It’s hard to believe that the dawn of the plastic instrument gaming trend is nearly 10 years old. Since 2005, Guitar Hero, and later Rock Band and the totally free Frets on Fire, turned the volume on our gaming nights up to 11 by fulfilling our dreams of feeling like rock stars with awesomely entertaining musical gameplay.
But like trends tend to do, our plastic instruments have fallen out of favor. Their bulky boxes are gone from retailers’ shelves, and any efforts to support them come mostly in the form of DLC to feed the existing fanbase.
This doesn’t mean the intersection of music and games has been abandoned, though. Check out these six new and upcoming titles, including one that can teach you to play a real guitar!
The Life Of The Party
The instrument games of the last two console generations always played best when you could get more than one person in on the action. Here are games that play well with friends in the same room.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is the most memorable scene from Disney’s original Fantasia. In it, Mickey Mouse commands an army of living broomsticks, and the film’s soundtrack, like an orchestra conductor with sweeping magical gestures.
Fantasia: Music Evolved will bring that experience right into your living room this October with the help of Kinect on Xbox 360 and Xbox One. It’s a game of musical exploration that you play with your gestures, designed to pique your curiosity for music and creative expression. Your motions might command soulful singing vegetables in one game, and sweep fish out of a pool with melodic splashes in the next. The game has more traditional single and multiplayer music conducting too, where you can sweep your limbs through arcs of light to play instruments of your choosing alongside songs both new and classic.
Many Xbox 360 owners know the fun of the Dance Central franchise. Whereas Dance Dance Revolution only sensed your feet with a dance mat controller, Dance Central detected whole body movement with the Kinect, offering a richer dance experience.
Dance Central Spotlight is the first title in the series exclusive to Xbox One, and promises eight dance routines per song, new tracks available each week as DLC, and special fitness routines for strength or cardio. Though Microsoft may be selling Xbox One units without Kinect packed in now, Spotlight promises to make the motion controller a very appealing accessory this fall.
Ubisoft’s Just Dance series was the flagship experience on the Wii. Though it only scored arm motion by tracking the player’s Wiimote, it didn’t hurt anything to get the rest of your body into the action, and millions bought and enjoyed each title in the franchise.
Just Dance Now, expected in October, promises to deliver the same experience that fans have come to enjoy, but without the need for a dedicated accessory for each player to hold. Instead, dancers will be able to install a companion app on their iOS or Android phones and track all of their motions with their device’s accelerometer. Ubisoft boasts that the game could support thousands of players at once, all dancing to the same song and getting scored individually. That may not do much in your living room, but the idea of filling a concert venue with a huge crowd of dancers (and potentially thrown and broken smartphones, I suppose) is an intriguing possibility.
These games, on the other hand, are best experienced after the party is over. It’s just you and the music here.
Crypt of the Necrodancer may still be in alpha, but some of the game’s backers have demonstrated the current build on social media, and the consensus is, the game is a blast.
The game mixes rhythm based keystrokes with the formula of classic roguelike games. You’ll explore randomly generated dungeons with enemies that move along with the thumping dance music or your own MP3s, rather than only moving when you do. If you can make sure that you only move on the beat, you’ll build a valuable multiplier to increase the money you collect. The game’s developer also promises a special mode for dance mat controller support, so don’t throw out that old DDR pad just yet! You may need it when Necrodancer launches later this year.
Video games have profound teaching potential. They offer immediate feedback when you do things wrong, encourage you to try again until you get them right, and give challenges some context that can make developing new skills fun.
So why not learn to play a real guitar with a game? Rocksmith 2014 is the latest title in the franchise, and includes not only the familiar note-highway gameplay you’ve seen in the plastic guitar games, but also video lessons with feedback, a session mode where AI instrumentalists adapt to your freestyle strumming, and arcade style mini games to build your precision, dexterity, and instincts. Just connect your guitar or bass to your PC, Xbox 360, or PS3 with a Real Tone Cable, and start learning to play in the privacy of your living room, all on your schedule.
Rocksmith 2014 is out now for PC, 360, and PS3.
The end of one era of rhythm games has opened the door for a wide variety of new gaming experiences. There’s a lot to look forward to. Enjoy the future of playing with music!
Are you still reminiscing about the good old days of plastic instruments, or are you ready for the next musical innovations? Share your angle in the comments.
Image Credit: Guitar Hero World Tour by Cha già José.