The Idolmaster

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This article is about the video game franchise. For the first game in the series, see The Idolmaster (video game).
The Idolmaster
The Idolmaster logo.png
Genres Raising simulation, Rhythm
Developers Cygames
Metro
Bandai Namco Games
Publishers Bandai Namco Games
Platforms Android, Feature phones (au, NTT DoCoMo, SoftBank), iOS, Namco System 246 (arcade system board), Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360
Platform of origin Namco System 246
First release The Idolmaster
July 26, 2005
Latest release The Idolmaster One For All
May 15, 2014
Official website www.idolmaster.jp

The Idolmaster (アイドルマスター Aidorumasutā?, officially stylized as THE iDOLM@STER) is a Japanese raising simulation and rhythm video game series created by Bandai Namco Games (formerly Namco). The series primarily centers on the career of a producer who works with a group of prospective pop idols at the talent agency 765 Production. Originally released as an arcade game in 2005, the franchise has grown to numerous ports, sequels and spin-offs across multiple video game consoles, including three social network games. The series includes a variety of other media such as anime, printed media, audio dramas and radio shows. Each installment of The Idolmaster has seen different levels of success, though the games and related media have earned over 10 billion yen as of 2013.

Common elements[edit]

Plot and themes[edit]

The central aspect of the plot for The Idolmaster deals with the training of prospective pop idols on their way to stardom. The main talent agency featured in the series is 765 Production (765 Pro), a rising studio located in a small office. Other studios include 876 Production (876 Pro), 961 Production (961 Pro) and 315 Production (315 Pro). At 765 Pro, there are initially 10 idols the player can choose: Haruka Amami, Chihaya Kisaragi, Yukiho Hagiwara, Yayoi Takatsuki, Ritsuko Akizuki, Azusa Miura, Iori Minase, Makoto Kikuchi, and Ami and Mami Futami (who work as a pair).[1] Three additional idols later added to 765 Pro include: Miki Hoshii, Hibiki Ganaha and Takane Shijō.[2]

A recurring theme in the series emphasizes the struggles an idol must go through to achieve stardom.[3] This is indicated by the level of an idol's tension meter.[4] Games in the series also explore relationships between characters, ranging from the relationship that develops between an idol and a producer, to the rivalry between idols and production studios.[5][6]

Gameplay[edit]

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.[7][8] 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.[7][9] However, the schedule choices in the original arcade game are limited to doing a lesson or taking an audition.[10] 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.[11] 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.[11][12] The other aspect of the game which increases an idol's statistics depends on their costumes and accessories.[4][13]

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 affect how well or poorly the communication is received.[14] As mutual trust builds between idol and producer, good memories are formed which help the idol in auditions.[11] In contrast, if bad memories are formed through poor communication, this will adversely effect an idol.[4] This communication is further expanded in The Idolmaster SP with the introduction of a promise system.[15] The communication phase is supplemented by the idol taking on various jobs to further her exposure and gain fans.[7][16]

The audition phase is the main way for an idol to climb the idol rankings by gaining fans.[4] 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.[17][18] If an idol passes the audition, she is chosen to do a televised public performance.[19] In later games during the performance, the player is able to influence the idol by giving directions.[7][18] The same gameplay in the audition process is also used during live concerts and festivals.[20][21] The player can check the idol's rank, how many fans she has gained,[7][22] and how much her singles have sold.[23]

Game series[edit]

The Idolmaster One For All The Idolmaster Shiny Festa The Idolmaster 2 The Idolmaster Dearly Stars The Idolmaster SP The Idolmaster Live For You! The Idolmaster (video game) The Idolmaster (video game)

Original release, ports and a sequel[edit]

The Idolmaster, the first game of the series, was first released in Japan on July 26, 2005 as an arcade game[24] using Namco Bandai Games' Namco System 246 arcade system board. Developed by Metro,[25] it introduced many gameplay and plot themes common to the franchise. The player assumes the role of a novice producer who works with prospective pop idols though lessons, auditions and performances.[26] The player will also develop a relationship between an idol and her producer. The game uses the touchscreen Rewritable Stage arcade cabinet, which issues the player two rewritable cards containing the player's profile and save data.[27] It also makes use of the ALL.Net network service to keep track of national idol rankings. The network was discontinued on September 1, 2010,[28] though a few of the arcade cabinets still survive.[29]

A port of the arcade game for the Xbox 360 was released on January 25, 2007. This version introduced an additional idol, Miki Hoshii, and includes new songs. The port makes use of Xbox Live, and the game has been credited with making Japan's ratio of sign-ups for Xbox Live compared to the number of consoles sold as the world's highest.[30] Over four times as many Microsoft points were sold on the date of The Idolmaster's Xbox 360 release as on the date before it.[30] A sequel to the arcade game titled The Idolmaster Live For You! for the Xbox 360 was released on February 28, 2008. In Live For You!, the player assumes the role of a "special producer" due to the sudden absence of the original producer and is charged with coordinating the idols' concerts. The game focuses mainly on the concert coordination aspect of the original and expands on it in many ways, with higher customization of the stage, costumes and songs.[31] Live For You! also introduced a rhythm game aspect into the series, incorporating it as a minigame during an idol's concert.[32] A collection containing both The Idolmaster and Live For You! was released on March 12, 2009 as The Idolmaster Twins.[33]

Another port of the arcade game titled The Idolmaster SP for the PlayStation Portable was released in three versions on February 19, 2009. The different versions—titled Perfect Sun, Missing Moon and Wandering Star—feature different idols from the original arcade game to work with.[34] SP re-introduces Miki as a rival idol working for the 961 Pro studio, and introduces the new characters Hibiki Ganaha and Takane Shijō, also working for 961. Hibiki is in Perfect Sun, Miki is in Missing Moon, and Takane is in Wandering Star. SP also introduces a multiplayer mode for up to three players where each of the players' idols can interact and audition together. A slot machine titled The Idolmaster Live in Slot! was released on May 23, 2012 by Sammy using the Xbox 360 version of The Idolmaster as its motif.[35][36]

2nd Vision[edit]

In May 2009, the franchise's next stage called "2nd Vision" was announced, which was described as The Idolmaster's next project that would further expand the series' world.[37] The first 2nd Vision game is The Idolmaster Dearly Stars for the Nintendo DS and was released on September 17, 2009.[38][39] Instead of playing the role of a producer, the player portrays one of the three idols introduced in Dearly Stars as they enter 876 Pro.[40] In addition to the story mode, the game also features a cheering mode for up to 16 players,[41] and includes wi-fi functionality. The idols from previous The Idolmaster games make appearances in Dearly Stars as already established and popular idols.

Another sequel to the original arcade game titled The Idolmaster 2 was released for the Xbox 360 on February 24, 2011 and later for the PlayStation 3 (PS3) on October 27, 2011.[42][43] Set in the same universe as Dearly Stars six months after The Idolmaster, the player can choose between most of same idols in addition to Miki, Hibiki and Takane. In The Idolmaster 2, Azusa Miura, Iori Minase and Ami Futami now form an independent unit with Ritsuko Akizuki as their producer.[6] A nine-volume fan disc series titled The Idolmaster Gravure For You! was released for the PS3 from October 27, 2011 to June 28, 2012.[43] Gravure For You! allows the player to give the idols directions while taking gravure photos of them in various poses, costumes and locations.[44]

On October 25, 2012, The Idolmaster Shiny Festa was released for the PlayStation Portable in three versions. Like The Idolmaster SP, the different versions—titled Honey Sound, Funky Note and Groovy Tune—feature different idols from The Idolmaster 2 to work with.[45] Shiny Festa is a rhythm game, and unlike previous games does not feature any raising simulation gameplay.[46] The Shiny Festa games were released on iOS and localized into English on April 22, 2013.[47] The titles of the games were changed for the port: Honey Sound became Harmonic Score, Funky Note became Rhythmic Record and Groovy Tune became Melodic Disc.

An app for the PS3 titled Imas Channel was released on the PlayStation Network on October 2, 2013. The app includes a Shiny TV component which features a PS3 version of Shiny Festa, and the nine Gravure For You! fan discs can also be downloaded via the app.[48] The game The Idolmaster One For All was released on May 15, 2014 for the PS3 and allows players to produce all 13 idols from 765 Pro.[49] Another game is being produced for the PlayStation 4.[50]

Social network games[edit]

The first social network game in the series, The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls, was released on the Mobage browser game platform for feature phones on November 28, 2011,[51] and for iOS and Android devices on December 16, 2011.[52] The game features a card battle system and over 100 additional idols, including the 13 idols from 765 Pro.[53][54] In September 2012, the Nikkei Shimbun reported that Cinderella Girls earns over 1 billion yen in revenue monthly.[55] The second social network game, The Idolmaster Million Live!, was released on February 27, 2013 on the GREE browser game platform for iOS and Android devices, and feature phones sold by au, NTT DoCoMo and SoftBank.[56][57] Like Cinderella Girls, the game features a card battle system and another 37 additional idols, which also includes the 13 idols from 765 Pro.[57] The third social network game, The Idolmaster SideM, was released on February 28, 2014 on the Mobage platform for mobile devices.[58][59] The game features a card battle system similar to the other social network games, but instead focuses on male idols at the talent agency 315 Production, which also includes the three idols formerly from 961 Production.[60]

Development[edit]

The Idolmaster arcade game cabinet

Origin[edit]

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.[3] In 2001,[61] Namco designer Akihiro Ishihara chose to create an arcade game that used that technology.[3] 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.[3] 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.[62]

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.[63] 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.[3] 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.[3] Certain gameplay elements were changed in the port, and this approach to improving and supplementing gameplay elements has continued throughout the series.[3][7][8]

Design and graphics[edit]

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.[64] The director for the Xbox 360 port of The Idolmaster is Hiroyuki Onoda.[63] 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[65] 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.[64]

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.[63] 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,[3] but also during performances, which are rendered using motion capture from professional dancers.[66] 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.[3]

Music[edit]

The titles in the series feature a variety of music sung by the idols, many of which are featured in multiple games either initially or as downloadable content. The original arcade game has 10 songs, and this is increased to 16 in the Xbox 360 port, as it includes 6 new songs.[63] More songs have continued to be introduced in later games, which include: five in The Idolmaster Live For You!, five in The Idolmaster SP, four in The Idolmaster Dearly Stars, 13 in The Idolmaster 2, and four in The Idolmaster Shiny Festa. Additional songs initially released on various music albums and singles have also been featured in the games, including remix versions of some songs.

Adaptations[edit]

Further information: List of The Idolmaster media

Anime[edit]

A 26-episode anime television series set in an alternate universe titled Idolmaster: Xenoglossia, produced by Sunrise and directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai, aired in Japan between April and October 2007 on Kansai TV. The series centers around mecha and reimagines the ten prospective idols as fighter pilots of those robots, with eight of them posing as students. Xenoglossia has no relation to the games apart from its characters. A 17-minute original video animation (OVA) episode titled The Idolmaster Live For You!, produced by Actas and directed by Keiichiro Kawaguchi, was included in the limited edition of Live For You! released on February 28, 2008. The OVA involves Haruka, Chihaya and Miki trying to reach Tokyo in time to catch up with the rest of the girls in their latest concert after the trio gets lost in the middle of nowhere.

A faithful anime television series adaptation, produced by A-1 Pictures and directed by Atsushi Nishigori, aired 25 episodes between July and December 2011 on TBS. An OVA episode was released on June 16, 2012. Additional OVA episodes were bundled with the Shiny Festa games released on October 25, 2012, with a different episode for each of the three versions. An anime film adaptation, titled The Idolmaster Movie: Kagayaki no Mukōgawa e! (THE IDOLM@STER MOVIE 輝きの向こう側へ!?, lit. The Idolmaster Movie: To the Other Side of the Light!), was released on January 25, 2014.[67]

A original net animation adaptation of the spin-off manga by Akane, Puchimas! Petit Idolmaster, was produced by Gathering and directed by Mankyū. It aired 64 short episodes between January and March 2013, and was also simulcast by Funimation. The series revolves around the 765 Pro idols as they are accompanied by super-deformed versions of themselves. An OVA episode was bundled with ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Maoh magazine in October 2012.[68] A second season, titled Puchimas!! Puchi Puchi Idolmaster, began streaming in April 2014.

An animated music video of the spin-off game The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls, featuring the song "Onegai! Cinderella", was streamed within the game on November 28, 2013 in celebration of its second anniversary.[69][70] A special animation video featuring the character Mirai Kasuga was streamed within the spin-off game The Idolmaster Million Live! in commemoration of its first anniversary.[71] An anime television series adaptation of The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls, produced by A-1 Pictures, will premiere in Japan in January 2015.[72][73]

Other media[edit]

Various guidebooks for the video games and anime adaptations have been published over the years. Two light novels based on The Idolmaster, written by Yūsuke Saitō and illustrated by Otoko, were published by Enterbrain in 2006. Two separate light novels based on Idolmaster: Xenoglossia were published by Fujimi Shobo in 2007 and Hobby Japan in 2008. The Idolmaster has been adapted into 23 serialized manga and several other manga anthologies, which include direct adaptations of the video games and anime adaptations, in addition to numerous spin-offs. The earliest manga was published in 2005 by Ichijinsha, and since then other manga have been published by ASCII Media Works, Enterbrain, Fox Shuppan, Hakusensha, Kadokawa Shoten, Kodansha and Square Enix.

Frontier Works published 12 drama CDs from 2005 to 2009 for the games: six based on the arcade game,[74][75] three based on its Xbox 360 port,[76][77] and three based on The Idolmaster SP.[78][79] Lantis released three drama CDs based on Idolmaster: Xenoglossia in 2007.[80][81] Frontier Works also published two drama CDs based on Puchimas! Petit Idolmaster in 2011.[82][83] There have been 15 radio shows for the video games and anime adaptations.

Reception and legacy[edit]

Review scores
Game Famitsu
(out of 40)
The Idolmaster (X360) 26[84]
The Idolmaster Live For You! (X360) 28[85]
The Idolmaster SP (PSP) 31[86]
The Idolmaster Dearly Stars (NDS) 30[87]
The Idolmaster 2 (X360) 31[88]
The Idolmaster Shiny Festa (PSP) 32[89]
The Idolmaster One For All (PS3) 33[90]

Each installment of The Idolmaster has seen different levels of success. The Xbox 360 port of The Idolmaster was awarded the special prize at the 2007 Japan Game Awards partially for its unique take on raising simulation games at the time.[91] While sales figures are not available for the Xbox 360 port of The Idolmaster, it was the fifteenth best selling console video game in Japan for the time of its release.[92][note 1] The Idolmaster Live For You! would see better success, selling 44,000 units in its first week of sales as the fifth best selling console video game in Japan.[93] In their first week of sales, the three versions of The Idolmaster SP sold 129,088 units.[94] The Idolmaster Dearly Stars sold 30,786 in its first week of sales.[95] The Idolmaster 2 for the Xbox 360 was voted one of the most anticipated future game at the 2010 Tokyo Game Show by attendees.[96] Despite this, the Xbox 360 version of the game initially sold 34,621 units and was the tenth best selling console video game in Japan for the time of its release, but the PlayStation 3 version sold 65,512 units in its first week.[97][98] The three versions of The Idolmaster Shiny Festa sold 119,132 units in their first week of sales.[99] The games and related media have earned over 10 billion yen as of 2013.[100][101]

The raising simulation system in the series has been described as simple and easy to understand,[84] and the various minigames have been described as "addictive".[4][84] However, the audition system in later games such as The Idolmaster 2 has been called strategically weaker, but at the same time easier to understand than previous games.[88] As the series progressed, the improved realism in the idol's expressions, movements and manner of speaking was praised.[86] As the first handheld release, The Idolmaster SP was praised as satisfying the needs of the fans who enjoy "lovingly raising their favorite idols" at all times.[86] Overall, an enjoyable aspect of the series has been cited as deepening one's relationship with "cute and individualistic" idols while going through the ups and downs of the story.[88]

The introduction of rivals into The Idolmaster SP was described as effectively giving each game a different impression,[86] and competing against rivals in the series has been praised.[88] While one reviewer for Famitsu suggested it was natural to identify with the idols when watching them perform, a different reviewer in the same magazine issue stated that the game would be somewhat tiresome if the player did not have an emotional attachment to a given idol.[84] However, another reviewer noted that it was easier to empathize with an idol when the story is told from the perspective of the idols in The Idolmaster Dearly Stars.[87] Although, because other aspects of the gameplay in Dearly Stars are similar such as doing lessons and auditions, the sense of enjoyment is not that different from other games.[87] Early aspects of the series were criticized as presenting a narrow and unrealistic view of the idol world.[84]

Appearances in other games[edit]

Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, another Xbox 360 game developed and published by Namco, references The Idolmaster in special paint schemes for the Su-33 Flanker, F-117A Night Hawk, F-16C Fighting Falcon, F-2A Viper Zero, Su-47 Berkut, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-14D Tomcat and F-22A Raptor as part of downloadable packs of extra aircraft colors made available for purchase between November 22, 2007 and March 31, 2008. The character Miki Hoshii appears on the paint schemes of the Su-33 and Su-47, Yukiho Hagiwara appears on the F-117A, Chihaya Kisaragi appears on the F-15E, Haruka Amami on the F-22A, Yayoi Takatsuki on the Mirage 2000-5, Azusa Miura on the F-14D, and Iori Minase on the Rafale M.[102][103][104]

Yayoi Takatsuki made a cameo in Namco's role-playing game (RPG) Tales of Hearts as a support attacker by using a move named High Touch. Haruka Amami made an appearance as a cameo costume for Mel in Namco's RPG Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon X.[105] The game Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology had several of the girls' costumes featured as purchasable and wearable armor. Downloadable content (DLC) costumes can be bought of custom outfits from The Idolmaster for the Namco Bandai games Tales of Graces and Tales of Xillia. In Graces, Sophie, Pascal and Cheria can have costumes purchased for them,[106] and in Xillia, Milla, Leia and Elise can have costumes purchased for them.

A stage in Beautiful Katamari set in the producer's office features a song by ten of the girls titled "Danketsu". A remix was produced titled "Danketsu 2010" sung by all of the girls. Some of the Katamari Cousins in the game also represent the idols. Four songs from The Idolmaster series were featured in Taiko no Tatsujin 14.[107] An update patch for PlayStation Home features The Idolmaster slot machines inside the Namco Bandai hubs where one can win special clothing to make PlayStation Home avatars look like Haruka.[108] A collaboration DLC package between Sega's Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA 2nd and The Idolmaster SP was released, featuring a Haruka costume for Hatsune Miku, a combined version of Ami and Mami's costumes for Kagamine Rin, and a Chihaya costume for Megurine Luka. The package also comes with "Go My Way!!" redone by Miku and "Relations" redone by Luka and Rin. Ace Combat: Assault Horizon as well as the Ridge Racer series on PlayStaion 3, PlayStation Vita and Xbox 360 also include DLC for The Idolmaster series.[109]

Notes and references[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ The lowest sales figure posted for a video game sold that week was 34,028 units sold for Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day! at tenth place, so The Idolmaster would have sold less than that game.
References
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  4. ^ a b c d e "The iDOLM@STER: Massively Multiplayer J-Pop Teen Idol Career Building Sim". Wired. January 28, 2007. Retrieved July 19, 2013. 
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External links[edit]