Idoling for you

imas_title

I spent about two weeks completely hooked on The iDOLM@STER: Missing Moon back in 2011.  It’s not really hard to see why; it’s a game about cute girls in cute outfits singing and dancing with light angst and HOT BLOODED RIVALRY and also stars a strict bespectacled former idol-turned-producer who is frequently pushed back on stage against her will.

There are, I understand, some other characters as well, and that kind of sums up where the Idolmaster series gets its appeal from – it has a large enough cast of characters that at least one of them is guaranteed to push the buttons of any given prospective player.  I somewhat question the appeal of SOME of the archetypes represented in the cast, but let he who is without embarrassing maid figurines cast the first stone, I always say.

I swear to you, the “push the buttons” gag was not intended but I’m going to leave it in.

Anyway, I haven’t ever gone back to Missing Moon for a couple of reasons.  The first reason is, of course, that I would feel silly playing through Ritsuko’s story again but I’d feel oddly unfaithful playing through any of the other characters.  I say this to cover up the second and more honest reason, which is that the “simulation” Idolmaster games are an AWFUL lot of minigames and talking for very little actual payoff in terms of concerts etc.

This probably explains why I only played through Missing Moon once but have a good 70-odd hours logged with various Miku-centric games – they don’t have any talking or minigames to get in the way of the rhythmic button-mashing fun.

The Idolmaster Shiny Festa series, on the other hand, is a straight-up rhythm game and notable for actually having been localized for the US market, or at least for the portion of the US market that owns an iDevice and is willing to drop 55 bucks on an iOS game.

I’ll give you a second to let that last sink in.

Did I mention that there are three games in the series?  So, theoretically, a total of $165?

I didn’t buy all three.  I bought “Harmonic Score”, and I bought it when it was half off for Christmas.  Even so, pushing the button on a $27.50 iOS app made me gibber just a little bit.  It’s on sale again as of this writing, but it’s only been marked down to 38 bucks.

My first impression – after watching the 23-minute OVA that’s part of the app and that sets up the storyline and getting into the actual game bit  – was that it was actually kind of dull.   Playing just consists of watching note indicators fly in from the left and right and tapping the appropriate side of the screen in time with the notes hitting the center of the screen.  It’s got hold notes and occasional notes where you have to tap both sides at once, but the controls don’t get too complex.

In Easy difficulty, the notes even just come in on horizontal paths, like so:

imas_gameplay_easy

I got a “Full Combo” (no missed notes) on the very second song I played, and also on the next 8 songs.  I’m all for easy games, and I was getting some satisfaction from watching my Fans counter increase, but I didn’t see a lot of longevity.

Between songs, you’re treated to the occasional short conversation with the idols.  In the simulation game, you’d have to select an appropriate response to, for example, cheer up a depressed singer or what have you.  There’s none of that in this; you just read the text and occasionally take screenshots of stuff that is going to look weird out of context:

imas_pancakes

Eventually I got enough fans to rank up to a class C idol, and the actual story bit of the game unlocked.  This involves a multi-day music competition where you have to play several songs per day and you’re actually playing on the Normal level, where you have a bunch more notes and the paths get more interesting:

imas_gameplay_normal

That is a terrible screenshot.  It doesn’t really illustrate my point AND I got a missed note while trying to take it.  The point is, the game gets more interesting when you’re not playing on easy anymore.  I haven’t tried hard yet but I expect that it is going to spank me silly for a while.

Some drawbacks:

When you download the game, it comes with, mmm, about a dozen songs?  Each of them has a video associated with it, and there’s the aforementioned 23 minute OVA, so the game clocks in at over 2GB, and downloading the other available songs (they’re free, at least) brings yuo to 20 songs total and a whopping 3.5 GB of space taken… so you’d better have a lot of space free on your iPad.

It’s also not completely localized.  Conversations are, of course, and stuff like idol profiles:

imas_profile

(spelling issues aside)

And then some things aren’t localized, like song lyrics and titles:

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Mahou wo Kakete was not part of the base set of songs and I was set to be VERY vexed until I found that it was downloadable.

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…though to be fair, if you’re the target audience for this it’s unlikely that a few kanji are going to interfere with your enjoyment.

I’m not sure if it was actually worth 27 bucks, and I’m certain that it ISN’T worth 55, but I suspect that scoring well on the 20 included songs and playing through the music festival competition mode will keep me tapping away at the iPad for a few days at least. Two thumbs up.

Oh, final comment:  I’m used to Japanese games that rank you C, B, A, S, and I wasn’t TOO surprised when I finished a song and got an “SS” rating for doing particularly well, but this game has a rating that I’ve never seen before:

imas_sss

Curse you, Namco, for raising the bar just THAT much higher.

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