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First Look: Teenage Engineering Capcom Pocket Operator Series
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First Look: Teenage Engineering Capcom Pocket Operator Series

Teenage Engineering are no strangers to drumming up exciting collaborations with other creative companies on their design projects. Pocket Operators are a perfect example of this – with the original series released in conjunction with clothing brand Cheap Monday. In more recent times, we’ve seen limited edition Pocket Operator releases with record label Ghostly International and the popular animated series Rick and Morty. It's fair to say, we were all been blown away by this latest and seemingly perfect pairing with games company Capcom.  

Here’s our first look at the Pocket Operator Capcom Series, featuring the
PO-128 Mega Man and PO-133 Street Fighter.

About Capcom

If you haven’t heard the name Capcom before, you will certainly have heard of their list of huge game titles - including, of course, Street Fighter & Mega Man. The company itself was founded in 1979, based in Osaka, Japan. Capcom are arguably one of the main companies that propelled the games industry back in the 80s and 90s. Street Fighter and Mega Man were 2 early titles for Capcom, that have produced long running franchises that have kept them relevant amongst gamers even today.  

The classic versions of these titles are bound to strike a nostalgic chord with those who grew up playing them. Not only for the way they look and play, but the music and sound effects that accompanied them. They would have been meticulously composed, using rudimentary technology available at the time. Soundtracks from games like these are so memorable, whether they remind you of your favourite level, or that boss you could never beat! 

It seems fitting that Teenage Engineering have teamed up with Capcom to encapsulate the music from these two titles into two new Pocket Operators – an instrument that resembles a handheld gaming console as opposed to a traditional sequencer. The PO-128 & PO-133 achieve this with two very different methods. As we know from Our Guide to the Pocket Operator Range, each PO has its own unique function. 

So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at what these new Pocket Operators have to offer...

PO-133 Street Fighter

Street Fighter is an arcade classic from the late 1980s that helped to define the genre of arcade combat games. It has undoubtedly been one of Capcom’s most successful franchises over the last few decades. Street fighter features strong musical themes for characters & menu screens that anyone who's spent a significant amount of time playing it would recognise. 

The Street Fighter Pocket Operator is based on the PO-33 K.O! Micro Sampler. If you're familiar with the PO-33, you may recognise this from the built-in microphone, record button, melodic and drum sample slots. Instead of the TE logo above the screen, the Street Fighter logo takes its place, with the famous move ‘Hadouken!’ etched on the plastic hanger above it. The PO-133 also has some custom icons along the bottom row of buttons.  

The two boxers on the screen of the original PO-33 are replaced with characters from Street Fighter – Ryu & Chun-Li. Their health bars become VU meters when a pattern is playing, and they also move with the parameter knobs. The movements of Ryu and Chun Li are controlled by some of the sample slots. As an example - sample slot 16 is loaded with original samples of the characters moves, including ‘Spinning Bird Kick’, ‘Shoryuken’ and of course ‘Hadouken’. When you play the sound, the character executes the move. Simple, but a nice touch! As well as special moves, there’s a selection of punches, kicks, drums, and even samples the fight announcer - ‘You Win!’

The PO-133 Street Fighter come’s pre-programmed with some of best known music from the game. The player select screen, Ryu’s theme, Chun-Li’s theme and the ‘Continue...’ menu music all feature. You can alter, remix and use punch in FX with these patterns. You can also record your own samples and patterns. Memory is limited, so you may need to overwrite the factory content. If you decide you want the original factory content back, all you have to do is perform a reset (put the batteries in whilst holding program + write).

In a nutshell, the PO-133 Street Fighter uses original samples from the game to recreate some of its best known musical themes. It includes whole load of punches, kicks and special moves for you to add to your beats.

PO-128 Mega Man

Next we turn our attention to Mega Man – another long running Capcom game series. Mega Man was originally developed for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) - one of the earlier home gaming consoles from Nintendo. The NES had a very basic chipset for reproducing music and sound effects that were incorporated into the games. Despite these limitations, game developers still managed to compose highly imaginative and memorable soundtracks that gave their games sonic signature.  

Rather appropriately, the PO-128 Mega Man is an 8-bit synthesiser, with a 3-part sequencer (including an 8-bit mono drum voice). It's based on the PO-28 robot, with a few tweaks and improvements . With some clever programming from TE, this Pocket Operator plays out some classic Mega Man themes straight out of the box. These include Flash Man’s theme, the Boss Battle music, and Wily’s castle There's even the level start music included on patterns 1 and 2 to kick things off!

The robotic arm on the screen of the original PO-28 is replaced by a battle scene between Mega Man & Metal Man (whose theme is programmed on pattern 3), with Dr Light and Dr Wily in the background. The PO-128 has two programmable / playable parts designated as ‘high’ & ‘low’ on the keypad, with 8 synth tones to choose from per part. Playing the high part controls Mega Man’s movements, while playing with the low part controls Metal Man. The classic health and ammo bars display the function of the parameter knobs.

As well the chiptune voices, the PO-128 comes loaded 16 8-bit drum sounds. It also has 16 punch-in FX allowing you to quickly dial in filter sweeps & retriggers to spice up patterns. The glide button has the same function as it does on the robot - press it to perform a slide up to notes and a glissando down when released. This makes it one of the most expressive Pocket Operators to play live.

To summarise the PO-128 Mega Man, it’s an 8-bit dream stuffed full of Mega Man nostalgia. We imagine you could program in soundtracks from cartridge classics and they would sound just as authentic!

Which one is right for me?

If you’re a fan of either of the game titles, the choice should probably be obvious. But if you’re looking for something more meaningful to add to your instrument collection, we have the following advice for you:

  • If you prefer manipulating audio to create tracks & patterns, the PO-133 wins. It can sample up to 40 seconds of raw audio via the line in or mic. The result is chopped-up lofi sounds with grit and character.
  • If you love the blips and bleeps of retro gaming, the PO-128 is for you. The 8-bit synth sounds are a joy to play with and program, and the 8-bit drums add an extra layer to your patterns.  

It's also good to remember that Pocket Operators work together, as we talk about in our PO-COMBOS Blog & Video Series. So you could always add both to your collection and create some crazy arcade soundtrack crossovers!

Thank you for taking the time to read our First Look at the Teenage Engineering Capcom Pocket Operator Series. For more information on these Pocket Operators, please view our news story

For more info on Pocket Operators in general, check out
Our Guide to the Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator Range

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This new blog is presented by the team at Sound Technology Ltd, a leading distributor of musical instruments and pro audio equipment in the UK and ROI.