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You know the problem with SingStar ‘90s, the latest in publisher Sony’s juggernaut-like karaoke franchise? It’s not the presentation - the videos look top-notch, and the vocals are the original artists, so that's all copacetic. It’s not the game modes - with everything from a simple solo mode to four vs four “micro-medley” play, battle or survival modes, there are a wealth of options. You can even use the EyeToy camera to watch yourself sing instead of eyeballing the original artist’s video, and save your performances.
It’s the songlist.
Several years and something like a dozen games later (if you count the UK releases, which differ substantially), and even though this list leans toward anemic radio rock, we’re still getting a scattershot 30-song listing of music that crosses genres and styles too much, spreading the selection too thinly.
For instance, your humble author loves screeching along to Nirvana’s “Lithium”, and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” - but will probably never jump on Boyz II Men’s “Motownphilly” or New Kids on the Block’s “Step By Step” unless there’s a lot of money or the threat of bodily harm involved.
Your tastes may differ, but no matter what you like you’re going to get a lot you don’t like, because it’s too varied. Unless you like country, in which case you’re just straight outta luck. Incidentally, the US and UK songlists for this game are radically different, as is usually the case.
Now, racking the songlist might seem like a nitpick, but the fact of the matter is, the gaming world has moved beyond this limitation. SingStar for PS3 is going to enable you to download individual tracks, just like Guitar Hero III, Rock Band, and competing publisher Konami’s latest offering, Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol Encore already do (on next-gen platforms, at least).
It’s an idea whose time has come, because everything else about this series is top-notch. And while we might nail down an “Ice Ice Baby” for old times’ sake, no self-respecting fan of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” is going to be caught dead singing anything by Color Me Badd.
Even if you do give SingStar ‘90s a last-gen pass on this criticism, what about the fact that it only has 30 songs, compared to 40 on the latest Karaoke Revolution game and nearly 60 in Rock Band (not counting downloadable stuff for PS3 and 360). Even Guitar Hero III, which publisher Activision is milking like a heifer that squirts fine vintage wine instead of calcium-rich cow juice, boasts more than 40 tracks. There should be more here, period.
One final note to Sony US: we would love to see SingStar Bollywood, which came out in the UK last year, over here. We can’t quibble about the song list for that one. Just make sure the subtitles are solid and we’re sold. We still love this series and can’t wait for the PS3 version.
Mar 24, 2008