Seaman (video game)
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 and the face of Seaman 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 a translucent, 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.
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 the narrator Leonard Nimoy as Dr. Jean Paul Gasse.
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 Seaman becomes fairly domesticated, but this does not prevent it from insulting the player or constructing less-than-friendly remarks.
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.
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, 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. Although they begin small, the Gillmen 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 more developed. 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, that look similar to matured tadpoles entering the frog stage. The Tadmen's diet consists of feeding upon their fellow siblings until the number is reduced to two. When this happens, the siblings will produce an egg, which will hatch into a 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 Seamen will eventually lay Mushroomer eggs and start the cycle over.
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.
The Angry Video Game Nerd, a game critic who generally reviews only bad games, reviewed the game in 2015 with a positive impression, 16 years after it was released in Japan, dedicating the episode in memory of the late Leonard Nimoy, who died earlier that year.
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