Back in June 1997, the cover of Computer & Video Games – then one of the UK's biggest-selling specialist gaming magazines – was packed with the most popular titles of the time, as well as some familiar faces. Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog took center stage, with news from the '97 Tokyo Game Show regarding the company's latest drive to promote the character, dubbed "Project Sonic" – an initiative which would ultimately give us Sonic Jam and Sonic R on the Saturn but little else of note. PlayStation classics Rage Racer and Final Fantasy VII also get a mention, while Blast Corps and Star Fox 64 fight in Nintendo's corner. However, the reason this particular issue sticks out in my mind is the fact that it was my first exposure to Bandai's Tamagotchi, the original virtual pet which, back in '97, had just taken its homeland Japan by a storm.
Ever on the pulse of all things gaming in the days before the internet took over, CVG devoted two full pages to these bizarre-looking keyrings from Japan, explaining how they came to be, their success in the Far East ("3 million already sold!") and – perhaps most importantly of all – exactly how they worked. It was the kind of in-depth, passionate coverage that the magazine was famous for at that point in time, and it had the desired effect on me, your humble scribe – at the earliest opportunity I was down my local Toys R Us attempting to ascertain exactly when stock would arrive, only to be told they'd all sold out.
This began what was to become a rather depressing pattern for the next few months, as stores all over the UK were promptly relieved of Tamagotchis the very moment they hit the shelves. I was therefore forced to watch on enviously as one of my close friends – the only person I knew who had somehow been able to secure one – prodded and poked this strange beeping pebble. Tamagotchi ownership eluded me, at least for a short while.
Thankfully, in an event which perhaps says more of my friend's attention span than the appeal of the gadget itself, I was able to buy his Tamagotchi from him. It was the transparent blue model, with fetching yellow buttons, and for the next few weeks it became the center of my teenage world. I cared dutifully for it, feeding it when necessary, cleaning up its mess and playing games to keep it happy and content. Then (and this is predictably where my recollection becomes hazy) it drifted into the mists of time, lost at the back of a drawer with its battery exhausted.
I'll be honest, since that fateful day when I cast aside my once-beloved virtual pet, I've given very little thought to Tamagotchi. I've been aware that the series continued beyond 1997, has sold over 82 million units worldwide and has even found its way onto consoles like the Nintendo DS. However, I've never really given any deeper thought to these digital creatures, until very recently when it was confirmed that Bandai would be bringing back Tamagotchi to mark the 20th anniversary of the brand in the west. And that's why, sat here in 2017 – older but most certainly not much wiser – I find myself once again cradling a small plastic lump with a crude LCD screen which periodically beeps at me when it craves my attention.
Rather than simply recycle the original Tamagotchi design, Bandai has delivered a tinier, streamlined version of the pet. It's around 20 percent smaller than the original version, and lacks some of the functionality you may remember from 1997. Back then, you could give your creature medication, punish it for bad behaviour and play games with it. Bandai has pared back these features and now you simply press a button to deal with whatever your virtual pet needs. Has it pooped? Press the left-hand button to clean it up. Want to feed it? Press the left-hand button again, and select either a large meal or a treat. What this ultimately means is that dealing with your pet's needs is easier than ever, but you don't feel quite as involved as before; it's possible that Bandai has simply reasoned that with so many other mobile devices fighting for our attention, Tamagotchi in 2017 needs to be a little easier to manage.
That's ultimately the biggest difference here, at least from my perspective. Back in 1997 I didn't have a mobile phone, my most advanced handheld was a monochrome Game Boy and we had no internet access at home, so the idea of pouring days or even weeks of effort into a small beeping trinket seemed like a pretty swell idea, thanks very much. Fast forward to the present day, and Tamagotchi is almost like a relic; Bandai has already done console games and you can download the official smartphone app for less cash, so the idea of carrying around a keyring to look after seems positively archaic. Still, we all know that Bandai is peddling nostalgia here, just like Nintendo is with the NES Mini and SNES Mini. These toys aren't designed to capture the hearts and minds of kids in 2017; instead, they are aimed at adults who were kids in 1997.
As was the case back then, I can't see Tamagotchi in 2017 being more than a passing novelty, at least to me personally – perhaps even more so, given how many other devices we have jostling for our attention on a daily basis. Still, there's something unique about raising and caring for something so small, and because it's a reassuringly round physical object it's arguably more tangible than running an app on your phone. Interestingly, I've noticed that my 9-year-old son, against all odds, has really taken to the Tamagotchi – although it remains to be seen if his patience lasts beyond the first unfortunate death. For me, becoming acquainted with Tamagotchi in 2017 is bittersweet, like meeting a beloved childhood friend who you discover has refused to grow up and still lives with their parents. I'm happy for the chance meeting to reminisce about old times, though I'm not sure I'm leaving it any wiser or more enriched. But will I do it again in 2037? Of course I bloody will.
Tamagotchi is available this November in North America and Europe, priced $14.99 / £9.99.
This article was originally published by nintendolife.com on Mon 16th October, 2017.
I need one!
Crappy plastic things...
I love LCD games, but I hate the permadeath in Tamagotchi as much as I love it in roguelikes. Mainly because it can happen for reasons beyond your control (i.e., not feeling the need to play it every single minute because you have a life).
I’ve been collecting Tamagotchi pets from Japan for the past several years and I think it’s a slap in the face that Bandai thought to give us the antiquated versions from 1997 for the anniversary. Japan (and other countries) have had full color tamas for a while that are far more fun to play with. If Bandai was solely looking to tap into nostalgia, fine. But if they were seeking to potentially reinvigorate the market with digital pets, they should’ve just gone with the modern versions currently in production in Japan. In Japan, they never stopped making them and even made it so they were easier to care for (ie, putting on pause or sending your pet to “daycare” or “school” until 5 pm, going to sleep between 7 and 8 pm) so you didn’t have to attend to it every waking minute. And of course there’s more to do with them in comparison to the vintage models like having them take on little part-time jobs, games, unlocking places to go to meet new characters, etc. I just hope that if they get enough people to bank on the nostalgia, they might move forward in giving us some of the up to date models
Digimon were way better because of the battle and training system.
No excuse now not to bring it to Switch.
I think they'd have more success with a Tamagotchi app or game than re-releasing the same old tech from the 90s. Good luck to them though.
I'll definitely buy one of these.
Hated these back then and hate them now.
They were cool back then. Can't say I'd care to have one now, though.
I really like the idea of this but I don’t like what I’m reading about how everything is mapped to one button. :/ I also don’t like how we didn’t get the better version where you can pause and send to daycare and stuff.
Not going to lie... I’d be buying one if not for those shortfalls.
...some of my shortfalls may be others’ benefits though. I’ll sit this one out and maybe wait for an update.
Back in the day, I had a Dinky Dino. I'm not sure I'll get this Tamagotchi. Frankly if I wanted one, I'd probably just go the iOS app route, and have the monster on my Apple Watch. It's cheaper and doesn't require another device to use. That said, Stardew Valley is eating up my entire life so I doubt I'll get something like this right now.
I recomend the quit authentic Tamagotchi Classic app for smart phones
If you like the Tomagachi experince I suggest Digimon World Next Order on the PS4. Digimon itself was an offshoot of Tomagachi.
@Tarvaax I was pretty sure Digimon predated Tamagotchi, and even Pokemon. I thought it was like 1995 when the first Digimon LCD games were produced.
I'm a bit tempted to pick up one of these if I can find one. It'd be pretty fun to relive my childhood.
@KingMike 1997. They were conceived as "male-oriented" versions of Tamagotchi.
Less functionality? No thank you, I'll keep the ones I have.
@Damo "For me, becoming acquainted with Tamagotchi in 2017 is bittersweet, like meeting a beloved childhood friend who you discover has refused to grow up and still lives with their parents."
I was enjoying reading the article up until this one unnecessary sentence; I'm irritated enough about it to post this comment.
You get your point across, but you express it with an extremely reckless and condescending metaphor. "Growing up" is often associated with a slew of topics, such as sense of humor, interests, hobbies, daily life, social adherence, application of knowledge and logic, etc. While such topics may play a minor role, "Growing up" really refers to one, central concept: Responsibility.
Tell me, what does "... still lives with their parents" have to do with refusing to "grow up"? I have a few friends from high school who choose to continue living with their parents, whether it be for financial reasons, love for their family members, or both. My closest friend is adopted and is very close to his adoptive parents, yet he works very hard at his full-time job, contributes to taking care of his household, and pertains to his responsibilities. Is this, by your standards, an example of something to look down upon and associate with the label of "refusing to grow up"? Do you believe that you're "more wise and enriched" than them just because they with their parents?
You could have just as easily said something along the lines of "...like meeting a beloved childhood friend who you discover has refused to grow up and ignores their responsibilities." This would be descriptive of a person who avoids change and would be unlikely to share some new-found wisdom.
It's disgusting and unprofessional to see such a blatantly ignorant world view displayed on an article that doesn't even have anything to do with the subject.
@urameshi - still living with the 'rents, eh?
@Urameshi I probably should have mentioned that I'm 38 and have 3 kids - it's all about context, any of my friends who are still living with their parents clearly have issues! But yeah, point taken. It's only an insult if you're of a certain age I guess!
I had one of these back in the day. Probably won’t be getting this if it’s a gimped version of the original
@andywitmyer No, I live alone for reasons I'm not going to divulge here.
I am envious of my friends however who have close ties with their family, even if it's just their parents. We are all born into families with no say in the matter, whether we like them or not. It is extremely perverse to look down upon those who like to spend time with their family though just because one is unhappy with their own.
@Damo "I probably should have mentioned that I'm 38 and have 3 kids - it's all about context, any of my friends who are still living with their parents clearly have issues!"
Fair enough, you did include the qualifier "For me" after all in relation to the context of the metaphor.
"It's only an insult if you're of a certain age I guess!"
That age is determined by when one is first able to become independent. In the U.S. that age would be 18, since that is when one is able to drive and rent an apartment. This is based upon cultural expectancies however and of course, as a result, varies from culture to culture.
I have a friend of mine who is still bitter because his ex girlfriend interrupted "playtime" (if you catch my drift) to feed hers... regularly. lol
@Shellcore Or 3DS Virtual Console.
@Heavyarms55 Seems to me like a perfectly valid reason to be bitter...
Wished they didn't stick with the screen/graphics, I wouldn't mind paying a little more for a more modern screen. lol
So they've dumbed down an already simplistic toy even more? Ugh...
And I don't see why this is getting hyped up. Tamagotchis have been available in Australia over the years, albeit intermittently. The only reason I've never bought one was because the more contemporary iterations have been embarrassingly feminine. Some slightly more minimalistic designs would have been appreciated for the "kid at heart" fans. I'm just not a "kid on the surface" type (or at least I do not wish to appear to be).
For those who wish to scratch their 90's virtual pet itch, I suppose the best successors to the virtual pet craze are the likes of Nintendogs + Cats and Teddy Together. Even Pokémon can be considered a viable substitute due to the Pokémon-Amie/Refresh mechanics in the more recent games, however, due to the sheer number of Pokémon that are now available, the available interactions are understandably limited.
I remember these being talked about a year or so earlier on Blue Peter; how they were THE must have gadget for children in Japan, and thinking how futuristic it all sounded. I guess that really it was just a clever spin on older technology, much like the Game & Watch had been in the previous decade.
There are so many better spiritual successors to tamagotchi like hatch on iOS (with a little pokemon flavour). I'm afraid it will be near unplayable now but i guess thats not the point.. There's room for it next to nes and snes mini. Maybe its good for a gift to some old girlfriend that used to play with those.
Glad I'm not the only one who remembers the Digimon Digivices. I loved those things, and they were my first real exposure to Tamagotchi!
First we have the NES mini,
Then we have the SNES mini,
Then we have the Tamagotchi mini.
Next what? The PleasureVibe 3000 mini for Asian girls?
That moment you see things that are now retro that you were too old for the first go around is when you're officially old. I love how they've also dumbed them down hahaha, can they now start dumbing down modern racing games!?!?
@Jop: I know they aren't identical and am aware of many of the differences, but there are enough similarities in the concepts of both that I consider them related. I didn't mean to imply in my original post that they were exactly the same.
Tamagotchi is awesome. I have 5 of them. 3 of the Friends style from a few years ago and 2 of the dream town from about 2 years ago. I wish they were in color though like the Tamagotchi U of Japan is.
@Urameshi - Understood. I was only joking. But, seeing as how both of my parents are dead and I live alone, I only know firsthand how poor of taste my joke assumption was. Apologies.
anyone knows where i can buy this in Europe?
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