Idolm@ster SP: Singing With The Stars

By Jenni . March 18, 2009 . 9:50am

It took me an hour with Idolm@ster SP to come to the conclusion that it is one of the best PSP games to be released this year. It took me a week to realize it may be one of the best PSP games released for the system. Aside from the ludicrous price of the downloadable content, the game itself is wonderfully addictive and a great way to lose at least a month’s worth of free time.

 

Idolm@ster SP is a simulation game. Players get to be a producer at 765, in charge of making an idol a star. There have been three versions of the game released, each with three 765 idols to raise. I’ve been working with Perfect Sun. At the beginning of the game you choose an idol to work with. As the game progresses, you learn more about her, why she wants to be an idol, and hopefully make her the star you know she can be.

 

I chose to go with Makoto for my first idol. She seemed to have the best voice out of her, Haruka and Yayoi. She’s a tomboy from an all girl’s school who wants to be more girly, so she’s decided to become an idol. Her specialty is Dance, since she’s the “athletic tomboy”. Her second best starting stat is Visual, and Vocal’s her worst. However, her starting Vocal is still better than Yayoi’s, and Vocal is Yayoi’s worst starting stat.

 

As mentioned in the article where I explained how to play Idolm@ster SP, the game is broken up into lesson mini-games, promotions and auditions. The lessons and auditions are mini-games, and the promotions are conducted in the same manner as a visual novel. The game features full voice acting for all characters except for the producer, which is the player.

 

 

There are three different play options. The Story Mode has the 765 producer attempting to make an idol the Idol Ultimate within a certain amount of time, competing with the rival idol and 961 the whole time. There’s also a Free Play Mode, where you can raise an idol without having to worry about any restrictions or limitations. Finally there’s the Office Mode, where you can take part in local multiplayer to face off in auditions against other players and watch group performances.

 

Even though Office Mode is technically a multiplayer mode, you can still take part in it alone. A nice feature, since in this mode you can use the 961 rival characters.

 

Usually the graphics have one or two of the idol characters against a static background. Still, the backgrounds look good and so do the idols. They’re very expressive. This is especially true during TV performances, where the idols dress up in the clothes and accessories you’ve picked for them and perform the song you’ve chosen for them. The game just looks beautiful.

 

The music is also, naturally, a highlight of the game. Whether the songs are slow or fast, they all have one thing in common – they’re catchy. You’ll be humming, and eventually singing, them without even realizing it after your idol’s been performing a specific song for a few weeks. All the voice actresses in Perfect Sun are accomplished singers and actresses, so the characters seem alive.

 

If you get the game, make sure you set aside two or three nights to dedicate to it once it arrives. Trust me. The Persona 3/4 syndrome returns, where you’ll find yourself playing well past the point where you thought you’d stop. “Just one more week. She’s meeting with a reporter today.” “If I play for two more weeks, she can take the audition to promote her to the D level!” “I have to send her to Expression Lessons! She can’t perform with her Visual stat that low!”

 

 

Soon you’ll find yourself making note of when you have to come back and play, because you just have to be back at your PSP by the time your idol asked when you saved the game! Go ahead and laugh – if you get it, you’ll be the same way!

 

One thing I have noticed is that the game becomes more unforgiving as your idol becomes a bigger star. By the time Makoto was at the D level, the mini-games became harder, faster and frustrating. The first time I sent her to Vocal Lessons and saw a triangle AND a circle coming at me at the same time, I freaked out and mashed all the buttons at once. Auditions also seemed to become more of a challenge, and if I’m not mistaken the memories appeal seemed a tad more difficult to nail.

 

I recommend playing near some nice, soft surfaces once your idol gets to the C level. There have been at least three auditions where I messed up the memory appeal and nearly tossed the PSP to the ground – frustrated by my apparent lack of hand-eye coordination. We’re not going to talk about my experiences with the Dance Lesson mini-game after that point. It’s too painful.

 

I’ve not quite finished my first run through the game. Makoto’s a B level idol, has just over a million fans and her heart consistently has a number between 45 and 50 in it. Her stats are maxed and fixed at the moment, with her strongest being Vocals (totally fills up its section), second strongest Dance (almost filling up its section) and Visual just being average. A single run through the game’s story mode can easily take three weeks, so I suppose I can be forgiven for reviewing before Makoto becomes the Idol Ultimate. And make no mistake, she will become the IU!

 

Food for thought:

 

1.) Idolm@ster SP is incredibly addicting. Especially since, when you decide to stop playing for the day, your idol will ask you to return the next day by a certain time.

 

2.) The Office Mode can be used in single player to send all the characters from the other two versions to auditions and watch them perform, even if you have never played or seen those versions. Its a shame 3 player performances can only be done with other Ad Hoc multiplayer players.

 

3.) The Lesson mini-games give absolutely no warning when they shift from “happy-fun” to “OMG-serious.”

 

4.) Keep a notepad ready while reading and answering emails in the morning. When you send your idol to the stylist or reporter, you’ll be asked a question and have to respond with the word in [ ] that was in the email.

 

5.) While an English version would be nice – it would never work. Namco Bandai would never be able to find enough suitable voice actresses to perform as the idols, and they’d never be able to recreate the catchy-ness of the original songs.

 

6.) I was disappointed in the fact that you can’t view the saved pictures and video of your idol outside of the game. You’d think the game would have had a feature where you could have viewed saved media on the PSP on its own. Even better – an option to export the saved video performances to YouTube or Nico Nico Douga.


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  • http://villaleporidae.wordpress.com/ prettyprophet

    So how fun would this be to someone who has absolutely no grasp of Japanese? I’ve got non-Japanese reading/speaking friends who love the hell out of Idomaster…but they’re also idiots, making them useless as proper gauges of fun.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      I think… it would still be a lot of fun. As long as they have a notepad near by (to mark correct answers for interviews) and use the guide I offered a while back, they should have no trouble making it through the games.

  • Vino (Tim N)

    …I want it really bad now. Maybe I should grab it while I still can while I’m still learning the little bit of Japanese that I am. *self learning is hard*

  • M’iau M’iaut

    If the miracle of a localization ever were to happen I can’t imagine anything being accepted but original language with subs. Yes, I know SCEAs stance on the subject and that in doing so you might give up potential crossover audience in girls looking for something more than baby/animal raisers, but how big would that audience be?

    IM would be a true niche title with perhaps if marketed correctly hope of pulling in the new to games OLDER female audience willing to try based on the relationship building elements.

  • maxchain

    I’ve played the first day so far; it’s pretty fun, but I’m sure I’d enjoy it much more if I had a better grasp of the language. All I know is that I went jogging with Makoto, helped someone find their hamster, and said じゃね、ベイビー(which I think I might start using in real life) at the end of the night.

    Also, does your idol-in-training ask you to come back the next day every time?! I’m off to a horrible start already!

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      Ah, you encountered the 961 rival character Hibiki then. She’s the girl who will compete for IU spot against Makoto.

      Yup, pretty much every time she will. A way to get around this is to immediately load your save after you’ve saved and gone to the menu. Play another week. Then, when you save, she won’t beg you to return tomorrow. :D

  • Megalixir

    Good review, except for the fact that Yayoi is deliberately meant to have those stats. She’s 13. Her, Iori and Ami have the worst voices (Iori > Yayoi > Ami), but they work on some songs like 私はアイドル and ポジティブ!, Go My Way, Here We Go!! but not songs like 9:02pm and Aoitori. In general, Chihaya has the best voice followed by Azusa and Yukiho/Ritsuko. Their voices are meant to reflect their age. As for Yayoi, she doesn’t have much of a singing voice but she can be paired up with two other characters (at least, in both 360 versions) so the song still sounds good. Chihaya has the best solo voice, but she lacks character. Yayoi has a lot of character. Miki and Iori have high visual. It makes sense when you think about them.

    But you should really look into the original iM@S for 360. I’ve been playing it since it was released, It’s a much better game, graphically and gameplay wise. I don’t own SP, but I’ve heard that it’s easier in most aspects because the 10k auditions pop up more frequently. In the 360 version, the best possible audition you can keep re-entering is the 7k Idol Vision on the National tab, but it requires a lot of refreshing.

    Anyway, the DLC is optional but it’s fun to buy if you really want it. There’s also certain DLC which is worth the price, and some which isn’t. In the sequel, L4U, DLC doesn’t give attributes but rather is purchased to use across characters. So if you don’t agree with paying for items that give you boosts, there’s still DLC which doesn’t. I’ve bought some DLC, both in the original iM@S for statistical attributes and both in L4U because I liked them. The DLC for the PSP version’s probably full price, but the original game has dropped the price of costumes from 1000 points to 500, and a few outfits in L4U have dropped from 1000 points to 500, and a song has dropped from 1200 to 600. It’s actually cheaper to purchase the songs in L4U over the PSP versions: 1200 points gets you the song with all 10 idols, which is about 1600 yen. Or, you can buy the specific song for the PSP versions, which comes in at 150 yen per idol, or 1800 yen.

    I’ll eventually pick up SP (probably the version with Chihaya, Miki, and Azusa) a little later, as well as a PSP for a third time. The only thing I dislike about it is that it’s based on a real timer, almost Tamagotchi-esque. The 360 version has none of that, and just lets you pick it up whenever you wish.

  • Inunah

    It would be a miracle if this game actually had singing levels. Or fun. Or less visual novel gameplay.

    These games suck until they have no visual novel gameplay whatsoever.

  • chocolateburgers

    Great review, I picked up Wandering Star (Yukiho, Ami & Iori) a month ago and Im loving it. I have completed the story mode with yukiho & the free mode with iori & ami/mami. I would have to say adding the rivals to the mix with the story really brings it apart from the 360 original. I agree with the overpriced DLC hopefully there will be a price drop soon :D

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