Popira by Takara

Console Name: Popira
Original Name: ポピラ
Release Date: October 20, 2000
Original Price: ¥5,800
Country of Origin: Japan
Manufacturer: Takara / SSD COMPANY LIMITED
Discontinued In: 2002
Successor: Popira 2
 

History
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  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-“.

Release
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.

Demise
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.

Cartridges
While the cartridges with the prefix “G-” were initially the only one working a Popira, other cartridges types were added as new hardware were made available. The Popira is therefore compatible with the following cartridges type:

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