Seaman: the prohibited pet! is, in essence, just like playing with any other virtual pet. You start the game by setting up your habitat and adding some eggs. In a few days, the eggs will hatch. Once that happens, you have a few baby fish complete with a human head....and well it goes on from there. What you do with Seaman doesn’t generally differ much from day to day, just remembering to come back regularly to control the temperature and air levels and make sure that Seaman is fed will ensure that he develops okay.

The handsome face of the game's creator, Yoot Saito

The real attraction and uniqueness of the game comes from the fact that you can interact with Seaman via the microphone which plugs into the second VMU slot on the DC controller. The voice recognition is pretty good, although it definitely has its ups and downs. For example, Seaman could understand that I work as a translator but would confuse "hi" and "bye" on most occasions. Overall though, it is impressive stuff and there's a level of satisfaction to be had when Seaman repeats and learns a word that you have taught him and even asks you about something you mentioned even weeks ago. Actually, the AI can be pretty entertaining and surprising. Seaman will ask you everything from your hobby, to your job and even sex life, and will make you laugh on occasions with his childish behaviour or satirical comments. Playing this in 2012 still feels so fresh and so different from any other game around as quite simply there has never ever been anything quite like it on a games console. 


Seaman takes various forms through the game; here  its in its caterpillar stage

Graphically, it's nothing to get excited about but the character models have a unique stylized look (Seaman's face is actually that of creator, Yoot Sato) and the tank and water graphics get the job done. Sound wise again, there’s little to blow your mind and the only sound you will here apart from the sounds of the heater, filter and water (and a satisfying plop sound when you drop them back in tank) effects is Seaman’s voice, but again they all get the job done.

If you’re looking for a game that provides many straight hours of action and excitement then Seaman might not be the game for you. However, if you are looking for one of the most unique, and gratifying games ever, and an experience that is exclusive to Dreamcast (in the West) then I thoroughly recommend that you hunt down a copy of the game.



 


Due to the success of the game in its homeland (Seaman was the third best selling Dreamcast game in Japan) there were a variety of Seaman titles released for the Dreamcast. Not counting the Christmas specials, (more on that later) there was the original Seaman: kindan no petto or Seaman: the prohibited pet, and also Seaman 2001 which was a semi sequel/update similar to that of Samba De Amigo 2001. The 2001 version basically adds in all of the alterations and improvements that were made when converting the game for the Western market.


Seaman in both regular and 2001 editions
The back however is exactly the same on both versions

The difficulty level was enhanced to give the user more guidance throughout the game as to how to raise the Seaman. More importantly, there was various improvements to the voice recognition and a significant increase in the number of the words and phrases which Seaman can recognise.  The ability to be able to view the tank from above was also added as were some alterations to the speed of Seaman’s growth which was much needed as the first game would take an age just for Seaman to learn a few words. Finally, slight adjustments were made to the graphics and the tank looks a lot brighter and somewhat sharper than the original. 


Due to its improvements the 2001 version is the one you want!

While the original was limited to game and electronic stores, the 2001 edition was also sold at convenience stores in Japan to increase sales of the game. Yet, these days while the original version of the game can be picked boxed for a few yen, the 2001 edition game, which has obviously become somewhat of a definitive version, has become a fairly rare title and will set you back considerably more.

Kurisumasu Seaman: omoi wo tsuaeru mou hitotsu no houhou or Christmas Seaman: another way to convey your sentiments,  isn’t really a game as such and more of a way of sending a Christmas greeting from Seaman to your friends via the Dreamcast online network. You could select from a few of the typically Seaman-like  philosophical and entertaining set-phrases available to send your loved one a Christmas message. There is no actual way of talking with Seaman in this version of the game. Instead, it is just a one-way conversation with him recording or relaying your Christmas message; of which only one can be saved per disc.


Christmas Seaman, unfortunately pretty useless in 2012

The  service was only available between December, 16 - 26 1999 so you had to be quick, especially as to receive you message the recipient would have been required to have a version of the game, so during that time you also needed to send one of CD's supplied for the person to check it. Wouldn’t it just be easier to send a good old Christmas card? Well, I guess it was quite a novelty at the time. Nowadays,  the game is quite rare as it was only sold in a bundle with the limited edition Red Seaman Christmas Dreamcast console or through Sega Direct (at a cost of 2800 yen for the red message kit and a further 980 yen per message disc) but as there is no actual way of accessing the servers now it is of little use other than a collector’s item. Still, just like they did with Nights, Sonic Adventure and PSO, Sega should be applauded for bringing some festive cheer to their games; it does not happen enough these days.

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