Karaoke Revolution

[7 January 2004]

By Jason Thompson

I Sang a Simple Song

I can’t sing. And here I’ve been thinking that I could all these years what with being able to stay in tune with all my favorite albums and songs that I sing along to whenever I’m playing some music. I thought I also did a pretty good job when it came to singing my own songs that I like to record every now and then. But Konami’s Karaoke Revolution proved me wrong. The damn thing just taunted me and pointed out every flaw in my singing abilities. “You can sing? I don’t think so!” It seemed to be saying to me as I tried my best to belt out a few of its songs in an attempt to get a platinum record and a high score. I knew it was laughing evilly at me every time I failed to get the crowd excited at my lame attempts to bring the house down with “When a Man Loves a Woman.” I am forever shamed.

But that didn’t make the game any less fun and/or hilarious. No, Karaoke Revolution is a hell of a lot of fun, in fact. The object is simple: choose a song from the library of tunes and then strap on a headset microphone and sing along. The game then grades you based on not only how well you sing, but also whether or not you sing the words at the correct moment and the right rhythm. OK, so maybe it’s not that simple, but then neither was Missile Command after a couple waves all those years ago, and its premise only took 10 seconds to figure out as well.

There are over 35 songs to choose from, featuring classics to current favorites. Well, they’re someone’s current favorites. As for me, I was completely clueless when it came time to sing such ditties as “All You Wanted,” “Addicted,” and “How You Remind Me.” OK, so I’m not the biggest current hits junkie out there. But I thought I would absolutely slay when it came time to sing the likes of “Every Morning,” “I’m Coming Out,” and “Like A Virgin.” Boy, was I wrong. Karaoke Revolution‘s game engine really keeps you to all those notes, even on the easier game settings. But I was determined. Even through shameful tears I vowed that I would someday slaughter “It’s The End of The World As We Know It.” (Do you realize how difficult that one is to do?).

It was only a matter of time before the likes of such a game was created. Karaoke bars and plain old restaurants featuring a karaoke machine have been hot for years now. Something about getting to make an ass out of oneself in front of a crowd really thrills people. Maybe it’s due to serious belief and determination in one’s singing voice, or it might just be a few rounds of beers kicking in that provides the delusion that yes, you really can sing just as fantastically as Elton John. Whatever the case may be, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t or hasn’t wanted to jump up on that little stage and belt out one of their favorite tunes to see if they could get perhaps just a little bit of rock star recognition in their daily lives.

It makes me wonder if such thrills make people go on shows like American Idol. Local town karaoke heroes reaching for the big time. Hell, it might certainly explain the number of truly bad albums we critics get to review from time to time. We’ll often get a CD that sounds like it was recorded on a karaoke machine with the artist singing their heart out over some of the cheesiest music to ever be released to the masses.

Luckily, the tracks on Karaoke Revolution are high quality, even if they’re not the original songs by the original artists (the licensing price would have been a nightmare for Konami if they had been). So the studio guys that Harmonix gathered up for the tunes on the game have done a great job of replicating the hits, although the lead singers used are sometimes on the lame side of the fence. That’s OK, though. They’re still going to kick your ass as a guide vocal when it’s time for you to step up to the mic.

Probably the nicest thing, though, about Karaoke Revolution is that expansion packs will be made for the game. In the options menu there is a selection that allows you to insert other Karaoke Revolution discs. I’ll be very anxious to see what kinds of collections Konami and Harmonix come up with for future installments. Since I stink so much at a number of the songs on the initial game, there’s only so many times I want to rule at “Billie Jean,” “The Power of Love,” “Celebration,” “You Really Got Me” (in beautiful Diamond Dave version) and “You’re The One That I Want.” Oh yeah. I’m really good at that one.

There are also unlockable songs as you play along, such as Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” (talk about a serious nightmare keeping up with in the rap sections). So all in all, Karaoke Revolution is a blast to play, even if it proves you’re not as hot a singer as you may have once thought. Apparently my wife is a terrific singer, as she obliterated me at songs like “Wind Beneath My Wings,” “Don’t Know Why,” and that aforementioned “When A Man Loves A Woman.” She really likes Karaoke Revolution in that regard. So whether you’re singing it all alone (which is how I like it), or with a friend or group of friends, this game is a definite keeper.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/karaoke-revolution/