Reading through the coverage of Toshio Iwai’s keynote from Futuresonic, I’m disappointed that he didn’t dedicate any time to his first (as far as I’m aware) commercial interactive software, a title for the Famicom Disk system called “Otocky” – one of my favourites of Iwai’s creations.
I first got hold of Otocky about a year ago, after an absurd about of web-trawling via ebay auctions, half complete torrents and repeated dead-ends. I was really shocked after firing it up. While the graphics are above-average famicom fare, reasonably nice abstract candy-coloured worlds, and while the sound and music really makes the most of the charming bleepy sounds capable of the famicoms sound chip, its the collision of interactivity with audio that sets it apart and makes it so significant in the historical development of interactive music and audio.
When I first played Rez, the connection between the audio and your ability to affect on that audio as the player really made an impact on me. The way that each level was constructed so that elements were created to guide you to add percussive events to the soundtrack and so that sections of the level corresponded to sections of the main track felt so unique and such a suitable marriage. The use of beat-snapping with the timing of your weapon made everything feel so well synced and made you feel that you really contributed to the composition. Its only after playing Otocky, created in 1987(!) that you realise that Rez certainly wasn’t the first to explore this area. One of the things I love so much about Otocky is that you can’t really go wrong with the composition you create. As you pass through the level, you pass through successive chord progressions, and the sounds generated by firing map onto a single note from the current chord, so its always in tune. It also snaps to the nearest beat so that the note always hits on time – so while you feel total ownership of the notes created, the notes always sound good.
I’ve got a (badly) cut together video embedded below where you can see the game in motion. God google video seems to have really mangled it. Its also a hell of a lot easier to trackdown online now for those looking to have a play.