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Endured Recommended

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

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Enjoyed

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.

Categories
Debated Disliked

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.