Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fun With Extended Sustains in Guitar Hero

Disclaimer: Everything discussed within applies to the PS2 version of all the various Guitar Hero games, and may have been patched on systems that support patching games.  Don't blame me if it doesn't work for you.

Extended sustains were one of the new features added to the game since Guitar Hero: World Tour.  Like 'em or not, they've been in every game since then.  They've always been interesting to me, since while they're relatively intuitive to hit, they break a pattern that GH players were used to up until World Tour came out: You could hold down buttons below a single-note sustain, but not above it.

Extended sustains are intended to better emulate the multi-stringed nature of the guitar on the vastly simplified one-string, five-fret guitar controller, but it can get a bit cramped and awkward feeling sometimes depending on which frets the game is asking you to keep held.  Also, depending on the game and song you're playing, they can also be used for pitch bends, which I've never liked.

There are glitches involved with extended sustains as well, suggesting that not even the developers fully understood the new capabilites they provided.  These glitches are both of the graphical and functional varieties:
  • In some of the GH games, when there's one or more sustains above a lower one, releasing the lower ones can result in an inexplicably higher score.
  • Occasionally you can get the flame to keep burning past the end of an extended sustain.  This corrects itself the next time you hit a note of that color.
  • Occasionally also, after dropping a sustain low down in the extended sustain's structure, if you hold the fret that was dropped and strum a note that appears above it, the line for the dropped fret will re-appear.  If you're whammying a star power sustain, it will reappear blue and pulse with your whammy just like any other sustain.
  • If you press a button during an extended sustain that does not appear during that extended sustain, you will drop the sustain.  This in all honesty is probably the intended behavior, but it feels weird.
The one I found today however involves chords above extended sustains, and essentially another broken pattern in the game.  With chords, the pattern up until extended sustains were added was that you couldn't hold any buttons other than the ones in the chord.  Extended sustains mess with that by having you already hold a button not involved with the chord when you hit the chord.

So, with you now already holding a button when the chord comes along, how does that affect processing of the chord when you hit it?

So long as you stick to fret colors that exist above the extended sustain, it turns out you can hold whatever you want above the extended sustain and still hit chords above it.  You can even hold buttons above the chord.

The best place to exploit this that I've found is where I discovered it: the extended sustains on the song Jump in Guitar Hero: Van Halen.  The sustain is green, and the other four frets appear above it, in chords.  The result is that you can strum the green sustain, then hold down all five frets and strum as necessary to hit the chord pattern.  You'll have to shift back for the chords between them (and the rest of the song, where this won't work), but you can do this on all of the extended sustains in the song that have only chords above them.

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