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Game: Guitar Hero
Song: Even Rats
Composer: The Slip
Above: Even Rats from Guitar Hero
In just five years there have been 14 (!) console and handheld Guitar Hero games. I can't imagine a more shameless grab for cash and disregard for anything resembling brand value, but the current state of the series (including today's Warriors of Rock) doesn't diminish the fond memories most of us have for the very first entry, when all the songs were covers and Harmonix did its best to make it look, sound and feel like a real rock game. Case in point - asking several local bands to flesh out the roster with legitimate underground acts. So, for Guitar Hero's five year anniversary, I'd like to point out my favorite unsung track from the game that kicked off a billion-dollar franchise.
Ever heard of The Slip? I sure hadn't prior to Guitar Hero, and even if you beat the game you still could have missed the band's bonus song, Even Rats. I can barely use adequate terms to describe game music, and attempting to do so with "real" music would be awful for you and for me, so all I want to convey here is the "new nostalgia" feeling I get while playing this song. The first time I played/heard Even Rats, it instantly felt familiar, as if I'd been listening to it for years and it already meant something to me. In fact, it was brand new and I'd never heard it in my life. Despite this, the combination of sad yet oddly positive lyrics and the two minute instrumental ending almost brought a tear to my eye the first time through. No idea why - but that's effective music and a big thanks to Harmonix/Red Octane for including it.
Above: Even Rats on Expert in Guitar Hero
Hearing the song today now reminds me of 2005, which was one hell of a transition for me (moving from the midwest to San Francisco to toil in the GamesRadar sweatshops), so naturally Even Rats has a stronger personal effect. But I think there's a wider feeling we can all sense - that new-genre innocence where a game isn't just a great idea, it's a brilliantly realized experience that has to be shared with everyone you know. That first Guitar Hero game was a staple at every single party I went to for a full year, eagerly shown off as the fun new thing and met with smiles all around.
Above: The kind of stupid, hyperactive fun you can only have when everyone's flipping out about a new game
Sure, it's way easy to rip on Activision for grinding Guitar Hero down to its bones, but don't let that cloud your once-great times with a truly remarkable piece of gaming history. What about you - any song from the first game (or any of the bonus songs) that stuck with you all this time?
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Ragnarok Canyon by David Wise
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Everyone Says Hi by David Bowie
Game music of the day: Batman
Level one by Kodaka and Hara
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