Artwork used for all versions of the game.
ChuChu Rocket! (Japanese: チューチューロケット! Hepburn: ChūChū Roketto!?) is an action puzzle video game developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega. Directed and produced by Yuji Naka of Sonic the Hedgehog fame, the game revolves around a series of puzzles where players lead ChuChus into rockets, while avoiding KapuKapus. The game also features a competitive multiplayer mode that pits players against each other in a race to collect the most ChuChus while avoiding and leading KapuKapus towards other players.
Originally developed for the Dreamcast and released in November 1999, Chu Chu! Rocket is credited as the first multiplayer online game on a home console, using the online capabilities of the Dreamcast, along with the Dreamarena service in Europe and, later, SegaNet in North America. Despite the discontinuation of the Dreamcast in March 2001, Sega kept servers for the game live until November 2003, with future versions of the game lacking online multiplayer gameplay. With Sega's move to third-party software development, Chu Chu Rocket! was ported to the Game Boy Advance as a launch title for the system in Japan and North America. Local multiplayer for the Game Boy Advance version was supported by the Game Link Cable. The Game Boy Advance version was also released on two Twin Pack cartridges bundled with Sonic Battle and Sonic Advance respectively in 2005 and another Twin Pack cartridge bundled with Columns Crown in 2008. The game was further ported to iOS in October 2010 and Android in November 2011.
The game was both a commercial and critical success at launch, despite various issues with online multiplayer, and is constantly cited as one of the Dreamcast's best games by various critics. Subsequent releases of the game have also been received positively.
Chu Chu Rocket! takes place in outer space, where, on a far away planet, thousands of space mice, also known as "ChuChus", inhabit a spaceport. The ChuChus lived peacefully until an infestation of space cats, also known as "KapuKapus", start to invade the spaceport, forcing the ChuChus to seek an escape. In a frenzy panic, the ChuChus scatter all over the spaceport at high speeds, rushing to look for and board the port's four rockets to escape and seek refuge. However, there is only enough fuel for one rocket.
Each of the four rockets stationed at the port have a pilot: Chuih, who "really knows how to party", pilots the blue rocket. The careless ChuBei, who feigns ignorance, pilots the yellow rocket. ChuPea, who has a habit of daydreaming, pilots the red rocket, and the steady and reliable ChuBach, who does things at his own pace, pilots the green rocket.
The object of the game is to guide one or more mice ("ChuChus") around a board into one or more goals while avoiding cats ("KapuKapus") roaming the board. The mice and cats all move in predictable paths by always turning right when hitting a wall head on, by following corners or by turning around when in a dead end.
ChuChu Rocket!'s multiplayer mode revolves around up to four players placing arrows on the level at once, trying to direct mice into their own rockets and cats into other players' rockets (any cat that reaches a rocket removes a percentage of the mice within). Each player can only have three arrows on-screen at a time and cannot place them on other players' arrows or their own arrows. Arrows would disappear over time, or could be removed by a player placing his fourth arrow (which would eliminate the first arrow placed, thus leaving three). Although a simple concept, this quickly becomes frenetic with the relentless speed of the mice and four players fighting over them.
Periodically, special colored mice would appear. A gold mouse would add 50 mice to the player's rocket, while a pink mouse would trigger a random event. These events could benefit the player who collected it (for example, by routing all the mice on screen to their rocket, or dropping cats directly into all the opponents' rockets), benefit all players (such as removing all the cats for a short time and flooding the board with mice), hurt all players (such as briefly dropping lots of cats onto the board) or even change the dynamic of the game by swapping the positions of the players' rockets.
While billed primarily as a multiplayer game, the single-player puzzle mode of ChuChu Rocket! had a strong online following. In this mode, players are presented with levels with mice and cats on it and are tasked with placing arrows in order to get all the mice into the rockets and keep all the cats out without further guidance after setting the level in motion. A level editor allows players to create their own puzzle levels to share with others, and thousands of levels were uploaded to Sega's online service during the game's lifetime.
A less-featured Stage Challenge mode challenges players to get mice into rockets, guide a cat to eat all the mice, put cats into a computer-guarded rocket, and other tasks, all within a specified time limit. One or two players can work together to solve the 25 available levels.
Development on ChuChu Rocket! began almost immediately after the completion of Sonic Adventure. Yuji Naka, the head of Sonic Team, was tasked by Sega to create a fully networked game, with players being able to play against each other over the internet. The team had previously worked with the Sega Dreamcast Network for file sharing and networking features in Sonic Adventure's Chao Garden component. The creation of ChuChu Rocket! marked the fourth phase of a five-phase strategy Sega had planned for the Dreamcast, which involved slowly introducing Dreamcast players to the capabilities of the console's online features. The fourth of these phases, the introduction of online multiplayer gameplay and parlor/puzzle games, prompted the development of ChuChu Rocket!.
The development of the game was initially difficult for Yuji Naka and Sonic Team, as the idea of players being able to do battle over the internet was ambitious for a home console at the time. Naka has stated, however, that "making the game was a valuable experience for us, as we learned quite a bit, and we're proud to have produced a good title". Naka also stated that the experiences of the developers working with the Sega Dreamcast Network on ChuChu Rocket! also helped them create Phantasy Star Online, an even more ambitious project that represented Sega's fifth and final phase of Dreamcast Network integration; the introduction of full 3D multiplayer online games.
ChuChu Rocket! was officially announced by Sega on September 2, 1999, when Sonic Team unveiled their second game for the Dreamcast after 1998's Sonic Adventure. Initially, an arcade version of the game was planned, but was scrapped. Prior to the game's release in Japan in November 1999, Sega promoted the game with a subsite dedicated to ChuChu Rocket!, and a 15-second commercial advertising the game was solicited to television stations across the country, with the commercial also made available to download through the subsite. The game was officially released in Japan on November 11, 1999, and was commercially successful. The game sold 35,000 copies in its first week, peaking at the top of the Japanese video game charts by the week's end on November 22, 1999, and knocking the PlayStation release of Chrono Trigger off the top spot. Shortly after the release of ChuChu Rocket!, video game magazine Famitsu held a contest in which a ChuChu-themed minigame for the Dreamcast Visual Memory Unit (VMU) can be downloaded from the internet and played. Players who successfully beat the minigame are given a password in which was to be sent, with personal details, back to Famitsu. Various prizes were given out to winners of the contest, such as some VMU stickers and a skeleton orange Dreamcast controller.
After the game's success in Japan, a North American and European release of the game was penned by Sega. A release date of June 2000 in North America was initially announced, but this was soon moved up to March 2, 2000. Prior to the North American release of the game, a demo, featuring thirty levels from the game's single player puzzle mode, was made available to play on PC through Sega's website. Chu Chu Rocket! was released in North America on March 7, 2000; a week later than had been announced earlier. Focus on the game's marketing in the region was on the online capabilities of the Sega Dreamcast network and online multiplayer play. This included a tournament, held by Sega on March 25, 2000, where players could go up against members of Sonic Team, the Dreamcast Network developers, and other employees of Sega in online matches of ChuChu Rocket!.
The European and PAL versions of the game were not released until months after the North American release; on June 9, 2000. There, the game was released for free to subscribers of Dreamarena, the online gaming service for the Dreamcast in Europe, which, at the time of ChuChu Rocket!'s launch in Europe, had over 25,000 subscribers, despite the absence of online play beforehand. Copies of the game sold in Europe came bundled with Version 1.5 of DreamKey, Sega's web browser for the Dreamcast.
A Game Boy Advance release of ChuChu Rocket! featured the same gameplay as the original Dreamcast release, complete with single-cartridge multiplayer gameplay across multiple GBAs. The original 100 puzzle levels were included, as well as 2,500 user-submitted levels from the online service. This version's level editor is capable of creating levels for 4Player Battle, Team Battle, Stage Challenge and Puzzle mode. Numerous new features and effects were added to the GBA version as well, some taking advantage of each player having their own screen. Several user puzzle names were censored from the US version, for example "The Final Solution" became "The solution", "pac chu-chu" became "pack of chu-chu's", and "Gang Bang" became "Gang".
An unofficial Atari ST release of ChuChu Rocket!, released as freeware by Reservoir Gods in 2001, featured the same single-player gameplay as the original Dreamcast release and up to 4 players on the same machine in 4Player Battle & 2 vs. 2 modes. All the original Dreamcast music was remade by MSG using SID Sound Designer. Two versions exist - one for STe/Atari TT030/Atari Falcon requiring 2Mb or more of memory & a 'ChuChuLite' version for 1Mb Atari ST computers. This game received MyAtari Magazine Game of the Year award 2002.
A version of the game for Apple iOS was announced on September 9, 2010. The game features Wi-Fi multiplayer for up to four players and was released on October 28, 2010. It does not include the stage builder, but does include over 500 puzzles, with the majority of them being custom puzzles released on SegaNet that were in the GBA version.
A clone called ShokoRocket is also available for users of Android. It provides original levels and an editor, and recently added multiplayer support (locally). An official port of ChuChu Rocket! was released in late 2011 and is available from the Android Market.
There is also an opensource port called Mures, which is available for Linux and other platforms and has multiplayer and network support.
The Dreamcast version has an aggregate score of 86% on GameRankings. One of the most common complaints about the game was the lag time on the online play. The online interface was also criticized, though reviewers noted that it was Sega's first online game. IGN complained that the lobby system was poorly conceived. GameSpot said that the network mode "could have been the crowning moment" of the game. Gamespy reported problems with getting the settings to connect to the Internet correctly. In Japan, Famitsu magazine scored the Dreamcast version of the game a 34 out of 40.
The Game Boy Advance version's graphics as 2D sprites substituted the 3D-Cel shaded miniature models were sacrificed due to the lesser power of the GBA and were also criticized, but noted the gameplay was essentially the same as the Dreamcast version. The GBA version has an aggregate score of 83% on GameRankings.
- History of online games
- Bomberman Online - another 4-player multiplayer online game released for the Dreamcast.
- Phantasy Star Online - online role-playing game released for the Dreamcast by Sonic Team.
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