Karaoke may be synonymous with scary middle-aged ladies and Midwestern small towns in the US, but in Japan it's tightly weaved into popular culture. Everyone does it; if you ever go to Japan on business you'll undoubtedly be put up on the stage at least one night and be forced to make yourself look silly singing something to a semi-appreciative audience. Karaoke contests on TV, karaoke schools.. well.. you get the idea.

Given this sort of prevalence, it's no surprise that video-game makers wanted to cash in on this. Bandai obliged the audience with its Karaoke Studio, a hardware addon that plugs into the Famicom's cartridge port. The unit has its own microphone and comes with 15 built-in tunes. I don't see any copyrights anywhere and I've never heard of any of these tunes, so I'm guessing that the songs are a combination of old Japanese folk tunes and songs from various "talent" working for Bandai in the mid 80s. All of the audio is generated by the FC music chip. The bottom third of the screen is where the lyrics are shown, and a "music video" of sorts is shown on the top part of the screen.

View the (pretty beat up) box

The Karaoke Studio unit itself can take cartridges, and at a couple of carts were made. Top Hit 20 (above) was the first and contained 20 tunes, for a total of 35 (enough to last out any drunken party).

Pic: mizuyan, |tsr

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