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Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011

TECH_JAPAN

TOYS

New toys for retro gamers and wannabe rockers


Nostalgic gaming fans old enough to remember "Space Invaders" no doubt look back on it as one of the most memorable video games of years gone by. Japan's Taito Corporation created the arcade game back in 1978, and it has been a classic ever since.

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This week Taito resurrects the "Space Invaders" title with Invadercade, which went on sale on Oct. 11. The device converts your iPad into a miniature version of a "Space Invaders" arcade game. Invadercade is an iPad dock built to resemble the retro arcade cabinet, complete with joystick and button for controlling the game as you would have years ago. Of course you'll need to load up Taito's Space Invaders HD app as well, which costs ¥450.

The device functions as a charger as well. So when you're not using your iPad, having it docked securely inside the Invadercade is worth doing. Besides it's blast-from-the-past appearance, Invadercade enhances your game's sound with built-in stereo speakers as well.

In addition to great sound during your "Space Invader" games, you can also use Invadercade as a mini media center where you can play your iTunes media, or switch on some Internet radio for background music at home. There's a dedicated volume knob on the Invadercase console so you don't have to reach inside to use the iPad's volume button. Users can also plug headphones in to the dock's audio-out jack, which is another handy addition.

Measuring in at 25 × 23 × 35 cm, the Invadercade is compatible with both the original iPad and the new iPad 2. It sells for ¥15,800 and it can be ordered via a number of online retailers appearing on the Taito website. The price is a little steep compared to the similar iCade and the Atari Arcade joystick for iPad. But for those of you out there for whom "Space Invaders" holds special memories, Invadercade could be money well spent.

Speaking of home entertainment, Thanko has an intriguing item for aspiring guitar players that just went on sale in September. Air Guitar is a pocket-size guitar simulator that is one-fifth the size of an actual guitar. It's comprised of just the headstock and a short neck portion with buttons for you to press.

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Buttons on the frets correspond to chords, and a second set of buttons on the side allow you to play minor chords, sharps and flats.

To compensate for the lower body portion of the guitar that is missing, Air Guitar replaces it with a red-beam sensor that you can strum. Thanko says the sensor can keep up with even faster tempo playing, for those of you aiming for more upbeat songs. Of course, the device is hardly an adequate replacement for a real guitar, but at least it won't give you blisters from strumming it, right?

Air Guitar can be played in either "free play" mode or you can play back 10 preprogrammed songs included in the device's sample music. These can be toggled via a button at the base of the headstock. Air Guitar is powered by two AAA batteries, and with the speaker that is embedded in the body you won't have any cumbersome wires interfering with your awesome scissor kicks.

The entire device measures 21 × 3 × 8.5 cm, and as it weighs only 150 grams, so it can easily be stashed in your handbag or rucksack between gigs.

If you'd like to try your hand at Thanko's Air Guitar, it can be ordered via their website for ¥1,480. It's certainly no replacement for a real guitar for anyone who is looking to learn. But if you enjoy the "Guitar Hero" video game, you might get a kick out of this most unusual electronic guitar toy.

For more information visit www.taito.co.jp/toys/invadercade/ and www.thanko.jp/product/av/music-movie/air-guitar.html. Rick Martin is a contributor to Penn-Olson.com. Read more of his work at 1rick.com.


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