Here’s one serious Japanese game + music nerdgasm: legendary arcade maker Taito, game giant SEGA all come together on the KORG platform on the Nintendo platform.
KORG Gadget on the Nintendo Switch was always at least an intriguing novelty. As with titles for Nintendo DS and Game Boy before it, bringing a music creation tool to a game platform means the ability to swap between gaming and music making for maximum fun. The Switch doesn’t have a unique onboard hardware synth like the Commodore 64 or vintage Nintendo machines. But it does also have the twist of connecting to a TV.
That’s cool, but frankly, it’s also not quite enough. Handheld gaming for musicians caught on partly because of a unique sound, and it happened before platforms like iPhone, iPad, and Android were available. If you have a choice between using Gadget on a Switch or in its original version on the iPad, well, it’s no contest – the iPad is more capable.
That’s what makes this a development. Now you get something that seems tailored to a game platform, from two titans of the arcade era.
Otorii is a sample-based instrument and rhythm generator, based on 80s SEGA arcade titles.
Titles: Out Run, After Burner
Ebina is a synthesizer built on FM sounds (apparently not doing FM itself, but capturing some signature FM sound samples), also with 80s colors in mind.
Titles: Darius, The Ninja Warriors
Kamata is a sound engine (already part of the Switch title) developed with Bandai Namco.
SEGA and Bandai Namco presumably need no introduction to anyone interested enough in gaming to even read this far. If Taito is familiar and you don’t know why, that’s because its name has graced the likes of Space Invaders, Bubble Bobble, Arkanoid, Battle Gear, and Kick Master. Sometimes Americans saw these titles with other distributors onboard, and Taito hasn’t been independent since the mid-90s, but you’ve likely also encountered the development house as part of its new life as part of Square Enix.
In short – this is Japan at its best, making us fall in love with something fun in childhood and then staying with us through our adult lives. Whether you’re particularly bound to Taito in the arcade, that’s something other Japanese music tech makers might learn from. (Partnership is key to the success of KORG here – they work with experienced mobile and game developer and Japanese neighbor DETUNE for these titles.) Roland, Yamaha, and Casio continue to have a rocky relationship with their own legacy (with some promising recent signs). But if the games industry has fended off clones and rivals, surely music tech could do the same – with plenty of back catalog to mine.
In any event, I know plenty of electronic musicians who are just as addicted to gaming – men and women, young and old, and plenty who even work inside the gaming industry. There’s nothing to do but smile when you see it come together. Game on.