The Idolmaster Must Songs finds itself in a tricky position. As a mash-up of Bandai Namco’s The Idolmaster and Taiko no Tatsujin series, it’s faced with the unenviable task of offering equal parts of both experiences. This gets a bit tricky, as gameplay often outweighs superficial elements like tracklists and character designs. While it looks and sounds like a The Idolmaster title, someone is clearly playing Taiko no Tatsujin. Naturally, there’s a solution already implemented into the game in the form of the live festival mode.
In every The Idolmaster game, the goal is to build the girls’ fanbase so they’ll be the top idols in Japan. This is traditionally accomplished in-game by sending the girls on auditions, having them perform at lives and during festivals, and sending them off to participate in interview and promotional events. The Idolmaster Must Songs includes a Live mode, in which new performances unlock. People pay an entrance fee, with money earned by playing through songs outside of this “story” mode, and can then access that one performance one time as a result.
The first time a performance is selected, it’s a complete mystery. You’ll have an idea of which idols will be performing and know how many songs will need to be completed to finish the live, but exact details aren’t revealed until the entrance fee is paid. Katsu, acting as the boss of 765 Productions, will occasionally brief the “producer,” Don. Then, it launches into a performance. A grade is assigned, based on the skill shown while playing through the group of songs, and the fanbase grows. If certain goals are met or new levels of success reached, additional live performance options will open up, the idols will send the producer letters with new costumes or song arrangements, and Kotori’s shop will sell new drum sound effects, costumes, songs, and song arrangements.
If this was all The Idolmaster Must Songs did to inject some extra flavor into what would otherwise feel entirely like an Idolmaster-themed Taiko no Tatsujin, it would honestly be enough. While it is a form of unlocking, it’s handled in a relatively laid back way. Reaching the next tier of fans is never too taxing, and it isn’t until the C-level that concerts have to be replayed or tackled at higher difficulties to start making more serious popularity gains. However, Bandai Namco went a little further to ensure it has the famous Idolmaster charm.
The Idolmaster Must Songs taps into the series’ lore and character backgrounds for these live performances. Before, during, and after songs, there’s character commentary on the bottom screen. Sometimes, there are costume changes. Yukiho is as shy as she is in the original games; Makoto is as brusk. All of the voice actors are the same, and some of these little outbursts are even voiced. It makes these challenges feel more like actual concerts, rather than a test of endurance and skill for players.
As for lore, The Idolmaster Must Songs brings back the groups and units fans know and love. Established groups, like Jupiter and the Dearly Stars, get their turn in the spotlight for these live concerts. You’ll find a concert only starring the Project Fairy unit from The Idolmaster SP, made up of Miki, Hibiki, and Takane. The Idolmaster 2‘s Ryuuguu Komachi unit, consisting of Iori, Azusa, Ami, and Ritsuko, shows up for its own performance. Other units, created for the Idolmaster Masterpiece recordings, like ACM (Azusa, Chihaya, and Makoto), HYR (Haruka, Ritsuko, and Yukiho), and IYAM (Iori, Yayoi, Ami, and Mami) appear. They’re all chances for the game to sort-of wink and nod at players. “You remember these combinations, right? So do we!”
The “live” performances in The Idolmaster Must Songs are a crucial part of the experience. This is a fantastic rhythm game on its own; an incredible Taiko no Tatsujin game any Vita owner could import and enjoy. The concerts are what make it a The Idolmaster game. And, if you’re wondering which The Idolmaster Must Songs version is for you, we’re happy to guide you through the differences between the Red and Blue Albums.