Seaman (video game)
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|Programmer(s)||Arka Roy |
Microsoft Windows (cancelled)
Seaman (シーマン, Shīman) is a virtual pet video game for the Sega Dreamcast. It is one of the few Dreamcast games to take advantage of the microphone attachment. The narration is voiced by Toshiyuki Hosokawa in the original Japanese-language version and by Leonard Nimoy in the English-language version. The face of the Seaman creature is actually that of the game's producer, Yoot Saito.
A limited edition game titled Christmas Seaman was released in Japan on December 16, 1999 alongside an exclusive red Dreamcast. In 2001, Seaman was re-released in Japan for the PlayStation 2 as Seaman: Kindan no Pet - Gaze Hakushi no Jikken Shima (シーマン~禁断のペット~ガゼー博士の実験島), the first edition of which came with a microphone. A PC version for Microsoft Windows was planned, with the Seaman being able to interact with the user's applications. No release date was specified, and it was later cancelled.
A sequel called Seaman 2 was released in Japan for the PlayStation 2 in 2007.
The "Seaman" is a form of freshwater fish (the color and shape of the fins suggest that it is a Carp) with a very lifelike human face. It possesses human mannerisms and behavior with which the player interacts.
Seaman is considered a unique video game in that it presents limited action. The player's role is to feed and care for Seaman, while providing him with the company that he needs. In fact, the player is required to check on the Seaman every day of real time, or he could die. A portion of Seaman's knowledge is random trivia. When he asks what the player's birthday is (and the player responds via the microphone input), Seaman will then share significant events which happened on that date.
The player is provided with an unhatched Seaman egg at the beginning of the game and through various terms of development and conditions develops and interacts with it. By using various buttons on the Dreamcast controller, the player controls all of the machinery and physical contact with the mysterious creature. The player is also provided with multiple Seamen for breeding and interaction purposes. Over the course of the game, it is required of the player to evolve their Seaman to different stages in its life cycle, eventually transforming into a frog-like creature outlined on the Disc's cover.
In the Seaman's first days of life, it begins as a Mushroomer, a form consisting of a well-developed optic organ and a flagellum, lacking a face or any verbal means of communication. In this form, it is essentially a parasite, which overruns a host Nautilus via being eaten and consumes it from the inside out for nourishment. Mushroomers tend to stick to one side of the tank by the ends of their flagellum if left alone. In this stage, the player's interaction is somewhat minimal and plays similar to a tutorial, allowing the player to learn to control the heat in the fish tank, direct the Mushroomers, and clean out any filthy water that has accumulated over time. In the fish tank a cephalopod which is a nautilus swims around and eats the mushroomers. Later in the game the nautilus began squirting ink and takes off its shell. Then it squirms in agonizing pain. In the end, the seaman pop out of the nautilus and it dies.
After emerging from the deceased body of the Nautilus, the organism enters a stage called the Gillman, which features a humanoid face and small, fish-like body. During this stage, the Seaman becomes capable of speech but can only speak in gibberish copying and reiterating comments through a microphone input. At this stage, the player will begin the communication process and continue facilitating the aquarium as the Gillman grows larger, developing scales and a larger vocabulary. Just as the Gillman matured and can speak a little bit, they soon kill one another until only two remain. Their genders are indeterminate, however. When they get to a certain point, you can name one of them, and it will change its color and gender.
In this stage, the Seaman is still fish-like in appearance and is similar to that of the Gillman but has frog like legs. After mating, the male Podfish dies.
The aquarium is also transformed into a terrarium, being drained of most of the water and introducing land and oxygen to breathe, the female then lays eggs on the shore. Shortly after the deposit of the eggs, the female also dies, leaving the player with the hatching of a new evolutionary stage.
Instead of the introduction of new Mushroomers like the player began the game with, the player is provided with a new form called Tadmen. They look like the baby Gillman but they have tadpole tails, tadpole bodies, but they still have the deep voice from their parents. When they get older their bodies get bigger and small legs and arms begin to form. The Tadmen's diet consists of feeding upon their fellow siblings until the number is reduced to two. When this happens, the siblings will climb ashore and walk on land becoming known as the frogman.
This is the Seaman's final stage of its maturity process. It has now become an amphibious creature, with its humanoid face and a frog's body. Now able to co-exist between the habitats of water and dry land, the Frogman is now capable of powerful leaps and the consumption of insectoid organisms; however, like the real-world frog, the creature still requires the moisture of water to stay alive and the player is now provided with a sprinkler system to achieve this. It is also at this stage where the player releases the seaman into the wild. While anything concerning metamorphosis and reproduction are left to speculation while the Frogmen are in the wild, it can be assumed the Seaman will eventually lay Mushroomer eggs and start the cycle over.
Story and setting
As a new pet owner, the player is given the responsibility of caring for and learning about the enigmatic "Seaman" species, using a replica of the discoverer's laboratory. The player must figure everything out by themselves, such as appropriate care, with some guidance from narrator Leonard Nimoy.
In the game's manual, it contains the backstory about the seaman. During the 1930s, Dr. Jean Paul Gassé was a member of a special team of French biologists sent to Egypt by the French government, to conduct a large-scale study of the Nile coastal ecosystem between Aswan and Alexandria on the Nile River. During that time, Dr. Gassé was determined to research a creature that was an "omnipotent messenger of gods" among the ruins of the Third Dynasty. In March 1932, in Alexandria, Dr. Gassé met up a local resident, who, while fishing, caught a seaman. Dr. Gassé obtained a sample of some of the seaman eggs, and went back to France with the egg samples in his possession.
When Dr. Gassé returned to France, he attempted to raise the eggs, but in the process, the seaman died. Shortly after this, he published a thesis of his work. Leading academics, however, dismissed him and his work as a PR stunt and without proper evidence to support these theories. As the result, the work was ignored, and no one believed him. His hypothesis suggested that the Seaman was responsible for transferring knowledge and language that increased during the Third Dynasty across oceans and other lands. This theory became the basis for Anthro-Bio Archaeology, a combination of archaeology, anthropology, and biology, which is a highly valued field of study.
Shortly after publishing his thesis, Dr. Gassé was fired from his post. After his dismissal, news of Gassé's whereabouts and activities were unknown, and details during those times were sketchy. Rumors began circulating that Dr. Gassé's trail traced to some remote islands in Southeast Asia. It is known, however, that he escaped the horrors of World War II and met up with his colleague, Kimo Masuda. It became clear that sometime during these years they were able to conduct further research on Seaman's evolution, quite possibly even up to the creature walking on all fours. Unfortunately, there was very little hard data or evidence that substantiated these findings.
In March 1996, the French Government established the Anthro-Bio Archeological Research Institute (ABARI), headquartered in Paris. The institute is based on the work of Dr. Gassé, and most of the modern day research of Seaman specimens has taken place there. In 1997, the ABARI announced there was a strong possibility that these Seaman species were closely related to the origins of ancient civilizations in Egypt. On October 6, 1998, one of Gassé's formaldehyde specimens is discovered at the University of Paris.
On February 15, 1999, parts of Gassé's journal and note entries were found in the Masuda family storehouse in Matsuzaka City in Mie Prefecture, Japan. Professor Kendare Takahashi, who was directing the Japanese branch of the ABARI, successfully managed to breed Seaman eggs in captivity, in July the same year. Soon after, Seaman was presented in aquariums across Japan. In July 2000, an expedition team embarked for Egypt in a first major research of the Seaman in the wild.
In Japan, the Dreamcast version of Seaman sold 399,342 copies as of February 1, 2004, making it the third best-selling Dreamcast game in the region at the time. The PlayStation 2 version of the game sold 305,632 in Japan as of November 2, 2008.
Famitsu rated the original Dreamcast version of the game 29/40, and scored the PlayStation 2 remake a 31/40. Seaman received an Excellence Award for Interactive Art at the 1999 Japan Media Arts Festival and received the Original Game Character of the Year award at GDC 2002. In 2008, Game Informer named the game one of the top ten weirdest of all time.
Greg Orlando reviewed the Dreamcast version of the game for Next Generation, rating it four stars out of five, and stated that "The gentle art of conversation meets Resident Evil - and the Dreamcast gets its most bizarre title ever."
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- Byford, Sam (September 6, 2019). "Seaman creator Yoot Saito on the fishy Dreamcast AI that was way ahead of its time". The Verge. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
- Seaman review at GameSpot (archive)