February 27, 2008
Singing has long been pointed out as a missing element in the line up of next-gen games. While several were available for the original Xbox, none of them have been placed on the backwards compatibility list. Konami’s release of KR: AI finally meets this demand, and should help men everywhere further justify the entertainment value of the Xbox 360 to their female companions. Rock Band was celebrated for this and does a great job (see below for a comparison), but with the initial price tag of $180 it certainly was not as attractive for someone purely interested in vocals.
The incredibly popular American Idol television show is the setting for the campaign (or tournament) mode, with the judges grading your performance after every song. In this mode you can select the length of the tournament by number of songs required to win, ranging from eight to 18. After getting the golden ticket, you fly off to Hollywood to compete and hopefully win. If you ever get kicked out during a tournament, you have the option of repeating the round to get a better score, so you really should never lose a tournament. On the odd side, you can’t lose points during a song. What this means is that if you get a maximum score in a section, you can actually stop singing until the next section starts without a penalty.
With 40 songs packaged with the game, and the ability to download further songs, there is a good variety for any singer. Genres include pop, rock, hard rock, disco, country, classics, R&B, 80’s and ballad when you sort it by genre…but there are no country songs actually included with the game, and only one disco song and one hard rock available. Most of the songs are rock or pop with a smattering of the other genres. Bohemian Rhapsody and Black Velvet are both pretty tough on Expert, while Black Hole Sun and Time of the Season are very easy to get a perfect score with on Expert.
We compared the microphone packaged with the game to the one that Rock Band comes with, and the performance is identical, although the Karaoke Revolution microphone is about half the weight. Note that the game will not let you start singing without an actual microphone plugged in. Unlike Rock Band, Karaoke Revolution does not support headsets for the vocals, even though the manual states the headset is compatible.
There are several multiplayer modes, both local and via Xbox Live. Duets require two microphones and let you sing any song as a duet, although the game does not divide the lyrics. Duet mode supports up to four groups, so up to 8 players can compete for the high score in pairs. Battle mode has two options, League and Head to Head. League mode lets you participate in a 2-8 player competitive multiplayer tournament, where each person picks their song and difficulty. Note that every song has a maximum “perfect” score of 100,000 points, unlike the other music games currently available where harder songs have higher top scores. Head to Head mode lets you compete on a single song against one other player. Two mics are required for this mode, but you take turns and each player can pick their own difficulty.
There are multiplayer modes available over Xbox Live as well, but since release date we have tried multiple times a day to connect with someone, and there is a dearth of players online. Either people aren’t looking online or the people buying the game don’t have Live. Either way, to get the full 1000 achievement points in this game, we highly recommend using the forums here to find a partner. You can actually compete in a full American Idol Tournament online with up to 8 participants, an Arcade League (same as the one console League), or Head to Head against a single opponent. Note that if you are competing with someone over Xbox Live and they quit before the final screen, you do not get any achievements. One horrible flaw with all of the Live modes...you can never hear your opponent sing. Given this, it makes us wonder what the point was of having this included, even though on the surface having Live opponents is great. Even a replay option to hear how your opponent sang would be better than the current silence.
The achievements are mostly quick, assuming you can find someone online. 745 points took about 4 hours, with the next 80 points in about another 2 hours. The longest achievement, Dedication, requires 50,000,000 points across all modes, which is essentially getting a perfect score 500 times. The six online achievements are not time consuming, but definitely require someone to play with, which has been an issue thus far.
The graphics are nothing to write home about, especially the avatars. Mouth movements quite often don’t synch with the songs words, and the level of detail is generally low. Most of the singers throw in a dance move here and there, and again, they don’t tend to synch up with the song in any way. On the plus side, you can customize your avatar quite a bit, helping compensate for an otherwise lacklustre area somewhat since you can choose your own special look.
Compared to Rock Band, the vocals are MUCH easier. There is a minor difference between Easy and Expert in Karaoke Revolution, whereas in Rock Band you better bring your A-game if you want to sing Expert. Both games let you hum rather than sing since they only grade you on pitch and rhythm. Why is it that my bank can do voice recognition but the video games can’t? Is there something in the console that just lacks the firepower to do true voice recognition, or is it just so much easier to only measure pitch and rhythm?
The soundtrack is right from the American Idol television show, and the song list starts with a solid selection of pop and rock, with a few tokens thrown in from other genres to keep the peace. The songs are solid and all are actually performed by the original artists which is a definite positive for the game. The voice clips from the judges are predictable and repetitive - just like the show - which lowers the audio quality a bit. Other than that it is quite good.
The graphics are mediocre and generally do not seem to use any next gen capabilities. There is not a great deal of detail in the environment, although the various venues are at least recognizable if you have watched the show. The avatars are very stiff and watching them try to pull the occasional dance move is like watching me dance…which I don’t recommend, by the way.
The game is easy to pick up and play with no need to use the manual at all. If you want a Karaoke game to throw in and have fun with friends, this is a very good choice. It is very easy to play even if you have never played a video game before, and the on-screen guides are simple and direct. With a good selection of DLC rumored to be coming, this one looks to have some staying power as well.
The delivery is well done, with easy menus, choices clearly marked as configurable when appropriate, and no tiny print for those with small televisions. Songs show the various lengths, how many times each has been sung, and what your best score is, all in a fast menu that also provides a preview of the song for those unfamiliar with it. The one critique is that when signing in multiple profiles on a local machine, it could be a little more clear when it is time to assign those profiles to a singer, but otherwise the delivery is quite solid.
This has a variety of achievements that will get you started out early, and reward dedicated players over the long haul as well. Only a few are particularly difficult, and even the online ones are not hard if you can find a partner. There are two time consuming achievements that requires the player to complete 20 tournaments and score 50 million points. While that might be a bit high, we have to admit that it is a game that is based on the American Idol tournament so the concept makes sense and stays true to the basis of the game, which we applaud.
Look for this to be added to the quick 1000, but still worth purchasing and keeping for those social occasions where the genders mix. If some more masculine songs come out via DLC, then even male gamers may find themselves playing the game without company around. A solid title from a company with years of experience making karaoke games, with a very real possibility of a steady revenue stream for Konami if they handle the DLC well.