3,295 days ago, I penned a blog post reviewing a newly released Bemani remix CD, “V-Rare 5”. Within the context of that review, I wrote the following to open my discussion of track 6, “Midnite Blaze (SySF Mix)”:
And this will be a really tough sell because I HATE Midnite Blaze.
This may seem to casual observers like an awfully specific and odd sentence in the over 1,500 blog posts to point out. I would agree. Which is why I was left dumbstruck by a tweet I received this evening from @Tim_at_where:
Well, Tim, since you asked…well, wait, I haven’t listened to that particular DDR standard since probably around 2005. For the sake of remembering it, here it is on YouTube:
I hate Midnite Blaze mostly because of the vocals. Scott Dolph‘s rapping was always way down my list of favorite things, and it’s pretty laughable here (“Step by step as I approach / I say to myself I need a coach”). The delivery is way too fast and comes in at really weird pitches. Listen to the second section of his rap – it’s all over the place, like he’s reading the words from the page for the first time and not sure which way his voice should go. And he wrote the lyrics himself, if his RemyWiki page is to be believed. For the record, I never liked Drop The Bomb either.
The refrain comes in at such a high register it gives me a headache, and just as lyrically bizarre. And for what it’s worth, the synth line also feels derivative – it’s a touch too close to Naoki’s Broken My Heart.
For whatever it’s worth: in the 9 years since I wrote that review, the only DDR music that remains in my iTunes library are the 2nd Mix and DDRMAX soundtracks, as well as the BEMANI BEST FOR 10TH ANNIVERSARY compilation and various Diverse System remixes. All the Dancemania albums and V-Rares EPs are gone.
And hey: anyone else has random questions about what I meant a decade ago, don’t be shy! I’m more than happy to elaborate – if I can remember what I was talking about!
The decision was not a hard one: a lack of time/resources for programming had left both sites in a code stasis for over a year. Bugs weren’t getting fixed, and no relief was in sight. Complicating things was a forum community that was mostly interested in sniping and trolling each other. I no longer felt like a member in my own forums, and that weighed heavily on my conscious. It was a deeply painful failure to keep what had once been a civil, “good” corner of the gaming community from turning toxic.
While the sites officially shut down a month later on my birthday (a perverse birthday gift for myself), users were able to export their personal data into a portable XML format until what was supposed to be December 31st, 2009.
As it turned out, that day I was in Akihabara, playing the very games that I had fallen in love with back in 2003. As my interest in Bemani has waned dramatically over the last few years, it’s not lost on me that as I clicked away and slapped the plastic turntable back and forth, no thoughts passed through my head about recording scores or checking where I was ranked.
The data survived into 2010 until tonight, when I finally pulled the trigger and expunged all the data from my database. So if you hadn’t exported your data yet – I apologize, but you’re too late. I don’t have a copy anymore.
There were countless things I learned from the five years the sites ran: nerdy things about database optimization and PHP’s image libraries; hard fought struggles with moderating communities and building good controls for data review; pointers on staffing a no-profit web site and balancing life versus your projects. Maybe these lessons will surface in other posts over the coming year – maybe they won’t. There is just one on my mind tonight:
The best schools and books and teachers in the world are no comparison to going out and building something that people want to use. Go: dig your hands into the soil (as it were), and create something. Be the president, the support technician, the artist, the lead programmer, the project manager. Take all of the credit and accept all of the blame.
I’ve quoted this before, but I can think of nothing more fitting:
> Don’t be afraid. If you want to do something, just go ahead and do it, but be prepared to take the blame, to feel the fall. Don’t sit around waiting to be asked, to be given permission. Just get out there and do it.
As I said in the original shutdown notice – it was a great five years, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
It would appear that he has left the company entirely rather than moving to another international division. As you would expect, there has been no formal confirmation from Konami, so right now this is an unconfirmed rumour – albeit one generated from a pretty reliable source. To date there’s no news yet as to what Yamaoka plans to do next. Since leaving Konami he has been in the States and is now currently in Europe, seemingly on vacation.
Silent Hill fans, who have been lamenting the decline of the series in recent years, should probably consider the series dead at this point. Akira’s scores were one of the most haunting parts of the series, and it’s hard to envision anyone else doing the series justice.
From the Bemani perspective, this is another in a growing line of artists who have left the company in the past few years. Akira Yamaoka joins Taku Sakakibara, Takehiko Fujii, and Reo Nagumo, among others.
In memory of his work within IIDX, a selection of some of my favorite songs:
Here’s to hoping this is not the last we’ve heard out of Akira Yamaoka.
It is fall of 2005, and Bemanistyle is down for an indeterminable length of time.
An upstart gaming center in Rhode Island called Tokyo Game Action immediately felt the effects of this outage – their website was hosted by Bemanistyle. Without a proper website, their community was being extinguished – and for an arcade that largely relied on the patronage of hardcore gamers, community is everything.
But as luck would have it, my forums were readily available – and in a decision I don’t honestly recall making, I quickly made a temporary forum so they could keep operations going. (A similar forum popped up on Shoryuken to maintain the fighting game side of the house.)
That was when I first had a chance to talk to Andy McGuire, the owner of TGA, who sent me a heartfelt note. I was immediately struck by his courtesy and motivations for opening TGA:
I don’t know how much you know about TGA, but TGA is unique in the fact that we are 100% dedicated to bringing the best Bemani experience possible to the United States. I won’t bore you with the sacrifices I have made and continue to make to make TGA a reality, but in short I do it for the love of the Bemani community and a service to humanity.
Every penny that TGA receives, goes right back into the store. I have accepted that TGA is my God given mission (literally, I am a Christian) to bring happiness to people in a way that’s not violent or vulgar. I live a simple life and dedicate all my time and finances to make this work.
Besides finances the most important part of keeping TGA alive is communications. And our website being down has killed us. But because of your assistance TGA is surviving and helping keep it’s head above water.
He offered to send me a full set of IIDX Happy Sky E-Amuse cards as a token of his gratitude – but as enticing as they may have been, I declined. I wrote to him then:
While I greatly appreciate the offer, I’m going to have to politely decline for a simple reason: After being in the community for 4 years (as of next week, anyhow), I have seen far too many places come and go – people who pour their heart and souls into businesses like this and unfortunately after a certain number of months, flame out for whatever reason. I would much rather see you keep the cards and sell them to your regular customers and keep the business going properly.
Andy’s dream had, thanks to his selflessness and sacrifice, managed to survive since that time. TGA played host to two Bemani community festivals, both fantastically received. And through the last three years, Andy always managed to keep all of his Bemani machines up to date with the latest releases – which is not an easy task when they are intended for release in Japan only.
But while he was in Japan in December – researching the newest Bemani releases, working on getting BlazBlue – disaster struck Massachusetts, and TGA was heavily damaged by flooding.
TGA stayed closed after the flood, but Andy did everything he could to work towards re-opening.
Today, Andy’s dream has come to a heartbreaking end:
Tokyo Game Action is officially closed forever. With no income and other problems due to the flood, we are drowning in bills it is impossible to recover and reopen.
To pay our creditors and to prevent my family from being thrown out on the street (literally), I am left with no choice but to auction all of TGA’s assets.
TGA will be auctioning everything we have in May to pay our bills. Every game, pcb, poster, keychain, chair, plate, fork, Arch stand, figures, software, bowling ball, everything in TGA has to be sold.
My heart goes out to Andy and his family, to all the staff of TGA, and to everyone who had the opportunity to call it their arcade home.
I hope to finally make the trek to TGA in May for the final liquidation – not in the hopes of purchasing anything, but to give my respects to a man who wanted nothing more than to bring happiness to a community of gamers.
Watch out: hardcore Bemani history lesson follows.
If you rewind back to the end of 1997, Konami was beginning to lay the groundwork for rhythm gaming – the very first beatmania title was hitting the market. One of the founding musicians of the series would be found under multiple aliases – n.a.r.d., dj nagureo, Jam Master ’73, tiger YAMATO – and that was Reo Nagumo.
What Naoki Maeda was to Dance Dance Revolution, Reo was to beatmania. Notable songs credited to him include 20, November (leading to it being worshipped as some sort of “Bemani day”, when it is in fact his birthday), u gotta groove (the traditional song everyone starts with when first playing 5-key beatmania), 5.1.1 (the traditional song everyone starts with when first playing 7-key IIDX), g.m.d. (which taught us all that “Konami” rhymes with “trigonometry”), and R5 (which to this day remains my favorite IIDX note chart). His work stretched across all three beatmania platforms, and well into Pop’n Music’s song lists as well.
After beatmania IIDX 10th Style saw a release in 2004, Reo would only have one more song appear on a IIDX release (2007’s DistorteD), which he claimed in the Song Production Info would be his “final opus that will erase [his] past” and identified a sushi restaurant in the US as the reason for his retirement:
Oh, baby, I decided to retire with this track.
Um, I’m going to emigrate to America.
The reason is simple, I’ve found my calling,
Someone left me a sushi place. It’s getting big in America~
I got a fan letter that said:
“The first time I heard R3, I was in middle school.” Thank you. The kids have become adults.
The time for my retirement draws near. The old men should slowly fade away, so the young ones can take over.
You know, even on the eve of the 21st century, I was
Making you guys a track. It’s crazy.
Even when I busted up my Y31, I took out my sadness by making songs.
Thank you, everyone!
I guess I eventually got kinda cool. *tears*
The world really does revolve around you.
Well, it was fun.
But as I discovered today thanks to an inbound link from Finger Gaming, Reo is still doing what he’s always been doing – not running a sushi restaurant but instead a game company, called Yudo Ltd.. Yudo was actually established in March of 2003 according to their press release, and the company statement isn’t shy about Reo’s role in the founding of some Bemani titles:
Yudo created a trend in music-based games with titles such as beatmania and pop’n music, with experience that runs deep into the management level. Yudo was founded, and is currently helmed by, Reo Nagumo, who worked as a DJ under the moniker dj nagureo. The company continues to develop and produce games and music.
With a unique planning expertise, Yudo aims to offer revolutionarily new services and games throughout the world.
But of course, my admiration of Reo is for his musical output, and that’s where the Aero Series comes in. Much like the cartoon hierarchy is cat, mouse, dog, so too is the music game hierarchy: guitar, drum, synthesizer. Having heard through the grapevine that the guitar and drum versions were a bit crap, I splurged the $3 for Aero Synth Evolution. (I am unclear what the difference is between the Evolution version and the non-Evolution version.)
And immediately, the $3 was worth it: the first song on the Free mode song list is OBAMA by SUPER tiger YAMATO. (If nearly eight years of Bemani obsession has taught me anything, it’s to not question the strange capitalization of song titles or artists.)
Here’s a video of me playing it on Normal difficulty. I apologize in advance about the quality – it’s difficult to play a touch-based game while holding a camera:
(I should also point out that while Yudo has done an excellent job providing English interfaces into their software, it does suffer from the occasional Engrish – such as the “Dairy Rankings“.)
My expectations of most iPhone music games have been terribly low, so this came as a somewhat pleasant surprise. You can tap the notes anywhere along the same general horizontal plane as they are, so long as you hit it with the right timing – thus allowing you to avoid most issues with hand blockage. There’s also chords which will take some getting used to for me to be able to read them properly.
AeroSynth does hold the distinction of being the only iPhone rhythm game I’ve played that seems to really maintain it’s timing window (unlike DDR-S Lite) and not suffer from the occasional bouts of frame dropping (unlike Tap Tap Revolution).
The experience on a whole is not terribly deep – 2 modes, 6 songs, and 9 courses means it’s no DJ Max Technika – but for $3, I have no complaints. For those of you who don’t want to splurge, there’s a free version with a single song.
When you think of things with which you play video games, you may come back with “joystick”, “game pad”, “light gun”, “keyboard and mouse”, or perhaps even “plastic guitar”.
Over the last seven years, no one company has contributed more to the sheer volume of gaming devices in my possession than Konami. These seven years have seen five dance mats, four beatmania IIDX controllers, one gigantic Pop’n Music controller, one headset, one plastic guitar, and one set of plastic drum pads. Few of these have survived the yearly purge sessions, but the point came across loud and clear: Konami is, in no uncertain terms, the king of the peripherals.
Or at least, they were. Konami hasn’t introduced a new music game peripheral since 2005 with the US flop of beatmania. (Mysteriously, that peripheral – a redesign of the old IIDX controller – was a nearly flawless upgrade.) Three years later, Konami has threatened the world with another damn drum set, the sixth drum peripheral on the market and the third introduced by Konami.
But this post isn’t about that monstrosity. It’s about the Pop’n Be-Mouse, a strange (yet cute!) Japan-only device which combines the shape of a beetle, the functionality of a mouse, and the general purpose and style of a Pop’n Music controller. It’s the newest addition to my gaming controller collection.
This isn’t Konami’s first foray into PC Bemani – of course, you’d be easy forgiven for forgetting that those previous tries were mostly typing tutors like beatmania Da! Da! Da!. To its credit, the Be-Mouse is true to the ideals of Pop’n Music, it’s just…tinier.
Konami has crammed a nine-button Pop’n Controller into a 2.5″ mouse. Each of the nine buttons is about a centimeter in diameter, making them just slightly smaller than my fingertip. The buttons are tucked away under two plastic wings that, when opened, make the thing look not unlike a beetle. The wings are fairly sturdy and don’t give me fears of snapping them off.
Let’s hold off on the gaming for a moment and talk about it purely as a mouse: surprisingly, it’s not half bad. The mouse feels good in the hand, and the buttons function as one would expect. The scroll wheel has a more “clicky” feel than my Microsoft Intellimouse, which I actually enjoy. The mouse is plug-and-play under OS X, but not so under Windows XP, as you’ll have to install the drivers before it does anything interesting. Of course, the Pop’n software does not work on OS X at all, so Mac users should stay away unless they’ve got Boot Camp or other Windows methods.
While the mouse does come with an adorably weird mouse pad – full of half-broken English like *POP’N MUSIC MAKES YOU HAPPY, PRETTY, LOVELY!* – I don’t recommend using it. It is quite thin and light, making it easy to travel around your desk as you mouse. Worse, the texture it’s made out of causes the mouse to float strangely while you try to use it for regular functions. I went back to my usual mousepad and haven’t had any similar problems.
All things considered, the Be-Mouse is a competent laser mouse. But no one is going to buy this as merely a mouse – they’re looking for some Pop’n insanity. Despite it’s candy-colored exterior and endless supply of cartoon characters, Pop’n is notorious for being among the most difficult of music games.
After what should be a straightforward install, the Pop’n Be-Mouse software is accessible through the standard Windows methods, or by pressing the middle red button on the mouse’s controller. The game launches almost instantly, and after a quick load, you are off to the Pop’n races.
The game ships with 10 songs, most of which will be familiar if you’ve played at least one Pop’n game before. If you’re coming to Pop’n by way of another Bemani game such as DDR, you might recognize Daikenkai by Des-ROW. Additional songs are available via an in-game store that uses i-revo – but due to patch complications, I was unable to upgrade my install to the version necessary for store access.
Pop’n is a very visual game, so here’s some camera-recorded video of what the experience is like, end-to-end:
While Pop’n Be-Mouse is fun for what it is – *Pop’n Music Lite PC* – it’s important to note what it isn’t.
If you’re looking for extreme Hell course-style difficulty, you may wish to look elsewhere. The game features four difficulty modes; three of which are shared with the traditional Pop’n games (5-Line, 9-Line Normal, 9-Line Hyper). But 9-Line Ex, the peak difficulty level, has been dropped. Instead, users will find a 3-Line version, boiling a song down to a whopping three keys out of the nine available.
Likewise, Poppers familiar with some of the other modes that appear on the Pop’n games should prepare for the minimum possible in presentation. There’s no training mode, no versus or courses, no character select, no unlocks, no COOLs or arcade stage scoring or ojamas. It’s Bemani at the most basic form – pick a song, play, repeat. It will track your clears and best score on each difficulty level, but that’s about it.
Finally, it could potentially be used for a controller for other applications – MAME32 saw it as joystick input – were the red center button not bound to launch the Pop’n app. I think this can be worked around by killing the application in the system tray, but I haven’t verified this yet.
In short: it’s a decent mouse with the neat feature to play a music game as well. Is it worth dropping $70 plus shipping on? Perhaps not, but in the wide array of merchandise that Konami has put out for Bemani players over the years, at least this one is functional *and* fun.
People have occasionally asked me why I don’t do a Guitar Hero (or GuitarFreaks, or DDR, or any other game) score site, to match [VJ Army](http://vjarmy.com/iidx/) and [Pop’n Navy](http://www.popnnavy.com/). Long story short, I barely have enough time to keep those two sites held together – many would say I fail at that – let alone to code more sites. I’m always much happier to see other people code their own sites, and I’m generally available to share my experiences wrestling Bemani into PHP.
Thus, I’m happy to note that [Yanik “Sakurina” Magnan](http://sakurina.vox.com/) has just opened his Guitar Hero score site, [CherryPie](http://r-ch.net/gh/). It certainly shares a great deal of functionality with VJA/PNN, so if you’re familiar with my sites, this may be the GH score tracker for you.
Over the last week, an acquaintance posted Kurt Vonnegut’s Rules For Short Story Writing. Number 7 starts with “Write to please just one person.”
This is not a short story, nor a short film, nor anything that could really be treated as art. This is another stupid mashup. But if it pleases just one person, I will feel at least mildly pleased.
Last week, Katie and I went to see [Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters](http://www.adultswim.com/shows/athf/movie/index.html). I will spare you more of a review than to say that if you’ve ever liked ATHF, you will enjoy this movie. And if you haven’t ever watched ATHF, or have never enjoyed it, you will hate this movie.
Anyhow. During the movie, a plot device of the movie is nearly always accompanied by a somewhat catchy dance tune. I checked the soundtrack after returning home, and the song is titled “I Like Your Booty (But I’m Not Gay)”.
The following bullet points explain my train of thought after learning this.
* That’s fucking hilarious. And this song IS good.
* You know, the beat is pretty well defined. This would be easily manipulated by most music programs.
* This is easy mashup material. But what do I mash it with? What’s a song I won’t mind ruining?
* Of course. Daisuke.
[Daisuke](http://vjarmy.com/wiki/index.php/Daisuke) may be the most joked about Beatmania IIDX song in history, largely due to its over-the-top para para video.
I loaded everything into my freshly upgraded Ableton Live 6, and started hacking the bones. Fifty minutes later, I had compelling evidence that I need help.
So, ladies and gentlemen: I give you Insane-O-Flex vs. Y&Co. I give you my seventh (good lord) mashup. I give you…
Today was a special day for Bemani nerds in the NYC area.
[Taku “TaQ” Sakakibara](http://vjarmy.com/wiki/index.php/Taku_Sakakibara), well known as the producer of hard techno for the Beatmania IIDX series, had his first symphony, “Antevorte”, premiered at Carnegie Hall. The piece was performed by the [New York Symphonic Ensemble](http://www.n-y-s-e.org/), as part of the Velia International Music Festival.
The program describes TaQ thusly:
>Winning a second prize in the violin competition called “Jugend Musiziert” at 10 years old, TaQ started his career as the composer at the age of 11 in Germany. He is well known in Techno and Electronica at first. However, since he has been familiar to classical music and orchestra for a long time, there have been wide variations among his music in terms of taste of orchestral music. Joining digital sound and analog sound together such as techno and classical music, he immediately hit his stride and excelled. Both digital and acoustic music fans excitedly welcomed his gargantuan distribution to the famous multimedia online game “Granado Espada”.
>Recently, he got more concentrated in orchestration itself. TaQ’s music has been more focused on “ongaq (music)” than any kind of specific genre of music with his faith that there’s no precise and strict boundary in music to enjoy listening.
The notes on the piece:
>Stromatiolite, the oldest of mineral substances that first released oxygen, is often described as an inorganic organic matter that provides a spark for an emergence of life on earth. TaQ’s album *ongaq: stromatolite*, which was consisted of electronic music, runs on the following motif, inspired by the title *stromatolite*: the expansiveness of the nature, the genesis of life, and the long path to the present. A long flow of history that went from a piece of ore and finally formed a town through a sum of things that the nature kingdom holds is expressed through the world of his music.
>Although it is just a little mineral ore, stromatolite has been kept watching the long and the epic proportional life of everything on earth for an excessive amount of long time. Stromatolite has been always philosophical about releasing oxygen though any drastic changes or big biological evolution had been occurred in its surroundings. For the ore, all evolutionary transitions that have been happened in the universe through the enormously long time and eras for us is perfectly same as what it does today and the future is sure to be scheduled naturally by continue doing the same thing. Tremendous long time is almost like a blap. It’s same as the fact that the structure of universe and human cellula are so the same each other.
>This four-movement symphony shows you the parallel universe of “stromatolite,” the world as a theme, with philharmonic orchestra. The keyword for the entire symphony is “time.” Since it is the parallel world, main theme of the symphony is from “stromatolite.” The parallel world shows a life of a person so a lot of changes are happening during the movements.
>Antevorte, the great Roman goddess of “time” and “future” join sthese two world which seems to be different each other together. She lets us know that there’s no difference in time, what we can see is only a fragment of the long time and the future is neither dreamy nor uncertain but full of reality.
The piece itself is what I could best describe as “cinematically orchestral” – it would not feel out of place in a movie or game. It was certainly in line with TaQ’s existing work – I felt some touches of the stromatolite album, as well as the inevitable comparison to Distress (which had a very orchestral feel in the middle).
To those people hoping for a recording, Carnegie Hall rules forbid anything even resembling a recording device, although there’s a chance the hall itself could release a CD of the event.
While I didn’t get to say much to TaQ myself, these were the bits I caught in conversation:
* He is fluent in English, German, and Japanese.
* He will not be returning to make any more music for Bemani games in the foreseeable future – was very firm about this.
* He did mention a Konami-related project he was asked to work on that he will probably be contributing to – but asked us not to tell anyone, so that’s as far as this goes.
* His manager, Jade, mentioned to me that this was TaQ’s first trip to NYC, that he loved it, and that they would love to do a “bounce” night at a club in New York. Pacha was mentioned as a possible venue. (I agreed this was a fantastic idea.)
(My apologies to anyone who was looking to talk to me more – we had to depart after the intermission because another project needed my time, and I figured I had gotten what I came for.)
The recently released *[beatmania IIDX RED](http://www.konami.jp/gs/game/bm2dx/11red/)* features a new set of functionality allowing you to load up to five saves from other players into your game as rivals, and giving you in-game comparison between your scores and theirs.
While it’s a great feature, there’s one small shortcoming: there’s no way to go online to exchange saves.
As of late last night, [VJ Army](http://vjarmy.com/iidx/) has begun supporting upload of PS2 save files for your profile. Any user can upload one save in any of the common save formats (XPO, XPS, MAX, SPS), and the file will be hosted on this server. If you’re a VJ Army member, sign in and then look on the left hand menu for “Upload Rival Data” to find the form. (And remember to set your user ranking in the control panel.)
If you’re not a member of VJ Army – or even if you are – and want to browse the files that have been uploaded, you can do so on the [Find Rival Data](http://vjarmy.com/iidx/findrivaldata.php) page.
And if this all confuses you, documentation should be available within the next couple of days.
Struggling with the dark and responding to the light.