By Jenni . March 4, 2009 . 2:23pm
Idolm@ster SP can puzzle some gamers. The cover and general description – which all involve anime-style pop stars – may lead people to assume it is some sort of music game. In reality, it is a simulation game with more in common with the Princess Maker line of games than music titles like Boogie Superstar or DJ Max Fever.
First, the game is incredibly import friendly. The Asia version of the games come with an English insert that explains the basic flow of the game. The insert explains all the controls, as well as also explaining the week to week actions, how auditions work, and the controls for taking pictures and making appeals during the TV performances.
Also, if you’ve played the original Xbox 360 version of The Idolm@ster, you’ll be familiar with the PSP version. You should have no trouble adjusting to the portable game.
In addition, there a lot of helpful hints throughout the game to guide people who aren’t exactly fluent, or familiar with Japanese at all, down the right track. The main menu has English options, and the status menus, clothing section and mini-game lessons area have some English titles to help you out. In addition, when planning your idol’s weekly activities, there will often be a white hand next to the suggested actions for the week.
Before you can even play, you’ll need to install firmware 5.05. It’s available on the Idolm@ster SP UMD. So be sure your PSP is fully charged and plugged in when you’re about to start.
The goal in Story Mode, the main game mode, is to successfully train an idol so she wins the Ultimate Idol contest and is the most popular idol in Japan. There’s also a Free Play mode, unlocked by playing Story Mode, where you can freely produce an idol without having to reach certain idol levels or popularity levels.
Each version of the game has three idols and one rival. For example Perfect Sun has Haruka, Makoto and Yayoi, and the rival idol Hibiki. Wandering Star has Iori, Yukiho and Ami and Mami (who take turns performing), as well as rival Takane. Missing Moon has Chihaya, Azusa and Ritsuko, along with the rival character Miki. The rival characters can be unlocked for Office Mode play later on in each game, but initially they are locked.
The most important thing to remember in Story Mode is the way to navigate the menu. The first option is to continue your existing game. The second is to start a whole new game. The third erases the idol data you’ve saved so far. The final option deletes your producer data.
When it comes to saving, don’t worry. The game auto-saves after every week. At this point you can either leave the game, or continue. If you choose to leave, the idol you’re managing will occasionally appear. She’ll ask you to promise to return the next day. If you don’t, she’ll be upset.
An important part of the game is talking. Every morning for the week, you’ll have to greet your idol. Take note of how she acts and greets you, because it’ll help you decide what to say. You then press square, triangle or circle to correspond to the answer that pops up. Many times during auditions, promotion periods and other parts of the game you’ll need to respond to your idol, and you’ll quickly have to press one of those three buttons to choose the response you want.
Now, the key to success is balance. When you look at the idol screen, you’ll see three important status icons in the upper right corner. The heart represents the character’s affection toward the producer and attitude. You want a high number here, and a pink heart. The circle next to it that’s divided into three represents your idol’s abilities – Visual, Vocal and Dance. On top your idol’s level is represented, showing how adept she is.
In Story Mode you need to get your idol to a high level, earn her lots of fans and pass auditions to be successful. This means you have to take her to lessons, go through promotions, let her go on vacations and send her to auditions to try and get her on TV.
You plan out your schedule in the beginning of the week. There’s a three block schedule, and each selection takes a certain amount of time. The first category is activities, where you can chose to send your idol to a 45 second lesson that’s one block, a 60 second hard lesson that’s two blocks, a promotion period that’s two blocks, an audition that’s three blocks or a day off that’s three blocks. The second category involves one block desk and office activities like changing your idol’s outfit, changing her song, meeting with a stylist or meeting with a reporter.
There are six kinds of lessons which all involve playing mini-games. Three lessons only boost one of the three attributes (Dance, Vocal or Visual), and three boost two at the same time. Here’s where people who can’t read Japanese will have trouble. There are two lessons which require some Japanese knowledge to pass them – Expression (Visual) and Lyrics (Vocal). One requires you to select the correct color panel and the other has you filling in missing lyrics.
Fortunately, there are four lessons which are easy to play with no knowledge of Japanese. There’s a Voice lesson that involves pressing the X, O, triangle and square buttons as they hit a marker to improve Vocal and Dance. Next is Pose lesson which boosts Visual and Dance by having you memorize button sequences, then press them when they’re hidden. The Dance lesson has you pressing buttons when foot indicators on screen have icons in a certain highlighted area and boosts dance. Finally there’s the Performance lesson, where you have to swing a small bat and aim to hit the boxes with words that aren’t red and raises Visual and Vocal.
The promotions portion is very similar to a visual novel. You’ll basically go out with the idol to promote her and talk to her. You talk to her a bit, and may have the opportunity to touch her to make her happy. For example Makoto likes knocking fists together during a promotions period. Taking the day off gives the idol a chance to recover.
The auditions section is possibly the most important part of the game. Here you send your idol to auditions to win fans and appear on TV. Before the segment begins, you can change her clothes (press square), change her song (press triangle) or just proceed to the audition. You can only change songs five times throughout the course of the game, so if you find a good one, stick with it.
You then select which audition you want to send her to. Then she talks to the judges and you. After that, the audition begins.
The audition is split into three parts of the song you chose. There’s an icon in the bottom right corner that refers to three judges (Dance, Visual, Vocal). The key here is to appeal nine times to the judges to get points and stars. If you get the most points and stars, you win the audition. The trick is if you appeal to a single judge too much, that judge will lose interest in you and leave. You can attempt to regain interest by calling upon memories, but you can only do this a few times and a memory appeal may fail. If it succeeds, all the judges interest goes up and you get points. If you fail they lose interest and you lose points.
If you do well in the audition, your idol goes on TV. She then performs the song in the costume you chose. You can have your idol make appeals during the performance. You also can take pictures, or save a video of her performance to look at and watch later.
One thing to remember when playing – don’t make idle promises. If you fail to meet like you said you would, your idol’s stats and ranks could go down. If you do make it, your idol’s stats will temporarily increase. So if you promise a reporter via an email you’ll meet with him, promise your idol she can do a certain activity that day or promise your idol you’ll be back to your PSP at a certain time after her self lesson, be there!
Also don’t be discouraged if your idol doesn’t become the Ultimate Idol on your first playthrough. Just do your best, and remember that you can always try again later!