Tamagotchi’s big comeback is a smartphone-connected toy that lets your pets raise a family

PHOTO: Bandai America

Tamagotchi’s huge comeback is a smartphone-connected toy that lets your pets breed

A digital companion during our childhood and an ear-piercing bane for both parents and school teachers, the Tamagotchi is best remembered as an electronic relic of the past.

Until now, that is. Decades after making its debut in Japan in 1997, Bandai’s hit toy is making a return to the forefront of a new, always-wired generation with the revamped Tamagotchi On. 

No longer a gadget that simply lives independently of other devices, the latest iteration of the virtual pet is able to connect to smartphones and link up with other Tamagotchis worldwide.

Photo: Bandai

For those who’ve never lived through the golden years of these ancient bleep-blooping toys, they’re egg-shaped devices with a minimal screen, which displays Tamagotchis, an adorable alien species. The player gets to raise their digital pet from egg to adulthood and is in charge of keeping it healthy by regularly feeding and playing mini-games with it. Digital poop exists too, and players need to clean ‘em up if they don’t want the Tamagotchi to get sick. Leave the pets unchecked, and they’ll die — often due to being overfed, underfed or just lying around in its own pixelated filth. 

Tamagotchi On, however, doesn’t stray that far from its original iteration. The devices are now much larger, sporting screens with higher resolution and vibrant colours. Nothing too advanced though — the pixellated style and stuttering animations are still as charming as ever. The three-button layout stays too, and a smartphone app will be launched later this year to allow players to connect with others around the world. 

Gameplay goes deeper too, including the ability to have the virtual pets travel to other virtual towns and arrange playdates with other ‘gotchis via IR transmitters. Heck, they can even propose to each other and marry, with the (presumably off-screen) mating resulting in the hatching of an egg — the child of which will grow into a creature that’ll look like both its parents. 

Bandai says that up to 16 generations of a family can exist on one device, but no word if the Tamagotchi dad will eventually get overworked, succumb to alcoholism and stray from his marriage, while the Tamagotchi mum grows increasingly bitter and depressed from having to raise the children on her own. We jest, of course. 

Tamagotchi On’s availability in Singapore is unclear for now, but what we know for sure that it won’t be as cheap as it was back then. The devices will retail for US$59.99 at launch in North America; a rather steep price to scratch that nostalgia itch… not to mention a steep price for what amounts to a fancy keychain toy for kids.