Korg DS-10 Synthesizer PlusESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer: AQ Interactive/Cavia Inc
Publisher: XSEED Games
1-8 players (wireless network play)
Nintendo DS/DSi compatible
To be honest I really did not know what to expect when I received our review copy of XSEED’s new DS title Korg DS-10 Synthesizer Plus. While Korg is classified as a game, this could not be farther from the truth. It is not a rhythm game like the Dance Dance Revolution games, nor is it a Guitar Hero clone. Instead, Korg is an instrument and a fully functional synthesizer that just happens to run on Nintendo’s DS/DSi hardware. I love music, be it listening to or creating it, and using the Korg instruments of creation on my DS really intrigued me. I looked forward to using the synthesizer tools constructively and effectively, and now that I have finally had the chance to do so I can now share my impressions.
As far as the graphics go, the game looks quite sterile with a mostly black and white colour scheme. To be honest though the graphics are not the focus of Korg. So with that in mind, you will not find any jaggies or clipping, polygons or slow down given the nature of game, but what you will find is a slick presentation with almost perfect placements on screen. Some of the shapes could have used some work in the size department, perhaps opening up the view on screen. I loved seeing the old school phono jacks with cables running back and forth reminding me of an antique phone switchboard. Like the top down view of an actual synthesizer, there are many knobs, buttons, sliders, and switches. They are all functional and interactive with the DS’s stylus and not just for decoration.
For me Korg's sound is the weaker area for this title. The game's main focus is all about music, but the DS is not an audio powerhouse. The sound that comes out of the DS is more than adequate, but it can definitely be a bit on the light side. The external speakers sound a bit tinny and can be a bit noisy or hissy when pushing out Korg's compressed audio. Of course you can use your headphones with much better results as they will give you more of a stereo effect with less noise. In terms of the sound effects, the game itself is nothing more than playing with a real synthesizer. Sounds consist of notes being strung together and there is no voice work to speak of.
In this era of digital downloads, MP3’s, and iTunes tracks, the trend of music and its creation has consisted of processed and recycled music rather then the music itself. Creativity in my opinion is a lost art. Powerful computer software makes most of the music we hear today and it’s really kind of sad given the origins of what music used to be. Some videogames disguised as music development and creation tools end up being nothing a dancing jam guitar strumming fest with mindless graphics. Do we actually learn anything here? And how does this help us understand music? Well Korg breaks away from that stereotype.
This is my first time using Korg DS-10 Synthesizer Plus, and I must admit it impressed me. Here you have an advanced set of tools and software that makes making music easy and fun. While the music you create may not be worthy of a record deal it does open up the creative side of people. I quickly found this application more than a mindless entertainment spectacle. Korg's system allows you to compose music and actually decide what you have created is good or bad. I love this in such that you are not simply strumming along with a prefabricated tune. Many mainstream players could find this freedom unsettling, but true musicians and creative types should find themselves right at home.
As a medium the DS platform is perfect for using the Korg system. The little dual screened system has demonstrated in earlier titles that it can perform very well in similar functioning games and the analog elements of musical gameplay. Owners of a DSi will also find an expanded features set, which includes a 12-track sequencer among other goodies. Standard DS players get a six-track option, which works perfectly fine. Korg is somewhat spartan in appearance and can cause confusion with first time users though. I suggest reading the hefty manual a few times to get you acquainted with it controls and functions.
I should note that the Korg system screen can become a bit cluttered with all kinds of buttons plugs and cords running all over the screen.
That being said, I found the control easy once I had mastered some of the software’s button placements. They are well laid out, but on the DS’s small screen you can, and will, hit buttons you do not want to. It took me well over an hour to get somewhat comfortable with the arrangements, which can be manipulated on a small level. Once again reading the manual is extremely important in order to fully utilize what Korg's system has to offer.
The development team has included a number of preset patterns and loops that make things easy on the new and or budding musician. They all have differing levels of adjustability so you can add or subtract things from these presets. The KAOSS pad lets you add arpeggios to single notes or groupings that can be used as a basis for your melody or rhythm pattern. The notes made or generated are all in the same key. This is done automatically so you do not have to worry about what they create being in the same key. It easier in the long run as your piece of music may sound a bit out of pitch as you go along.
To my surprise there are 31 scale modes including major, minor, Lydian, Aeolian and several others. This game can get pretty in depth and can be used as a basic learning tool for music fundamentals. After creating something you like you can save them as patterns which can be linked together to create a full length song up to a 100 measures long. The amount of detail and thought that has gone into this software is quite impressive, surprising me at every turn with its intuitiveness, and on the DS platform nonetheless.
With your new song in the books, you can now use the mixer to balance all of the individual tracks. You have complete control over volume, effects, and the stereo spectrum. You can place sounds in the spectrum by utilizing the pan control phasing from left or right or in and out. The effect is pretty cool and I found myself playing with it often.
While there is no way to export your song as a file onto your computer or removable drive, you can record it to another medium and then transfer it. This unfortunately kills some of the sound fidelity which is a bit of a shame. You can also share your songs online through Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Network. I really had some fun listening to songs that other budding musicians have uploaded. Another interesting feature is having the ability to jam with up to eight other people. While the idea is cool there is always the concern of having 'too many cooks in the pot' which can make the endeavour rather chaotic.
Continue to Page 2