Review: CMT Presents: Karaoke Revolution Country (PS2)


CMT Presents: Karaoke Revolution Country
Genre: Singing/Rhythm game
Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: 3/21/06

I’m not normally the sort of person who likes to half-ass it when I come out here and write my stuff. I mean, hey, everyone should take pride in what they do, so should I, right? That said, when I’m reviewing what amounts to a half-assed rehash, well, I’m not exactly inspired to greatness in my narrative. So, to that end, here’s the deal: I’m going to review this half by quoting my original review of the NOT EVEN FIVE MONTH OLD prequel title, Karaoke Revolution Party, and half by adding my own comments in about the change in opinion as far as this title is concerned. The quoted text will be in italics, so as to reduce confusion.

Before we get underway, I’d also like to make the point known that, despite all indications to the contrary, I like country music. I swear. Now, Shania Twain doesn’t exactly get me all giddy, but Travis Tritt, Johnny Cash, Clint Black and the Dixie Chicks are perfectly fine by me. I’ve been listening to country (not entirely voluntarily, I admit) for about twenty years now, so I’ve heard all sorts of singers sing all sorts of country songs, and in the grand scheme of things, if a game like this is going to appeal to anyone, I’d like to think it’s going to appeal to me. I mean hey, I’ve been to a Reba Macentire concert and I enjoyed myself, I think I fall into the target demographic here. So let’s dig in and see if, by some random chance, it’s going to appeal to you by proxy.


1. GAME MODES


For any single player excursions, KRC 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 KRP, as do the gameplay modes associated with them. 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.

Yep, that’s all the same here. Sharp-eyed readers will note an omission in the above, however; Sing and Dance mode has been excised. Now, I’m not entirely sure why… I mean, line-dancing is not a fad that exists outside of country music appreciation, so one would assume S+D mode would be a welcome addition to an otherwise bare-bones repetitive title. Everything else that was present in KRP is here, and I mean EVERYTHING, so if you liked KRP, you should be fine with this. That said, there’s nothing terribly NEW either, so unless you’re okay with the same thing again, you might want to pass this on by.

Game Modes Rating: 8/10


2. GRAPHICS


When Karaoke Revolution debuted in November of 2003, its graphics looked pretty good. Now, two years later, KRC is using the same graphics engine, and those same visuals are decidedly not as good. KRC 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.

Second verse, same as the first. The overall appearance of the characters has been changed slightly in certain aspects, so as to remove certain “pop” oriented looks and add in more “country” looks, IE less Britney, more Hank. I’m by no means disagreeable to this, but aside from some changed character models, nothing’s different. You get the same venues, the same basic visual appearance, the same graphics engine, for the exact same price. In theory, that’s perfectly fine; in practice, it seems a little cheap, like Konami couldn’t be bothered putting more country-oriented stuff into the title. Otherwise, it looks perfectly fine, if somewhat dated.

And regarding the problems that were noted previously concerning the Eye-Toy, they’re still in full effect here. Characters made with Eye-Toy Cameo heads look ugly, but it’s a comical sort of ugly, so at least you can find amusement in it. Otherwise, the technology hasn’t changed or improved any, so everything looks like it did before. On the upside, if you already have Cameo heads from KRP, they’ll import instantly into KRC, so that’s a bonus for those of you who love to see yourself singing.

Graphics Rating: 6/10


3. SOUND

No quoting here; it’s a whole new ballgame this time around, mostly. Instead of an amalgam of musical genres, everything you get here is pure country. In theory, this is a blessing; in practice, “country” has as many variable styles as “rock” or “pop”, so even diehard country fans might find things to be a touch limited here. First off, KRC has a whopping 35 songs to play around with, which theoretically sounds impressive, until one realizes that a.) KRP had over 50, and b.) Konami took Sing and Dance mode out of this title, which would theoretically leave more space on the disc for more songs that just aren’t here. Considering that country is a historically rich genre, it seems kind of silly that so few tracks ended up on a disc that could have been a virtual who’s-who of country karaoke. That you’re being charged $55 for LESS product seems kind of insulting in retrospect.

But wait, there’s more! As with previous KR titles, the song choices are baffling at the best of times. Okay, yes, “9 to 5” and “The Gambler”, old-school country classics, are represented here, and hey, even Willie Nelson, George Strait, and Johnny Cash have songs on board. But most of your songs here are “newer” country (IE came out after 1990), and even with that concession, many of the tracks that are present or absent are confusing for those very reasons.

(Aside: While doing my normal research for a review, I noticed that more than a few of you people out there seem to believe that “I Will Always Love You”, which I was GOING to say I’d have liked to see in this game, and still would, was written by Whitney Houston. Now, I don’t know WHERE the hell you people got this idea, but let me state that the original, and far better, version was written by DOLLY PARTON, not Whitney Houston. Not only that, but Dolly turned it into a hit TWO separate times, once on the original release CD, “Jolene”, and again on the soundtrack for “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”. Each and every single one of you out believes me wrong for some reason or another, please feel free to check, and perhaps wonder how Whitney wrote this thing in 1974 (when the song was first released), when she was born in ’63. I’m right, deal with it.)

Garth Brooks. The man has a musical catalog that spans over a decade. In terms of raw name recognition, few country musicians (that aren’t named Elvis) are as well known as him, or as well respected. What do we see from him? “Friends in Low Places”. Really? “The Dance”, “Rodeo”, “Thunder Rolls”, “Shameless” (granted, it’s a cover, but still), “Calling Baton Rouge”, “Two Pina Coladas”, “If Tomorrow Never Comes”, hell, “Standing Outside the Fire”… SOMETHING else besides the EXACT SAME SONG WE JUST SANG LAST GAME. Please. Cut me a break.

Travis Tritt. Few country musicians are as musically entertaining and talented as he’s proven himself to be over the years. Few musicians seamlessly merge country and rock into their style as well as he does. How is he represented? “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive”, quite possibly his most uninteresting single ever. Really, “Country Club” would have been a perfect choice, both for the message (I like country music) and it’s a damn great song. I mean, yeah, there are other songs in his library I’d sooner see than what we got (Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof, T-R-O-U-B-L-E, Here’s a Quarter), but really, “Country Club” is probably the one most people would associate with him, and instead we get this. Weak.

Oh yeah, and before I forget… “Achey-Breaky Heart”. If you ever frequent karaoke bars, you’ll see someone get up on stage at LEAST twice a week and belt this sucker out. It is by NO means a great song, but it’s a one-hit wonder that’s managed to enter our pop culture lexicon (criminy, Pinkie and the frickin’ Brain made fun of it), and its absence is puzzling beyond belief. But hey, at least we got “Good Old Boys”… y’know, the Dukes of Hazzard theme song. Yes. The DUKES OF HAZZARD theme song.

You get the impression this was less of a serious project and more of a “find something to swindle the rednecks” project?

In fairness, there’s a reasonable amount of variety and few repeats from prior titles. And I suppose that if you have a large appreciation for country from the last fifteen years, you’ll be happy with what’s here. But considering this is a $55 expansion pack (more or less), that there are less songs, and that there is less variety IN the songs present, well, that’s not terribly exciting. I mean, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and the Dixie Chicks get two songs EACH. I have no problem with them as musicians, I rather like them personally, but come on… Garth, Kenny, Dolly, and Travis get ONE, and they get TWO? Really? And we get a Shedaisy song to boot. Now, I have no problem with Shedaisy, but do COUNTRY fans even really care about them? I only know who they are because I worked at Best Buy when they debuted, and BB pimped them like crazy (to no effect). Come on now, really.

Bottom line, all whining and snippiness aside, unless you’re a newer country music fan, you won’t find much of anything here to excite you, and even if you are, with less songs than in previous KR titles, you might not find a lot to bring you back.

Sound Rating: 6/10


4. CONTROL/GAMEPLAY


The gameplay in KRC 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 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.

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.

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.

All of the above noted compliments/complaints are identical this time around. The absence of Sing and Dance hurts KRC slightly, as it was a fun, if not 100% polished, gameplay mode, but otherwise, everything I said last time still stands. Sadly, this is now the FIFTH title with no variation to speak of, and while in KRP it was acceptable that little had changed, five months and another $55 later, it’s substantially less so. Ultimately, if you’re a fan of the subject matter, you’ll find an old familiar friend waiting to greet you when you boot it up, but those looking for something a little more fleshed out will be sorely disappointed.

Control/Gameplay Rating: 6/10


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. The various challenges and the large amount of unlockables will probably keep you coming back for a while. 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.

Again, sharp-eyed readers will note that a lot of the superlatives I used for KRP are missing here. Well, there’s a reason for that: they don’t apply. With a substantially smaller song roster than its older brother, an entire gameplay mode excised, and a roster of limited appeal songs, well, there’s really less reason to go back to KRC than there is to go back to older versions. Again, if you’re a huge country fan, you’ll have a lot of fun here, but even so, there’s less fun to be had here than in KRP, so this may not be worth your cash simply due to the dearth of variety.

Replayability Rating: 6/10


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.

The same applies here. I’ve nothing else to add.

Balance Rating: 8/10


7. ORIGINALITY

I’m re-writing this section too. Last time, I noted that, save for character creation and S+D mode, there was nothing new. Well, scratch S+D mode, and take into consideration that character creation was in KRP. Now factor in that this is a full-priced expansion of a five-month old title. Yeah. Nothing is new this time around, save the genre-specific presentation, which if it had been more universal might have been worth some points. Sadly, what we end up with is the exact same wobbly table with a new coat of paint, only someone forgot to paint the whole thing… hey, that was pretty good. Anyway, if you’re a fan of the series and/or the genre, this won’t matter much, but once again, those looking for something new will be sorely disappointed.

Originality Rating: 1/10


8. ADDICTIVENESS

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.

However, there’s less here to keep your interest this time around, both in content and game modes, so you may find yourself having less of a reason to stick with KRC than with previous versions. Even if you’re a country music fan, 35 songs at 3 minutes (on average) apiece amounts to less than two hours of songs to tear through, though you should probably be able to find some songs to keep you coming back.

Addictiveness Rating: 6/10


9. APPEAL FACTOR

Well… you’re going to have to be a fan of the KR series. You’ll also have to be a country fan (or someone who buys every version, regardless of content). And it would help your case if you’re a fan of newer country music more than older tunes. You’re also going to have to be able to look past the fact that you’re paying $40 for THE SAME GAME you just paid $40 for in November. This may be harder than it sounds.

Bottom line, if you’re not a fan of country, you’ve got no reason to buy this. At all. Were it $20, it would be an amusing novelty to flesh out party night… but as Konami never drops the prices of Bemani titles (seriously, go look for Karaoke Revolution 1 and see how much that is), there’s really never going to be a reason to shell out $55 to own a disc of music you don’t like.

If you ARE a country music fan, however, and you like karaoke, by all means, rush out and buy this puppy right now.

Appeal Rating: 4/10


10. MISCELLANEOUS

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.

Oy. Alright, first off, I stand by the above. I still do, and I forever will. Releasing a front end that accepts expansions is a far better idea than releasing a new version of the same game every year. KRC, however, is NOT what I’m talking about. THIS is a “whole new” product with the exact same front end and LESS songs for the EXACT same amount of money I just shelled out in November. This is not exactly a selling point to me.

As stated, I like country music. Just like I like rock music, and some pop music, and some rap, and so on. I have variable musical tastes, and while I like to think that I like pretty much everything in some form or fashion, “liking a little of everything” does not equate to “liking EVERYTHING”. And such is the problem here: I like country music, but not specifically what’s on display here. I like Karaoke Revolution as a franchise, but not the idea of spending $55 on LESS GAME. And I like the idea of expansion discs for the KR franchise, but not $55 expansion discs that add LESS to the experience than the full product did. So, while I like KRC in theory, in practice, I don’t so much.

Miscellaneous Rating: 4/10

The Scores:
Game Modes: 8/10
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 6/10
Control/Gameplay: 6/10
Replayability: 6/10
Balance: 8/10
Originality: 1/10
Addictiveness: 6/10
Appeal: 4/10
Miscellaneous: 4/10

Overall Score: 5.5/10
Final Score: 5.5 (AVERAGE).

Short Attention Span Summary
Ultimately what it all comes down to is this: IF you’re a fan of country music, and IF that fandom extends heavily past 1990, and IF you’re willing to shell out $55 for a limited product, then by all means, snag a copy of KRC. But if you’re looking for something a little more in-depth and fleshed out than… say… this review, than do yourself a favor and save your cash for something better, like a trip to the karaoke bar. At least there you can sing Billy Ray Cyrus.