Tag Archives: konami

Going Beyond

On May 3rd of last year, I made a critical decision that I never spoke about here: I began a shutdown of VJ Army and Pop’n Navy, the two Bemani community sites that had been the lifeblood of my web presence since 2004. (No, my blog is not called VJ Army.)

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.

IIDX Hardcore For Life

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.


Tant Pis Pour Nous

In a year that’s been filled with disheartening gaming news, this one has made me the saddest: Producer/composer Akira Yamaoka has apparently left Konami after 16 years:

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.

Yudo Gotta Groove

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.

Yudo is very much a casual gaming company, focusing on the iPhone and WiiWare platforms. Many of their releases thus far have been $1 games (slogan: “1$-GAMES is ‘One’derful”), including Cutie Scratch, PiyoPiyo Panic, and SpyBugRadar, which perhaps makes more sense if you’ve seen the demo video.

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.

But that single song isn’t OBAMA.

Tap’n and Slap’n the Pop’n Music Be-Mouse

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.

pop'n music Be-Mouse

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.

pop'n music Be-Mouse - Opened

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.

pop'n music Be-Mouse - Mouse Pad

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.

pop'n music Be-Mouse - Underneath

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.

pop'n music Be-Mouse - Media

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:


Pop’n Music Be-Mouse Demonstration from Dan Dickinson on Vimeo.

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.

The Pop’n Music Be-Mouse can be imported through Play-Asia.

pop'n music Be-Mouse - Front Box pop'n music Be-Mouse - Back Box pop'n music Be-Mouse - Mouse Pad pop'n music Be-Mouse pop'n music Be-Mouse - Underneath pop'n music Be-Mouse - Opened pop'n music Be-Mouse - Finger On The Button pop'n music Be-Mouse - Media

Good Konami

I have always been interested in games that cross between the virtual world and the real world. There’s something that really hooks onto me when there’s a connection to the world outside the console/network.

I recently picked up *Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops*; the first real Metal Gear game for the PSP (not that I minded the Acid series as a diversion). Despite playing like most Metal Gear Solid games, it doesn’t follow all the conventions – the most major diversion being that Snake has to recruit soldiers throughout the game to help accomplish his mission.

The primary method of “recruiting” is to knock out an enemy and then drag him back to your truck or other team members. This is certainly a workable method, but a little tedious depending on the level size.

While I was monkeying around in the menus, I noticed one labeled “RECRUIT”. The three options were:

* Access Point Scan
* GPS Scan
* Password

While the Password option is almost exactly what it sounds like, the other two are extremely cool:

The *GPS Scan* option requires the GPS add-on for the PSP, which just came out and thus I don’t have. But if you get said module, selecting this will show you locations you can go to with your PSP to acquire new soldiers. That’s right – you have to walk with your PSP to the right spot to acquire game resources. Essentially, you are participating in geocaching.

The *Access Point Scan* option does not require an add-on. The concept here is that every wireless router in the world “contains” a soldier. As you get your PSP closer to a wireless router you haven’t accessed before, the on-screen signal grows stronger. Once it reaches a certain strength, you receive the soldier. (If you can’t get close enough, it is possible to mash the Circle button to help “boost” the signal.)

Why is this cool? It’s [wardriving](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wardriving) to acquire game resources – except since you’re not actually connecting to the router, there’s no legal grey area. The soldiers you receive from this scanning are (apparently) generated based on the MAC address of the router; I’d love to see if there’s a pattern to the types of soldiers based on router manufacturer or model. Beyond trying to crack the system – searching this city for wireless routers is just plain fun. It’s a mini-game that gives me another excuse to roam the city. I’ve already picked up eleven soldiers from the elevated stretch of the subway I ride every day – I can only think of the possibilities.

(I realize that, in many ways, this is essentially a modernized version of the [Barcode Battler](http://www.vidgame.net/misc/barcodebattler.htm). This isn’t a bad thing – the Barcode Battler concept was a good one, even if the execution was incredibly crappy. Yes, I owned one. Shut up.)

In closing – kudos to Konami for including two activities that I would’ve never thought to associate with gaming into MGO:PO.

Bad Konami

Email received, Thursday, 2:55 AM:

From: KONAMI INSIDER

To: Remy

Subject: Konami Insider: Take the Konami Customer Survey

Dear Remy,

Thank you for being a Konami Insider.

Please visit our survey so we can continue to make the games YOU want to play.

http://www.onlineregister.com/konami/survey/

Sincerely,

Konami

I am not naive enough to believe that my feedback to any web survey will provide enough weighted guidance to allow for the things *I* want to be made. But I am naive enough to think that such a survey would have the reasonable illusion of trying to solicit my feedback.
Question one of this four question survey:

Common sense violations encountered in this question:

– The acronym “NGC” has never been in widespread use. While I know what it’s supposed to expand to, the average Joe will not. (I suppose I should be thankful the survey did not use “GCN”, as I’ve seen a number of places.)
– There are no listings for any now-current gen consoles: the PS3, the Xbox 360, the Wii.

Question two:

Common sense violations encountered in this question:

– The code name “Nintendo Revolution” has not been in use since the console was renamed the Wii on April 27th, 2006. This is over six months ago.
– No one – and I mean no one – refers to a “DS” as a “Nintendo Dual Screen”.
– The Gameboy Micro, as far as I know, is not being made any more, and bombed fairly badly compared to all other Gameboy Advance versions, never mind both versions of the DS.

Question three:

Common sense violations encountered on this question:

– Why is Super Mario the example given for “Platform Games with Cartoon Characters”?
– Why is Gran Turismo the example given for “Action Racing Games”?
– Why is there even a category of “Mission Based Driving Games”? And, again, why GTA, which has classically been defined as a “sandbox game”?
– Why do you offer such specifics as “Life Simulation Games”, “Fishing/Hunting Games”, and “Wrestling Games”, while you simultaneously neglect genres that Konami has at least something of a reputation for – such as Stealth Action Games (e.g. Metal Gear Solid), Music Games (e.g. Dance Dance Revolution), Adventure Platform Games (e.g. Castlevania), or Shoot-em-ups (e.g. Gradius)?

Question four:

Common sense violations encountered on this question:

– This question does not contain the phrase “you, yourself,” unlike the previous three.
– Why is an example needed for “Renting game from a video store”? Or for “Visiting the game publisher’s website”? Or, hell, even “Seeing advertisements online”?
– It’s obvious just from the depth of this question and the 76 radio buttons that the point of the survey is not to actually make the sort of games that *I* want to play, but instead to refocus their advertising budgets appropriately to hit more “top influences”. It’s not the dishonesty of the survey that bothers me – it’s the principle of being so willing to take advantage of your customers. To lure them in with the half-empty promise of listening to them, and then blatantly try to suckle effective advertising channels out of them.

This, by the way, is the thanks you get for completing the survey:

I am baffled as to how anyone could think a survey like this provides anything remotely useful.

Konami Launches DDR Television Show On CBS

[Full press release](http://www.konami.com/gs/newsarticle.php?id=835), boldface is mine:

> Burbank, California – May 9, 2006 – CBS and DIC Entertainment (DIC), in association with Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc., today announced the production of a new dance competition series, Dance Revolution, to debut on September 16, 2006 on “**CBS’s Saturday Morning Secret Slumber Party**” branded programming block.

> Dance Revolution (previously titled Dance, Dance, Dance!), a live-action television series inspired by Konami’s hit video game franchise Dance Dance Revolution┬« (DDR), will join the new schedule of programming on “CBS’s Saturday Morning Secret Slumber Party,” a three-hour, E/I-compliant branded programming block exclusive to broadcast television. The series will encourage physical activity. Dance Revolution (E/I, TVY 7) complements the programming block’s overall theme of promoting healthy, balanced active lifestyles. **The line-up of previously announced programming to debut on “CBS’s Saturday Morning Secret Slumber Party” includes CAKE, Horseland, Kooky Kitchen, Littlest Pet Shop, Sabrina: The Animated Series, Trollz and Madeline.**

> **In Dance Revolution, ‘tweens’ and teens bring their freshest moves to this sensational new dance competition where teams of dancers display their innovative routines. Hosted by the charismatic Dance Revolution house band, kid-friendly judges determine the winners as the dancers perform their routines to the cool sounds of the band. Dance Revolution will also offer onscreen visuals that constantly encourage viewer participation by demonstrating specific dance moves and steps.**

> “We are thrilled to partner with Konami to create a program that will entertain kids of all ages, and get them motivated, active and off the couch,” comments Andy Heyward, Chairman & CEO of DIC Entertainment. “We are focused on using CBS’s Saturday Morning Secret Slumber Party as a vehicle to address the national concern of obesity and inactivity among children by providing motivating and innovative entertainment.” He adds, “We are excited to add this unique series to our schedule **and to the international markets.”**

> “This collaboration gives Konami an excellent opportunity to bring elements of the DDR franchise to television,” states Kazumi Kitaue, Chairman & CEO of Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. “We hope to create equal success with the franchise on TV that we have had with the video game and look forward to working with DIC on bringing fun, interactive entertainment to young audiences.”

> DDR is an interactive game that continues to sweep living rooms and arcades across the nation. It is the only game in which players move their body to upbeat tunes while allowing them to exhibit their own innovative flare and original dance moves. DDR combines quick reflex action with pulsating dance music for intense “get-up-and-play” fun. Players are challenged to match their dance steps with the flashing arrows on the screen while keeping up with the high-energy beat of the music.

> The workout component and interactive nature of the game have been highlighted as key elements to DDR’s success. Additionally, the DDR series has benefited from major game/dance tournaments that have been held around the world. The game has successfully crossed over international borders to win a global fan base.

> As part of “CBS’s Saturday Morning Secret Slumber Party’s” balanced active lifestyle theme, the block will feature unique animated and live-action interstitials threaded throughout the morning block to promote healthy eating and balanced, active lifestyles for kids. The messages, which will promote nutritious eating habits, will be created in consultation with Baylor College of Medicine’s Children’s Nutrition Research Center (CNRC), an internationally renowned institute devoted to pediatric nutrition studies.

> DIC will seek initial guidance on all programming to air on “CBS’s Saturday Morning Secret Slumber Party” from children’s experts from the DIC Educational Advisory Board–a group comprised of leading media experts, educators and pediatricians created to provide information, guidance, advice and general expertise to DIC in the development of multimedia programs and projects for children.

And You Thought You Were Going To Summer Camp!

Sure, Apple has sent the world into a tizzy with their new Boot Camp software, allowing Mac users with Intel based machines to run Windows. It’s astounding news, and when you see it in action, you will say WOW – but I’m not here to talk about the business ramifications.

I’m here to talk about the other electronic Boot Camp.

In my 24 years as a gamer, there were times when I would go into an arcade and in the course of my visit, find some game I’d never even heard of that just flat out grabbed hold of my very being. There would either never be a home version of this game, or it would completely suck. The arcade cabinet itself would inevitably disappear a week or two later, and never be seen again.

Boot Camp – a 1987 Konami arcade game – was one of those games. Read on, and learn about what may be the archetype game for Konami’s gameplay in the 1980’s.

Continue reading And You Thought You Were Going To Summer Camp!

Four Gaming Travesties In Half A Week

One: Nintendo [delays the new Zelda title](http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4158758.stm) until well into next generation land, guaranteeing the Gamecube won’t have a high profile title at Christmas time. I look forward to again seeing “ONE CONSOLE PER PERSON (EXCEPT GAMECUBE)” signs this holiday season.

Two: Nintendo also, after slashing $20 off the price of the DS, says the Gameboy Micro is going to be priced at $100. For $30 more, you get a DS, with lots more functionality. For $20 less, you get a GBA with a bigger screen. Who is this supposed to appeal to?

Three: Microsoft, not to be outdone by Nintendo, announces pricing for the Xbox 360, and manages to make [nearly every fanboy they had turn against them](http://www.majornelson.com/2005/08/17/xbox-360-details-and-prices/#comments). It’s not that there’s [two pricing levels](http://www.gamespot.com/news/2005/08/17/news_6131245.html), it’s that the baseline machine doesn’t have a hard drive, which means developers now have an lower hardware baseline to shoot for than they did for the original Xbox. Also: $50 for wireless controllers, $100 for the add-on hard drive, $100 for a wireless network adapter, and $60 per game make this one expensive console.

Four: Konami decides to [make Beatmania USA purple](http://media.ps2.ign.com/media/748/748592/imgs_1.html). I am not kidding when I say this: this is the ugliest Bemani game I’ve ever seen. Worse than all the 5-key mixes, worse than 3rd Style CS, possibly even worse than DDR Extreme USA. Why did I get my hopes up about this? More importantly, why did Konami tease us with pictures of the 9th Style interface?

I’m going to go cry into my copy of Taiko No Tatsujin PSP now. The pure unadulterated cuteness will surely get me out of this funk.