Review: Karaoke Revolution Volume 2 (PS2)

Game: Karaoke Revolution Volume 2
Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: Konami of America
Released: 7/13/2004
Genre: Music/Rhythm

Okay, Konami has officially supplied me with a new addiction involving music. The first game in the form of a mock-dancing game. And now, it’s singing really badly to popular songs! I don’t know HOW they do it!

Seriously, the moment I plugged in the first Karaoke Revolution and my newly purchased Logitech microphone, I was hooked. It was a music game where the line between music simulation and actual musical triumph were blurred ever further by actually singing along with music presented to you. It was a great game to play with friends, and proved that you didn’t have to know how to sing to actually have fun with it.

And now, the second volume has arrived to my door. Does Karaoke Revolution Volume 2 offer the same level of fun as its predecessor? Only one way to find out…READ ON!


MODES

This game doesn’t have a story to it. None. Nada. Not even so much as a Career Mode. So instead, we look at the game modes. With me so far? Good.

The first thing you’ll notice when you turn on the game is the “Quick Play” option. From here, you can go straight into the game’s song list and play as many songs as you want. This replaces the single-player “Arcade Mode” from the previous version, and I like it much better. You can play as many times as you wish, and are not restricted by a song limit.

When you head into the Single Player option, you have several options. You can enter Showtime, which is executed exactly like the first KR game. You go from venue to venue, singing various songs put in certain categories. Or, you can head into the new “Medley Mode”. A new addition to KR, it allows you to choose three songs, and sing samples of them, one after another. This is a nice way to string together favorites and play them all at once.

Of course the game is best served as a multi-player game, where you and your friends can intentionally make fools of yourselves and not care. And Harmonix has included a number of modes to help you along here. First there’s a multi-player Medley Mode, where you can choose how many songs you wish to chain together, and then everyone gets a crack at singing. Then there’s Arcade Mode, which has been left in multi-player, and everyone competes for the highest score. And then there’s Karaoke Competition, where instead players compete for a score, they vote on who is the best singer among the group. (Sort of like the “Visit The Doctor” mini-game from Wario Ware on the GC.)

After comparing the first and second volumes, many of the modes are the same. The only REAL difference is the inclusion of the Medley mode for both single and multiple play. Then again, expanding the modes might take some time and some mixes before some really new, creative items are created. But for now, these serve KR very well.

Modes: 7/10


GRAPHICS

What does the game look like? Well, take the first Karaoke Revolution, change the main color from red to blue, add a few new characters and costumes, maybe a couple of new arenas, and BOOM! You have a sequel!

In all seriousness, this game looks virtually identical to the first, with a few extra items added on top of it for more variety. All the previous venues to sing in are back, with only two or three new ones to look at. All the characters are back, although there are several secret ones added in, as well as new outfits for the returning people. In fact, there haven’t even been any UPGRADES from the previous game! The old venues look the same, and all the jagged edges I saw on the characters looked pretty much in tact. If I were to walk into a room and see this being played, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two games if it weren’t for the different song lists. The least Harmonix could have done was spruced up things a bit.

Graphics: 6/10


SOUND

And now we come to the first area the game TRULY shines: the songs. Music games have been made or broken based on their song lists. Luckily this game hasn’t anything to worry about.

Included in this version of Karaoke Revolution are 35 songs with an incredible array of genres. We’ve got everything covered from Teenie Pop (Genie In A Bottle) to 60’s Classic Rock (The Joker), to Disco (Hot Stuff), to 50’s Rock (Heartbreak Hotel), and even Country (Friends In Low Places). Plus a few more styles of songs sprinkled here and there. Long story short, this game has a wondrous compilation of songs from people like Elvis, Avril Lavine, Madonna, Dido, and many more you’ll discover.

The interesting thing, however, is that all songs on here are covers of the original. You won’t be hearing Dido sing “White Flag”, or Elvis sing “Heartbreak Hotel” either. However, each of these covers have been successfully duplicated from their originals, sounding as alike as possible. You’ll notice a difference in most songs, but in some songs you won’t even notice that’s not the original artist singing. Then again, you’ll probably be so involved in YOUR singing that you won’t even be paying attention in the first place.

Of course, the BIG question is “Are the songs fun to sing along to?” And the answer is a resounding “YES”. There should be at least five songs people recognize before they ever pop in the game, and another five songs after they’ve been playing for a while that they will sing constantly. Konami and Harmonix did a GREAT job in balancing the game out in this regard.

Sound: 10/10


GAMEPLAY

Considering I’ve never had to rate a game where the crux of the gameplay revolved around MY OWN VOICE before, I originally thought this category would be hard to call. However, after singing a few rounds (and making the sounds of a violin going through a trash compactor sound good in comparison, I can say the main gameplay is executed EXTREMELY well.

As indicated by the title, “Karaoke”, you have to sing to songs in order to score points. So, you’ll need either the KR headset supplied in the first game (or any headset you might have acquired for PS2 online use), or a special USB microphone controller available over the Internet. I’d strongly recommend the microphone myself, considering the headset places the microphone approximately two centimeters from your face, and making you feel more uncomfortable about your performance in the process.

So, you choose your modes and your song(s), and your ready to sing. Just like the first game, several bars will scroll horizontally from right to left with the lyrics of the song underneath. The placement of the bars indicates the pitch of the voices. Your job is match the pitch with your own voice. Or, in layman’s terms: SING ALONG! As you sing, a small arrow appears, representing your voice. If you match the pitch, the arrow goes green, and overlaps the bars, netting you points. If you don’t match, or are slightly off key, the arrow will turn yellow or red. The good thing about this is that you can sing in different octaves, and the game won’t penalize you. In fact, if you sing completely different lyrics, the game won’t penalize you. All you need to do is match the right pitch. So you can go through the song and completely bullshit it, yet if you hit all the right notes, you can still get a perfect score.

Now, every song is split into various sections. For each section, there is a bar at the top of the lyrics that fills up as you sing. The better you sing, the more the bar fills up. When a section ends, depending on the bar rating, you’ll receive points and either a Great, Good, Okay, Poor, or Lousy rating. These are tallied up for you at the end of the song just in case you’re curious.

Anyway, after the song finishes, if you score 12,500 points, you’ll receive a Gold Record. And if you reach over 20,000 points, you’ll get a Platinum record. Such scores are needed to obtain hidden items.

And I tell you, the game has accurately measured the pitch of my voice EVERY TIME. If I was off, I lost points. If I was on, I got points. As long as I was in control of my voice, I had complete control of the song. Amazing.

Control: 10/10


REPLAYABILITY

This game is fun. Incredibly fun. Hence, you’ll want to play this game a lot. I know I do. However, this is NOT the type of game you can play for hours and hours at a time. The simple reason being that since your voice is needed for 95% of the game, extended play can easily make you LOSE it for a while. So you play it for a whole day, and then you can’t talk for five. Hooray!

No no, you can only play this sucker for about an hour a day, or maybe stretch that hour into two or three if you and your friends take turns. But you’ll end up pulling this game out faithfully to play it once a day. Just like the first game.

Replayability: 8/10


BALANCE

Like the last game, there are four difficulties present for each song: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Expert. The interesting thing is that the song itself doesn’t change, and neither do the pitches you need to match. Instead, rating bar you need to fill increases in size. Therefore, as the difficulty goes up, you’ll have less and less room for error if you want to earn those Platinum records.

But that’s all that sets apart the difficulty levels. You need to “sing better”. While not all that original to work with, it serves the game well. Yet I can’t see how in future mixes if the difficulty can be upped outside of including songs that are very demanding on the voice box.

Balance: 7/10


ORIGINALITY

You know, this is a very interesting concept. Last year, this game had the most original concept out of ANY of the 2003 releases. This year, Konami releases a new game that looks, feels, and plays almost EXACTLY like its predecessor. The most original concept in gaming suddenly isn’t so original anymore. Funny, when you think about it.

The main thing that saves this category from a lower score is the 100% original song list for this version. While the game may look, feel, and play like Volume 1, at least you have an entirely new set of songs to play with. So, the category evens out.

Originality: 5/10


ADDICTIVENESS

Now I know what most of you are thinking, so I might as well come out and say it: the concept of this game is ridiculous. In fact, ALL Bemani games have ridiculous premises, and you WILL look weird when attempting them. Dancing simulation. DJ simulation. Guitar and drum simulation. And now, singing simulation. Before even ATTEMPTING the game, you probably feel embarrassed and very conscious of your performance.

But the great thing about the Bemani franchise is that once you get over the initial fear that you’ll look ridiculous playing the games, they turn out to be the most fun you’ll ever have. The same goes for Karaoke Revolution. Even I, a DDR semi-fanatic, had my doubts of picking up this games. However, once I got over the fact that I couldn’t sing worth a dime, I had fun. And I got hooked. And you will, too.

And yes, you WILL look ridiculous. There’s no getting around that. But come on. Since when are social reputations truly made or broken based on VIDEO GAMES?

Addictiveness: 9/10


APPEAL FACTOR

The game will appeal mostly to a select number of people. Fans of the first game will definitely pick this up. And other Bemani fans that missed the first game might be tempted as well. Yet there are those, like I described above, who will be hesitant about their social stature will pass this game up for fear of looking like fools.

But the interesting thing is that some that fall in the last category will eventually come around. They’ll end up at a friends house, see Karaoke Revolution being pulled out, play a few songs, and then think to themselves “Hey, I gotta get this!” Again, once the initial fear diminishes, the fans of the game will increase.

Honestly, you people and your “reputations”…

Appeal Factor: 7/10


MISCELLANEOUS

For those looking for extra stuff in this game, there IS some…just not a lot related to music. You have a total of three unlockable songs to sing to, but the thing is you already KNOW they’re there if you look in the instruction book. You’ll be asking yourself “Why can’t I sing to Virtual Insanity?” until you actually unlock it in Showtime Mode somewhere.

As for other things, you can unlock new characters, new costumes, and cheats. But all in all, these unlockables are purely cosmetic. While it’s awesome you can choose a VIKING as your surrogate singer, it’s just not the same as new way to play, or more new songs. I mean, that’s what I bought the game for, right?

Miscellaneous: 6/10