Games in Outer Space, Continued

Back up to Part 2

Beat Mania Pocket Series Anison Mix 3

Konami, June 2000

“Beat Mania” (Bemani for short) was a mega-popular video arcade game series released by Konami, which was accompanied by a broad lineup of console and handheld versions. The game worked a little like Tetris, but used descending musical notes rather than blocks. As these games expanded they began to incorporate anime theme songs, and that’s where the Matsumoto connection comes in. This was the third in the “Bemani Pocket Series,” a game called Anison[g] Mix 3. Released in the summer of 2000, it contained themes from Yamato, Galaxy Express, Captain Harlock, and other Matsumoto titles. The skull and crossbones emblem was specific to this game.

See another game from the “Pocket Series” (devoted to Mazinger Z) in action here.

Space Battleship Yamato Slot Machine

Sammy/Banpresto, November 2000

Back in the analog world, this contraption turned Yamato into a coin-op one-armed-bandit experience in a time shortly before the explosion of Pachinko games based on anime programs. As a co-production of Sammy Corporation (a partner of Sega) and Banpresto (a division of Bandai), it definitely had some big names behind it. Like other games of its kind, this one had its day in the gaming parlors of Japan before it vanished to be replaced by something else.

There are a couple of interesting trivia points: first, the painted image of Yamato on the lower faceplate has a very specific vintage: it was painted by Koizumi Kazuaki, a former assistant of Leiji Matsumoto, and appeared on a variety of late-90s/early 00 products. Get a better look at it here.

Second, this game seemingly cleared a path for more like it. The next Yamato parlor game was a similar slot machine based on Matsumoto’s Dai Yamato, which popped up two years later and set off an entirely new chain of events. A proper Yamato Pachinko game finally rolled out seven years later, and is covered farther down the page.

Star Blazers fan Chris Morin actually owns one of these machines (he provided these photos) and has this to say about it: This machine is nicely decorated and fun to play, and quite different from American slot machines. It dispenses tokens instead of real money and plays differently as well; you have to stop the wheels manually by pressing each wheel’s individual stop button. The images on the wheels include Yamato, Dessler’s flagship, anchors, red sevens, blue Yamato sevens, Yuki Cherries and bar symbols. When you enter the special bonus rounds, the machine plays either the Yamato theme or The Scarlet Scarf. Occasionally the machine will go into either Yamato, Warp or Gamilas modes. I haven’t quite figured out what these mean but each have their own special sound effects. When you’re close to a bonus round where you could win 400 or more tokens, the Yamato in the upper right corner lights up.

See Banpresto’s other Yamato products here

Space Battleship Yamato “Keystroke Heroes”

Typing Games

Sourcenext, 2000-01

Typing? Yamato typing? Admit it, that’s what you’re thinking right now, isn’t it? And it wasn’t just Yamato–typing games based on popular anime programs have been around for years, and they’re far more interesting than they seem at first blush.

The game titles are (from left to right) Typing Wave-Motion Gun, Typing Dispersion Wave-Motion Gun (named for the Andromeda‘s prime weapon), and Typing Warp. The Complete Box at far right contained all three and an additional Movie Collection. Unfortunately for non-Japanese players, the obstacles against playing them are substantial, the need for a Japanese keyboard being just one of them.

On the other hand, they’re visually stunning and the game scenarios are both clever and inventive. So click here for a look at what each one has to offer.

Space Battleship Yamato for Wonderswan Color

Bandai Co. Ltd., February 2001

The Wonderswan was a handheld console released by Bandai in December 2000, which made the Yamato game one of the first new cartridges out of the starting gate. The console had a 16-bit CPU and a 2.8″ x 1.5″ color screen and was Bandai’s attempt to muscle in on Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance (unsuccessfully, as it turned out).

Yamato for Wonderswan was similar in scope to the Game Boy and PC Engine games, but was a huge leap forward in terms of graphics and complexity. It was designed by the minds and artists behind the Playstation renaissance, with general supervision by Leiji Matsumoto. There was also a guidebook (shown above right) published by Dengeki Game Magazine and a jaw-dropping poster that can be seen here.

Upon startup, the game plays through a simplified version of the opening title with Midi-style audio. The scenario is, again, the story of the journey to Iscandar.

Each of the game’s 17 levels plays like an episode with text interchanges and battles (fought both in space and on various planets) that alternate between tactical moves and short cutscenes to show the results. There are also 8 new scenarios plugged in to freshen up the story with new enemies such as a hotshot Gamilas commander to rival General Lysis, a space creature or two, and the Siren of Space—a game version of the little-known manga spinoff, Eternal Story of Jura. Depending on performance and points earned, multiple endings are possible including one that incorporates the ‘hologram Starsha’ scene from the Yamato movie. And all this was squeezed onto a cartridge half the size of the Game Boy’s.

See a TV commercial for this game here.

Now here’s the good news for English-speaking fans: this is one Yamato game you don’t have to just read about—you can download and try it out yourself right now using these handy links!

Software emulator ‘Cygne’ for PC

Software emulator ‘Oswan’ for Mac

Download the ROM here

“That’s all well and good,” you might be saying, “but I still can’t get past the language barrier.” That will definitely work against you in the primary game, but here’s some more good news: there’s a second game to be found in the ROM, a simple side-scrolling shooter that anyone can play called Black Tiger Shooting! Once you’ve downloaded the software and started it up, press ‘Return’ on your keyboard until you see the option for ‘New Game’ (shown above left). Use the directional arrows to scroll up and down until you find ‘Shooting,’ (shown above right) then hit ‘Return’ again. Before you know it, you’ll be flying a Black Tiger…and you’ll be in deep trouble.

The game is just as simple as it looks; use your directional arrows to get around obstacles, use SHIFT to fire lasers and OPTION to throw screen-clearing bombs. There are three levels to this game, the first being an asteroid field loaded with Gamilas enemies: gun turrets, fighters, space mines, missiles, and bosses ready to take you down. Powerups come in the form of little Iscandarian message capsules.

This article will still be here when you come back. And you’re welcome.

Tactical Roleplaying Games

Independent producers, 2001

Yamato‘s production years saw only one electronic game nestled in amongst the paper-based ones, so it’s fitting that the ratio was flipped in the legacy years. These entries are unique for being in the low-tech, ink-on-paper category. They were created by fans and sold only at hobby shows under the same sort of single-day copyright agreement that allows for the sale of garage kits and other limited-edition goods. Naturally, this makes them very difficult to get outside of Japan (and firmly locked up behind the language barrier.) Nevertheless, they deserve equal attention…

Naval War: Space Battleship Yamato Version

The name might ring a bell with experienced wargamers; Naval War was a very popular card game published in 1983 by US company Avalon Hill (now a division of Wizards of the Coast) in which players control a task force of historic WWII ships and trade attacks purely by playing cards. Its following evidently reaches all the way around the world to Japan, where the independent group Sunset Games created this special version for Yamato fans.

The spacecraft are pulled from across the entire Yamato saga, which would make it possible to pit any two space navies against each other. If you ever wondered, for example, how the Denguil from Final Yamato might fare against the Comet Empire, this game would presumably give you the chance to find out. It’s difficult to put a publication date on it, but the artwork on the cover sheet comes from the second Playstation game, released in in 2000.

War Against the White Comet

By Yasushi Nakaguro

This one is a definite standout if for no other reason that it’s one of the few games based on Yamato 2. Nevertheless, its 12 scenarios included the first TV series as well. Interestingly, the playing pieces are on par with those made for Bandai’s simulator games back in the early 80s.

The date on this homemade affair from the “Yamato & Anime Fan Club Blue Shirt Group” is unknown, but a brief glimpse is all it takes to activate the imagination.

Playstation 2 Games

Bandai, Oct. 2004 – April 2005

Sony’s tectonic-plate-shifting Playstation 2 console made its debut in March 2000 while Yamato games for the previous console were still in production. It took a little over four and a half years for Yamato to catch up, but the wait was definitely worth it for Japanese fans. These three new games came out in quick succession over just six months and covered both The New Voyage and Be Forever with numerous changes to both stories. New characters, additional plot twists, design enhancements, superior video graphics, and beautifully-animated cutscenes injected new life into the stories and took Yamato to a whole new level of interactivity.

Read much more about these games here.

Read a discussion with the game producers here.

CR Pachinko Games

Fujishoji Co. Ltd., November 2007, February 2009, Spring 2010

Leiji Matsumoto’s Dai Yamato Fever was the first meeting point between Yamato and the multi-media assault that is the modern Pachinko Slot [Pachislo] phenomenon in Japan. These games are the result of a decades-long evolution that slowly converted the classic “vertical pinball” model into a fusion of slot machines, video games, and anime programs, all packaged in a cacophany of light and sound that almost turns the tiny metal balls into an afterthought. They are fantastically popular, and pachinko parlors with the latest high-end games rival the drawing power of any American sport you can think of.

The first CR Yamato game (CR stands for Card Reader, since they take prepaid cards instead of coins) made its debut in late 2007 amid much fanfare; a high-profile pachislo game gets about the same treatment as a movie premiere with all sorts of promotional events and gimmicks. It gave players yet another way to experience the journey to Iscandar with interactive bells and whistles (literal ones in this case) that included a Wave-Motion Gun that assembled itself right over the video screen and blasted the player square in the face.

CR Yamato 2 and CR Yamato 3 Yamato followed, both of which expanded the interactive Yamato universe with all sorts of eclectic gameplay options and some absolutely stunning high-end CG animation that is worthy of the big screen.

Click here for more on CR Yamato

Click here for more on CR Yamato 2

Click here for more on CR Yamato 3

Space Battleship Yamato Pachislo Game

Yamasa, February 2010

The Yamasa Company entered the arena of Yamato pachinko games with a video slot machine that (like the first game from Fuji) turned the journey to Iscandar into an interactive experience. The highlight of the game was an extensive collection of animated cutscenes that did an excellent job of recapturing the spirit of Series 1 in a fresh, energetic style.

Read all about the game here.

Space Battleship Yamato Battlecard game

Gree Co. Ltd., May 2011

This was the latest in a growing number of virtual Yamato products, a downloadable game played on a cel phone, probably similar to other collectible card games, but with a Yamato twist. New game-expanding “cards” become available periodically for download from the official website. Encompassing both the original series and Resurrection, it was announced in May and its homepage went live in July, 2011. It has since been discontinued.

Yamato Resurrection Fever Pachinko Game

Sankyo, December 2011

Sankyo joined the pachinko fray with the rollout of a game called Yamato Resurrection Fever, loaded with battle footage both lifted from the film and newly-created to match it. Some of the character animation is done in full CG, which is a first for a Yamato game.

You’d have to watch someone play the game in Japan to get the whole picture, but Sankyo’s promotional website for Resurrection Fever (which went live on October 20) offers plenty all by itself. Click here to visit the site and see it for yourself. See a more detailed report on this game here.

Yamato 2 Pachislo game

Yamasa, February 2013

The Yamasa company added another Yamato pachinko game to the history books in early 2013, this time based on Yamato 2 and named Teresa, Guidance of Love. It continued the style of Yamasa’s previous game and delivered plenty of energetic new character animation.

See a detailed overview here.

That brings us roughly up to date with the history of Yamato games, but there’s still one more dimension to explore…

Continue to Star Blazers Games

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