Twenty-two years after its launch and several re-releases, the Tamagotchis have returned once again with some interesting features like smartphone connectivity and the ability for your virtual pets to marry someone else and have children.
If you're not familiar with the toy, the Tamagotchi is like the modern version of the "virtual pet" but with most of the responsibilities and care that a real-life animal would require. This includes feeding the virtual pet, caring for it, playing with it, cleaning it, and interacting with it regularly to keep it alive, happy and growing.
The most obvious upgrade to the Tamagotchi On is that it is almost gigantic compared to previous versions of the toy that could have been hung on a key chain without being noticed. The new version is considerably larger, and as a result, it can be difficult to compete for smartphone pocket space.
One thing that hasn't changed with Tamagotchi On is the three simple buttons used to interact with the virtual pet and navigate the toy's menus. It works, once you get used to how the navigation works (buttons are not marked), but as the menus, settings and options have expanded a lot in this version.
The Tamagotchi On's color display isn't new, this feature was introduced in 2008 with the Tamagotchi Plus Color in Japan, but it's finally showing up in other places. Colors are vibrant, even in bright light, and given the small size of the screen, the lack of pixel density isn't an issue. Plus, the raw, pixelated graphics and stuttering animations are part of the charm and appeal of a Tamagotchi at this point.
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That said, all the features that have been added to the Tamagotchi lineup over the years are starting to make the toy's menus look a little bloated. You'll find yourself randomly digging through endless sub-menus to find an option you're looking for, and a higher resolution screen would allow for more options to be squeezed into each screen.
The ability for two Tamagotchi Ons to communicate via wireless IR is also nothing new, this feature was first introduced with the Tamagotchi Connection in 2004. But it now facilitates more interactions between Tamagotchi on different devices.
You can have play dates, send your virtual pet to visit a friend or a hotel, and even propose to another Tamagotchi. If they say yes, their virtual pets will consummate their relationship (presumably off-screen), resulting in each receiving an egg that will hatch and grow into a child that looks like its parents. Up to 16 generations of a family can exist on a device at any given time, which seems exhausting. To make things a little easier, there's even the option for your young Tamagotchi to spend the day being babysat for their parents.
The Tamagotchi On will be available starting in July for $60 – which is the least attractive feature of the latest version – and will no longer be a cheap $15 impulse buy. But when it launches, Bandai America will also release an accompanying mobile app (which was not yet available for testing) that the Tamagotchi can wirelessly connect to to further expand what your virtual pet can do, where it can go. and who can attend – including Tamagotchis around the world. Instead of trying to compete with smartphones, Tamagotchis may have finally embraced them so kids have more incentive to keep their animals alive.