Ever since Kraftwerk first set solder to circuit, electronic music has been the domain of nerds.
Sitting alone in basements world over, solo virtuosos have coaxed electrical waves into soundscapes that would have been impossible thirty years ago. The unique abilities synthesisers have afforded musicians have often been exclusive to those driven to seek them out, whether building their own or paying through the nose for the privilege.
Not any more. The Korg DS-10 synthesiser for the Nintendo DS gives would-be electro-musicians a fully featured tool-kit for laying down sophisticated and textured music. The sheer brilliance of this tool (calling it a game would be unfair) shines through on every level.
Having only a limited experience with fully digital synthesisers, I opened the crate on this one with a frown on my face. So many times before I have wanted to create music electronically with no interaction with a real keyboard and dials - so many times I had been let down. Cluttered and difficult interfaces are the mark of a digital synth, it would seem. Procyon Studios have masterfully shown how it should be done. As I said earlier, this is not so much a game as it is a tool, but the user interface makes creating tunes so fun it will appeal to musicians both budding and professional.
To help me out with my review of this product, I called up Matt Brennan aka Flick. A maestro of all that is electronic music and Auckland based performer, Flick was the man for the job (you can hear the two tracks he created exclusively for Gameplanet at the end of this review). As you will be able to tell from his tracks, the Korg DS-10 is capable of creating some fairly complex and varied music.
The dual screen interface of the DS is perfectly suited for a synth-on-the-go, showing the previously used interface up top allowing the user to fiddle with controls on the touchpad. The logical progression from piano keyboard through a range of sequencers, drum machine controls and effects controls is never obtrusive, nothing feels hidden and everything is kept clean. A complete novice can load the software and have a thumping electro number pumping out the speakers in a matter of minutes.
By itself, the DS-10 software allows you to sequence and construct a basic tune, then modify and melt the sound with a wide range of effects such as delay, flanger and chorus. Add in some ‘extra weirdness’ with the built in Kaos Pad and you’re on your way to making some really interesting music. Sequencing of your track can be done in real time with the keyboard/drum machine and/or use step sequencing to string together up to 16 patterns in advance.
Where the DS-10 really comes into it’s own is the network feature. While playing around the doctors waiting room or on the bus can prove insanely fun, getting out there with a mate or two (or 7, the game supports 8 players!) really lets you get creative. The potential to put on a live show using only Nintendo DS’ is completely feasible, as the limitations of controlling the music from one small screen disappear. If you’re interested in getting out into the world of electronic music, a couple of these babies could be worth your coin. The combination of powerful tools and intuitive interface make the sound shaping possibilities of this title potentially limitless.
On the downside, the DS-10’s patterns are only one bar long, not really long enough for sensitive adjustments to a complex sound which can make editing your tracks a little tricky. It would have been nice to see MIDI integration on this title, but the things you can do out of the box should mean the DS-10 will be around for a long time. The only other gripe is minor, in that the DS only has one headphone output which can make recording and monitoring a bit haphazard, but as you will hear – the sound output quality is lovely.
So, overall this “game” has proved to be one of the more creative, enjoyable and downright satisfying titles of the last few years. Novices (such as myself) and pros alike will find something to fiddle with on the DS-10, having a blast along the way. If you’re looking for something different to do with your Nintendo DS, I can’t recommend this enough.