Korg DS-10 Review
Korg DS-10 box art
System: DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: AQ Interactive / Cavia 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Xceed Games 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Nov. 4, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-8 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Korg: It's the Real Thing
by Cole Smith

There was a dark period in the evolution of video games. I'm not talking about the American Idol home game, I mean before processors were able to squeak out a tune. It's hard to imagine a video game without music, but in the beginning there was the video game equivalent of the silent movie era.

Korg DS-10 screenshot

Eventually, those primitive bleeps and blops gave way to tones which, with the aid of a primitive sequencer, could convey a melody. More leaps in technology allowed for polyphonic compositions in which more than two different instrument voices could be layered for symphonic results. With the advent of sampling technology and the development of various music file formats, music in video games can now surpass the quality of a standard CD.

Now, hear this: We have musical-based games such as Guitar Hero, Rock Band, dance and rhythm games, and even karaoke. Up until now, all we could do is play, react, or slightly manipulate this music. But now, with the Korg DS-10 for the DS, we actually have a synthesizer in the palm of our hands. This is revolutionary. This is not a toy. It's a professional musical instrument. It's good enough to be used in live situations or hit recordings. Trust me on this one! I am a professional musician as well as a game journalist and I am really friggin' critical - of everything. Admittedly, the Korg DS-10 is not for everyone, but if something like this is right up your portamento, prepare to get your mind blown.

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I will get more technical later in the review, but for those with more interest than knowledge, let me give you an overview. Korg is a major manufacturer of professional musical instruments. They are onboard with the development of this software. I call it software because it's not a game. I am having trouble getting it through my own head that this is a real musical instrument. It's based on the world famous Korg MS-10 synthesizer that was popularized in the late 70s. It has been used on numerous hit recordings, then and now, including Soft Cell, Flock of Seagulls, and the Chemical Brothers. It's what is called an analog synthesizer. It's not digital. Analog synths are coveted more than ever today for their warm, fat, lush sounds. If you're into techno or ambient, there is no doubt you've heard the MS-10. In real life it kind of looks like a futuristic accordion lying on its side.

Korg DS-10 screenshot

Another thing about analog synths is that you have to create the sounds from mixing and matching a variety of filters, oscillators, and other frequency and voltage manipulators. There are a lot of switches, knobs, and faders to play around with. And that's all part of the fun - experimenting with different sounds. Using the multiplayer/wireless component of the DS, it's entirely possible to put together your own techno band.

The Korg DS-10 replicates most of the same filter processing as the original. The sounds are actually created by these processors, not sampled and stored to be played back later. That's the amazing thing. You are totally in control of the sound sculpting, from a single bleep to a corpulent, fat, fuzzy, furious bass line. But there are some incredible features that come with this software that owners of the original MS-10 wished they had. For instance, instead of physically patching phono-cables into the various filters' patches, you simply use the stylus to draw the connections. A six-track sequencer is included allowing you to experiment with two synth tracks, which is like having two keyboard units in one. The other four tracks are for drum tracks. There is also a Kaos Pad interface that allows for tone tweaking on the fly, which could be used for live performances. Patterns can be looped, recorded, stored, or sequenced. Custom sounds can be stored as presets. Not only could you play one note at a time on the original (monophonic) MS-10, but you couldn't store any of your customized sounds. They had to be created from scratch every time. Aren't you thankful you live in the future?

Korg DS-10 screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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