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.