With idols and rhythm games becoming more and more popular every year, the same can be said about combining the two to form an experience that music lovers and gamers can both enjoy together. Now enter The Idolmaster: Platinum Stars for PlayStation 4, the newest in the series of idol games where you become the producer of an up-and-coming idol group.
To my surprise, Platinum Stars not only changed my thoughts about the direction of the franchise, but also made me rethink the direction of current generation cel shaded graphics. The game is full of idol simulation goodness, but is that enough to keep the attention of long time fans?
One of the more unique elements Platinum Stars offers is a full fledged Story Mode. I was tasked with playing as a producer of a small talent agency named 765 Production. Interestingly, during event scenes there is more than silly banter shared between characters while you wait for the next performance.
Developers took time to create a brand new story that fans would be able to enjoy with the characters they included in their group. Coming from someone who reads Japanese at a fairly slow pace, the cut scenes can go on for a while.
There is little English in the game and the characters stick close to their Japanese roots in terms of their personality and humor. It is possible to skip the story scenes and rush to get to the next performance. However, this isn’t advised because moments will arise when the game asks you to make certain choices.
This choice system comes with a rather fast countdown of five seconds. Often, I was caught off guard and failed to even finish reading the choices before the timer ran out. These events usually happen around the time when your idol has enough fans for a promotion. If you make the right choices you are treated to an event and move on to gain more fans. Additionally, there are also times when your idol will go in for a high five and you are given a time limit to reciprocate the excitement.
One of the greatest features of Platinum Stars is its gorgeous graphics. There seemed to be several huge steps taken forward in terms of cel shading for this game. Each scene is so well animated, one could easily feel like they watching anime instead of playing a video game.
The range of movements each character has during events go further than any game I’ve seen of this type. The idol’s movements work very well with their reactions (for instance when Yukiho expresses her shy personality). This amazing animation quality continues into the performances, making me want to cheer for an encore along with the crowd just to watch the girls perform one more time.
Unlike the range of movements and artstyle, the rhythm sections of the game are a bit basic. Being a producer seems to be easier than it looks because the combinations of button presses to make the audience go crazy are quite simple. Even so, the simplistic controls didn’t deter my enjoyment of the game. I was okay with the simplicity of it all, and still had fun watching my idols dance to some of their hit songs like “Ready!!” while I set the pace.
There are multiple difficulty options that you can chose from, and these range from easy, normal, and hard. Hard was my favorite, as the easier ones were a bit too slow for my taste — however, your mileage may vary.
The life of a producer has its perks, I was able to choose where the characters were placed and balance out the act with how I saw fit. Additionally, I could choose the character’s outfits. There were some stat changes that came with changing the character’s clothes, a feature which made me think twice about doing it sometimes, even if they looked super-cute.
The customization offered in Platinum Stars is quite vast, choosing between a large pool of acquired accessories and outfits gave me something to look forward to after each performance. These items are bought with money gained throughout the game which is given depending on how well you do during concerts. During the first couple of hours, I found myself extremely poor, but as the game continued, my digital pockets grew pretty deep.
Players who have played previous entries will be able to jump right into the concert sections and easily create the best possible performance. New players might want to spend a little more time understanding how to get the best out of their idols. To assist them, the game offers numerous tutorials that are short enough to not be found annoying or excessively in-your-face.
I tried my hand at some of the minigames, including a matching game that helped to increase my character’s level. These minigames aren’t too difficult, but they are vital to growing the rank of your idols.
There’s an additional feature called “Medley” where you can be treated with a concert from the idols. This is new to the series and definitely provides that idol experience that fans ask for.
I played through 18 songs spanning across most of the past Idolmaster backlog. The tracks available are all quiet catchy and enjoyable, but I felt that by the end of my time with the game I was begging to hear a new song. Even worse was the tune played during story scenes — throughout the game it was the same looped song played over and over.
The Idolmaster: Platinum Stars builds on top of the series’ past entries, but sticks close to old songs and characters. I enjoyed the new story and the choice system, but I felt like I wanted more.
The graphical leaps the game takes makes for a great playing experience and will surely excite long time fans of the series. You will need to have at least some idea of how to read Japanese if you want to get the full story. However, it is possible to enjoy the rhythm sections without paying much attention to the lore, but you aren’t guaranteed a successful ending.
Even with its few shortcomings, The Idolmaster: Platinum Stars left me wanting to jump right back in and hang out with the idols a little longer. Using that time to build the perfect group and making them the brightest stars possible.
Since the game isn’t available on the western market, the copy used for this article was kindly provided by Play-Asia.