I’ve recently spent some time with Ubisoft’s guitar simulator for the DS, Jam Sessions, and I wasn’t quite as impressed with it as I had expected to be. The videos I had checked out of the “game” in action (like this and this) really fired me up, but once I got into using the software for myself, my dreams of being a DS rock star began to fade.
The design of the game is pretty brilliant (use the stylist in a strumming motion over a virtual string, while selecting chord blocks with the D-pad), but as someone who has played real guitars for years, the shortcomings of the application really became a turn off the longer I used it. While not every possible chord is available for the choosing, a great many are, with the necessary space-saving measures resulting in some pretty compressed-sounding audio. (Especially when plugging up to an amp or stereo system.) It’s never horrible and is certainly passable to the average Joe, but it had me longing for the full, rich sound of my Fender acoustic more than anything.
While you can create and save custom chord groups for different songs, you can’t customize your own chords. That would have been a nice bonus, however, this is really a non-issue, as the game features more than enough chords for your DS-related serenading.
For me, two of the biggest issues have to deal with the lack of any sort of backing track and the inability to pick individual strings. It would have been awesome if you could program some drum loops or even have an auto-pilot bass track add some richness to your chord progressions. While the latter may not have been technically possible on the tiny DS cart, surely 3 or 4 drum loops with variable speeds could have been squeezed in. And yeah, the inability to pick strings (you’re stuck with just full-on strumming) really is something of a bummer, as it means you have to settle for only those songs that never stray too far from the newbie side of guitar-dom. To be fair, though, without a way to properly emulate a fretboard, I don’t really see how that would even work on the DS. Just wishful thinking on my part, I ‘spose…
Most reviews I’ve read have claimed that unless you’re a musician, you probably won’t appreciate Jam Sessions at all. I actually feel the opposite, and think that while musicians will certainly find it to be a brief curiosity, it will be the people who have never played guitar that will enjoy it the most. Guitarists may feel disappointed with the game’s shortcomings and pine for the real deal, while wannabe musicians will be thrilled that they can actually play an “instrument”, even if that’s not entirely accurate.