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Aural Zen Master: Toshio Iwai's Electroplankton
December 21, 2006 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Electroplankton (Flash, sound warning), written for the Nintendo DS platform, (not a "game" in the traditional sense) has been described as an aural "zen garden". Amazon reader reviews are mostly raves. For some people, it is the whole reason for purchasing a Nintendo DS. A Pixelsurgeon interview with creator (artist, collaborator, 2000 Leonardo New Horizons Award Finalist, and blogger) Toshio Iwai. Obligatory (but nontheless fascinating) YouTube links. WIRED has been onto him since 1997. See also: A Gamespot review of Electroplankton. <previously>
posted by spock (21 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Toshio (my man) is also responsible for the classic SimTunes.
posted by neustile at 12:45 PM on December 21, 2006


Note that the 1997 WIRED link is a multi-page article (8 pages long). You may prefer the print page.
posted by spock at 12:53 PM on December 21, 2006


I bought Electroplankton the minute it went on the market in Japan. I was so excited when it came out but then it's "glamor" kind of wore off for me quickly.

I still play it from time to time but I don't think it's the reason to buy the DS.
posted by Hands of Manos at 1:16 PM on December 21, 2006


That looks absolutely spectacular and fun, and fortunately I already have a DS, it's my happy fun machine GO. Is it available in the US yet?
posted by zoogleplex at 1:30 PM on December 21, 2006


I keep my DS loaded with Electroplankton on my nightstand and I have used it in the past to calm my nerves before beddie bye.
posted by sleavestherabbit at 1:36 PM on December 21, 2006


It was released in the US a good while ago, but, as is very common with cult-favorite video games, Nintendo did a fairly small production run (see: Rez, Phoenix Wright, Trauma Center, etc.), and, these days, copies are fairly expensive. Of course, you can find the ROM in the usual places.
posted by box at 1:42 PM on December 21, 2006


Is it available in the US yet?

Apparently not, but it is available here in Canada.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:42 PM on December 21, 2006


Ah... also fortunately, I work in the game biz. I will start calling friends. :)
posted by zoogleplex at 1:45 PM on December 21, 2006


It's available in the US, but in very limited outlets. I'm in Florida and couldn't find it in any stores in my area, but I was able to buy it off the internet, Amazon I believe.

Elektroplankton was a contributing factor for me getting a DS but not THE reason I got it. And I do agree that while it's an interesting concept and seems awesome, the novelty does wear off after a while. I did hook it up the headphone jack to my stereo and play it, and it sounded good. The downside is that they're all 'fleeting moments' - you can't record or save any of it (unless you hook it up to a PC and record the audio).

Fun to play with in small increments, not something you'd sit and play with for hours on end.
posted by MarkLark at 1:51 PM on December 21, 2006


Music for Well Tempered Touchscreens
Electroplankton + Korg Kaoss Pad 3
(not as good as it could be, but an interesting exploration of Electroplankton's potential)
posted by lekvar at 1:57 PM on December 21, 2006


"The downside is that they're all 'fleeting moments' - you can't record or save any of it (unless you hook it up to a PC and record the audio)."

Enter my Mac with audio I/O interface and Digital Performer 4.5. I can at least get the music down, if not the video. It would be fun to get all the different planktons mixed together, mix 'em up with other instruments.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:04 PM on December 21, 2006


Uh... this has been out in the U.S. for over a year. It's just that you can only buy it online, generally speaking. In fact, at this point I think about the only place you can get it is Nintendo's Online Store; Gamestop and such have stopped selling it last I checked.
posted by Target Practice at 2:35 PM on December 21, 2006


I feel utterly clueless for not having known about this right away, but then again a year ago I was still proving myself here at work and we were in a mad, mad crunch. So I didn't get out much, nor play any games. Actually I didn't even have my DS until April or so.

I'm sure I can scrape one up for myself, but one of my cow-orkers has a copy I can borrow for a while.

I should do some digging to see what Iwai's up to next... perhaps there will be a Wii version or sequel. That would rule.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:39 PM on December 21, 2006


This is almost enough to talk me into getting a DS. I love toys like this. They're the huge untapped market for video game systems.

as is very common with cult-favorite video games, Nintendo did a fairly small production run (see: Rez, Phoenix Wright, Trauma Center, etc.), and, these days, copies are fairly expensive.

Right, and that's the problem. Rather than treating innovative gaming as the niche that will save them, Nintendo has been far too cautious.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:45 PM on December 21, 2006


Those other games aren't Nintendo's, roll truck roll.

Rez is a Dreamcast/PS2 game published by Sega.

Phoenix Wright is a Capcom game and Trauma Center is an Atlus game; both are on the DS (with the latter now having a Wii version as well). And they're kinda bad examples since both companies rolled out several extra production runs to meet demand.

In fact, Electroplankton is essentially the only game I can think of that Nintendo of America localized but produced an extremely small run of.

And I'm not sure what you're talking about anyway. Brain Training wasn't innovative?
posted by Target Practice at 3:04 PM on December 21, 2006


I'm with you, roll truck roll. I hadn't even considered getting a DS until I heard of Electroplankton. Now there's a DS-shpaed hole in my life. Plus, the DS can be used as a MIDI controller!
(In all fairness, so can the PSP, but it has no Electroplankton)
posted by lekvar at 4:45 PM on December 21, 2006


Rather than treating innovative gaming as the niche that will save them, Nintendo has been far too cautious.

Wuh? Nintendo is not cautious. Exhibit 1: the DS. Exhibit 2: the Wii. Exhibit 3: the Virtual Boy.
posted by smackfu at 6:20 PM on December 21, 2006


Plus, the DS can be used as a MIDI controller!
(In all fairness, so can the PSP, but it has no Electroplankton)


I keep meaning to maybe try using the DS as a MIDI controller for Live. I think there's some extra equipment I need though.

I've also been meaning to record a bunch of audio made using Electroplankton to try chopping up into something in Live.

Mmm, Live.
posted by sparkletone at 7:06 PM on December 21, 2006


Oh, great game. But yeah, a real pain to get a hold of in the US. I tried to find it earlier this year in time for a trip to the UK, but with no luck. Turns out I was able to buy it when I was in UK when I came across a game store there that had a good selection of DS and GBA games, unlike most US game stores I've come across*. Also worth noting is that despite it being hard to find (my mom was able to find a copy to give to me for Christmas last year, bless her) Phoenix Wright did do well enough in the English-speaking world to warrant capcom releasing the sequel in English for the DS. It isn't coming out here until January though.



*Unless you like playing Fairly Odd Parents of Spongebob ride Barbie's Horse while Frolicking with the Cast of Shrek -type games, in which case I imagine that the handheld section of your local gaming store contains a cornucopia of delight for you to take advantage of for enjoyment.
posted by kosher_jenny at 7:17 PM on December 21, 2006


No, it's not a good game. It's not a game. It's a fun musical toy.
posted by graventy at 9:49 AM on December 22, 2006


my three year old daughter LOVES this. she has mastered it and in the process learned all about buttons, menus and the like. she calls it fishy-fishy and the only problem is that she can get really inconsolable when I can't find it.
posted by n9 at 7:23 PM on December 23, 2006


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