Back in the mists of time when a Japanese game purchase involved picking up a telephone to order a hot new release like Lunar 2: Eternal Blue, my regular import shop also stocked an unusual assortment of knick-knacks that I’ll call “Stuff their supplier scooped up on the cheap”, and it was in one of these random assortments that I came across the (slightly dusty) Bemani Pocket 2 pictured below:
I’ve always quite enjoyed these nifty little LCD games and I thought I’d done quite well finding two Bemani Pockets and a Hello Kitty-themed DDR game in the early 00’s (no, I’m not ashamed of owning a skeleton-pink DDR game with matching Hello Kitty toy), but as it turns out they were far more popular than I ever realised – there are a total of eighteen Bemani LCD games (including two based on Tokimeki Memorial, of all things), and the entire range of DDR, Guitar Freaks, Pop’n Music and Para Para Paradise LCD games spans twenty six individual releases.
Here are a few painfully low resolution photographs pilfered from the internet just to give you some idea of the broad similarities across the range:
As you can see they’re all pretty much cut from the same cloth, having a play area for notes/steps on the left, a dot matrix “video” display on the right, and a “groove gauge” at the bottom. Pop’n Music and Para Para Paradise have a slightly different screen layout (Pop’n Music loses the “video” to accommodate the wider play area), but no drastic changes. The Bemani and DDR games have a standard headphone jack on the left hand side – I would assume, but don’t know, that this is also the case for the Guitar Freaks, etc games as well.
The most important thing though in any rhythm game is obviously the sound, and these little Konami wonders have a love-it-or-loath-it gritty chiptune sound rather like an original Game Boy trying to punch well above its weight and very nearly pulling it off. There’s also the odd scratchy voice sample in there too for those craving the most authentic of 90’s rave experiences. The speaker on the back of the unit is pretty damned loud even on the lowest of the three available settings, ensuring everyone nearby can Get Up and Boogie™ to your hot DJ beats.
These games tend to have around six or seven tunes on them and two difficulty levels – Practise and Normal. There’s also an “Auto” mode if you fancy seeing (and hearing) the game played perfectly without you having to do anything complicated, such as have the reflexes and dexterity to play Beatmania games properly.
All in all these are rather sweet little things that are more fun than a mass-manufactured “Quick! Abuse the IP while it’s hot!” cash-in really should be, and if you do stumble across one while you’re doing a bit of retro import shopping I’d recommend picking it up.
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