Third time's the harmony.
Some people just love to sing, but everybody loves to get drunk and sing. You forget all about the drama between yourself and those around you and collectively give in to a universally loved song after a few pints of anything.
It's a good thing, then, that Konami has released Karaoke Revolution Volume 3 for the Playstation 2 right before the familial craziness of Christmas. So spike the eggnog, gather your cousins around the fire, and get ready to get down.
Since so much of the Karaoke experience relies on friends and booze, there isn't a lot of pressure for Konami to improve their game short of packaging it with a bottle of tequila and some revised song lists. But instead of singing the same old tune, they changed their pitch by including new multiplayer modes that wind up being the game's biggest improvements.
The Karaoke games work by checking your singing voice (received via a USB microphone) against a song and giving you a score based on how in-tune you are with the music. As in previous installments, this doesn't always work as well as it should, and it's not very hard to cheat your way to success. But what fun is that?
In addition to adding more characters and visuals, Karaoke Revolution Volume 3 implements dual microphone support and scoring for multiple singers. This open the door to Duets and Duels.
The Duet mode allows two people to tackle one song at the same time, either by singing it together or with one person handling backup duty. Then there are the new competitive modes: Sing Off and Knockout. The Sing Off has two players competitively singing alternating phrases, where Knockout has both singing at once; the competition can end if one player is clearly out-singing the other.
The multiplayer aspect adds a new dimension to the game, making it even better for drunken parties. Got some beef with that dude from your Math class? Take it to the virtual stage! Okay, so that's almost as lame as having a break-off, but it's still pretty fun.
Fans of previous Karaoke titles will recognize Showtime mode as the career mode of the other games. You pick a star, sing your way through various backgrounds and unlock stuff for your efforts. There isn't much of a storyline here, but there should be. A game that illustrated the trials and tribulations of various cover bands as they tried to make their way to the top (Las Vegas?) would be fertile ground for comedy and shenanigans, if not some real drama. It's a shame Konami didn't do more.
To reflect the emphasis on multiplayer, the song list focuses on duets and group songs, like the ubiquitous "Love Shack," the Sonny and Cher staple "I Got You Babe," and the Jackson 5's "ABC." The included tracks range from 80's hits like "Don't You (Forget About Me), karaoke classics such as "Killing Me Softly," and contemporary cuts including Brittany Spears' "Oops" I Did It Again." If you were fortunate enough to play the recent Metal Gear Solid 3, you'll also recognize that game's title track "Snake Eater," although you'll be the only one.
The only problem with the track list is its length. When a developer as busy as Rockstar can find time to put together a track list 120 songs deep for its latest Grand Theft Auto, you expect a Karaoke game to at least land in the same concert hall. But Konami's self-proclaimed "Volume' has only 35 tracks.
Which begs the question: whatever happened to Karaoke Revolution's original expansion pack plan? Obviously, it has been scrapped in order for Konami to keep churning out new versions at full price. The broken promise of cheap upgrades is unfortunate.
It doesn't help that Volume 3 looks and plays a great deal like Volume 2, which was just like the original game. The graphics feature some new characters and environments, but it's pretty much just more of the same.
In the end, Karaoke Revolution Volume 3's value still hinges on folks and drinks. After enough champagne, getting your family together for a version of "ABC" or a medley can be a lot of fun, and having some drinks with a date and then murdering "Under Pressure" is a blast. If you already own the original and Volume 2, it makes sense to expand your horizons and grab this one, too, if only for the cool multiplayer modes. Those new to the series, though, might want to wait for the inevitable boxed set.