StarWars.com goes hands-on with the first-ever Star Wars Tamagotchi.
I heard it from across the room. A series of panicked astromech boops, and it could only mean one thing: R2-D2 was in trouble. I ran over. Sure enough, Boba Fett had shown up. Soon, I vanquished the bounty hunter and there were happy beeps all around. My droid friend was safe, and I felt good.
This scenario didn’t play out in virtual reality, a mobile app, or the latest next-gen Star Wars video game. Rather, it all happened on a pocket-sized, egg-shaped device. I’m talking, of course, about the new R2-D2 Tamagotchi, the first-ever Star Wars edition of the classic interactive virtual pet. Bandai, maker of Tamagotchi, sent StarWars.com an early sample of Artoo to try, and I’m pleased to say that the experience is a joy -- one filled with minigames, surprise character appearances, and charm to spare.
Taking care of Artoo
This is the first time I’ve ever played with/cared for a Tamagotchi. If you’re in the same boat, I strongly recommend reading the instructions. It’s not a complex system to learn, but going in with a basic understanding of how your Tamagotchi works will make it much more enjoyable.
To start, 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. “A” navigates through care and minigame options, “B” selects, and “C” cancels.
The goal is to take care of Artoo like Luke or Anakin would, and you’re presented with several options and activities to do so. First, a press of the C button checks on how your droid is doing. A happy beep means all is good; more somber sounds signal that he needs some attention. From there you can charge Artoo, clean him, or play minigames that will raise his spirits. The first minigames available include dejarik against Chewbacca, where you have to copy an onscreen button sequence to make the correct move, and another experience in which Artoo must extinguish a fire. They’re both short bursts of fun, and just a sample of the efficient and clever game design that Bandai has poured into this release. My six-year-old son, who’s just beginning to play video games, picked it all up very easily and has loved taking care of Artoo with me.
After a while, your Artoo will evolve, with a slightly different look onscreen. New minigames will open up at this point too, including a challenge in which you need to spell out droid names from Tetris-style falling letters, grabbing Luke’s lamp back from Yoda, and much more. It’s all delightful and has just enough challenge for fans of any age. It’s not all fun and games, however.
Supporting characters will appear at prescribed times every day, like the previously mentioned Boba Fett, as well as General Grievous, and others. (My favorite is the stormtroopers; with a quick press of the A button they’ll give you the “Move along, move along,” motion, and Artoo scuttles away.) But that’s not the biggest danger to your astromech.
If you forget about Artoo for too long -- and he will beep to let you know he needs you – Jawas will come and take him away. Unfortunately, this fate befell our Artoo. It was my son who discovered that these scavengers took our glob of grease, and he was not very happy with me. Lesson learned. After that instance, I became much more attentive, and I’m happy to say that we haven’t been visited by Jawas since.
Having never owned a Tamagotchi, I was shocked to see how much Bandai could squeeze out of this tiny screen, which is no bigger than a dime and without color. Through simple but effective animations, Artoo happily moves back and forth; closeups of his dome look like the real thing; and his various attachments, shown from all sorts of angles, match what we’ve seen in movies and series. It’s just enough to be visually interesting and true to the character, while also serving gameplay. But as discussed, there’s much more than R2-D2 in here.
There are tons of characters and vehicles to see and interact with, all recreated with care. Yoda and Wicket look appropriately adorable, while more complex designs, like the Naboo N1 starfighter and podracers, somehow achieve accuracy from such simple tech.
The device itself is a basic but handsome design. I’ve been using the classic-color version, which features R2-D2’s forward-facing blue and white exterior, including his dome and various panels. It captures his innate cuteness, and is immediately 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 makes all kinds of beeps and boops to convey emotion, even mimicking his cheerful whistles to great effect. It completes the feeling that this an actual droid in your care.
“That 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 terribly demanding of your time; it’s challenging but not frustrating or especially difficult; and it’s insanely cute.
As a Star Wars fan, it’s been a very rewarding experience. After a while, interacting with Artoo just became a part of my day, which is decidedly different than playing a video or board game session. And there’s a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in knowing he’s happy. In addition, through all the challenges and characters, it shows a real love for the saga overall on behalf of Bandai; indeed, it’s hard not to smile when C-3PO or another fan favorite pops in.
Like anything, you will get out what you put in. The more I paid attention to Artoo, the more surprises I found, and the more invested I became. After all, who wouldn’t want their own R2-D2?
Bandai's R2-D2 Tamagotchi is available now.