Seaman gets a sea-quel

Vivarium's bizarre voice-recognition game of virtual life is swimming to the PlayStation 2.

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TOKYO--Japanese game development studio Vivarium announced today it will be working together with Sega to release a sequel to its hit pet-breeding game, Seaman. Simply called Seaman 2, the game is currently in development for the PlayStation 2. No release period has been announced yet.

The original Seaman was released on Sega's Dreamcast in 1999 and was later ported to the PlayStation 2. The game garnered lots of attention due to the revolutionary use of a voice-recognition system for communicating with the virtual pet, which had the body of a sea creature and the face of a middle-aged man.

At Sega's strategy meeting in Japan today, Vivarium president Yoot Saito appeared on stage and showed off a brief demo that confirmed the game will once again use a voice-recognition system. While the demo didn't show the actual game, it revealed that the voice-recognition engine has been improved to work with complete phrases, rather than single terms like the original installment.

"Back when we released the original Seaman six years ago, we were afraid that it wouldn't sell at all. We believe it was because of Sega's powerful distribution chain that our software shipped more than 550,000 units in half a year," Saito said, explaining his company's reasons for once again teaming with Sega. "When we announced Seaman for the PS2 [in 2001], the press mistakenly reported that we were making a sequel. But this is going to be the real Seaman 2."

Vivarium confirmed that the microphone-enabled USB joypad that came bundled in the PlayStation 2's Seaman will be reusable in Seaman 2. As an incentive for gamers to dig out their old PS2 Seaman controllers before the game's release, Vivarium has released a Windows program that allows the controller to be used with PCs. By downloading the free utility software available starting today on Vivarium's official site, gamers can use the Seaman controller as a microphone for IP chatting in applications such as MSN Messenger. In addition, the D pad and buttons can be used for controlling other programs, including Internet Exporer, iTunes, Windows Media Player, Powerpoint, and Outlook.

For more on the genius/insanity of Yoot Saito, check out GameSpot's review of the original Seaman and the latest preview of Saito's next project, the real-time strategy/pinball hybrid Odama.

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