<-- -!>

Featured Article

Showing posts with label Mobile Gaming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mobile Gaming. Show all posts

I mode! You mode! We all mode for i-mode!

I want you to take a little trip with me down repressed memory lane. Cast your mind back. It's 2001. Everyone keeps telling you the Dreamcast is dead, but you're not having any of it. There are AAA titles still to come on the horizon, Dreamcast Magazine is still on the newsstand (barely), and you've got an eye on Lik Sang and Play-Asia for some exclusive import goodness. You're a true believer and you're not jumping the Sega ship yet (or ever). 

But you have a problem. You can't stay tethered to your 15" CRT TV and curled up against the warmth of your precious blue swirl baby. You have to leave the house. You have stupid lectures to attend, and that interminable bus ride awaits. If only there was some kind of portable Sega device you could take with you to while away the drudgery of public transport.

You look to your shiny new Neo Geo Pocket Color, but it's just not Sega enough for you today. You look to your forlorn and dust-covered Game Gear lying under a pile of socks in the back corner. Those capacitors have blown and leaked and it's never coming back to life. In desperation, you fish out the VMU from your Dreamcast controller, but the batteries are dead and there's only so much of Voldo's Volleyball minigame you can take. Out of options, you trudge out into the gloom, resigned to your terrible fate. 

Meanwhile, in Japan...

In June 2001, Sharp released a new generation "J-Phone" - the J-SH07. It was the first J-Phone to be compatible with Java applets, and it also came bundled with Ulala from Space Channel 5 as a kind of virtual pet / avatar on the device.

The more you used your phone, the better your "rating" gets, and as a reward, Ulala dances for you and sometimes changes costumes. You could download more Space Channel 5 related goodies from the "Ulala no Channel J" service.

Typing Jet: The lost Jet Set Radio game?

Recently I was perusing one of my favourite subreddits - r/lostmedia - and I came across a post from a user named u/step-ladder. The post was enquiring about a little known Jet Set Radio game that was developed for mobile phones back in 2001. The game, titled Typing Jet, was released as part of a collection of Sega spin offs for the Japanese J-Phone range of devices, and prior to reading this post on Reddit I was oblivious to Typing Jet's existence. The post also makes reference to a single image (below) that is available of Typing Jet online, and as someone who loves a good mystery, I needed to know more.

Typing Jet appears to be a rather simplistic typing game, in which the player types words in order to make the onscreen character (resembling JSR favourite Beat) trick over obstacles as they approach. Several other users had posted replies, but alas the question had remained unanswered - is Typing Jet really a lost game? Inspired, I used what scant information other users had posted and off I went, tumbling down what turned out to be something of a Wayback Machine sponsored rabbit hole.

Armed with the knowledge that Typing Jet had been released alongside a title called Ulala's Channel J and a variant of The Typing of the Dead on a service called Sega Parade, I first tried searching for that name, and was served up with the url www.segaparade.com/nz. It's a dead link, and the site is not stored on the Wayback Machine either. However, using the Google 'cached' feature and several variations of the url, I was able to surface quite a bit of information on the games released. Alas, none of the hits gave me the elusive Typing Jet.

At this point, it's probably worth discussing J-Phone. Indeed, J-Phone is an interesting topic in and of itself and could probably spawn an entire article were I so inclined to research and write such a thing, but I'll keep it fairly brief in this instance, just to give a bit of context (and because I'm in no way an expert on the topic!). In an nutshell, J-Phone was a mobile phone technology launched in Japan in the late 1990s which allowed compatible devices to connect to an online service similar to iMode - a sort of precursor to high speed mobile internet such as 3G. J-Phone enabled devices could access this service via a menu, and then through a portal exclusive games, email and other online options were all accessible. It is through this portal that the games referenced above could be played, for a monthly fee of several hundred Yen a piece. According to this article, linked to in the original r/lostmedia post, the price of Typing Jet was set at ¥200 per month (which is about £1.32/$1.84/€1.51 at the time of writing).

I mention all of this because my next port of call was the J-Phone website, the url for which I gleaned from a photo posted on the Ulala Channel J Fandom page. Further down the page, there is a shot of a promotional hand held fan with the J-Phone logo and url. As you can probably tell, Columbo ain't got sh*t on me. Again, using the Wayback Machine I perused the Japanese version of the site from around the time of the release of Typing Jet, but wasn't really able to find any mention of the game - only stuff relating the differing models of handset and references to Vodafone, Sha-Mail and things called J-Sky Photo and J-Sky Editor. Interesting, I'm sure you'll agree...but not really relevant to Typing Jet.

A Brief History Of ChuChu Rocket! In Your Pocket

ChuChu Rocket! is a puzzle game that is undoubtedly a product of a struggling Sega. Imaginative, innovative, insane - one of the many one-of-a-kind experiments that was thrown at a wall in the Sega headquarters in the hopes that something would eventually stick and save the Dreamcast once and for all. Maybe this attempt to stand out was what led Sonic Team to create not just one of the most memorable puzzle games on the Sega Dreamcast, but one of the best and most memorable puzzle games ever made.
For the uninitiated, the premise of ChuChu Rocket! is simple. You place directional arrows on a checker board to guide mice (the titular ChuChus) to rocket ships, all whilst making sure they don't get eaten by giant orange cats that look like they are perpetually tripping on acid.
The guiding brainless animals to safety thing had been done eight years prior by DMA Design's Lemmings, but Sonic Team managed to take the concept and push it to the brink of madness whilst also throwing in a bonkers multiplayer mode and online play (that's still available today thanks to DreamPi). It serves as a high quality break for any Dreamcast fan who has sunk hours into deeper experiences like Shenmue or Phantasy Star Online who just wants to play something simple whilst also having an absolutely cracking time.

These days, with smart phones being in everyone's pockets, puzzle games that are easy to pick up and play function as perfect time wasters on a morning commute or even when we just can't be bothered to do anything else. Sadly, as I'm sure many of us can all agree, the vast majority of smartphone puzzlers are trite, micro-transaction ridden nonsense. But what if we could take a stellar puzzler like ChuChu Rocket! and play that in the palm of our hand instead? That would make perfect sense, right? Well it turns out that Sega did see ChuChu's portable potential...



A Quick Look At The SEGA Forever Audio Tape

SEGA Forever, if you're not familiar, is a mysterious new service that Sega has been teasing for the past couple of months, and which many people have speculated will be some kind of mobile gaming platform. While this isn't specifically Dreamcast related in the slightest, it's still pretty cool and will most likely introduce a whole new generation of gamers to the classic Sega IPs of yesteryear. Also, if you're wondering why I keep jumping between writing Sega as 'SEGA' and 'Sega,' it's because it is my prerogative to be as stylistically inconsistent as I like. We only live once, after all. Well, unless you're Chakan the Forever Man...although technically he still only has one life, albeit one that can never be extinguished. But you get the idea.
"Did you just spill my pint?"
This week, we received an intriguing package at the Junkyard and at first we were a little concerned. In this era of heightened security measures, receiving an unexpected package - especially one with a Sega postmark on it - sets alarm bells ringing all over the joint. We needn't have worried though, as after the envelope had been carefully steamed open above a frantically boiling kettle, the assault droids were stood down and I personally extracted the following items from said envelope while wearing a reinforced hazmat suit (aka some fetching negligee):
Yes, a rather spiffing SEGA Forever branded audio cassette tape and a biro. This is cool for several reasons, and not least because I'm old enough to appreciate the 'biro and tape' reference - back in the 'old days' we used to use a biro to wind the tape back up if it unwound inside the tape deck or got chewed up in the player heads. It happened more times that I care to remember with my copy of Now 23, and I'll never forget the great sense of loss I felt when Would I Lie To You by Charles & Eddie ended up sounding more like an experimental Beatles track. But I digress.

A Quick Look At Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire (iOS)

No, this isn't a Dreamcast game as such - it's a mobile game set in the world of Crazy Taxi, wherein the sole aim is to make as much money as possible and run a taxi empire that spans the entire city. That doesn't sound too far removed from the premise presented in the original series of Crazy Taxi titles, but Gazillionaire is something of a diversion from the usual chaotic driving, instead assuming the form of a top-down clicker with some light strategy elements. Once again, this is a quick look at the recently released iOS version of Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire so if you're not interested in non-Dreamcast stuff, you can probably stop reading now. If on the other hand you've seen this advertised on your app store of choice and are intrigued...then read on!
Unusually for a Crazy Taxi game, there is a storyline in Gazillionare that is slightly more involving than 'pick up that dude and take him to KFC as fast as possible,' although that's not to say there's anything wrong with that type of fast and loose narrative. A game like Crazy Taxi is pretty much perfection in the grand scheme of arcade thrills, so anything more than 'get from here to there by any means' is always going to seem a bit superfluous. Imagine you had to do The Knowledge before starting the game and had to take your taxi for constant safety checks and services? No thanks. That said, Gazillionaire's new setting doesn't feel too shoehorned in and also gives you an antagonist to battle that isn't simply an ever-ticking clock.
In Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire you assume the role of a nameless taxi firm owner and must try to keep the lights on and the city's passengers happy, all while being pressured out of business by the evil Prestige Megacorporation. Prestige has the added bonus of being able to offer luxurious and super-comfortable taxi travel to those who can afford it and is stealing the business of the small time taxi firm you run so it's up to you to hire the best and fastest cabbies around to take the battle to Prestige. Is this a thinly veiled social commentary on the whole Uber thing? It wouldn't surprise me to be honest.

Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire is probably about as far removed from the Crazy Taxi we know and love as you could possibly get, both in terms of it having a story and also the gameplay style. But is that a bad thing? Actually, no it isn't because as far as mobile games of this type go, it's pretty good fun and fairly faithful to the series' roots in terms of aesthetics. Making crazy money is the aim of the game, and that has never been a bad thing.