Takeshi No Chousenjou

Is this thing on?: 13 games with tin-eared voice recognition

These games can hear you; they’re just not listening.

By Anthony John Agnello, Derrick Sanskrit, and John Teti • July 12, 2012

1. TV Powww! (1978)

The popularity of Microsoft’s Kinect camera/microphone gizmo for the Xbox has seen a renewed interest—using the broadest sense of the word—in voice-controlled gaming. Games as diverse as Mass Effect 3 and Skyrim now allow players to eschew the dull reliability of gamepad buttons for the exciting intermittence of voice controls. The game makers tout this as cutting-edge innovation, but rickety “talk to the game!” features have a long history. (And we’ve limited this Inventory to that history—only games prior to the current console generation.) One of the earliest examples is TV Powww!, a hack of the Fairchild Channel F console that was marketed to local TV stations for their afternoon kid shows. During a TV Powww! segment, one lucky viewer would call in to the program to play a simple 30-second game, live on the air, controlled only by their voice. In one version of the segment, the kid’s shouts of “pow!” would fire a laser at enemy spaceships; in another, it would trigger a quarterback’s pass. (In the interest of self-promotion, New York’s WPIX had the kids scream “PIX!” instead.) Reports vary as to whether the TV Powww! system actually processed voice input or it just had an assistant director hit a button every time the kids on the phone opened their yap. In either case, the TV transmission delay made it practically impossible for a TV Powww! player to rely on precise timing—the best strategy was generally to yell “Pow!” as rapidly as you could—starting a tradition of laggy voice control that endures to this day.

2. Nintendogs (Nintendo DS, 2005)

The reason sketchy voice commands are infuriating is that when you fail, you don’t know whether you did something wrong or whether the technology let you down. In that respect, the dog-ownership simulation Nintendogs does a great deal to evoke the frustrations of training a new puppy. When a real dog fails to heed your command, after all, you never know whether the pooch failed to understand you or you’re just running up against canine indifference. The thing is, Nintendogs accounts for this natural disobedience—a little stubbornness is programmed into its simulated pups. So in order for a command to take hold in the game, you have to pass three tests: The DS’ cheap microphone has to pick up your voice properly, the dog has to understand your words, and the dog has to care. If you’ve ever seen a half-deranged player repeatedly screaming “ROLL OVER!” into their Nintendo DS, this is why.

3. Seaman (Dreamcast, 1999)

The perpetual problem with characters designed to converse with the player is that the imperfections of voice recognition lead to disconnected, weird conversations. Sega’s Seaman came up with a brilliant artistic solution to this problem. Since this dadaist game is so odd to begin with, it almost doesn’t matter whether your virtual-pet man-fish understands you or not. Freed from the need for clear communication at every turn, Seaman sheds the usual frustrations of voice recognition and instead becomes a playground for experimenting with a weirdly engaging character. Seaman’s legacy hinges mostly on its weirdness, but it deserves to be remembered as a prime example of a game that succeeds by finding inspiration in its limitations.

4. N.U.D.E.@ Natural Ultra Digital Experiment (Xbox, 2003)

Nobody can accuse this Japanese Xbox game of under-promising. This “Ultra Digital Experiment” was probably something less than players might have expected, given its provocative acronym and the fact that it gives you control over a submissive female robot. Rather than place you in the shoes of a lonely pervert dude from the future, though, in N.U.D.E. you have the somewhat less salacious job of product tester. The product is the Personal Assist Secretary System—or P.A.S.S., for some reason. Using your headset, you must first teach her words like “bed” and “curtains” (in Japanese—this game never came close to American release) and then teach her basic household-assistant behavior. It’s somehow just as demeaning as the space-perv approach would have been—P.A.S.S. is essentially a humanoid woman version of the fish from Seaman—and a lot less interesting. Of course, you can just skip the training altogether. Judging by the clip above, if left to her own devices, P.A.S.S. has the secretarial approach of April Ludgate from Parks And Recreation, and isn’t that more entertaining anyway?

5. WarioWare Touched! (Nintendo DS, 2005)

Over time, Nintendo has used the WarioWare games more and more as hardware tech demos. While the Game Boy Advance’s WarioWare Twisted! felt a little gimmicky with its pre-Wii gyroscope, Touched! fully embraced its “look at what this gadget can do!” showmanship. Little more than a long tutorial in how the DS could do more than an Advance, each character-specific stage focused on a single control input: Here are a bunch of games where you tap the screen! Here are a bunch of games where you rub the screen! And so on. There was one stage that stood out, though. It introduced the new character Mike The Karaoke Robot for a series of games that exclusively used the microphone for control. Blow in a girl’s ear! Blow a pinwheel! Blow smoke! There was one game with pixel-guys walking a tightrope that would fail if the player blew at all—although the game still had free rein, apparently, to blow as much as it wanted.

6. The Legend Of Zelda (Famicom Disk System, 1986)

When Nintendo reworked its Family Computer for markets outside of Asia—rebranding it the Nintendo Entertainment System—most of the Famicom’s design was replicated for the NES. But one obscure feature didn’t make the cut. On the hardwired controllers of the original Famicom, the second player’s gamepad has a crude microphone instead of “Start” and “Select” buttons. When it debuted in Japan, The Legend Of Zelda was the rare game that actually used this vestigial bit of electronics. The game’s “Pols Voice” enemies—annoying, rabbit-looking things—could be killed by yelling into the second controller’s microphone. (Blowing into the mic would also suffice.) Subsequent versions of the game removed this feature, but somebody forgot to tell the people who translated Zelda’s manual into English: The American instruction booklet claimed that Pol’s Voice “hates loud noise,” a baffling claim given that the best way to dispatch them on the NES is a virtually silent arrow between the eyes.

7. Takeshi No Chousenjou (Famicom, 1986)

There are very few media that have failed to attract the attention of Takeshi Kitano, so when the 1980s video game boom was underway, it figures that the artist also known as Beat Takeshi would try his hand at game design. The concepts for the game were “developed” in a single meeting led by Kitano at the Taito studio, after which the Taito designers attempted to implement all of Kitano’s musings as faithfully as possible. This stream-of-consciousness development process resulted in a notoriously weird and difficult game. One representative portion is the karaoke mode, in which players are instructed to sing into the Famicom controller’s microphone. But because the microphone can’t detect pitch, the game simply monitors for noise that matches the correct beat. Even then, this karaoke mode is a pain in the ass to complete, as seen in the above segment from the Japanese TV show GameCenter CX, which features a 30-something comedian challenging himself to finish tough video games—and Takeshi No Chousenjou was featured on the very first episode. Let it never be said that Japanese TV doesn’t have a sadistic streak.

8-9. Mario Party 6 and Mario Party 7 (GameCube, 2004 and 2005)

The problem with annual iterations in a game series is that they inevitably offer diminishing returns on “innovation.” (Here’s looking at you, Guitar Hero.) In the last couple years of Mario Party on the GameCube, Nintendo knew it needed some sort of gimmick to hold players’ attention with a new home console still on the horizon. The company is never one to shy away from limited-use peripherals, so the GameCube Microphone was born. Of the few titles that supported this microphone, half were Mario Party games. Now, instead of frantically jamming the A button to run, players could shout “Faster! Faster!” and instead of pressing the A button to jump over obstacles, players could shout “Jump! Jump! JUMP! GODDAMMIT, BOO, YOU CAN FLY, JUST FLY THE HELL OVER THE… JUUUUUMP!!!

10. Lifeline (PlayStation 2, 2004)

The dummies in horror movies would put themselves in harm’s way even if they could hear you yelling at the screen not to open that door. Still, Konami apparently thought that yelling vainly at a screen trying to turn a stupid character away from harm was a pretty slick hook for a game. This is the only explanation for the existence of Lifeline. You don’t actually play as the protagonist, hapless cocktail waitress Rio Hohenheim. Instead, you’re the survivor of a monster attack on a space station who happens to be trapped in the main control room. Using a microphone, you guide Rio through the ship’s perils by yelling at her and occasionally indulging in small talk about the usual subjects, like, you know, haunted bathrooms. Rio can understand hundreds of commands in theory, but you’d never know it. Simple commands like “dodge” go unheeded, which is bad enough in a survival situation, but even more frustrating when trying to solve simple puzzles. Then again, Lifeline might just be an elaborate exercise in sadist role-play. Some of the sentences to which Rio will respond include: “Shoot yourself,” “What’s your sign?” and “Bark like a dog.” Maybe Rio isn’t the stupid horror movie victim after all. Maybe you’re just a jerk.

11. Hey You, Pikachu! (Nintendo 64, 2000)

During Microsoft’s press conference at this year’s E3 trade show, a developer demonstrated the Kinect capabilities of Splinter Cell: Blacklist by shouting “Hey, you!” which caused a nearby soldier (“you,” presumably) to turn around. How far we’ve come! To think that 12 years ago, prior to this enlightened age, players could only shout “Hey, you!” at a cartoon monster. Naturally, Pikachu’s vocabulary went further than that. You could also instruct him to go fishing, water plants, and babysit, because getting a crappy plastic Nintendo 64 microphone to understand you isn’t enough of a chore already. The tech was so spotty, in fact, that a promotional video for the game included a 20-second interlude explaining that Pikachu doesn’t always understand you, so “it’s all about patience.” Nothing says “nonstop fun party” like speaking clearly and being patient!

12. Odama (GameCube, 2006)

Part pinball and part medieval Japanese war re-enactment, Odama has you direct samurai armies by speaking into a microphone. Unlike many other games on this list, the soldiers take commands fairly well, but that’s more a function of how few commands there are. Just a dozen or so simple instructions are at play—“move left,” “fall back,” etc.—and they’re complemented by context-specific orders like “flood the river.” The weirdness of Odama comes from your dual role as both a shouty field general and a pinball player. Odama actually means “great ball,” in this case a building-sized boulder that you bash around the battlefield, crushing defenses so your forces can advance. A Heavenly Odama will roll through your army without harming them and will conscript enemies for your side, while an Evil Odama does the opposite. The voice recognition harnesses an essential part of playing pinball—yelling at the machine when you succeed and fail.

13. Manhunt (PlayStation 2, 2003)

Rockstar’s Manhunt is known for the extreme graphic violence that led to its censorship in some countries. But the game also had a little-used feature that required a USB headset. With a microphone attached, players can use their voice to distract enemies in the game, which is a fairly common trick. The more novel wrinkle was Manhunt’s use of silence. In portions where stealth is required, you must make as little noise as possible or risk alerting foes to your presence. It’s the ultimate way around the shortfalls of voice recognition: Just have the player shut up altogether.

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175 Responses to “Is this thing on?: 13 games with tin-eared voice recognition”

  1. George_Liquor says:

    The darts game in Kinect Sports uses voice recognition in a pretty entertaining way. If you yell at the computer opponent just when he’s trying to throw, he sometimes flubs his throw and flashes you a dirty look.

  2. PugsMalone says:

    “You don’t actually play as the protagonist, hapless cocktail waitress Rio Hohenheim.”

    Good God, the Japanese suck at making up believable Western names.

    • Merve says:

      What? Mario Mario ain’t believable enough for ya?

      (Yeah, yeah I know. “Mario Mario” isn’t his real name.)

      • HobbesMkii says:

         It’s Mario Smith. He’s actually can talk in Newscaster English. He just likes to put on stereotypical Italian accent, because he’s an intolerant asshole.

    • RidleyFGJ says:

      If you think her name sucks, you should try playing her game!

      This is probably the pinnacle of X-Play’s reviews:

      • The_Misanthrope says:

         I know the bad voice-recognition probably creates a lot of animosity towards the protagonist, but everytime I see gameplay footage of it I always think of how sadistic it makes the player out to be.  It just skeeves me out a bit to watch some asshole telling her to go down the hallway despite her fears.  I suppose a smarter game might have played off that dynamic a bit.

        • RidleyFGJ says:

          I can almost see the finale to a Lifeline played straight now: Rio finally finds where you’ve been hiding, and starts beating the shit out of, as you plead desperately for her to relent.

          It would certainly be one hell of a way to deconstruct omnipotence.

      • JohnnyLongtorso says:

        I love Adam’s confused/horrified look when the character actually responds to “Bark like a dog”. Shame he left G4, though X-Play has been pretty terrible for the past few years.

        • RidleyFGJ says:

          The funniest part isn’t that she responds to it, but the way she does; the programmers of this game went of their way to make sure she got clarification on how she was supposed to bark. Who seriously does that?

      • urthstripe says:

        Man, that review is so funny. THE GOOD OL’ DAYS!

    • ninjapocalypse says:

      Right, because here in the West we give characters names like Marcus Fenix and Jet Brody because they’re absolutely believable and realistic. It has nothing to do with making exotic-sounding, interesting names. The Japanese are just trying to imitate our realistic naming conventions and failing at it.

  3. ImANarc says:

    Just wanna chime in that GameCenterCX rules and that anyone interested in seeing a Japanese guy defeated and shamed consistently by old SNES/NES game should check it out.  The episodes get a lot better than the clip shown here.

    • vinnybushes says:

       God I love Gamecenter CX! The DS game is really solid, and the show is really fun. I guess it shows the game scholar in me but my favorite parts aren’t actually the challenges, (though they’re awesome) but the trips he takes to arcades and game stores in japan (and notably a trip to korea). Its just so fascinating to see a completely different cultures take on gaming and gaming culture.

      Also, yes, the episodes do get better.

      • vinnybushes says:

         Its also important to know that the Beat Takeshi mentioned in the clip is also, among other things, the “Teacher” in the first Battle Royale.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        The sequel is even better.  Apart from getting definitive versions of 1’s games, you get a Japanese-style graphic adventure game (not a visual novel; I’m talking Pax Softnica games)

        • vinnybushes says:

          One of my biggest disappointments is that the second game was never translated, super demon returns looked ridiculously fun. As for adventure games possibly my favorite episode of Gamecentercx was the “Hokkaido Serial Murders” episode, which is a graphic adventure designed by Yuujii Horii. The episodes’ been translated though I’m not sure if I’m allowed to tell you where to find it…

  4. HobbesMkii says:

    I refuse to believe that any game is “better with Kinect,”  as the ads claim. It combines the worst qualities of voice dialing phones (repeatedly shouting at an inanimate object) with the worst qualities of the Wii (flailing helplessly around in a futile attempt to manipulate objects onscreen).

    cue shameless Steam event promoting

    I also refuse to believe that the Gameological Society Steam Group’s Team Fortress 2 Thursday couldn’t get better if we added more people to it. This week we have a dedicated 18-man server volunteered by member Slogan to play the Group’s favorite game mode, Payload. Server unlocks at 9:00PM Eastern. Goto the Gameological Society Steam Group’s page to join (as if you hadn’t already) and find out the server information. See you there!

    • ImANarc says:

      I was actually planning on playing with you guys.  Haven’t played in so long…don’t even remember how hilarious my named items are.

    • Captain_Internet says:

      Team Fortress 2 has terrible voice recognition too. Someone was screaming the other night about how our team needed fewer Snipers, but me and everyone else on our team interpreted that as needing *more* Snipers. 
      Valve seem incapable of fixing this.

      Anyway, I’d love to join you guys, but the game happens at 2AM / 3AM in the Europe. 

      • HobbesMkii says:

        That’s pretty rough. We have been kind of American-centric, and others have brought it up, so I may try to set up something on the weekend for people spread across multiple time zones.

        Also, it’s hardly ever bursting with members, but joining the Steam Chat can sometimes net you someone to play a game with.

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

      I actually have off tonight, so perhaps I shall join. It sounds much more fun than a normal pub match. By which I mean 6 spies and 6 snipers on BLU versus 6 spies and 6 snipers on RED.

    • Xtracurlyfries says:

      Haven’t played for years, but might give it a go.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        I wouldn’t worry about skill. I pretty much suck at TF2 (though my innate shooter skills help pick up some of the slack) as well. And besides, this is the Gameological Society. Our trashtalk will be things like “Haha! Xtracurlyfries conforms to gender stereotypes!” or “Haha! Xtracurlyfries should quit this game and go back to playing L.A. Noire, a game he secretly enjoys!”

        • Effigy_Power says:

           You are promoting the shit out of this. I shall hire you next time I have a party at my house.

          Also: “Hobbes secretly enjoys tagging walls in his neighborhood with ‘The cake is a lie’ and is less than reputable in character!”

        • Merve says:

          I think we all secretly enjoy L.A. Noire, or at least the parts of it where we were thinking, ‘Hey, it’s Tom from Cougar Town!’ or ‘Hey, it’s Daisy from Bones!’ or ‘Hey, it’s Walter from Fringe!’

        • Effigy_Power says:

           Yes, but I will never admit that.


        • HobbesMkii says:

          @Merve2:disqus Kenneth Cosgrove, the nicest man in Mad Men?! But what are you doing in my videog–Oh! Oh, God! I–I–Why Kenneth, WHY?!

        • Xtracurlyfries says:

           Yeah, you have serious promotive mojo. I’m in.

    • George_Liquor says:

      Sounds like kooky fun. What’s Payload?

      • HobbesMkii says:

        Each team takes turn trying to push a bomb along a set of tracks into the other team’s base before time runs out. The other team tries to stop them. 

  5. RidleyFGJ says:

    The Manhunt entry forgot to mention the best part about its headset integration: they piped in Brian Cox’s menacing voice acting taunting your character in there (in lieu of being done in the game itself), which made that game far, far, far better than it actually was.

  6. Brett B says:

    Ah yes, Seaman. Easily the weirdest game I’ve ever purchased.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      It’s a sequel to Seaman on the Dreamcast. In this game, players act as god of a miniature island, charged with the task of rearing Gabo, a 20-centimeter tall Peking Man, communicating through a custom microphone-equipped gamepad.

      It gets weirder. 

      I also love that Yutaka Saito is the only man insane enough to have 2 games on this list.

  7. Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

    I actually had Hey You Pikachu. I remember I was at the store and couldn’t decide between that and some Mario Party game. I totally made the wrong choice. :(

    Also, Wario Ware was one of the best games to come out around the DS launch. It totally does not blow. The whole series is pretty great actually.

    • rvb1023 says:

       I remember Hey You, Pikachu!  I believe that was the first time my very young self had ever been burned by Nintendo.  When you think about it, both that and the Mario Party were clearly foreshadowing what Nintendo would eventually turn into.

    • Merve says:

      It doesn’t blow, except for the fact that you literally have to blow on the machine to play some of the minigames.

    • Girard says:

      That line about Wario Ware blowing was a textbook case of a writer prioritizing clever wordplay over making sense or being right. Like “Man, this joke is too great NOT to use!” Those games are terrific.

  8. Citric says:

    Early DS games loved that “shout something!” mechanic, Zelda Phantom Hourglass was a particularly annoying example. I do not want to shout as loud as I can, as at the time I lived with people who would object to such behavior.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      I found that if a ds game ever needed me to yell at it, I could just blow into the mic. It’s still stupid, but I don’t look totally insane. 

      Also, the DS Zelda games were such a let down. That annoying temple with a time limit in the first on and having to guide Zelda past guards in the second were so frustrating for me.

      • Girard says:

         Yeah, blowing always worked for me. And that one bit in Hourglass that asked for shouting was sated with blowing/growling with my mouth right on the mic (which looked idiotic, but at least wasn’t loud enough to bother my room mate).

        One annoying side effect I discovered while playing Spirit Tracks on a long-distance bus trip was that the bus vibrated at exactly the frequency the DS microphone detected for blowing, meaning any time I had to use the pan pipe, the system detected continuous blowing, and I simply couldn’t play any songs that didn’t use contiguous notes, as moving from one note to another invariably played all the motes in-between, “failing” the song.

        I actually remember quite enjoying Phantom Hourglass, and never really got the complaints about revisiting the “same” dungeon over and over, as each time you could use your new abilities to access new parts of it, and shortcuts, Metroidvania-style, so there wasn’t really much actual retreading. My main complaint was that it was over in a weekend.

        Spirit Tracks was more problematic, though, with its being literally “on-rails” killing any feeling of exploration, and the whole train fixation being kind of boring/silly.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          So, you and @Douchetoevsky:disqus advocate blowing your DS? I guess it makes sense. Nintendo has been a fan of oral since at least the N64.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           Somebody stop Hobbes. He will zing this universe into an alternate timeline without our intervention.

        • Merve says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus: He might zing himself out of existence in the process, causing a massive fan outcry.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        After getting mixed satisfaction out of Phantom Hourglass, I was really looking forward to Spirit Tracks.  But the game was so desolate.  Not only was it kind of depressing to lay out all this track across barren wilds, the artificial time extension created simply through having to run that train everywhere got really old.
           Link’s train conductor outfit was super-rad, though.


      Gah, you stupid lawyer. Fine, I’ll just press the fucking button. 

      • duwease says:

        I am a bit embarrassed at how many times I tried to get that to work before I hit the “A” button.

        Strike that, very embarrassed.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Good god, isn’t that the truth.  I’m a grown-ass man and shouldn’t have to stand in my bathtub so I can yell out “I want a crane!” so the woman who actually saw fit to marry doesn’t hear.

  9. Treymoney says:

    Binary Domain has some dreadful voice recognition, which is especially fun because your teammates are constantly asking you yes/no questions and judging you on your response.  Shortly after the “love scene” with the female teammate, she asked me if I was ready to continue the mission.  I said “yes” into the microphone, but it somehow registered as “I love you”.  She then tactfully ignored my lovesick puppy response with something like “…we should really get back to the mission”.  It was pathetic.

    • Staggering Stew Bum says:

      I played Binary Domain on PS3 so the voice recognition thing wasn’t an option, but as I went through the game I couldn’t see exactly how it would have made any difference to the game. If it was to earn additional trust from your squadmates it was all pointless anyway as the stupid idiots spent most of the gunfights going out of their way to run in front of my gunfire which made them distrust me. I wonder if there was a recognised voice command of “GET OUT OF THE FUCKING WAY!!!”

      That game could have been great, but as soon as the french robot showed up early on I realised it wasn’t going to get far past underwhelming.

      • Raging Bear says:

        I scream “GET OUT OF THE FUCKING WAY!!!” virtually nonstop any time I play absolutely anything with friendly AI characters. It’s a kind of mantra at this point.

  10. Staggering Stew Bum says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but talking to a game isn’t fun, it’s work. When i talk to a game, it is usually to yell insults at my character that is rolling around when I actually wanted them to go into cover, often while under enemy fire. Uncharted – O button. Mass Effect – X button. I know there’s limited buttons on controllers game developers but come on, do you even test this shit? Mass Effect 3 went even further and mapped squadmate revive to X as well, just to really give me the shits every time someone dies next to cover.

    Voice recognition technology has a long long way to go before it is useful. That Siri thing in my wife’s iPhone is hopeless. It recognises a voice but has no idea what the hell that voice is actually saying, which renders it totally useless.

    • Fixda Fernback says:

      Man, I absolutely used to hate voice recognition on phones. I have nightmares of my first cellphone (about ten years ago), it was one of the first models to have voice recognition–it was such a big deal that it was a distinct selling point. I fucking hated that phone with every ounce of my being. Aside from having the most whacked out battery issues I’ve ever experienced from an electronic device, the voice recognition was incredibly sadistic. “Call Patrick” would take at least six or so tries to be successful. 

      That said, now on my Android phone, the voice rec works incredibly. I don’t see how people still have issues on their phone’s software, as it’s amazing at distinguishing what I say as long as I don’t mumble. Since it’s Android it doesn’t have a fancy “personality” associated with it; but then, since they’re more concerned with functionality than presentation, maybe that’s why it actually works?

      • Staggering Stew Bum says:

        You might be on to something considering Apple appears to be style over substance. Or maybe Siri just can’t fathom the Australian accent.

        I’m not ruling out my theory that the software knows exactly what I am saying but is just fucking with me because that’s exactly what Skynet would do. That said I’m not really against voice recognition technology (when it works), just don’t have the device talk back to me in a creepy soulless robotic voice. We’ve all seen Alien and 2001, and know how they turned out. And to a lesser extent, Dark Star, though I’ll brush up on my phenomenology before ever getting on a spaceship.

    • Merve says:

      I hate voice recognition, period. Talking to machines makes me feel lonely; it makes me realize how rarely I talk to actual people.

    • George_Liquor says:

       ME3’s voice recognition screwed me over a few times, like when I incredulously read the “bad” dialog option out loud and the game chose that response.

      As for Siri, her voice recognition is pretty spotty, but at least she knows the lyrics to the theme from Shaft.

  11. wzzzzd says:

    Unreal Tournament 2004 had, apparently, speech recognition for commanding bots around in matches as if you were playing a pickup*. It also featured the opposite, text to speech which would read out the chat to you in monotone Microsoft Sam. 

    Mostly what this was used for was spamming “11111111111111111111111…” or “wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww…” and pissing off anyone who didn’t turn it off right away.

    *This is the only thing I ever want voice recognition in a game to do: the things I would be using my voice for anyway.

  12. AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

     I’ve not played many games with voice commands.

    That said, I have absolutely no shame in playing Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and shouting “OBJECTION!” into the microphone. It’s a good conversation/getting-strangers-to-look-at-you starter.

  13. You don’t know how many times I tried to kill Pols Voice with the flute…

  14. The_Misanthrope says:

    I actually kind of appreciate the subversive dickishness of that
    Takeshi No Chousenjou game.  It reminds me of the “Desert Bus” game in Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors.

  15. DogSwallow says:

    On the other hand, Tom Clancy’s EndWar was much better than it needed to be.  Nice prototype… it’s a game that sorely needs a sequel to expand on the gameplay and variety.

  16. Cloks says:

    Supposedly the South Park RPG is adding Kinect support so you can do things like call Cartman a fatass and watch him respond.

  17. Quick show of hands: did anyone else but me actually play Odama? That might be one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen brought to North America.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      I genuinely love it, but I only like a couple of real life tables and a couple of video game ones.  It’s the clever combination of gameplay forms that gets me.  Yoot Saito gets it, just like he got it with the Seaman series.

      John’s the pinball superfan, though.

      • Yeah I love me some pinball (very nearly made Pinball HoF: Williams Edition for Wii my Game of the Year for 2010) and I enjoyed Odama, but I find that I just can’t bring myself to actually recommend it to anyone because it is just so utterly bizarre. And not really that good a pinball game, frankly, as it more or less has physics that would be realistic if your table were using a giant stone boulder as a ball.

        Amusingly, I thought it felt similar to a table that I used to play way back when called “Hercules” — which used an actual billiards cue ball, and everything else was scaled up accordingly.

  18. duwease says:

    I’ve heard of the Beat Takeshi game before, but that video was fantastic.  Somehow watching someone suffer through it was far better than the descriptions.

  19. John Teti says:

    Does anybody know what the random WWF slam was all about in the middle of the Pikachu video? That mystified me.

    • ToddG says:

      “Did you say you were mis-defined by a randy flan in a peekaboo video?  I don’t understand, please restate command.”

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Well, that would have been the height of the Attitude era, so she mistook cute animal noises for pimps selling hos and multiple chair shots to heads?

      No idea.  They’re even on opposite ends of the country.  Maybe they were jealous of how good No Mercy was?

  20. HOLY SHIT. TV Poww—I distinctly remember a kid at school telling me about this. I always assumed it was some kind of urban legend. My mind is BLOWN.

  21. caspiancomic says:

    On my recent trip to California my friends and I ended up sitting in our rental care like jackasses for two hours in LA traffic, and partly passed the time by trying to cheese the voice command system on our GPS. The only phrase we could get to consistently activate voice command was “Poisoned Ham”, but we got a couple of one-off solutions- “Boys and Man”, Toys and Jam”- to work as well. In summary and in conclusion: voice commands are sort of crap.

  22. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    Well, Pols Voice may hate loud noises, but I’ll bet there’s still room in that dislike column for an arrow between the eyes.
       I hate people who don’t use their blinkers, but I also hate getting stabbed in the stomach. 

  23. CommissionerG says:

    If you lived in Japan like I did, you know that Japanese people have a very different style of prounouncing English words.  I found when playing Mario Party that I had much better luck with the voice recognition software if I used the Japanese style of pronunciation than plain old American.  Perhaps this method will work with other games developed in Japan.

    If you’ve never learned to pronounce English words the Japanese way, here’s three easy steps to reaching a rough approximation.

    1. Pronounce English vowels using the five Spanish vowel sounds.  If a vowel is silent, don’t pronounce it.

    2. If a word ends in a consonant other than n, add an u or o sound to the end.

    3. If two consonant sounds are next to each other, separate them with an u or o sound.


    Apple = Aw-poo-roo

    Strawberry = Su-tu-raw-be-ri

    Macdonalds = Ma-ku-do-na-ru-do

    • Effigy_Power says:

      “30% Iron Chef” taught me that already. ^_^

    • caspiancomic says:

       When I was taking an introductory Japanese course at school it was pretty distracting having to introduce myself using my own name, but in a Japanese accent. I mean, obviously I’m going to pronounce Japanese words correctly, but having to introduce myself as Pa-to-ri-ku instead of just Patrick made me feel like I was making fun of my teacher. Then again, my professor also taught her class that “anno” should be “pronounced” while scratching your head, so maybe she had some pretty far out methods.

  24. Effigy_Power says:

    As someone who has never been to Japan, hasn’t really been a part of the culture beyond eating sushi and hasn’t done a whole lot to become more familiar with Japan as a society…

    …I think they are a little odd. I say that with bewilderment, not racially charged fear. It is a strange place to me and stuff that comes from there is stranger still. I hope that’s okay to say. I accept that this may be due to my relative ignorance of Japanese values and customs, but there we are.
    Weird stuff.

    • Merve says:

      They probably think North Americans are weird.

      • CommissionerG says:

        You’re both right!

      • George_Liquor says:

         Everybody thinks everybody else is weird. Isn’t that weird?

        • Merve says:

          What are you talking about? You’re the most normal person I know. In fact, it’s kind of weird how normal you are.

      • Effigy_Power says:

         I totally agree that they probably do… But with our focus lately on sexism in games and all that, I have to admit that the zeal with which some of these games flaunt their crummy ideals is almost awe-inspiring.

        • Destroy Him My Robots says:

          *checks watch* Apologist time already?!

          At least Japanese games are closer to equal opportunity offenders. I mean, is blatant pandering to fangirls, and that’s the main character of a AAA title. Also, a Japanese game aimed at girls is often just a game aimed at guys, but with the tables turned (see: Tokimeki Memorial Girls’ Side). A Western game aimed at girls is shovelware with ponies.

        • Merve says:

          As someone with a grand total of (*checks just to make sure*) zero Japanese games in his Steam library, I’m probably the worst person to comment on this, but I’ll do so anyway.

          Gender politics in Japan is a different ball game from gender politics in North America. They’re a product of the country’s unique history, path of development, cultural values, etc. As such, the way gender and sexuality are handled in Japanese art, video games included, differs from how they’re handled in North American art. The result is that portrayals of women in Japanese games can suffer from slightly different problems than portrayals of women in Western games. It’s absolutely fine – nay, valuable – to point out such trends and trace them back to their respective countries’ cultures. It’s even fine to want to find ways to change or influence these trends.

          What makes me uncomfortable is concluding from such trends that Japan is “fucked up” or that Japan “hates women.” Firstly, it’s not really true. Secondly, it’s a huge leap of logic to conclude that an entire social group is systematically marginalized and oppressed based on a small corner of a country’s artistic output. Thirdly, such accusations amount to an imposition of North American values on Japanese society, often by people who aren’t really familiar with Japanese culture.

          I cringe a little every time a discussion about a Japanese game devolves into “Well, what did you expect? It was made by a bunch of sexist tentacle rapists.” It’s silly, it’s reductive, and it’s kind of untrue. By all means, please point out the game’s flaws, especially with regards to how it handles gender. But please don’t use it to write off an entire culture.

          Please don’t think that I’m singling you out. You’re not guilty of any of the negative behaviours I mentioned. I just wanted to preemptively make sure that this discussion didn’t degenerate into a fresh round of Japanophobia.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           That’s a nice, detailed explanation, tho I feel as though I must repeat for some reason that I didn’t make any judgement about anything but my own uninformed mind here.
          (It’s hard to pick up if I am being chided by @DestroyHimMyRobots:disqus or @Merve2:disqus for admitting that, so I am being careful, the internet and its poor record of conveying tone as it is.)

        • Destroy Him My Robots says:

          ‘s cool, I’m just a guy who likes to balance out conversations. And surely you can also understand that people may have gotten a little defensive after years and years of being on the Internet, where every mention of Japan is invariably greeted with a chorus of “lol panty vending machines”.

        • Effigy_Power says:

           I can. Mind you there are also enough discussions that end with people defending the indefensible. I think the GS can take a few discussions right between the two extremes.
          I also didn’t think this needed balancing out, as, just like I stated, this was a comment about myself more than about Japanese pop-culture.

        • Merve says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus: That’s fair. I admit to being a little sensitive to the issue, given how common Japanophobia is in gaming discussions. As long as you’re not making value judgments about a culture, it’s fine to think that a portion of their artistic output is odd.

  25. Merve says:

    Speaking of computer software that fails to recognize human input, is anyone else having a problem with Disqus today? Any time I try to post a comment on today’s sawbuck gamer article, Disqus eats it up and it never appears. That might be because the comment I’m trying to post contains a couple of links. Does Disqus have an overzealous spam filter?

  26. Chris says:

    Wait… Wario Ware sucks? Is this the general consensus? I love those games. Rapid fire fun. Cute little line at the end of the write-up, but I feel like you’re being too harsh.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Turning/Twisted is a consensus top 10 game on the Game Boy Advance.  (I think the series is just okay.  Hero 30/Half-Minute Hero does more with a similar concept.)

  27. Zach Adams says:

    I hate to be THAT GUY, but I believe TV Poww used the Intellivision rather than the Channel F.  There may have been multiple versions over the years, but the one I saw on KTVT Ft Worth around 83-84 definitely used Intellivision games (I remember Astrosmash for sure).  Several of the games were packaged together as a “children’s” game as Sharp Shot for the Intellivision: 

    EDITED TO ADD: Okay, it looks like the “Pix!” link actually is Channel F-based, but the others are definitely way too advanced. Presumably they started with the Fairchild and upgraded to the Intellivision when it became evident that the Fairchild was too primitive to make it into the 80s.