tetote connect

taito, 2021

this is part of the latest generation of arcade rhythm games, in which the overarching design trend seems to be “made to be difficult to recreate in a home controller”. in tetote’s case, the “moat” is the enormous touchscreen the game is based around, probably the largest in an arcade rhythm game so far. it easily surpasses the defunct touchscreen rhythm games of yesteryear, from back when the rhythm game design fad actually was “touchscreens”. taito’s previous arcade rhythm game entry “groove coaster” had an tall screen as well, so i guess it’s an area of expertise.

the concept of the game is that you “dance” with a life-size anime character on the giant screen, the “notes” you hit on the touchscreen being when your hands are supposed to touch in the dance routine (translator’s note: テトテ(手と手) means “hand and/with hand”). (if you are interested in the philosophic implications of this connection using touchscreens, please check out my essay how the touchscreen transformed the internet). i’m sure i don’t have to explain why “making it so you can (kinda) dance with anime girls in real life” has the potential to be immensely lucrative.

what is incredible is how badly they managed to fumble the execution by dropping the ball with what is almost certainly the most essential element of the game: THE CHARACTERS YOU DANCE WITH. ALL they had to do was have DECENT and APPEALING character design, but for some reason they veered off into some uncanny valley of bizarre, avant-garde, sometimes even unsettling, and overall just plain WEIRD. let’s see, there’s the scantily-clad water shota, the clockwork twink, bara party gorilla, idol whose getup is so nakedly revealing that it’s practically insulting, and so on. i can’t help but feel sorry for the poor boomers that accidentally wander into that corner of the arcade and have their eyeballs melted viewing these incomprehensible entities displayed to them on tetote’s huge screen. the only positive thing i can say is that they’re certainly not generic, and all of them do seem to be sticking to some sort of quirky sci-fi aesthetic tetote has been trying to cultivate, perhaps to its detriment.

it’s absolutely perplexing how they managed to throw this hard, it’s not as if there’s shortage of designers able to create cute anime girls in japan, konami designs throwaway characters for one or two sdvx song cover illustrations that are easily 10x better than anything in tetote. there’s a lot of other options as well: when i first saw the previews for the game, i thought they could absolutely PRINT money using one simple strategy: licensing vtubers for the game. it seems like a slam dunk on so many levels: it’s easy to implement since vtubers already have 3D models (a couple of their designs are even a little bit good), they’re (regrettably) quite popular with a good portion of the rhythm gamer contingent, and some of them even make music!

however, japanese businesses have a reputation for being obtuse and passing up obvious opportunities so i wasn’t at all surprised to see they hadn’t tried it after the game had been out for good while. then, after a year or two, they actually went and did it, they added a vtuber character (momosuzu nene) and some songs by her, and... i guess it didn’t go that well because despite adding songs from a few more vtubers, they have not added any more vtuber characters and the first new character in a while is another oc. what went wrong? my theory is that both me and taito failed to take into account the fact that most vtuber fans are basement-dwelling degenerate recluses who would never dare step foot in a public place like the arcade, even if it meant meeting a life-size version of their vtuber idol. so it goes.

there are a couple other directions they could have gone in as well... like getting hatsune miku for the game. in fact, looking into it, it seems that they did have a special tetote-themed miku in the game, but only for a limited time at launch. i think konami may have lured her away with bags of money and their usual nefarious machinations because i’ve recently spotted 3D miku hanging out over on dance around. speaking of dance around, i think i’ve also seen touhou characters in it, which, if i’m not mistaken, are both free to use and beloved by rhythm gamers? what exactly is the holdup? who knows...

well, that’s probably enough about the characters, now for the gameplay... i’ve heard some compare it to osu but i’ve never played osu so can’t comment on that. to me it looks like a giant touchscreen game trying to be a dance game, so the question is: is it enough of a dance game for it to overcome my dislike of touchscreen games? not quite, it turns out, it still falls into that touchscreen game trap where the notes appear on screen too soon before they need to be hit, and i end up feeling like i’m constantly playing catch-up. maybe i’m just not cut out for touchscreen games, my reaction time is too poor, i need notes to spend some time on screen meandering their way down a track before reaching the target like they do in button games. i also constantly forget which color goes with which hand, though i’m sure a little more playtime would sort that out. finally, maybe this is only a me-problem, but dancing right in front of a nearly life-size 3D anime girl, looking into her virtual eyes and touching her virtual hands, gives me the weirdest feeling of anxiety...