.
You also can't fail a song, at least in the original title. While the music won't play properly if you aren't hitting the notes, at least the experience is relatively stress-free as a result. Furthermore, if you want to finish the song with a five star performance, then you have to motivate yourself to get better rather than having the game do it for you. There's also a Party Mode where the game will automatically hit the notes for you, so you can sit back and listen to the music. I never used this feature myself, but I appreciate that it's there.
DJ Hero may be dead to the game industry, but there's still nothing like bobbing my head and scratching the turntable for hours on end. I doubt FreeStyleGames will ever return to the series, but if a new DJ Hero ever comes out for current generation consoles, I'll be buying it.