Should I Buy: Korg-DS10 – Nintendo DS

Let me start off by saying that this is not a game. That being said, it is a wonderful piece of software to add to your DS library… if you have an interest in making music. That’s what this “game” is: a music making tool.

Korg: MS-10 - the real life equivalent of the DS-10

Korg: MS-10 - the real life equivalent of the DS-10

Korg-DS10 is modeled after the Korg-MS10, a popular synthesizer released in the mid 1970’s. Effectively, they’ve packaged the whole of that technology and put it into a portable DS cartridge for you to play with on the go.

The game is more than just a keyboard though. It’s also a sequencer. For those of you who aren’t sure what that means, it effectively lets you record 16 beats (represented by boxes a little red dot moves across) per “pattern” and then string them together by clicking with your stylus, as a whole, this can be used to make a complete song.

Korg-DS10 is also fully customizable. Each beat may have two keyboard tracks and a drum track, so you can layer things nicely. On top of that, you can select from a wide array of 21 stock keyboard tones and about 16 or so drum tones. This lets you customize the song and achieve that certain “feel” you may be going for.

Apart from that, the game also features a control unit that lets you alter the sound further by connecting your keyboard to different sound ports, each able to be modified with control knobs that can vastly alter the sound.

Switch between views by pressing the left trigger

Switch between views by pressing the left trigger

Sound like a bit much? It is. This game is a beast and has a steep learning curve. The instruction manual doesn’t do a lot to introduce you to the game or it’s controls. However, like many good things in life, the best way to learn is to dive right in. In truth, you don’t really have to know what each knob does or controls.  It’s fully possible to just move things around until you get the sound you’re looking for. Still, a little background knowledge is, I’m sure, very helpful.

Graphically, this title offers virtually nothing. The best you’re getting here is a 2D keyboard. Most of your time will probably be spent working with the beat grid as well, which is a grid of squares you’ll fill in to choose when notes play.

Most importantly, how does it play? Fairly well. All of the notes and beats are plotted on the grid mentioned above by simply touching them with your stylus. You get instant feedback on how it sounds by allowing your track to play in a loop in the background. Doesn’t sound good? Touch the note with a stylus to remove it and then touch the next another one (higher or lower depending on what pitch you want) until you find the right pitch. Want a longer note? Slide your stylus to the right the amount of beats you want the note held.

It is important to point out that the game does limit you to normal synthesizer tones and beats. It would have been nice if they’d included some more modern keyboard tones but, then again, that’s not really what this was about. Still, the DS-10 is ideally suited towards creating techno beats and psychedelic rhythms.

The process of creation is what’s most fun about the game. Because each pattern is generally short, you’ll have to make new patterns to go along with them to make the full song work.  Once you have something you’re happy with, you can go to the pattern screen and simply click on each pattern to play it through, lacing them together at your whim. After playing through it this way, it’s not hard to imagine why some people use the Korg-DS10 as a tool during live performances.

What I really love about this game is that it lets even those with no musical background create music in a fun and, after a little practice, simple way. As a musician and amateur songwriter myself, I appreciate having a portable tool to capture little melodies that may pop into my heard from time to time, too.

Overall, I think Korg-DS10 is a strong application and a bargain buy. Players wanting a real “game” experience should stay away from this one. Those of you that’d like to do something unconventional yet thoroughly enjoyable with your DS, I highly recommend picking it up. This is the kind of software that gives new meaning to handheld consoles. This title gives your DS another purpose, makes it a tool, and I never thought I’d see anything like it. Try it. After all, even if you pick this game up and only play it when you’re bored, it was still only a $20 or less investment.

This video sums it upper better than I can in a review. Check it out.

Gameplay: 8/10 –This was hard to rate because there’s not much actual “game”play. Still, it offered a lot of what it’s offering, so I ranked it up.
Functionality: 10/10
Graphics: 1/10
Sound: 10/10
Replayability: 8/10 – Even though the customizablity of the sounds is top notch, it would have been nice to move away from the “techno” feel a bit more. Hopefully Korg releases another version of the game with some newer tones.
Overall: 74% – Good game.

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