THE iDOLM@STER is a Japanese raising simulation game released by Namco (now Namco Bandai Games) on July 26, 2005. It was originally an arcade game, but it was later ported to the Xbox 360 and released on January 25, 2007. The game follows the career of a producer who works for the fictional 765 Production studio and has to work with a group of prospective pop idols. There have been two sequels: THE iDOLM@STER: Live For You! and THE iDOLM@STER 2.
In the main series of games, the player usually assumes the role of a producer who is put in charge of one or more idols as a part of a raising simulation. The player is initially put in charge of a single idol, but this can increase to more idols once the player gains enough experience as a producer. The player starts by arranging the idol's daily schedule, which gives the player a large amount of freedom on what the idol does, including giving the idol the day off. The schedule includes time for the producer to communicate with the idol, take them to jobs, train them during lessons, and offer directions during auditions and performances until they reach the top spot in the entertainment industry. However, the schedule choices in the original arcade game are limited to doing a lesson or taking an audition. Training an idol has the player going through a variety of lessons in the form of minigames. These lessons serve to increase an idol's statistics in vocal, dance and visual image. The number and type of lessons change over the series; for example, there are five in the original arcade game, six in The Idolmaster SP, and three in The Idolmaster 2. The other aspect of the game which increases an idol's statistics depends on their costumes and accessories.
In the communication phase between the producer and an idol, text progression pauses when the player is given multiple responses to choose from over the course of a conversation, and the player is given a limited amount of time to make a choice, though the player can pause the game to be given more time. Depending on which choice is made will effect how well or poorly the communication is received. As mutual trust builds between idol and producer, good memories are formed which help the idol in auditions. In contrast, if bad memories are formed through poor communication, this will adversely effect an idol. This communication is further expanded in The Idolmaster SP with the introduction of a promise system. The communication phase is supplemented by the idol taking on various jobs to further her exposure and gain fans.
The audition phase is the main way for an idol to climb the idol rankings by gaining fans. The audition process involves another series of minigames, which allow the player to appeal to the judges or audience by earning points in the vocal, dance and visual categories. If an idol passes the audition, she is chosen to do a televised public performance. In later games during the performance, the player is able to influence the idol by giving directions. The same gameplay in the audition process is also used during live concerts and festivals. The player can check the idol's rank, how many fans she has gained, and how much her singles have sold.
In the early 2000s, there were arcade games already in use that allowed players to save their progress on magnetic stripe cards so as to continue playing later. In 2001, Namco designer Akihiro Ishihara chose to create an arcade game that used that technology. Ishihara wanted to make a game that would make players want to come back to play every day, which would be tied to the growth of video arcades. Ishihara realized that players would need an emotional attachment to the game for them to play it every day. With the target audience to be male players, Ishihara thought that a raising simulation where players could befriend girls and young women would lead players to form a strong emotional attachment for the game. Next, in order to effectively use the competitive culture that surrounds video arcades, Ishihara thought about various themes for the game, including professional wrestling and volleyball. Ishihara finally settled on a game featuring pop idols, who players would raise and compete against other players' idols to reach the top of the entertainment industry. There were some members of Namco that thought it would feel awkward to play The Idolmaster in public and that it would not be well received by players. However, when the game was first tested in arcades, there were long lines of people waiting to play. As word spread and its popularity grew, rival game companies said they had wanted to be the first to create a game like The Idolmaster.
Following the success of the arcade game, Namco Bandai Games went on to develop its Xbox 360 port starting in early 2006, though a port of the game had been discussed as early as May 2005. Namco Bandai Games producer Yōzō Sakagami was initially unsure if The Idolmaster would be suited for a video game console due to hardware and network limitations, but he felt that the Xbox 360 and its Xbox Live network could handle the game's specifications. This would also allow the developers to improve the game's quality and attract attention from those who never played the arcade game. Many people who were interested in the arcade game but never played it would tell Sakagami that this was either because their local arcade did not have The Idolmaster, or because they were embarrassed to play it in public. According to Sakagami, to the development team of the port, there was a large significance in correcting these issues. Their other focus was on allowing players to comfortably play the game and enjoy its various scenarios without the rushed gameplay found in the arcade version. Certain gameplay elements were changed in the port, and this approach to improving and supplementing gameplay elements has continued throughout the series.
Design and GraphicsEdit
Most of the core design staff for each game is different, but there are several staff members who have worked for multiple games in the series. The arcade game was directed by Akihiro Ishihara, who also directed The Idolmaster SP and The Idolmaster 2, the latter of which he shared directorship with Masataka Katō. The director for the Xbox 360 port of The Idolmaster is Hiroyuki Onoda. Several returning scenario writers for the series include: Shōgo Sakamoto, Tomoyo Takahashi, Emi Tanaka, Yoshihito Azuma, and Akihiro Ishihara. The original character design was handled by Toshiyuki Kubooka up to The Idolmaster SP. After that, Kiyotaka Tamiya based the character design used in The Idolmatser Dearly Stars and later games on Kubooka's designs.
The graphics of the original arcade game were limited by the Namco System 246 arcade game board released in 2001, which is compatible with a PlayStation 2. Since the arcade game, characters have been rendered using 3D graphics with pre-rendered backgrounds, except during auditions and performances which use a full 3D environment. The developers employ motion capture to present a realistic view of the characters—not only during normal gameplay, but also during performances, which are rendered using motion capture from professional dancers. When developing the Xbox 360 port of The Idolmaster, the characters had to be entirely redone, including the motion capture, which used the same actors as before. Further details were able to be added to the character designs because of the Xbox 360's improved, high-definition hardware.
- Taiyou no Jealousy
- Aoi Tori
- First Stage
- Ohayou Asagohan
- Mahou wo Kakete!
- Here we Go!!
- Agent Yoru wo Yuku
- THE IDOLM@STER (Song)
Xbox 360 SongsEdit
- Omoide wo Arigatou
- My Best Friend
- GO MY WAY!!
- Watashi wa Idol♥