Brandon Boyer

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Inspired by the latest trailer for the game, we’ve got to admit, we’re frankly a bit worried for Microsoft’s soon to be released karaoke game Lips: it’s got a lot to prove, being released into this post-Rock Band, post-SingStar environment — despite the promise of both its motion sensitive performance based play and letting you use your own music collection for an essentially limitless song selection.

But there’s good reason to have some hope: developer iNiS is one of rhythm gaming’s underdogs worth rooting for. The acoustic serenade in their sweetly ridiculous PlayStation 2 (and later PSP) game Gitaroo Man is a sappy but affecting, heart-tugging genre moment leagues away from the usual rawk-out star fantasy that music games (including the rest of Gitaroo itself) normally and happily provide. It’s also a moment that has yet to be matched — the closest anyone has come since is iNiS themselves, with various suddenly emotional scenes spread across their similarly over-the-top DS Elite Beat Agents/Ouendan franchise.

Essentially, iNiS gets that personal connection between music and the listener, and especially between the serenader and the serenaded. That feeling seemed to come through in Lipsdebut commercial (once that initial shock of — Hey! Peter Bjorn and John! They are a somewhat obscure band whom I also have in my iTunes! — wore off), though we’re still and forever devastated that the girl passed the mic and wandered away, leaving someone to hijack The Moment with their Zune and devolve the budding romance into a generic house party.

Lips is due out this week, and we’ll update you with full details of what it ultimately has or hasn’t brought to the genre — and of any hard-won affections gained in the course of play — at a later date.

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