ASM Toy Fair 2005
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Bandai - Girls Toys Report

Amy Lipkowitz, General Reporter
02.23.2005

Bandai America is known for its many exciting Boys' properties, such as Power Rangers SPD, D.I.C.E., and Teen Titans. Bandai's girl-oriented properties can't be forgotten, though -- and nor can their hugely popular Tamagotchi Connection virtual pet, which surpasses all gender and age boundaries.

Bandai's main girls' toy property is Strawberry Shortcake, the spirited scented little girl who "lets little girls be little girls" through cooperative play and child-friendly fashions. In 2004, 20 new dolls were released, and the fun just keeps rolling in 2005!

There are three major themes for 2005. Currently out is the Spring 2005 "Tropical" theme, featuring Strawberry Shortcake and her friends in tropical locales with ocean and beach related friends and activities.

The next two themes will be "Mermaid", featuring Strawberry Shortcake in her friends with glimmering fabric mermaid-tails, and "Fantasy", featuring the dolls and their filly friends in a variety of fantasy costumes ranging from weddings to fairy princesses. There will be a mail-in promotional item, either a large Strawberry Shortcake beach towel or a backpack.

In the summer, a deluxe Berry Magical Carriage and Filly set will be released, featuring a special exclusive Honey Pie pony with honey scent and metallic strands in her mane. The carriage makes clip-clop sounds as it moves across the floor.

Also in June will be the Berry Magical Strawberry Castle, an electronics-rich two-story playset in the shape of a strawberry that opens up to reveal furniture and accessories, a "working" fireplace, a functional doorbell and a musical dance floor that lets Strawberry Shortcake dance to her heart's content. Accessories include a baby grand piano, perfect for soirees at Strawberry Castle.

On a related note, a new Berry Magical Strawberry Shortcake princess doll will be available. This doll is huge, a good 14 to 16 inches in height, with tiara, earring, and pendant that light up. She will come with an extra outfit for fashion fun; at this point, it's not known whether there will be separately sold fashions.

Fall 2005 will see the release of fairy winged Fantasy Fun Fillies, an all-new series of scented fillies with softer, more flexible bodies. The line-up includes Fantasy Fun Honey Pie, Fantasy Fun Huckleberry Hash, Fantasy Fun Lemon Ice and Fantasy Fun Raspberry Ripple, all with ice-cream scents. The fabric-covered fairy wings are removable.

Also coming in the fall are Strawberry Shortcake Baby Dolls, which will be infant doll versions of Strawberry Shortcake and her friends. The dolls are still at the prototype phase, but they are planned for a Fall 2005 release.

Tamagotchi

The year was 1996.

I was a shy young girl, new to this "internet" thing... and also new to this new Tamagotchi virtual pet thing that was all the rage.
Fortunately for me, the internet was the perfect place to meet other Tamagotchi fans. Collectors who owned every single variation of Tamagotchi, including ones only available at specific locations in Japan. Researchers who had made charts and tables to show how to raise your Tamagotchi in order to get the adult Tamagotchi that you wanted. Fans who made websites dedicated to their favorite Tamagotchi character. The list was endless.

Nearly ten years later, I'm a lot less shy and a lot less young, but Tamagotchi is still going strong. In 2004, an updated version called Tamagotchi Connection was released, using IR technology to allow two Tamagotchi Connections to communicate with each other. Now, Tamagotchi living in different units could meet, play games, give each other gifts, and fall in love.

This April, Bandai America is releasing Tamagotchi Connection Version 2 (TCv2). This updated version of Tamagotchi Connection will come in new packaging... but don't make the mistake of assuming that this is merely a cosmetic makeover. TCv2 includes two new games, over 30 new Tamagtochi characters, and a new function called "Gotchi Points". By playing certain games or getting certain items, "Gotchi Points" can be earned, and used to shop for special treats, items, or food. Treats are an addition to the traditional Tamagotchi food options of "Meal" and "Snack", and may lower or raise the Tamagotchi's level of happiness. Treats may also be given to visiting Tamagotchi.

Another new aspect of Tamagotchi Connection is the inclusion of secret codes. One secret code will be included in each TCv2 package, as well as shared on the official website and in TV ads. These secret codes consist of a special sequence of buttons which is pressed to unlock new options... unique items not normally available, for example. When five secret codes have been collected, a special sixth item is unlocked.

In the Bandai America showroom, there was a large Tamagotchi on display, at least a foot in height. This DEKA TAMAGOTCHI ("DEKA" meaning "huge") can connect with regular Tamagotchi using its IR port, and share special items or play special games. In Japan, the DEKA TAMAGOTCHI showed up at special retailers and fast food restaurants, allowing visitors to add a unique character exclusive to the DEKA TAMAGOTCHI to their Tamagotchi Friends List.

Unfortunately, the complicated licensing issues make it difficult to bring the DEKA TAMAGOTCHI to American fast food restaurants... but Bandai hopes to bring DEKA TAMAGOTCHI to special retail locations so that people can bring their TCv2 to connect and communicate.

Fortunately for people who already have Tamagotchi Connection, TCv2 is backwards compatible, with an added menu that lets you choose whether to connect to an original or V2. And fortunately for me, DEKA TAMAGOTCHI is also compatible with Version 1, letting my Hinotamachi "Pha" visit the special Tamagotchi character "KORE-A-N". I watched as Pha played on the teeter-totter with KORE-A-N. The two of them then "travelled" to my hand-held Tamagotchi Connection, where KORE-A-N gave Pha a little present... a teeny tiny Tamagotchi of her own!

Speaking of tiny Tamagotchi, Fall 2005 will see the release of the TC Mini Accessory. These little keychain-sized accessories are in various fashionable colors and designs. The versions we saw in the showroom were modeled after the original Tamagotchi designs from the 1990s in Japan; however, we were told that the patterns would be changed when the final product came out.

The TC Mini Accessories will be priced lower than the TCv2's suggested retail price of 14.99. As a result, they won't have IR functionality... but they will have simple functions that will, according to the spokesperson, allow you to play with and raise a real Tamagotchi. The TC Minis were about 2/3 the size of the original Tamagotchi, and quite adorable... if I could have taken one home right then and there, I would have!

According to the Bandai America press release, TCv2 will be available in new colors and designs including "milky pink with stars", "milky white with hearts", "milky blue with polka dots", and "cobalt blue". Equally important to virtual pet fans, the TCv2 addresses an issue with early release Tamagotchi Connection units where the batteries were drained at an alarming rate, sometimes losing power within two weeks of use. The TCv2 has been tweaked to avoid this problem, and TCv2 should enjoy a normal battery lifespan.

There are plans for a two-pack of Tamagotchi Connection, called Best Friends Forever. This will feature matching or complementary designs on both Tamagotchi, as well as an item that can be shared amongst the best friends, such as a friendship bracelet, or two keychains that join to form a heart. The projected retail price for the Best Friends Forever two-pack is 26.99.

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