I still have faint memories from around age six of the day we first got cable. Mostly because I refused to go outside, watching every game show I could that afternoon on USA network, to the point where I got my television privileges removed for a week.
For about thirty years, I’ve had fairly consistent access to cable TV, even though I tend to not binge watch much of anything, and the onslaught of technological advancements over the last decade (everything from iTunes selling TV shows to streaming solutions like Netflix) have made it easier and easier to just not utilize it.
Three months ago, triggered by the sweet combination of “needing to get rid of the phone line we never use” and “Comcast jerking us around about previous item”, we decided to cut the cable, and try and make due with just streaming solutions. Front and center in this plan was Playstation Vue, Sony’s internet television service. (We already had heavily used Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime accounts.)
Three months later, I have no regrets, and only minor quibbles.
It is a strange experience to watch something you once obsessed over – but no longer care for – get bastardized. You can tolerate much of it, perhaps even find some humor in it, because it’s no longer something you care for. But part of you can’t help but recall how strong that obsession once was, and feel that sharp taste of injury in the back of your throat.
For context: I started playing Dance Dance Revolution in September of 2001, and played at an unhealthy clip until the end of 2004, at which point things started to tail off. By this year, I’ve played less than 3 rounds worth of arrow smashing; I have moved on to other games to fulfill my music game addiction. But if I find myself near an empty DDR machine, chances are I will find my way back onto that stage and stomp through a few songs for old times’ sake.
Also: I am not a professional theatre reviewer. I do not frequently go to the theatre proper – I average 2.5 plays/musicals a year. This review should not be taken as anything more than a gamer opining on a show claiming to be inspired by a game he used to play.
Also: I ingested no alcohol or drugs prior to, during, or after the show.
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.