Pop’n Music is a colorful and lively music game series that was never released in the United States. Find out what you need to play this fast paced music game in your house.
If you love music games like I do you’ll find that the American market didn’t get most if not all of the Benami lineup that Konami published. One of these Benami games you need to play is Pop’n Music. Starting in the arcade, the Pop’n Music franchise is still being released with new versions in the arcade. The series was so popular that Konami even released the home version across the PlayStation and PlayStation 2. With 14 official versions and a couple spin off games it’s amazing this game series was never ported to the United States.
If you’re not familiar with Pop’n Music, the game play is similar to Guitar Hero. Colored notes will comes down the screen, and you press the corresponding buttons when the reach the bottom line. Press correctly and the note will play. Depending on the difficulty level you choose you can play with either 5 or 9 buttons. The buttons are 3.5 inch bubble buttons that “pop” when you press them. They have a unique sound that feels satisfying while you’re playing the song. In order to pass the song you’ll have to finish with your meter in the “Good” section. Miss too many notes and you’ll end up in the “Bad” section which means you’ll get a failing grade.
As for the music, you’ll get to listen to great techno and dance songs you’ve probably never heard of. You won’t find any classic rock songs on these games. Besides the unique controller, this is probably one of the reasons why the series never came to America.
Import or Emulate Pop’n Music?
That’s a question you’ll have to ask yourself. Do you want to play on original hardware? If you’re going to go that route, then you’ll either need a Japanese PS2 or a modded US PS2. If you decide to go to the modded route, you can either find your local game store and see if they can solder a mod chip soldered in or you can go with the less invasive Magic Swap disc. Depending on your budget and your soldering ability I’d recommend getting a Magic Swap disc with a slim PS2. With a slim PS2 you’ll have the ability to skip the region check by opening up the disc tray with a special tool. If you have a fat PS2 you’ll have to replace the shell of the the console. Not difficult by any means but still an extra step. Everything you need can be purchased on Amazon for about $60. Once your system is able to play Japanese games you’ll need some Pop’n Music games. Either eBay or Play Asia will have what you need for about $60 to $100 a disc depending on the version.
For myself I prefer to go with the cost effective method, emulation. You’ll need a decent computer to run PCSX2, which is a PlayStation 2 emulator. You can either use actual PS2 discs with the emulator or find them online. The benefit is that you’ll be able to run games at a higher resolution which means it will look a heck of a lot better. For game management, I use a front end solution called LaunchBox which displays and organizes all of my roms. It downloads all the image and video files for me so I don’t have to go out searching for them. It’s a great time saver I recommend that you look into. Documentation on how to setup PCSX2 and where to find the games is out there in very detailed guides. A simple Google or Bing search will provide you with the documentation and files you’ll need to get setup.
Building a Homemade Pop’n Music Controller
I highly recommend you build or purchase a full size Pop’n Music controller. Playing on a PlayStation controller feels very unintuitive, especially at higher difficulties. Since the play field is on a straight line, the 5 and 9 buttons don’t convert well to the controller. They also have a mini version of the arcade controller. The difference between the different sized controllers is that you’ll be playing the game with your fingertips rather than your hands. You can pick one of the mini PSX or Dreamcast versions of this controller for about $60 on eBay. They’re great if you want to save space or get a feel for the game without committing to a full size. If you want to play an emulated version of Pop’n Music you’ll also have to buy a converter which will cost around $10.
Building the controller isn’t that difficult you’ll just have to have the right tools and supplies. This guide is specifically for making a controller for the PC and assumes you have no electrical ability so there is no soldering here. If you want to build your controller for the PlayStation you’ll need an original PlayStation controller and some soldering skills when you’re wiring the buttons.
You’ll need the following.
- ¾ inch plywood
- Stainless steel screws
- Piano hinge
- 9, 3.5in dome buttons, 2 white, 2 yellow, 2 blue, 2 green, 1 red
- 2 Happ arcade buttons
- Controller board from arcade site
- Paint or wood stain
- Power Drill
- 3.5 Hole Dozer Hole Saw
- 1 ⅛ spade bit
- Paint Brush for paint or rag for stain
The box you make can be however big you want it to be but keep in mind these minimum dimensions. The following instructions assume you’re making a box that is 29in x 12in and 5in tall that also takes into account the wood you picked out.
Always measure twice and cut once. You’ll need to cut out
- Top and Bottom: 29in x 12in
- Left and Right: 10.5in x 3.5in
- Front and Back: 29in x 3.5in
Once you have these pieces cut out, set aside the piece you want for the top and set it aside. From there assemble the bottom portion of your box with your screws. On the back of the box you created, you’ll want to drill a hole for the cable to come out of the pack. I used a 1/4in spade drill bit but you can always drill your own hole. Now with the top board of your box, measure out the following dimensions for the dome buttons. Please pardon my Photoshop skills.
You will first want to draw a horizontal and vertical line across the center of your box. From the center, mark the red button 2.75 inches from the center of your board. This will be where you will drill the hole for your red button and the start of the bottom row. DO NOT drill until you measure all of your buttons out. From the center of the red button measure 5.5 inches and mark the spot. This will be where your green buttons will go. Now from the center of the green buttons another 5.5 inches and mark the spot. This is where your white buttons will go. Use your tape measure to make sure your button marks are straight.
Now let’s work on the top set of buttons. From the center of your board mark a dot 2.75in above it. From this point measure 2.75 inches from each side of this point. This will where you will drill your blue buttons. Now measure 5.5 inches from the center of your blue marks. This will be where the yellow buttons will go. Once again use your tape measure to make sure your button marks are straight.
Once your drill your buttons holes, celebrate because the hard part is finished. Paint or stain your box. I went with a nice cherry color wood stain. Once you’re done decorating your box, now it’s time to add the piano hinge. As you can see from the image below, this makes it easier to access any wiring adjustments you’ll need to make.
Now’s the time to screw in your buttons. Top row goes yellow, blue, blue, and yellow. Bottom row is white, green, red, green, and white. As for wiring your controller, I purchased a two player arcade kit from Game Room Solutions. It’s really easy to add the cherry switches and attach the circuit board. Follow their instructions to wire the kit and don’t worry the wires will be a little tight based on the length the Game Room Solutions gives you, but it will not affect gameplay.
Once you’re done there, plug the USB into your computer and setup PCSX2’s controller settings to recognize it as a Pop’n Music controller. This way you’ll be able to hit two or more buttons at the same time.
Now you’re all set to play Pop’n Music in America with your homemade controller. Don’t worry the menus are English friendly and you’ll be able to navigate with little problem. Enjoy playing this great Benami series.
How far have you gone to play an import game? Please let me know in the comments.
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