Reviewed: December 21, 2004
Released: November 9, 2004
Just over a year ago I was pleasantly surprised by the original Karaoke Revolution game from Konami. The unique use of the USB headset coupled with the amazing pitch-sensing technology – which not only let people sing their hearts out, but actually graded them on their effort – was a refreshing take on the music-based genre of games. A year later, and I’m already looking at the third title in the series – and while being little more than a simple expansion set of 36 new songs, Karaoke Revolution 3 still holds it charm.
If you’ve played any of the previous Karaoke Revolution games, you can expect to find pretty much the same stuff this time around. True, the new version now sports play options for Duets (two singers) and a boatload of selectable characters – but all in all, it is nearly identical to the game I played just one year ago.
For those new to the series, the Karaoke Revolution games challenge you to sing a handful of pre-selected popular song titles as you progress through a series of locations (bars, auditoriums, TV show sets and large arenas) on your way to stardom. You are represented on screen by a chosen character, who is backed by a full band and singing to an interactive audience – all of which are rendered in full 3D.
Your job is to simply sing along with the songs, on-time and on-pitch. The words to the songs scroll across the bottom of the screen, and a pitch meter shows how closely you are matching the intended pitch of the song. Knowing your pitch is important, because the audience will react accordingly to how well you are performing. Sing well and the crowd cheers, bomb a line get ready for the booing to commence, really stink a song up and you’ll be yanked.
Each level has you picking from a list of four songs from a variety of genres – R&B, Rock, Country, Oldies, etc.. You sing the song and depending on your performance, either move to the next level or give it a second, or third, fouth…try. Move to the next level, repeat the steps, and so on.
This is where the game really hits its first big snag – the song choices. Now, I don’t listen to popular music – save for that which is piped through the PA at my day job – and I have no clue what the “cool” songs are today, but I have to believe they are featured in Karaoke Revolution amongst the Usher and Brittney tunes. So, knowing that, and realizing that those “cool” songs make up for a big chunk of the game – there were only really only and handful of songs I even recognized, much less cared about singing.
I realize that is my music snobbery getting the best of me, and a majority of gamers who would actually search out a Karaoke game would probably really dig the selection, but the point is that without some personal choice – or the ability to import songs – the gameplay isn’t as engaging as it could be for some gamers. This is especially the case in the single-player mode when given the choice of four songs you know nothing about.
Still, the game is all about singing – and for fans of the music, there are 36 tunes to get their song on with. Karaoke Revolution is a perfect party game, and because of its nature appropriate for family or friends, boys or girls, drunk or sober. My kids (so that combo would be: family, boy and girl, sober) absolutely loved singing along with the faux B-52’s Love Shack and the Jackson Five’s ABC. However, with one at two years old and one at four years old, the standard USB headset was a bit too large for their little heads. Thankfully, Konami is releasing a Karaoke Microphone for use with their Revolution games, which will better suit the game than the awkward headset.
This time around the game features duet options, allowing two singers to co-op on certain duet friendly songs. However, given the steep $30 price tag on the peripherals, I can’t imagine there would be many situations where a household would have any to of the USB devices.
Overall, the production value is top-notch; on screen characters react and interact to the music – audience members wave fists to the beat and band member appear to actually be performing guitar solos and drumming – and the whole game has a nice polish to it.
Everyone I showed got a real kick out of taking the male characters and placing them into female-sung songs in the Karaoke Mode (practice) and allowed the game to play itself. Nothing is funnier than seeing a tubby, bearded, couch potato belting out the female parts to Love Shack.
While the featured songs may not be the original versions, the bands and singers chosen do a solid job (for the most part) of representing the originals. On a bit of a side note, there is a fun little Easter egg extra that lightheartedly chronicles the making of a song for Karaoke Revolution, and although a bit scripted it does show that there is a certain level of care put into the title.
There are a bevy of sound level options for both headset and TV playback allowing you to change the levels of the music, original vocals, your karaoke singing, etc.. It was nice to be able to control the level of original vocals – allowing competitors either some or no guidance – but for some reason it didn’t really work as well as when I did my first Karaoke Revolution review last year. It could very well be that last year I was using the Konami-branded headset, and this year it was the Logitech PS2 model, but the input and output didn’t seem as seamless this time around.
So what we have here is $40 for 36 songs (one of which being the “Snake Eater” monstrosity from the new Metal Gear game), so that boils down to just over $1 per song. If you are in to karaoke, and popular music is your bag, you’re definitely going to enjoy Karaoke Revolution 3. However, music connoisseurs might feel a bit cheated by the few quality offerings.
I would definitely search out the song list online and see if there are songs to your liking before shelling out the $40 for the game – and that’s only if you already have a PS2-compatible USB headset or microphone on hand; if not, plan on shelling out an additional thirty bills.
The Karaoke Revolution titles aren’t so much games as they are a conduit that allows people to sing quality karaoke at home and have fun doing it. Overall, the series does what it sets out to do, and does a pretty good job of it, with only a few minor quibbles.