The new pocket-sized Tamagotchi R2-D2 is great fun
I heard it from across the room. A series of panicked astromech boops, and that could only mean one thing: R2-D2 was in trouble. I ran over it. Indeed, Boba Fett had shown himself. Soon I defeated the bounty hunter and there were happy beeps all around. My droid friend was safe and I felt good.
This scenario did not take place in virtual reality, a mobile application or the last generation of next generation. Star wars video game. Rather, it all happened on a handheld egg-shaped device. I’m of course talking about the new R2-D2 Tamagotchi, the very first Star wars classic interactive virtual pet edition. Bandai, maker of Tamagotchi, sent StarWars.com a first sample of Artoo to try, and I’m happy to say that the experience is a joy – an experience filled with mini-games, surprise character appearances and of charm to resell.
Caring for Artoo
This is my first time playing with / taking care of a Tamagotchi. If you are in the same boat, I highly recommend that you read the instructions. It is not a complex system to learn, but a basic understanding of how your Tamagotchi works will make it much more enjoyable.
For starters, there are three buttons on the face of the R2-D2 Tamagotchi – called A, B, and C, but unmarked – and that’s all you need. âAâ navigates through healing and mini-game options, âBâ selects and âCâ cancels.
The goal is to take care of Artoo like Luke or Anakin would, and there are several options and activities available to you to do so. First, pressing the C button checks how your droid is doing. A happy beep means all is well; darker sounds indicate it needs attention. From there you can load up Artoo, clean him up, or play mini-games that will cheer him up. The first mini-games available include dejarik vs. Chewbacca, where you have to copy a sequence of onscreen buttons to make the right move, and another experiment in which Artoo has to put out a fire. These are both short periods of fun and a sample of the efficient and clever game design that Bandai has incorporated into this release. My 6 year old son, who is just starting to play video games, understood everything very easily and loved taking care of Artoo with me.
After a while your Artoo will evolve, looking slightly different on the screen. New mini-games will also open at this point, including a challenge where you have to spell droid names from Tetris-style falling letters, grab Yoda’s Luke lamp, and much more. Everything is delicious and has just enough challenge for fans of all ages. It’s not all fun and games, however.
Secondary characters will appear every day at prescribed times, like Boba Fett, mentioned earlier, as well as General Grievous and others. (My favorite are the stormtroopers; with a quick press of the A button, they’ll give you the “Go forward, go forward” movement, and Artoo runs away.) But that’s not the greatest danger to your astromech.
If you forget about Artoo for too long – and he’ll beep to let you know he needs you – Jawas will come and take him. Unfortunately, this fate befell our Artoo. It was my son who found out that these scavengers were taking our fat ball, and he wasn’t very happy with me. Lesson learned. After this instance, I became much more attentive, and I’m happy to say that we haven’t been visited by Jawas since.
Never having owned a Tamagotchi, I was shocked at how much Bandai could get out of this small screen, which is no bigger than a dime and colorless. Thanks to simple but effective animations, Artoo happily moves back and forth; the close-ups of its dome look like the real thing; and its various attachments, shown from all kinds of angles, match what we’ve seen in movies and series. You just need to be visually interesting and true to the character, while also serving the gameplay. But as discussed, there is much more than R2-D2 here.
There are tons characters and vehicles to see and interact with, all carefully recreated. Yoda and Wicket look appropriately adorable, while more intricate designs like the Naboo N1 star hunter and podracers somehow achieve the precision of such simple technology.
The device itself is a basic but beautiful design. I used the classic color version, which features the front-facing blue and white exterior of the R2-D2, including its dome and various panels. He captures his innate cuteness and is instantly recognizable as the iconic droid. (The holographic version is essentially the same, but with a blue background instead of white.)
It’s also worth noting what Bandai has achieved with sound and such a small speaker. With changes in pitch and tone, Artoo emits all kinds of beeps and boops to convey emotions, even mimicking his happy whistles with great effect. It complements the feeling that this is a true droid in your charge.
“This droid and I have been through a lot”
Having finally experienced a Tamagotchi, I have a better understanding of why people have loved these devices over the years. It’s engaging but not very time consuming; it is difficult but not frustrating nor particularly difficult; and his incredibly cute.
Like a Star wars fan, it was a very enriching experience. After a while interacting with Artoo became part of my day which is decidedly different from playing a video session or a board game. And there is a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in knowing that he is happy. Plus, through all the challenges and characters, he shows a genuine love for the overall saga on Bandai’s part; indeed, it’s hard not to smile when C-3PO or another fan favorite takes the stage.
As with everything, you will get back what you have invested. The more I paid attention to Artoo, the more surprises I found and the more I invested myself. After all, who wouldn’t want their own R2-D2?
Bandai’s Tamagotchi R2-D2 is available now.
Dan Brooks is a writer and editor for StarWars.com. He likes Star wars, ELO and the New York Rangers, Jets, Yankees and Knicks. Follow him on twitter @dan_brooks.
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