Inside Pulse 12

Review: Karaoke Revolution Party (PS2)


Karaoke Revolution Party
Genre: Singing/Rhythm game
Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: 11/09/05

Before I start this review off, I’d like to say, simply, Godspeed Eddie, you will be missed. Nothing else I could possibly say otherwise hasn’t been said by other people here, and much better than I could say it. You were one of the most entertaining human beings who ever lived.

Alright. Back to your regularly scheduled review.

God Bless Konami. Anyone who manufactures games that allow people like me, who can neither sing nor dance, to believe, however briefly, that we can do both, truly loves gamers. Or money. One of those. Anyway, Karaoke Revolution Party, the fourth in the series, is the first version of the series being made available for all three home consoles. In addition, Playstation 2 owners are offered special Eye-Toy support, X-Box owners can download custom content from X-Box Live, and Gamecube owners… um, get a version of Karaoke Revolution. That’s something, right?

Another new addition KRP is sporting is support for your Dance Pad, if you have one. This is most certainly a new and interesting addition, and is no way meant to be construed as a cynical ploy to boost the sales of Dance Dance Revolution games, especially not the new DDR: Mario Mix for Gamecube. Seriously, though, it is a pretty good idea, and it does freshen up the KR franchise somewhat for its newest release. So, let’s tear into the PS2 release and see if it’s worth your time and money.


1. GAME MODES


The first thing Karaoke Revolution fans will note is the lack of a single player Tour mode. For any single player excursions, KRP simply offers a “Quick Play” option that allows the player to sing anything at any difficulty, which is nice and simple. All of the modes otherwise present in older KR games make their return, including the standard Arcade mode, which challenges players to sing songs better than their opponents; the Medley mode, which has players singing brief clips of multiple songs in succession; and the Karaoke mode, which offers no score judging, but simply allows players to sing for the heck of it. Duets also make a return from KR3, as do the gameplay modes associated with them.

KRP wouldn’t be a sequel without new gameplay modes, of course, and it has those in spades. There’s the Sing and Dance mode, which is about what you’d imagine: DDR and KR in one mode. There are a couple of mini-games on tap, which can be played solo or in Duets. There’s also a new Duet mode, Knockout, which has players attempt to out-sing one another on a single song, with the loser being knocked out of play. Knockout also has a Medley option, which works as you’d expect. Rounding out the new play modes is KR Challenge, which puts players (or teams if you’re doing duets) against one another in various game modes in order to be declared the KR Champion. There’s also an option to create your very own character, and you can even use your Eye-Toy (for PS2 users) to map your own face to him or her. About the only thing that’s missing is an online mode (not that I have any idea how Konami would implement such a thing), but with so much available to do, you most likely won’t miss it.

Game Modes Rating: 9/10


2. GRAPHICS


When Karaoke Revolution debuted in November of 2003, its graphics looked pretty good. Now, two years later, KRP is using the same graphics engine, and those same visuals are decidedly not as good. KRP still looks pretty solid, and there are no real issues or framerate problems to be found, but it’s fairly plain that everything looks the same as it always has. Custom characters look pretty good, and there’s no real noticeable clipping on them or their outfits from what I saw, though they don’t look any better or worse than their static counterparts from previous games.

One special note I want to make about the graphics concerns Eye-Toy Cameo, a facial-mapping feature that’s compatible with KRP. Essentially, you use the Eye-Toy to take a picture of the front and side of your head, then the game converts this into a polygon image that it makes into a file KRP can convert into a head for your custom characters. We’ll get into the actual functionality of it later, but I want to take this opportunity to comment on how Cameo faces actually look in the game. Now, Cameo faces tend to look kind of silly on their own, but in KRP they look laugh-out-loud ridiculous. Once you manage to get past the stylistic differences, and the fact that unless you use full-coverage hairstyles you’ll be able to see your own hair sticking out from under your character’s hair, you’ll probably find it pretty cool seeing yourself on stage singing. But it still looks absurd, and unless you enjoy pointing and laughing at how stupid your character looks, you might not find much enjoyment in this feature.

Graphics Rating: 6/10


3. SOUND

The sound category is really the make-or-break category here, and I’m happy to report that KRP’s soundtrack is more than up to the task. The game features 50 songs, either readily available or unlocked, across a wide variety of genres, and most players will find more than a few they know and like. There’s a lot of variety here, which means players of all different kinds will find something to like here. Unfortunately, it also means that unless your tastes are extremely wide, you most likely won’t like everything available. This might hurt your enjoyment, especially when you’re trying to unlock everything the game has to offer, for example, but you just can’t find a Janis Joplin fan to sing “Me and Bobby McGee.” Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

The actual songs in the game, of course, are performed by generic cover artists instead of the actual musical acts. Most of the time, the cover acts sound entirely acceptable, but in some cases the singers just weren’t up to the task. In the end though, you most likely won’t care or notice, since you’re playing the game to SING the songs, not listen to someone else sing them.

Sound Rating: 8/10


4. CONTROL/GAMEPLAY


The gameplay in KRP consists almost entirely of singing, which probably isn’t much of a surprise. As in previous Karaoke Revolution games, the words scroll along the Phrase Bar at the bottom of the screen, along with a blue line. Your objective is to match the pitch of the actual song, so that an arrow traces across the blue line, thus earning you points. If you’re off-pitch, the arrow will either change color or simply not hit the line at all, though you can adjust your pitch to try and score regardless. Depending on how you do, you could earn either a “Gold”, “Platinum”, or “Diamond” record based on your score. Gold and Platinum are nothing new to KR fans, but Diamond records are making their first appearance. Basically, if you manage to earn a perfect score while singing a song (Short Songs don’t count), you get a “Diamond” record, thus indicating your perfection. The game judges neither words nor tone, so you need not sound like Billy Joel to sing “Uptown Girl”, nor do you have to sing the actual lyrics. The downside of this is that you can simply hum and earn points with no penalty, but on the upside, if you’re so inclined, you can feel free to come up with your own words to the songs and sing those instead. The game seems to respond well to your voice, and so long as your microphone works and you can match the pitch of the song, you should have no issues to speak of with the gameplay.

As far as the new game modes go, Sing and Dance effectively attempts to combine Karaoke Revolution and Dance Dance Revolution into one playable game mode, with mostly acceptable results. DDR fans will find the actual difficulty of the Sing and Dance dancing laughable, but actually trying to simultaneously sing and dance to a song, especially three note high BPM songs, can be pretty hectic. It’s also difficult trying to adjust to the placement and design of the arrows; arrows scroll across the bottom of the screen, and you can’t simply watch where they appear on screen, because they all appear in the same position. Instead, you have to pay attention to the actual arrows and the direction they point, which might take some getting used to. One really nice side of this mode is that you can, obviously, perform in this mode with two players (one dancing, one singing), which is not only easier, but it’s also pretty fun to do. The only notable issue here is that not all of the songs are available in Sing and Dance mode, so you might find that some of your favorite songs aren’t available in this mode.


There are also three mini-games on-board, “Yo! Dude! Rock!”, “Beach Volleyball”, and “Fanfare”, which rely on your being able to hit a specified note at a certain time. In the case of YDR, you’re trying to shout one of the three expressed phrases (or whatever you feel appropriate) at the right pitch, which in turn sends stage-divers successfully off the stage. This mode is silly fun, but if you happen to hit two pitches in the same attempt, characters in the other pitch will occasionally respond, and fall over as a result. BV, on the other hand, is basically voice Pong. Both teams have a group of volleyball players, and the ball flies back and forth across the screen. By hitting a note, you move the players (your paddle) in front of the ball, which not only knocks the ball back across the screen, but also causes the paddle to emit a note, which is a hint of what note your opponent should hit. So long as you know your notes, you’ll be fine, but if you don’t, you’ll still be able to play through trial and error. Both of these games are playable in Single and Duet modes. “Fanfare” is a Duet only mic game which features two players playing as a rock star trying to grab presents from his adoring public. The trick is, each player controls separate body parts, and they have to work together to get him to collect his presents. So long as both players work together, and know their notes, it’s easy, but it’s harder if you can’t hit the notes on demand. All three games are harmless fun, but none of them are really going to have you coming back for more.

The PS2 version’s Eye-Toy Support is limited to the above-mentioned Eye-Toy Cameo and to on-screen video in certain venues. Cameo faces, as explained above, look goofy, but there are other issues to them as well. Acquiring Cameo faces is mostly a snap, but you need to be sure you have enough lighting that your face doesn’t come out purple, which might not be as easy as it seems. Also, it can take a few tries to place your marker points on your face, as the program is nice enough to tell you which picture is marked wrong, but not which markers are incorrect. And it should be noted that each Cameo head takes up over 600K on your memory card, so if you want to take a few of them, you might want to consider picking up an additional card. The Eye-Toy can also show video of whatever it’s pointing at on-screen in certain performance venues, and there’s a specific “Eye-Toy Theatre” if all you want to see is yourself singing. If you want to use the Eye-Toy during Duet play, you’ll need a USB Hub to hook up all three items, so for most people, that’s probably not going to be something they’d be bothered doing. It’s also depressing that that’s really the extent of the Eye-Toy support; I was hoping for a silly sort of ParaPara mode that combined the Eye-Toy, mic, and Dance Pad, but alas, my dreams of emulating Yoko Ishida once again go unrealized.

If you don’t get that, you don’t want to.

The harshest thing you could say against the gameplay here, ultimately, is that it hasn’t changed at all in the past four games. There are plenty of new modes, but most of them are either modifications of the base game mode, or they’re only mildly entertaining novelties. The core gameplay is very solid and works perfectly for KRP, but people who weren’t turned on by previous games in the series won’t find any reason to jump on board for this game.

Control/Gameplay Rating: 7/10


5. REPLAYABILITY

There are a ton of unlockable items in the game, including wardrobe items for your characters, new character templates, hidden songs, and trophies that mark your accomplishments. All of these can be unlocked by your performance in the game, simply by doing well on songs or in Sing and Dance mode or what have you. The various challenges and the large amount of unlockables will probably keep you coming back for a while. KRP also has the largest song roster of any of the games, and the most play modes of any game in the series, which should keep the game in rotation for parties or group gatherings. Once you’ve unlocked everything the game has to offer, you most likely won’t be back unless you like a lot of the songs on the disc, but thankfully, with so many songs, that’s not too hard.

Replayability Rating: 7/10


6. BALANCE

There’s never any point where you’re playing against the computer, save for the one microphone “Beach Volleyball” mini-game, so you’re only ever really competing against yourself or other players. The game only judges pitch, so even if you’re off-key or just a terrible singer, you can still participate (assuming your friends don’t gag you) and do acceptably. You can also adjust the judging difficulty for each person, which allows singers of different ability to compete on even footing. The songs are also rated appropriately for their difficulty, though knowing the songs really helps considerably. Unless you’re completely tone deaf, you shouldn’t have any problems playing the game and doing perfectly fine.

Balance Rating: 8/10


7. ORIGINALITY

Well, there are a few new game modes and a custom character creation mode, but otherwise, this is the same Karaoke Revolution you’ve been playing since the first one. The Sing and Dance mode and the custom characters breathe some new life into the concept, but they are by no means a dramatic re-invention of the series. KRP is basically a KR expansion pack, just like the last two, but for fans, that won’t matter one bit.

Originality Rating: 4/10


8. ADDICTIVENESS

Once you start getting into the different songs and game modes, it can be hard to tear yourself away from KRP. Plain and simple, singing is fun, and hearing the fans screaming and cheering as you belt out every phrase is, relatively speaking, kind of exciting. You’ll find yourself wanting to get that 50,000 point perfect score, not only to unlock stuff, but also just to do it. Having some friends around will only make the experience better, and you’ll find yourself striving to outscore them on every phrase. The songs present are mostly recognizable, and while you’ll tear through what’s available in a couple hours, a lot of the songs are good enough that you’ll want to go through them again.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10


9. APPEAL FACTOR

Well, most of the songs in the game are Top 40 material, so most people should be familiar with them. However, a lot of that Top 40 material was in the Top 40 in the 1980’s, so if you weren’t born before 1985, you probably won’t care about any of it. The game also requires that you enjoy singing, at least partially, and no matter how lenient the judging, if you’re a hideous singer, you probably won’t want to pick this up. On the other hand, if you do like singing, and you were alive during the 80’s, you’ll probably want to have this in your collection. Considering how many reality shows I’ve seen themed around singing, I can’t help but believe that’s not a small demographic.

Appeal Rating: 6/10


10. MISCELLANEOUS

… man, my head looks ugly. I mean, I don’t know if it’s just the game or if I really look like that, but I look like I’ve got a kiwi with eyes in my neck.

Um, anyway… while it is nice that Konami gave me another reason to bust out my Eye-Toy and Dance Pad, I can’t help but feel like they could’ve done more with KRP. A couple of weak mini-games and a custom character mode tacked onto what is essentially KR3 isn’t exactly a step forward. I can’t help but feel like I’ve just bought another expansion pack in the series.

I’m also seriously wondering why so many artists haven’t even been represented in a Karaoke Revolution game, ever. There’s no songs from the Beatles. At all. Nor is there any Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Journey, Prince (yes, I know no one else on Earth can sing like Prince, that’s not the point), Guns and Roses… you get the point. I’m sure there are plenty of people that are happy that we’ve been given repeat appearances by Nickleback, Hoobastank, Britney and Cher, but it’s not like I’m saying “Where’s my Rammstein and KMFDM, dammit!” I mean, how do you miss the Beatles four times?

I might be in the minority here, but I’d really like to see Konami release a front end KR product that accepts expansion discs (which is what they were apparently originally planning to do), then see them release themed discs to go along with that. I’m as much of a fan of Boy George and Cindi Lauper as any guy can be, but I’d rather see some genre specific compilations that cater to my tastes than ever have to sing “I will Always Love You” again. Of course, I’m still going to buy the next Karaoke Revolution game they release, whether they go this way or not, so they must be doing something right.

Miscellaneous Rating: 6/10

The Scores:
Game Modes: 9/10
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 8/10
Control/Gameplay: 7/10
Replayability: 7/10
Balance: 8/10
Originality: 4/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal: 6/10
Miscellaneous: 6/10

Overall Score: 6.8/10
Final Score: 7.0 (GOOD).

Short Attention Span Summary
Konami churns out another winner with Karaoke Revolution Party. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ve got plenty of reasons to pick this one up, and casual gamers will find more than enough to entertain them for a while. But if the diversity of the previous games turned you off, or you’re just not a fan of singing, you’re still not going to find anything here to draw you in this time around.