For many gamers, this year's Jump Festa was about more than Dragon Quest IX — it was about experiencing the Dragon Quest IX Slime DS Stand / Speaker that Hori announced last week.
Luckily, every DSi in the Square-Enix Dragon Quest IX play area was equipped with one such stand. To merely look at it is to tremble with joy. Square-Enix have been hocking the Slime in infinitely various fuzzy, fluffy, floppy forms since the late eighties, though every once in a while, they manage to surprise you. The Slime Controller, engineered and released by Hori in 2005 to commemorate the release of Dragon Quest VIII was one such surprise.
A very good friend of mine was one of the pioneers of the Slime Controller project. Square-Enix is a repeat client of Hori's, often asking them to design and manufacture veritable gauntlets of interesting items with the most boring purposes — DS straps, DS cases, PSP straps, PSP cases, memory card stickers, et cetera. In this world, there's no excuse for a boring thing to not at least try to be interesting. Apparently, the Slime controller was too interesting as originally conceived: it was to be jelly-filled, and soft, with the buttons themselves being the only hard plastic. The sponsors couldn't see the reason the controller would need to actually be jelly-like, because as long as it held the shape of a Slime — as long as it looked like a Slime, people would buy it, and leave it in its box atop their TVs. The Slime Controller was manufactured as hard plastic.
Well, the Slime DS stand has arrived to say "Yes" to squishy videogame accessories. It's simple, really. It is soft because you rest your hands on it; it has to be soft. This alone would be enough to make you want to buy it. However, it also has a speaker function. Buried in the hard plastic base is a speaker.
I couldn't assess the sound quality of the speaker because I experienced Dragon Quest IX in a cardbaord glorified tent stationed in the midst of a battlefield of men and women with bullhorns demanding that attendees DO NOT STOP WALKING; KEEP MOVING FORWARD. However, I could certainly feel the vibrations on my palms. They were good vibrations. They felt like Dragon Quest music.
The plastic bit protruding out of the top of the Slime is kind of cheap, actually, and the DSi slid around viciously as I tried to play the game. Maybe if the plug meant for the headphone jack was stationary, and not attached to a cord, it'd be easier to keep the DSi right where it's meant to be?
A quick look at the flier handed out outside the booth reveals why the headphone plug is on a far-too-long cable: the device is meant to be compatible with the original DS in addition to the DS Lite and the DSi. A footnote informs that the device is compatible with the original DS only as a speaker, and not as a stand. Aha. I guess the original DS doesn't fit snugly enough on the allotted rectangle of blue plastic. Don't want to neglect those original DS owners!
I have gotten this far without mentioning the squishiness: it is exemplary. Of all the squishy electronics accessories released in this 21st century, the Slime DS Stand — well, doesn't rank among them, because it hasn't been released yet. When it is released — alongside Dragon Quest IX, on March 28th, 2009 — it will definitely rank among the top five.
I usually play my DS games lying in bed, or sitting on a bus, so I at first thought I personally wouldn't be able to make any practical use of this stand. Then I recalled all the people I see playing Monster Hunter on PSP in cafes and restaurants all about Tokyo, sitting at tables with their friends. Suddenly, the stand makes sense. It might just prevent carpal tunnel in me once and for all! And how cute would that look, me and three unsightly, unshaven friends, with four jiggly slimes on the table. We — well, while we might not get any supermodels folding paper airplanes with their phone numbers and landing them on our table, there's a high probability that the manager of my local Starbucks will stop to think before kicking me out again.
Anyway, this bad boy goes on sale the same day as Dragon Quest IX — March 28th, 2009 — for 4,500. "4,500" used to be conveniently translatable as "about $45", though now it means more like "fifty-something dollars".