The first installment in the Guitar Hero series was released in 2005. The developers at Harmonix were obviously inspired by 1998’s Konami’s GuitarFreaks, in which players also use a guitar-shaped controller with colored fret buttons on the neck and a pick lever to score points playing along to rock music. That game never took off on the level of Guitar Hero though, partly because GuitarFreaks required players to shred along to the likes of Mutsuhiko Izumi, 桜井 敏郎, 小野秀幸, 前田尚紀 and Jimmy Weckl (né ジミー・ウェックル), who composed songs especially for the game. Guitar Hero's innovation was including 47 AOR songs by the likes of the Ramones, Deep Purple, umlaut-abusers Blue Öyster Cult and Motörhead -- songs that, whatever you think of them, are seared into your brain if you've ever drank a Mountain Dew, rode in a Z-28, watched a television commercial or shopped at Amoeba. That means even if you've heard "More Than a Feeling" 603,501 times more than you ever wanted, you'll have no problem playing along.
In 2006, RedOctane (the manufacturers of the guitar controllers) was purchased by Activision and Harmonix was bought by MTV. In 2007 Harmonix released, through Electronic Arts, Rock Band -- basically an expanded version of Guitar Hero which added other instruments, another innovation inspired by Konami’s games of the previous decade which followed up GuitarFreaks with DrumFreaks and KeyboardFreaks.
Guitar Hero World Tour is scheduled for October 26th release (you can pre-order it here). In order to stay competitive with Rock Band, it now includes additional instruments as well as playable characters drawn from real life such as rock gods like Billy Corgan and Sting.
Originally, the latest installment in the series was to be known as Guitar Hero IV *yawn* until Brett Ratner (the Defamer-beloved director of the Rush Hour films, Red Dragon, Family Man, After the Sunset, &c.) came up the new name during a vision quest. But, amazingly, he didn't stop there. Ratner went on to describe his shamanic vision in an eloquent and revealing interview with MTV Multiplayer:
“I love ‘Guitar Hero’ and I think it’s a part of pop culture. I would love to do a
‘Guitar Hero’ movie, if Activision would ever let me. I’m trying to convince them,
but why would you have a movie screw up such a huge franchise? Not that I
would make a bad movie. So that would be cool, to do a ‘Guitar Hero’ movie.
It could be about a kid from a small town who dreams of being a rock star and
he wins the ‘Guitar Hero’ competition. One of these dreams kind of concepts.”
Isn’t that amazing? But how much cooler would it’ve been if it was called Brett Ratner presents Guitar Hero World Tour? Not so good? See- that’s why I’m paid the small bucks and he gets $9 million per picture.
Like that? Buy that! 24s - ride that.
So deep and enduring is Brett Ratner's love of GuitarHero that he even included it in his latest work, the video for Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body."
It’s hard to deny Guitar Hero’s significant impact on our culture. Or didn't you read what Ratner said: “…I think it’s a part of pop culture.” He’s right. Who of us hasn’t gone to a party expecting to socialize and maybe get a little crunk with friends, only to find and join them in staring at a TV screen whilst someone else plays some moldy oldies until you look at your watch and suddenly you're five years older?
As evidence of the game's seductive power, Guitar Hero has even penetrated the Christofacist world, inspiring some religious nutters to make Guitar Praise. The effect will, no doubt, be similar. Imagine the panic at Young Life meetings when some kid realizes that he or she forget to give the Jesus speech because they were in a GH-Hole for the entire night. I wonder what Bob Larson's feelings about Guitar Hero are.
Remember when Charlie Daniels reacted with horror to find the image of the Light-Bringer rocking out to "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" in Guitar Hero III? He warned, "This game looks innocent enough but if you have a child who is playing it, take the time to sit with him or her while they're playing along and take a serious look at the images on the screen.You may be surprised at the world they're being exposed to."
The very bands featured on Guitar Hero, especially lesser-known ones, have benefited greatly from the exposure afforded them by their inclusion in the game. Some acts have seen experienced fairly massive increases in sales. The awesome DragonForce saw a 126% increase in CD sales in one week after their song “Push Push (Lady Lightning)” was included in Guitar Hero III.
And now Amoeba is getting in on the action. One of the stages in the Guitar Hero World Tour is inspired by the stage here at the Hollywood store! Here’s an exclusive screen shot.
Also, on October 26th, you and your friends will be able to get on the actual Amoeba stage and play Guitar Hero. Knowing how into Guitar Hero Bret Ratner is, I wouldn't be surprised if he shows up, scouting for talent and maybe even wowing us with a performance. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up starring in Brett Ratner’s next blockbuster as that small town kid who wins the big prize.
Guitar Hero: World Tour will also be the first video game Amoeba will carry new. Up to now, we’ve only sold used games. Maybe, just maybe, if you and your friends buy the game and everyone closes their eyes and really believes in the spirt of gaming, maybe we'll start carrying more new games. My friends, getting Amoeba to sell games was something that I’ve been nagging for for years (because I’m a maverick like that).
Not that the used ones are bad. They're all priced under ten dollars (which is why the 360, Wii and PS3 titles are snatched up withing seconds of hitting the floor). A lot of great titles pass through the section, although most of the computer games are going to require you to run Window 95 .
And now, if I may, here’s my brief and proudly-biased timeline of the greatest and most historically significant video games, some of which we have in stock from time to time. Feel free to comment to the effect of, “What?! No blankety-blank?”
Timeline of key games:
1947 Cathode Ray-Tube Amusement Device (sadly, no image but incredible name).
1958 Tennis For Two promised minutes of fun gameplay.
1969 Space Travel
1971 The dawn of the coin-operated game included Galaxy Game and Computer Space (featured in Soylent Green). Also Magnavox Odyssey became the first game console, although it looks like all their games were just Pong with a translucent overlay. The geography game is priceless.
1972 Pong, widely (and obviously incorrectly) often referred to as the first video game.
1973 Missile Radar, Space Race, Rebound, Gotcha
1974 Tank, Gran Track 10, Qwak!
1975 Gunfight, Destruction Derby
1976 Night Driver, Breakout, Heavyweight Champ
1978 Space Invaders, Space Wars, Asteroids, Firetruck, Football. I have fond memories of going to the corner store on the corner of Green Meadows and Providence, my dad holding me in one arm (mashing the "fire" button) whilst he steered with the other on these games.
1979 Galaxian, Lunar Lander, Warrior. When our Cocker Spaniel "Maggie" died, I asked if it would be ok to go play Galaxian to take my mind off it.
1980 Pac Man, Defender, Centipede, Tempest, Battlezone, Berzerk, Missile Command
1981 Cosmic Avenger, Gorf, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Galaga, Satan’s Hollow, Turbo. Gorf first caught my attention at Godfather's Pizza in the Sharp End neighborhood. On my way to get a refill of root beer, this game f-ing talked! Gorf mocked and boasted with his robotic voice a series of remarks including:
- Try again! I devour coins!"
- "Ha ha ha ha!"
- "Prepare for annihilation!"
- "All hail the supreme Gorfian Empire!
- "Long live Gorf!"
After my parents divorced, my dad moved to a duplex. He'd wash his clothes at Lily Pad Laundry and I'd play Frogger whilst we waited. This was also around the time I started drawing fanciful video games on big sheets of manila paper.
I also got some Donkey Kong PJs.
1982 Q*Bert, Joust, BurgerTime, Pitfall!, Moon Patrol, Tron, Bump ‘n’ Jump, Donkey Kong Jr., Popeye, Zaxxon. I was a master of all these titles. My brother, however, was better at Pitfall! and completed all the tasks within the time limit. He took a picture of the screen and was going to send away for the Pitfall! Adventurer patch but the picture didn't really come out. Pitfall! was also innovative because it was one of the first to have an ending, not just an endless succession of levels. I used to sneak into this country club when I was a kid, initially pretending to be the guest of a member, but eventually getting to the point where the staff knew my name and assumed I was a member since I was using their pool all the time. Anyway, they had Q*Bert and I remember getting to, I think, the 27th level and the boxes started to look too M.C. Escher to me so I had to walk away and hand over the controls to one of the assembled and amazed little preppies.
That summer, Tron came out and I thought it was amazing. I remember talking about it in summer school (the advanced kind, not the remedial one). I had no idea that it would be the last year a teacher would endorse me for that honor.
That same year, this older kid, Gus, sang the lyrics to "Pac-Man Fever" on the school bus. When I found out what it was, my sister got my the Buckner & Garcia album for Christmas (my first LP).
1983 Spy Hunter, Dragon’s Lair, Root Beer Tapper, Beamrider, Mountain King, Journey, M.A.C.H. 3, Star Wars, Mario Brothers. Those were some damn fine games except that Dragon's Lair (which used a Laserdisc) cost 50 cents and was just impossible to play.
It was also the year of the Video Game Crash, the only year since their invention that the video game industry hasn't grown. Loads of consoles flooded the market and there were some really crap titles like E.T., which is, without a doubt, one of the worst games ever (as games based on movies usually are) and some of the earliest proof of Steven Spielberg's child-baiting evil.
Another reason that video games suffered was that computers grew so much in popularity. Like many others, we got an Apple ][e and before long I was programming games in addition to playing them. Wouldn't you like to get your hands on my never-released text adventure "Voyage to Zeus?" Never!
1984 1942, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll. I loved 1942, I don't know why... old planes are cool, I guess. For It's Only Rock 'n' Roll my band's name was short for Blowtorch... a nod to my favorite insult at the time, "blowtorch balls."
This was also the year that the Last Starfighter hit theatres, offering friendless geeks everywhere the possibility that our video game skills might come into use after all.
1985 Super Mario Brothers, Alcazar-The Forgotten Fortress, Tetris, Gauntlet, Super Mario Brothers. Alcazar was the last game I bought for my Colecovision. I wanted, out of brand loyalty, to maintain that Colecos were superior to Nintendos but was clear that it was all over. The Nintendo Entertainment System had been available in Japan since 1983 but we had to wait til '85 and its release just killed all other consoles.
I played Tetris so much that, when trying to read Light in August the words were falling and I'd see it when I closed my eyes. I realized that I had to quit Tetris cold turkey and never played it again until about 2003.
Super Mario Brothers made me feel old. Everyone loved it (it sold 40 million copies) and its secret levels and stuff like that but I didn't like having to read a magazine to learn how to unlock a games potential. It was also weird because it made Mario like the Mickey Mouse of video games. He began as an working class Italian plumber (or carpenter named "Jumpman" in his native Japan) in love, trying to rescue his girlfriend, Pauline, from the clutches of his pet gorilla. Now he was some sort of over-sized heroic figure living in the Mushroom Kingdom and trying to rescue Princess Peach. Somewhere along the way he lost his soul.
1986 Legend of Zelda, Rampage, Castlevania, Rygar. Rampage was so cool. You got to kill and eat defenseless innocent humans and destroy their building. Just sheer, glorified destruction.
I spent hours playing Rygar at the Aladdin's Castle once because, for some reason, I had unlimited lives!
1987 Double Dragon, Street Fighter, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Contra, After Burner, Metal Gear. Double Dragon seemed so gritty and urban. This is back when I still imagined that thugs spent their time hanging out in alleys and empty warehouses just waiting to rumble.1988 Ninja Gaiden, Splatterhouse, Altered Beast. Splatterhouse was the first game to have a parental advisory.
1989 River City Ransom. In 1989, the monochromatic Game Boy and the color LCD Atari Lynx were both released. Lynx didn't last long.
1990 Wing Commander
1991 Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter II
1992 Mortal Kombat, Virtua Racing
1993 Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom, Night Trap
1994 Tekken, Super Metroid, Killer Instinct, FIFA International Soccer
1996 Duke Nukem 3D, Soul Edge, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, House of the Dead
1997 Grand Theft Auto, Quake II
1998 Dance Dance Revolution, GuitarFreaks
2001 Max Payne, Ico
2002 Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
2003 Max Payne 2, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell
2004 Manhunt, Killzone, Red Dead Revolver
2005 Shadow of the Colossus, Guitar Hero, Condemned: Criminal Origins
2006 Wii Sports, Dead Rising
2008 Fallout 3. I know Fallout 3 hasn't come out yet, but I've been waiting for this for 20 years, since back when my brother and I argued in a computer store in the Biscayne Mall over whether we should get one of the King's Quests or Wasteland (his vote), which neither of us knew anything about. He won and, of course, it turned out to spawn the greatest franchise and game history! I was 14, without any friends, and I used to spend hours playing it with Kraftwerk on in the background. Fallout 3 will be the first in the series designed for video game consoles. I wonder if it's too late to get Amoeba into Fallout 3! That would be so awesome!
In 2151 the Starfleet vessel Enterprise encounter the Xyrillians, a race who posses advanced holographic technology. They install a holographic chamber on a Klingon Battle Cruiser.
2364, Starfleet spacecraft are routinely outfitted with Holodecks.