I’ve been alive long enough to have witnessed gaming in an array of guises. From the small classifieds in the back of Darkside and CU Amiga magazines et al appealing for hardy gamers to come play-by-mail (the art of taking turns playing a game, usually sports management or some sort of fantasy battle, by using the postal service) to the very latest in online AAA megablockbuster multiplayer excite-o-thons that pepper the various video game platforms of 2018.
During my time roaming our good planet I have also come across numerous forms of storytelling. Books, audio, video games, television, seedy ad’s in the back of Exchange & Mart etc. As I am sure have you.
Nothing quite prepared me though for this. Vinyl record telephone gaming. Yes, you read that right.
Hey. How You Doin’? Sorry You Couldn’t Get Through
In another of my (frighteningly frequent) ‘research missions’ across the last outposts of the Japanese Internet, I stumbled upon a rather odd vinyl curiosity. A soundtrack for ‘something something’ telephone? Do what now? Curiosity piqued, I tried to conduct a bit more thorough research and came up with a bounty of information.
OK I lied. I found ONE WEBSITE. Yes, ONE WEBSITE OVER THE ENTIRE EXPANSE OF THE INTERNET that featured information of any sort at all about this little vinyl curio I had just found.
Given the complete and utter lack of any further information about this piece, I decided it would obviously be a good idea to buy this record and try and see if I could make some sort of sense out of it. So without further ado, here’s a few scraps of information about something you’ve likely never heard of before.
‘Cause This Is A Message That’s Been Recorded. Especially For You.
Released in 1986 on Kitty Records in Japan, Planet Midori: Welcome To The Telephone Adventure World is, unlike the recent Super Record Game titles I’ve covered, not a game on a vinyl record as such. From my interpretation of the (poorly) Google-translated sleeve notes, the record is an accompanying soundtrack to an adventure game played out over the telephone.The sleeve notes (pictured above) feature interviews with Executive Producers Hidenori Taga (Ranma 1/2 and Urusei Yatsura) and Fujio Takano (DNA) and Music Director Dr. Warlock (no other information found). Amongst them they discuss putting the story together and using the unique method of gaming over the telephone to advance the story.
If my interpretation is correct, the story starts by calling the telephone number on the sleeve notes (and obi strip). The initial telephone call places the caller at point A on the game map. As the player listens to the story on the telephone call, a series of decisions are presented to the caller. At which point, presumably by use of menu-driven DTMF tones, choices made will advance the story to points B, C or D and then branch to E, F or G (F being the correct path and E and G ‘bad’ endings) and H being the goal and ‘true’ end of the game.
I did try to call the numbers provided in the hopes the story may still exist but I didn’t even get an error tone, the call would simply not connect. Perhaps prefixes and codes have changed? The interview with Dr. Warlock appears to state (albeit very roughly translated) that Planet Midori was an ongoing saga. So whether the story that ends at point H is the end of the game as a whole, or if it is just one of many planned stories that never bore fruit we will sadly likely never know.Then there is the gorgeous sleeve design and the beautiful art on the inner sleeve notes. These were designed by Koichi Chighi of Studio Champ. I’m only hazarding a guess here, but a quick look at discogs.org brings up a Koichi Chighi that worked on Urusei Yatsura. Given the connection with Fujio Takano for this project, I am going to guess this is the same person. However Discogs shows absolutely nothing about this record at all so it is purely a guess.
Even a search for character designer Ayumi Tomobuki brings up absolutely nothing about Planet Midori. Interestingly though she was responsible for an anime series based on the F-Zero video games!
You can leave a message now if you want to. When the bleeps are through
Planet Midori appears to be a project that has been forgotten about entirely since it’s release in 1986. My assumption is the project must have had a reasonably sizeable budget given the co-operation of NTT Communications and a host of art and sound talent on board for the ride. In addition I think it was brave to release this title across both vinyl and cassette as well as the then futuristic compact disc platform.
It absolutely melts my head to think about where the idea for this record came from in the first place. The idea of a telephone-based interactive story is great, but supplying the soundtrack on physical media rather than piping it over the phone is somewhat baffling.
There is no record of the game in any telecom profit reports that I know of. Nor have I happened upon any coverage of similar games. If you know of any please do get in touch.
And if you leave a name and your number. We’ll get right back to you
So what of the record itself? At least we have a permanent document of that. Well, from what I gather, the story is set on Planet Midori in the far future. A team of scientists, based at a planetarium within some ancient ruins have discovered a mysterious black hole that appears to be on it’s way to swallowing the planet! The rest, well… the rest you would have had to pick up the phone and dialled away.The main characters appear to be Kim (the guy on the cover), Sarian (the girl) and Ryu (the other guy in the sleeve notes) along with a supporting cast of Phil (the old bloke), Howard (the not as old bloke) and Chobin (the token cute dog). The bloke who looks like the Colonel from Akira in the sleeve notes art is not named.Their space ship is called Grinthill (according to Google at least).
The soundtrack comprises nine instrumental scores. None of the voice talent is featured. It is also rather short. My assumption is that as this was a telephone game, the operator had to strike a fine balance between getting a few quid off of each call and getting told they were ripping customers off with overtly long chapters.
Regardless, there is some wonderful music to be enjoyed here. I’ve included a sample at the bottom of this article from my favourite track Planet Midori Theme. In amongst the grandiose opening title and buxom classic orchestral numbers is some really cool mid-80’s arpeggiated synth numbers that wouldn’t look out of place in a Macross or Megazone 23 score. Given the ties with Urusei Yatsura I felt a few musical similarities lay within as I listened to some of the more ‘synthier’ stuff. It really does make for pleasant listening and works well as an album in it’s own right.
Of course it would be ideal to have the audio drama to accompany the soundtrack, but sadly I think the chances of ever coming across it are slim to none. Especially when you take in to account there being only one website (well ok two now) that carry any information at all about this title.
I’m left in a somewhat sullen mood. On the one hand I’m delighted to have discovered this wonderful soundtrack and to have learned about a unique gaming experience. On the other hand I’m disappointed it’s been forgotten about and ultimately lost to the ravages of time. What a shame.
2 Planet Midori Theme
3. Battle With Outside Galaxy Living Organism
4. Think About The Earth
5. Kim’s Theme
1. Hurry To Magellan Nebula
2. No Theme Of Chopin
3. Last Battle
4. All Is Over