Electroplankton is an interactive music video game developed by the Japanese interactive media artist Toshio Iwai and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS handheld video game console. It was first released in Japan, and was later released in North America and Europe. This game allows the player to interact with animated plankton and create music through one of ten different plankton themed interfaces. The first-run edition of Electroplankton in Japan came bundled with a set of blue colored ear bud headphones.
The game offers two game modes — Performance
. The Performance mode is considered to be the more significant portion of Electroplankton
, allowing the user to interact with the plankton with the use of the stylus
, and microphone
. Audience mode simply allows the user to put down the system and enjoy a continuous musical show put on by all of the plankton, although the user can interact with the plankton just like in Performance mode. Audience mode is like a demo mode in some other games.
- Tracy — There are six Tracies. Drawing lines on the screen creates triangles. A Tracy will follow those triangles, making sound as it crosses over each one. The pitch varies with the direction the triangle points in, and each color of Tracy has its own unique voice. Pressing left decreases the tempo; press right to increase it. Press select to stop them all from moving.
- Hanenbow — Drag the leaf in the water to direct where the Hanenbow launch. Drag other leaves to change their direction. Hanenbows will launch out of the leaf in the water in the direction it is pointing and bounce off of the leaves, making noises depending on where on the leaf they hit. As Hanenbow continue to hit leaves constantly, they will turn yellow, then orange, then red, changing the sounds they make as they go. When they all turn red simultaneously, a flower will appear on top of the plant. Press A to see the angle of the leaves, press up to launch a Hanenbow manually, left to lower the launch tempo, right to heighten it, and down to reset the tempo to default. Press select to change the set-up of the leaves between four variations.
- Luminaria — There are four Luminaria. Poke a Luminaria to activate it. The red Luminaria sounds like a piano and is super fast. The yellow Luminara sounds like a vibraphone and is slightly slower than the red. The green Luminaria sounds like a music box and moves slowly. The blue Luminaria sounds like a celesta and moves slowest of all. Luminaria exist on an arrowed grid and always follow the arrows. When a Luminaria crosses an arrow, it will make a sound and move in the direction that arrow is pointing in; the sound it makes depends on which arrow, with the upper-left being the lowest pitch and the lower-right being the highest pitch. Poking the arrows makes them spin clockwise; holding down on an arrow makes it spin continuously. Pressing left and right makes all arrows face the same way, and rotates all arrows counterclockwise and clockwise, respectively. Pressing up and down cycles through the game's preset patterns for the arrows. Once a Luminaria has been started, it can never be stopped, but the grid can be reset and all Luminaria stopped simultaneously by pressing Select.
- Sun-Animalcule — Tapping the field places a seed at that point. Putting a seed on a certain location on the field will turn it into a Sun-Animalcule that shines and makes sound at a specific rhythm. A seed at morning, noon, and evening turns into a sun; a seed at night or late night turns into a moon. Each of these phases of the day last precisely one minute, although time can be accelerated by pressing right, or rewound by pressing left. As Sun-Animalcule shine, they continue to grow and will eventually disappear. Tapping a Sun-Animalcule makes it disappear, and pressing Select makes them all disappear at once.
- Rec-Rec — There are four Rec-Rec. They swim repeatedly from the right side of the screen to the left, and loop back around. Tap one of the Rec-Rec to make it eat four seconds of sound (coming in from the DS' microphone) on the next loop. Rec-Rec play the sounds they have eaten in a loop. Pressing right or left increases or decreases the speed at which the Rec-Rec swim and play their sounds. Pressing up or down changes the background beat. Pressing Select empties all of the Rec-Rec at once.
- Nanocarp — There are 16 Nanocarp. Tapping anywhere on the screen creates a ripple, and pressing any of the four directional buttons makes a wave in that direction. When a Nanocarp is touched by a wave, it will make a sound depending on how high or low it is on the screen. Nanocarp will slowly swim around; to reorganize them, the player must use one of the many sound commands (which involve clapping, blowing, or singing into the DS' microphone) available. These commands are too numerous to list here, but they can be found in the game's manual.
- Lumiloop - There are 5 Lumiloop. Spinning the stylus on them causes them to emit a steady tone and produce a ring of light. Each one emits a different tone when spun clockwise or counterclockwise. Once spun up to full speed, they are at their loudest and will continue to spin steadily for about 30 seconds. They all come in different colors each of which have their own pair of tones. When two or more play at the same time, they emit tones in perfect harmony.
- Marine-Snow — There are no fewer than 35 Marine-snow. Tapping on any of them makes that Marine-Snow make a sound. Tapping on another one will not only cause that one to make a sound, but it will also switch places with the one that was tapped before, and this will repeat indefinitely. Each Marine-Snow has its own note that it plays. The Marine-Snow can be "played" with either repeated taps or long strokes, the game will register both. Over time, the Marine-Snow will slowly swim back to their starting positions, and the player can press A to speed this up. Pressing Select cycles through the four different instruments and the three different starting formations.
- Beatnes — There are five Beatnes. Each Beatnes consists of ten segments, a head, eight diamond-shaped spinal portions, and larger diamond for the tail. Each Beatnes has a differently shaped head. A song from a NES/Famicom game plays in the background. Tapping any segment of a Beatnes causes it to make a sound. The head and tail of a Beatnes makes a sound effect, and the spinal portions create musical notes in different instruments. All of the sound effects and notes are made to sound like they were made with the original NES sound chip. After tapping out a sequence of notes, each Beatnes remembers what was tapped out and plays it again five more times. Pressing Select cycles through the four different selections, which vary in background music and sounds.
- Volvoice — Volvoice is best described as a simple sound manipulation program. Tapping the main body of the Volvoice lets it record up to 16 seconds of sound. It then plays back the sound in different ways, depending on its shape; you can make the Volvoice change shape by tapping one of the icons located around the screen. Tapping the little orb at the tip of the Volvoice's flagellum will zap its memory.
The developers considered including a save function, but opted not to because they wanted the players to enjoy the game both extemporarily and viscerally. They felt that if a save function were included, the game would be used more as a tool, where the player had to open several additional menus and windows or have to input file names to save. Another reason was that it would require large volume of flash ROM and would take a long time to save and read the data in order to save the voice files for Volvoice and Rec-Rec.
One of the most common complaints concerning Electroplankton is that the game offers no true way to save the audio created by the player. Absolutely no data is recorded onto the game cartridge at any time, which can be frustrating to the player if he or she manages to compose a particularly elaborate or quality piece. Although this problem can be overcome by connecting an audio recording device, such as a cassette player or a personal computer, to the headphone jack of the Nintendo DS, this solution isn't practical for the average player.
Another commonly addressed issue is the fact that Electroplankton does not offer enough options to suit the tastes of many players. The game allows players to create music with only one type of "plankton" at a time, in effect limiting the user to using only a small amount of similar sound effects to create his or her work. This prevents a player from enjoying the same amount of versatility that they might find in a traditional music creation program.
Future release and importing
has developed a niche following around the entire globe. The title made its first public appearance at the 2005 Game Developer's Conference
, and later, an appearance at the 2005 E3
show, but from then until October 19 2005
, details about the game's release outside of Japan remained somewhat vague. However, on October 19 2005 Nintendo of America
's release date in North America: January 9 2006
, with sales of the game limited to online retailers and the Nintendo World
store in New York City
, though some retailers may carry the game if they choose to. It was released in Europe on July 7 2006
. Nonetheless, Electroplankton
is an import friendly game for most people, mainly because of both its simple menu and its light use of the English language
This trend for import was heightened in Europe, due to the release date (April 21 2006) having been chaotically postponed to July 7 2006. As a consequence, certain European gamers preferred importing the game rather than waiting any longer, or risking deception if the game, already in a bad shape for European release, was not released at all. A release was planned by Nintendo Australia in late 2006 but never eventuated due to, according to NoAus representatives, not enough space in the release schedule. It is assumed dropped altogether.
A stage based on the Hanenbow mode appears in the Wii title Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The leaves on the stage change from green to red as the player attacks them, and can also spawn a flower.
- Otocky — a game for the Famicom Disk System by Electroplankton designer Toshio Iwai, which is notable for developing the concept of the musical shoot 'em up in 1987.
- Sound Fantasy — an unreleased game for the Super NES/Super Famicom that was created by Electroplankton designer Toshio Iwai.
- SimTunes — A PC game, also designed by Iwai, that the unreleased Sound Fantasy was converted into.
- Tenori-on — A digital musical instrument being created by Electroplankton designer Toshio Iwai. Tenori-on's interface is similar to some of the Electroplankton modes.
- Daigasso! Band Brothers — A music game developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS.