Jumpin’ Popira by Takara

Console Name: Jumpin' Popira
Original Name: ジャンピンポピラ
Release Date: 17 July, 2004
Original Price: ¥7,329
Country of Origin: Japan
Manufacturer: Takara / SSD COMPANY LIMITED

Takara was a toy company founded in 1953. Operating out of Tokyo, Takara first started with traditional toys and board game. Their first major commercial success was the Licca Kayama doll (also called Licca-Chan). Released in 1967, the doll has sold more than 60 million units to date.  This was only the first major success for Takara which continues releasing genre-defining toys such as a series of miniature cars called Choro Q in the 70s, the B-Daman and the Beyblade in the 90s, etc.

In the 90s, the Karaoke was an extremely popular activity in Japan and a lot of company were looking at the home market. But home karaoke systems were expensive and complex. You needed a screen for the lyrics, good quality audio system, especially encoded song, etc. Music distribution was probably the biggest problem. In an age where the Internet was not as fast and popular than today, you had to rely on specialized compilations that was expensive, or uses a machine that could connect to an online catalogue. In 1994, Sega released the Sega Music Network to be used with their commercial Karaoke system, the Prologue-21. In 1995, Taito offered a similar service for their home Karaoke system called the X-55. All these services were aimed at adults, leaving the door wide open for Takara to provide an offering to a younger audience.

Takara understood that to enter this market segment they had to have a product that would be affordable and easy to use. Takara licensed the Xavix technology from SSD  (which would later release the XaviXPORT using the same technologies) and released their take on the home Karaoke system with the e-Kara. But while releasing a home Karaoke system for the whole family was the primary goal, Takara couldn’t dismiss another opportunity brought forward by the e-Kara : the rhythm games. Since the late 80s, Japan had been dancing to the rhythm of the Dance Dance Revolution series. The latest in the series of rhythm games was GuitarFreaks who had just been released. Since the e-Kara would use cartridges to hold the songs, it was not difficult to create a system to make use of these cartridges as a base for a rhythm game.

Takara named their rhythm game Popira. Instead of using the falling down notes from the music, the Popira (ポピラ) represented the notes by four falling ball that needed to be bounced with the rhythm of the music. While a bit more preparation was needed to make a cartridge compatible with the Popira system and therefore not all e-Kara cartridges would be compatible with the Popira system, the inverse was not an issue. To differentiate the two series, the Popira compatible cartridges would be called the Gold Cartridge and would start with a “G-“.

Released on October 20, 2000, alongside the e-Kara, the Popira did well for itself. While the e-Kara was an instant success with over a millions units and over 2.5 million cartridges sold in 18 months, the Popira did relatively well with 200,000 units sold over the same period of time. The main complaint was the lack of a two-player mode. Games such as Dance Dance Revolution and GuitarFreaks were fun to play solo but were even more enjoyable in either coop or competition mode. As the Popira only supported one player at the time, this aspect was cruelly missing.

With the amazing sales number of the e-Kara products, Takara decided to repeat released an updated version with the e-Kara N. And while the Popira didn’t break any sales record, it was still popular enough for Takara to release at the same time, the Popira 2, the second installment of the Popira franchise that finally features a second controller for some head to head competition and multiple different game play options. While the Popira 2 was a bit more expensive than its predecessor (with a suggested retail price of ¥6,980), it became the de facto choice for all customers, throwing the original Popira at the bottom of the financial result for Takara.

Takara remain realistic with the Popira 2, setting internal sales goals for 200,000 units per year. While the Popira 2 did fairly well, Takara couldn’t help to notice that another rhythm game was taking Japan over : Taiko no Tatsujin. The game which simulates a taiko drum was very popular in both the arcade and in the home console.

Takara swiftly decided to build a third installment in the Popira series with Taiko de Popira. The game built on the success of Popira 2 offering a two-player mode name “Battle Mode”, but also introduce a single player campaign called “Story Mode”. The mode is themed around a “journey of training” in which you progress, talk to characters you meet along the way, and master songs of various genres. The device also has 11 songs built-in. Takara had big ambitions with this release, with a target sales number of 500,000 units in the first year. The Taiko de Popira didn’t do as well as expected, but at this point Takara understood that as long as they kept releasing updated hardwares that are compatible with their e-Kara brand, they could do no wrong. As such, Takara decided to revisit the concept of the dancing mat by launching the fourth installment in the Popira franchise: Jumpin’ Popira. They had previously released the Dance Dance Revolution Fami Mat under the Konami branding, which had limited success, but as the product was discontinued, Takara was free to release a mat of its own.

Released on 17 July, 2004 the Jumpin’ Popira was the fourth release in the Popira series, and would be the last. The Jumpin’ Popira had a style fairly similar to the original Popira, but instead of pushing buttons to bounce the ball, you had to step on the corresponding section of the mat. The gameplay was simple but yet effective. Sadly, the game play is also fairly repetitive and the lack of a two-player competition mode really made this fourth installment look old.

The Jumpin’ Popira had the same shortcomings as the Dance Dance Revolution Fami Mat and even more. For the same price, better versions of this rhythm game (such as Dance Dance Revolution) were available for all the popular home console of the times. The lack of a two-player mode, the repetitiveness, the lack of new features were all other reasons for the poor reception by the market. In the end only a handful of cartridges were produced before the support for this console was dropped by Takara.

The Jumpin’ Popira is compatible with the following cartridges type:




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