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Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011

TECH_JAPAN

TOYS

Perfect toys for retro gamers and karaoke fans


People who were kids during the early days of console gaming often look for ways to recapture the the excitement of that time. Those who spent hours playing the Famicom here in Japan, for example, still have a weakness for retro gaming. And while there are many ways to relive gaming glorydays (Famicom Cafe in Shibuya is a fun one), Hyperkin's SupaBoy might just be one of the greatest.

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If you still have any SNES (or Super Famicom) games in the back of your closet, now is the time to dig 'em out. SupaBoy is a handheld game console that lets you plug in your old cartridges and play them on the go. The SupaBoy console itself is designed to mimic the old Super Nintendo controllers, but it also has a 3.5-inch screen.

It features audio/video out, and two controller ports on the front, so if you want to connect it to a regular television, just grab your old controllers and get ready to play like you did years ago.

SupaBoy was announced at the E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles this year, and thankfully Hyperkin has decided to make it available here in Japan, where it all started. A representative tells The Japan Times that "the impact of the Super Famicom in Japan cannot be understated. We hope to capture even a tiny portion of that excitement with SupaBoy."

Hyperkin is selling SupaBoy over on Amazon Japan for ¥7,980, so if you have any middle-age gamers in your life who long to return to "Donkey Kong Country," SupaBoy would make a great gift. If I can ever track down my NHL 94 cartridge, this will definitely be appended to my Santa letter.

If you're in the market for digital toys this Christmas, Takara Tomy offers an intriguing choice with the Boggle Flash. This digital incarnation of the popular Parker Brothers word game has already enjoyed popularity overseas, and is now available in Japan as well.

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The Boggle Flash kit is made up of five blocks, each one with an LCD screen, upon which a letter is displayed. As the player, you must rearrange the letters to create as many different words as you can within the given time limit. The beauty of Boggle Flash is that you don't have to mess around calculating scores, as the digital letter cubes do all the work for you.

When you arrange the letters into a new word, the letter blocks will briefly flash to acknowledge that a word has been scored, prompting you to move on to another word. When the time is up, Boggle Flash will present you with your score.

If you have any word-game addicts in your life, Boggle Flash will make an ideal gift. It comes with an affordable price tag of ¥4,515 and can be purchased at participating retailers.

It was perhaps inevitable that someone in Japan would develop a karaoke application for Apple's iOS. While this is not the first, Smart Karaoke is one of the more ambitious ones to comes across my radar, providing online video karaoke using devices like the iPad, iPhone and even iPod Touch.

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The kit includes a microphone, as well as audio and video cables, the Smart Karaoke box, and a USB recharger. Smart Karaoke boasts a pretty wide selection of songs, with a library of more than 80,000 tunes ranging from J-pop to traditional. There will be more songs added to that over time — as many as 1,000 each month according to the company. There are some free songs available, but you can also pay a ¥1,200 monthly subscription to sing as many songs as you wish, or pay ¥350 for a 20-song ticket.

Unfortunately, Smart Karaoke is not available for overseas use (ostensibly due to licensing restrictions) and it even requires you to allow the app to see your location to verify that you are indeed in Japan.

But for karaoke fans, or even those who wish to learn Japanese through singing, Smart Karaoke does look like a lot of fun. As with any app that requires payment or subscription, though do shop around and explore alternatives in the app store to see what's right for you first.

While the app is free, the Smart Karaoke kit costs ¥9,800 to buy, and it's available through a number of online retailers such as HMV Online, Amazon, and Rakuten.

smartkaraoke.jp Rick Martin is a contributor to Penn-Olson.com. Read more of his work at 1rick.com.


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