Many The Idolmaster games can feel more like work than pleasure. You pick a few idols, hopefully shooting for a conglomeration with complementary capabilities. You attempt to climb charts and better characters within a set period of time. Given the demanding nature of the business, it’s very likely you’ll fail. Satisfaction comes from mastering strategies, with the music having very little bearing on the overall experience. The Idolmaster: Platinum Stars completely flips the script, creating what is absolutely a more forgiving, if not more enjoyable, idol management simulation.
Prepare for some serious deja vu with The Idolmaster: Platinum Stars. As in previous installments, you’re a new producer with 765 Productions. All 13 of the idols signed with the company made their debut, then subsequently floundered. Now, a real business would drop these chicks. They’re obviously okay with ditching dead weight, since every entry replaces the producer. But no, these are the same singers since the original The Idolmaster. By this point, I’d accept that if they’re not stars now, they’re never going to be famous.
Though you begin with one, then two, and finally three singers, eventually all 13 girls are brought to this training camp to finally become the celebrities they were born to be.
The management of 765 is obviously far more lenient and forgiving than I am. They have brought the 13 young women to what is part retreat and part purgatory to renew their focus on their career. Though you begin with one, then two, and soon three singers, eventually all 13 girls are brought to this training camp to finally become the celebrities they were born to be. There is no other option; there is no escape.
Success is the only possible outcome. Failure only delays the inevitable and means more time spent in this limbo. Birthdays come and go, with only the girl’s fellow inmates there to celebrate the occasions. Time passes, but no one actively ages. The only outfits provided are training camp-issued sweatsuits, generic pajamas and idol outfits earned through sweat, tears and successful live performances. Following the 765 Productions-approved routine is the only way to end this cycle.
That sounds unnerving, right? Don’t worry; the girls seem happy with their lot in life. The Idolmaster: Platinum Stars has no time limits. The main means of boosting their fan base, levels and wardrobe is through live concerts. You pick a show appropriate for your lead singer’s skill, decide on the roster and attire for the performance, pick a song and perform. Failing means you pick yourself up and try again. Success means tangible and intangible progress.
Previous installments involved pressing any of three action buttons in time with the beat, occasionally launching into a Memory Appeal for bonus points. The Idolmaster: Platinum Stars is a more traditional rhythm game along the lines of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva or IA/VT Colorful. Each song has four difficulty levels available, the square, triangle and circle buttons are pressed when the proper indicators align with a target, the cross button can be pressed when a Memory Appeal trigger appears and Extreme Bursts for even bigger bonuses can be triggered by tapping the touchpad at the right time. It makes for far more satisfying concerts. I developer a greater appreciation for the songs now that I was more involved in performances.
This means the promotional and training portions have been turned down in The Idolmaster: Platinum Stars.
These concerts aren’t limited to single lives and rank up events for idols. Four times a year, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in a massive performance where all 13 of 765’s singers will either perform a three song concert or major medley. These are more a means of helping the unused idols catch up with your active roster, since every participating character gains experience and fans from the event. This makes it easier to get the other singers’ rankings and levels up to snuff once they do come under your wing, giving you a chance to actually use them in your group. They play similarly to single lives, so again your own skills are almost always all you need to guarantee your success.
This renewed focus on the music means the promotional and training portions have been toned down in The Idolmaster: Platinum Stars. It is still possible to participate in minigames to send your lead idol out on a promotional event or to a class to boost stats or gain experience. However, the promotional portions involve an asinine dice-throwing minigame where luck matters more than skill. The Burst, Cosmetics and Expression lessons are very relaxed activities that involve properly picking correct icons or pressing at proper moments to build stats, practically guaranteeing you a boost to abilities or experience. Each of these things are beneficial, but aren’t as important to the experience as the rhythm-based performances.
The new tailor honestly has a bigger impact on The Idolmaster: Platinum Stars gameplay than training. After a performance, your idols may earn outfits and accessories. These each have abilities, ranks and stats assigned to them. When you have doubles, you can visit the trailer and pay a fee to mend duplicates, binding them together to improve their effects. When you’ve collected enough tailor cards from performances, you can turn them in to create entirely new items. This can mean more fans, points, special sorts of Memory Appeals and other bonuses when wearing the right things.
With The Idolmaster: Platinum Stars, we have an entry in the main The Idolmaster series that allows us to relax. The omnipresent deadlines are absent; the pressing nature of the entertainment industry has relented. Does this make for a more inaccurate simulation? Absolutely. Yet, it allows for a more enjoyable experience. We can take our time and focus our efforts on playing through memorable tracks. We aren’t locked into casting choices, picking through potential group members at our leisure. Finally, we have a game that gives us the freedom to work with who we want, when we want, and become music masters.