When Guitar Hero first came out, everyone was blown away. It was new, it was haptic, it taught you how to play the guitar (ehhhh kinda), but overall it was fun. Soon, living rooms where there was a game console soon were littered with the plastic instruments. Everyone was coming together to play “Eye of The Tiger” by Survivor. It introduced classic rock and metal songs to a wider audience. Better yet, anyone could pick it up and play it. This opened it to a wider audience. This in turn led to its success. Overall, Guitar Hero was a good time had by all. That’s pretty much where that ended. People came together, jammed out to some songs they may have heard before; DONE. Although the game popularized haptic gaming for a period of time (there was even a 3DS version at some point) it didn’t deliver anything new in the sense of music. Music, arguably the main attraction of the game, really took a back seat in the sense of innovation. These where the same old songs we knew, there was nothing new to them in this new game experience. That is what makes DJ Hero all the special to me.
DJ Hero was a spinoff of Guitar Hero. It focused on the DJ/Smash Up culture and utilized a broad range of genres. In essence, it was understood as Guitar Hero for other genres. It was much more than that.
DJ Hero’s goal was to have the player feel and act as a Disk Jockey. Have the player become the life of the party and have them emulate the signature move of a DJ: the scratch. Here is the catch, how do you do that with prerecorded tracks? Not a lot of songs feature the technique. What FreeStyleGames, the developer, sought out to
do was to pioneer the music itself to act as the vehicle for the gameplay. Whereas before in Guitar Hero the track was already laid out, FreeStyleGames wanted to lay the track themselves by remixing or smashing two songs together. That way they could incorporate their own scratches and samples cues. To do this, the developer stablished an in-house remixing team as well as enlisted the help the renowned music producers and DJs. These contributors included DJ Shadow, Grandmaster Flash, Z-trip, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Daft Punk, Jay-Z, and Eminem. By the way, Grandmaster Flash is considered the father of DJ’ing and the mash up genre, so the team was in good hands. The team and contributors took 100 songs from contrasting genres from R&B to Techno and created 94 remixes. These 94 remixes took into consideration the games gameplay mechanics while being produced in order to easily just plug the songs into the game. This turned the development of the Hero franchise on its head. Instead of trying on putting existing songs into different difficulty categories, the songs are now engineered be the difficult that’s needed. In other words, the songs are now a large part of the game design progress.
Now that the songs are being designed parallel to the game, music this benefiting from the experience. What we get now is 94 amazing remixes and smash ups of popular songs. Done by a capable team and established producers. Not only is the game fun and immersing with an excellent learning curve, it is also very enjoyable listening the new remixes as you advance in the game and as you replay tracks. Take for example “Boom Boom Pow vs. Satisfaction: Black Eye Peas vs. Benny Benassi” or “Juke Box Hero vs. DJ Hero: Foreigner vs. DJ Z-Trip featuring MURS” or “Monkey Wrench vs. Sabotage: Foo Fighters vs. Beasty Boys” or “Shout vs. Pjanno: Tears for Fear vs. Eric Prydz” and one of my absolute favorites “I Heard It Through The Grapevine vs. Feel Good Inc.: Marvin Gaye vs. Gorillaz”. This is just a small sampler, the entire soundtrack is worth a listen. The soundtrack features and expanded blend of different genre, so everyone can feel. It is also very success in instilling an atmosphere of DJing. Not just through its gameplay, but also through its music. Each song would fit nicely in the set mix of any renowned DJ.
I think what gets me about DJ Hero is that it sets itself apart from its predecessor by not only having a completely different play stile, but by creating its own music. It was very refreshing at the time. Its sequel, DJ Hero 2, did the same thing and delivered an awesome set of songs. However I didn’t spend nearly as much time on it as I did with the first DJ Hero. These games broke the mold and also contributed to the medium it used.
“D. J. HERO. #1”