Category Archives: Idolmaster

On Million Live, New IM@S Game

In response to this, I’ve got almost nothing. Let me quote:

In short, the reason you likely won’t be seeing the Million Live anime anytime soon isn’t due to some odd bias against it, and it definitely isn’t because they’d rather chase the wallets of evil women ruining your cartoons. It’s far more straightforward than that: there’s simply no one around to make it right now. One of the reasons this franchise has consistently had high-profile adaptations, sometimes in spite of messy production schedules, is because it’s been supported by an immensely talented group of creators; even as the key staff is reshuffled, Idolmaster‘s production backbone has stayed the same, and that can only mean good things.

And by good thing he and I mean:

The real reason to wait to be honest, is for Taneda Risa to recover. It is one thing for Theater Days to leave out Kotoha, but you can’t do that with the anime. The industry/technology isn’t there yet! There’s more to say on this matter, in that you can speculate about the A-1 pipeline, the order of Million Live anime and SideM anime, and other things. With Darlifra and SideM close to each other it could mean a lot of things, one is that Million anime won’t be in 2018.

As someone who’s a little invested in Million Live, the point of having an anime really is just so that these guys can now render our favorite characters and idols in the same ludicrous settings that Million Live is known for, at least among the producers who are into the mobile games. So it really is Fukushima’s crew or bust. It’s a bit unfortunate that this segment of the IDOLM@STER franchise is so “narrow” now, but the hope is that when they produce something really good, people will come to appreciate it on the merits, idol trapping aside. It’s as good as GamiP’s confirmation that this cast and crew will be tapped to make the show, whenever it will be.

As for the new IDOLM@STER game on the Bandai HTML5 platform, I’m thinking it’s going to be international. The titles they picked seem to say this to me. That will be the big hope I have on it. And like how IDOLM@STER is a franchise that rides on the first generation of new hardware and platforms, this one will be something that can live or die based on its reception with the players and existing fans. I’m not really holding my breath on it because it does nobody any good, at least without more details anyway. Plus, I’m too busy caring about the existing things I have control over, like how much to spend on Theater Days gacha, or how I’m going to see the 765AS live next January.

PS. One of the best way they could do with Million Live anime is to have episodes in alternates, where one is based on one of the ludicrous events, and the next based on the main continuum. In some ways the 4th PV is paving the groundworks for this delivery style already. The big challenge there is how do you execute these gag concepts into full-length episodes, while not totally upsetting the overall atmosphere of the series. Another benefit of this is that the episodes can get outsourced easier and allow for more freedom in crafting the animation. I guess we’ll see what happens.


Some Thoughts on Magireco, HatchiNine, Msute & Milishita

I have some kind of a mid-season anime thing going but I also want to capture these tender sprouting opinions, fresh off the grill. Not to mention on some level, what’s the difference these days…

Theater Days I opined a good amount already here, so just to update, I’m definitely getting used to Kaori and Tsumugi. I guess they fit well, after all, as engineered, but what helps the most is seeing other fans going at it. Kaori particularly is the kind of idealistic being that engenders a quick reaction.

The first competitive event has come and gone. During the event period, I went to Otakon and was ranking in Million Live vanilla as well, so I only managed tier 2. Got my 3* PST Shiho and I was just happy that I managed a FC on Shooting Star MM, so I can clear all the checkboxes and make a neat screenshot.

How was it? As someone who expected fierce, greemas-like competition I got somewhat part of that in Theater Days, which should surprise no one who knows Million Live Producers. If anything I thought T3-5 were too casual, but my non-greemas producers did not fare that well either. Is this how Deresute is today?

All in all I think if I had the extra 3-4 hours in the ranking period I could have gotten T1 without any issues, but life just didn’t let me have them. So yeah, to me Theater Days ranking event was about the right amount of hard, which is not that hard, but hard enough to be a real challenge. I might not try for tier 1 again though (Matsuri rewards excepted).

Hachigatsu no Cinderella Nine, or Hachi9 as I spell it, is basically the Princess Nine or Taishou Yakyuu Musume of mobile games. I got turned on to it when I noticed Takagi Miyu was guesting on an episode of the mobile game’s radio show, hosted by one of the five Walkure girls whose name I can never remember (Nishida Nozomi). I checked out the visuals, the concept, and eventually the game itself. I was sold very hard, let’s just say. In short, Hachii is my aesthetics. It’s got that good mix of shoujo manga x sports manga x actual baseball thing. It’s snappy. It’s a game focused on character development, and not so much managing a roster or doing any rhythm game nonsense. Imagine if Oofuri was not about middle school boys holding hands? A-1 did a couple animated bits for it. The voice cast, asides from the aforementioned two, includes the full HRR cast and some more of those baseball nerds in association.

The game ultimately is what sold me. At the same time I did not spend much time in it, the game isn’t really primed hard for competition or is that community that hardcore. In a nutshell, the game is a pile of mini-game type things, each playing towards a type of statistics or currency that you accumulate as you go through what the game offers you. During events, typically what you do is trade stamina for a chance at a RNG against an opponent team, whichever team with higher score, boosts and other abilities included (including weather conditions and what not, and spot checking your roster against theirs, to keep it concise), usually wins each given game. Winning a game gets you prizes, which you can use invariably to either roll the gacha, or upgrade your players. Upgrading players is a complex thing in Hachi9. There’s straight up levels. There’s your player’s mood/condition. There are plus and minus traits you can upgrade or remove. You can awaken cards. You can level up skills and there are like a dozen of those for each given player, and skills benefit your team differently for each position your player happens to be playing.

The mini-games outside of actual matches are basically Msute-ish, because that’s also made by Akatsuki, the same developer as Hachi9. Basically a bulk of the game is story modes that you can unlock as your coaching rank goes up. During each story mode, your goal is to do the best possible (at the end of each story mode run you will get a letter grade) in order to reap the most rewards, as more rewards allows you to unlock/upgrade your characters more. Each run of the story mode is broken into chapters. Each chapter is a series of commu interspersed with a training game (think FGO-style card picking but with a deck you build with 9 players instead of 3, rarity included). Each round of card picking reflects 1 week out of the full time period, which usually runs for 9 months or so (9 * 4 worth of moves). As you pick cards you increase your 3 base stats (str dex end I guess?). Those are consumed in order to unlock traits at the end of each story mode run. While you pick cards, each round, some players are eligible for leveling up, and the more powerful you pick for a particular suit (red orange green purple) the more they level up. Each time a player levels up, you get into this second minigame that lets you try for these colored orbs which also is prereq to improve your team’s chances at the tournament at the end of the story mode, and as material for unlocking traits. The better you do in both of these minigames, the better you will be rewarded at the end. Some weeks you don’t train, but you play games instead, so those are just  your typical vs computer matches.

That’s a very high level description of the main minigame mechanisms. I also glossed over a ton of details, and probably have some inaccuracies since I am still quite new at that game. Awakened cards go up in rarity, which is cool, but this also means actual SSRs are a little bit devalued. Melding a copy of a card (or something appropriate by the same player) also unlocks stuff, so dupes are welcomed. By the way, players call you director (kantoku) in Hachi9, which I thought was the final straw that broke my “THIS IS SUCH MY GAME” back.

This brings us to IDOLM@STER: SideM – LIVE ON STAGE. It’s made by Akatsuki, and so far most people are familiar with its bond-based minigame/stage otoge combination by now. It’s definitely much more casual if you came from Deresute, but I personally think this is more what IDOLM@STER is about. It was not a pure otoge, and somehow it has become more and more so, out of laziness or limitation, whatever. But we can do better. The bigger question is can the market appreciate it?

I’m not going to play Msute seriously, but I did the “reset marathon” thing and start with a SSR Tsubasa. It’s a good way to learn about SideM, so I am just doing that. Funny enough all these other mobage is just taking my time away from this one. I can say just by messing with it for a couple days, I have more than doubled my SideM idol knowledge, LOL.

On that note, the system in Msute feels right at home coming from Hachi9, and it comes down to enjoying the mini games and the stuff available as story and character development. The gameplay is not hard but I’m no otoge player so it works for me.

Lastly, a bit about Magireco, or the Madoka mobage. The full name is Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story: Magia Record. So Magireco. It’s basically the same game as Fate Grand Order, but shelled with widefaces. What’s different is that it’s an improved version of FGO all around. It also has one of the best gacha animation I’ve seen, where when you draw a magical girl you get her transformation sequence. Too bad the draw rates are terrible like FGO.

Shamelessly so, the main “Mashu” character is Mocho, so I’m playing it. Shamelessly because Aniplex put Trysail in this game front and center. In this game you play the role of a fledgling QB and guide your group of magical girls to…something. Well, it’s Madoka. The graphics and visuals reflects all that we have known and come to appreciate about the franchise regarding magical girls.

I guess the last note to make on Magireco is that the developer has built a check in the app to see if the app has been installed from the play store, which makes sideloading tricky. Nothing you can’t get around. I personally had some issues but was able do continue playing after cloning the app. Maybe I’ll fix it in Japan or something.


Million Live: Tiered Days

When I got into western anime fandom (in the 1990s) I did top 10 lists for fun. It’s a framework that allowed people to think about things in relative to each other, along a dimension so to speak. It can be a complicated thing or a simple thing, or things, or whatever that floated the boats of individual opinions. It’s a habit only enforced by today’s media landscape that desire click-through understanding, not some serious business digression.

So here’s a serious business digression:  My own tiered ranking of the idol characters of Million Live.

Disclaimer, though, this is not a producer ranking. I do take that aspect into account when compiling this, but let’s just say while I do put Matsuri at top out of obligation, it is not out of obligation to say that she is also my favorite, and vice versa. And while it would be nice to say that it’s a coincidence, one does not cause the other. There is a distinction between “producing” an idol and calling her/him your favorite. Until western fandom understands this (within IDOLM@STER at least) there is no way we are really deserving of anything good.

It’s very much a snapshot of my mind, and if you ask me again tomorrow I might disagree with my past self. I did sleep on it and tried to keep it sensible but it isn’t written in stone or anything like that. It’s probably safe to say that there is a half-life of sorts, that things will definitely deviate the further into the future we go…

Last but possibly the most important thing before I begin… I’m strictly speaking, when it comes to Million Live, a MD with a favorite. This means, in reality, I like all Million Live idols. This is important to keep in mind. They are all god tier. I’ll explain the distinction individually below. [See this GamiP interview to know what I mean about being MD with an oshi in regards to being a P.]

Continue reading


Theater Dayz

So much to unpack. But let this be the prelude and I’ll just build on it.

The rhythm game IDOLM@STER Million Live: Theater Days, launched the night I was packing for Anime Expo (day -1). I put in a fair amount of hours and money in the game since and we don’t really have a real event yet. The first “event” is actually just a period of time where activities in-game will yield more rewards, and you get a free 30-stam drink every day.

Since I can’t talk about how events affect this game, I can talk about the other stuff–which is rather noteworthy. To put it simply, this is the game we’ve been waiting for since Shiny Festa was first a thing. It takes the next step that Deresute didn’t quite take, which is to build out hakomas-style dance groups (fixed at 5 members), but also with audio mixing. Granted this is only available for one song, Brand New Theater, but we expect Thank You, Welcome, and Dreaming all will have this option available.

Watching and playing Brand New Theater in Theater Days (avoiding the Milishita nickname for now) is a trip. It is enough proximity of an experience to watching S4U modes in PS3. This is something that I can call authentically “IDOLM@STER” which has been now recreated in a new video game. On just this level, Theater Days is a success in my book…at least comparable to Shiny Festa.

The main interface of Theater Days is full 3D with characters moving about the screen like…ships passing in the night? They just glide to and from designated points in each “room” and other than a few pre-scripted things, they are just kind of there. I guess this is the limitation of randomly-generated character events than carefully-scripted ones you find in the in-game menus of Platinum Star or BanG Dream. I’m nonetheless grateful that at least on an individual basis, the idols that appear in the rooms, lobby, hallways, or whatever, do the things we want to see them do.

Unlike Deresute, I’ve been playing Theater Days with 3D as much as possible. The 2D mode is pretty lame, but it does what you need it to do–which is nothing but static background that you can’t even affect (outfits/SSR make no difference). Indeed, this game is meant to put the fact that IDOLM@STER the Video Game Franchise is about 3D-rendered idols dancing and singing while you do things, front and center. The gameplay even forces a gameplay pause during the bridge of each song so you can watch the idols strut their stuff.

I feel this is the main charm of the game. And at the same time it’s something that the market has been kind of weaning off of. Most players these days are groomed to play them without these enhancements, in order to squeeze the battery life a bit longer. The hardware in the wild probably still has a ways to go to make the Theater Day vision 100% true, but we’re pretty close, if you have a modern phone (GS8, iPhone 7).

The rest of the game is very much similar to Deresute. The team composition, leveling, training, awakening, and limit breaking all play more or less like modern rhythm F2P games that now flood the market. I won’t belabor this and rhythm game aspects of Theater Days besides to say that flick notes sure are PITA. And probably the one most notable thing is that Theater Days have many quality-of-life upgrades over Deresute, such as removing inventory management all together, so you never have to deal with duplicate cards or putting cards into dorms or whatever. Not too important of a thing, but I appreciate it.

Of course, Theater Days is still in its early days, and it isn’t as feature rich as Deresute, although you can kind of see they plan to feature-match all the basic stuff down the road. It’s also kind of buggy on the edges, and talks to the server a lot. The core game works pretty well, so it’s not like BanG Dream which can still cold crash on my phone (happened just today in fact…).

And yeah, it’s invariable to compare Theater Days with Deresute, and so far it’s a helpful guide. There isn’t a room of SD stuff you can play with, but I think that’s intended (no such thing in ML card game). The gameplay adds a “shigoto” mode which in effect, lets you progress using stamina to get a random commu, rather than to play a song. Maybe it’s a QoL thing too, but commu with idols is also another hallmark of the franchise. It’s important and heartening to see this feature being put it to in the game explicitly, rather than just story that you unlock.

One last note in regards to the early days of Theater Days: the gacha. Unlike Cinderella Girls, you can reasonably “collect” all the Million Live characters off the bat. In fact, with 765Pro characters in the game and getting new voiced lines and scenarios, I really wanted to at least get those 13 first. It would just be like OFA! LOL. The harsh reality is that the initial gacha layout gives 26 R and 26 SR, splitting the full cast in half. Since there is no “friend point” gacha you cannot roll for Ns, as N cards drop only by completing songs and work, and at a “fairly low” rate (given that this is a compu gacha you’re aiming for). The characters whose only non-N cards are SRs are hard to get. Also since the SSR rate is at a blessedly 3% it meant that you had a higher odds of pulling a SSR than a specific SR. With the first new batch of limited SSR/SR, that ratio has changed a bit so you have 0.388% of pulling a SR (excluding the promoted SR) and 0.338% of pulling a specific SSR–almost the same IMO. But it’s hard to get all the Ns. As of this writing I have 48 Ns, 24 SRs, and 7 SSRs. I only was able to complete all the Rs.

So, let’s talk about the meta stuff.

I’m still struggling to incorporate Kaori and Tsumugi into my brain, on an emotional and intellectual level. I don’t think there’s anything unusual about it; it took me over half a year to get into Million Live properly so I expect to get comfy with the two project 39 members by winter this year at the latest. I certainly don’t dislike them, but it would help to see them live in October, yeah?

There are some fanon forming and reforming around Kaori and Tsumugi, and it’s kind of a fun time seeing it happening as it goes. The game itself brings life to Million Live by introducing the characters to more people and to opportunist artists, so hey, not complaining about that.

One of the more subtle threads about the two new characters is how in effect, at least at this point, the less refined characterization necessarily meant they are caricatured to a degree, replacing existing ships or roles in well-established tropes or jokes. I think Fuuka is really feeling it. Hopefully this is just a temporary thing while Mugi and Kaori spread their wings to come into their own selves.

With SideM game also on display (prereg period ongoing now!) we get a glimpse of the hydra that is IDOLM@STER as a game franchise. LOS is clearly taking a different path than TD and SS. It’s sensible to see that the boy side take a different route than the girl side. And it makes me wonder if we’ll get another boy-idol spinoff…

What’s probably the most noteworthy is Taneda Risa and Tanaka Kotoha. Kotoha is plainly not in Theater Days, and this is a huge move relatively. This speaks to me that IDOLM@STER is done with seiyuu switching if the circumstances can help it, and this is an internal decision. If anything, we should infer all the more that Tanechan is coming back, and it is just a matter of time. Just like how SideM anime announcement confirms that Million Live anime will happen, and it is also just a matter of time…

I guess I can take heart that at least the management is committed to doing the right things, but it’s hard to see what’s good about it. Tanechan is not Kotoha. But if Tanechan is coming back, then we need to keep that seat warm for her… Maybe there is a temporary compromise somewhere that makes up the room for improvement. Namely, just put Kotoha in but keep her voiceless?

Please get well soon & come back Tanechan, we all miss you (and not even just in Million).


In Re: Tsumugi & Saki, New IDOLM@STER Million Live Cast

Basu actually captured my thoughts more or less the same. But I think it helps to take a higher perspective.

The big picture view, well, is idols are Gundam. Bandai Namco is shepherding these larger and larger IPs to create content and make money. The trend for this particular market space (otaku like myself) has long been a change from making money by making media to making money by selling an experience, thus leading to the rise of a live-oriented way to pitch your 2D idols. And idols are a natural and built-in style of content that can be used in this way.

However IDOLM@STER is probably the longest standing and actively produced 2D idol property, at least in a post-00s, 48G style kind of way. The way the series evolved over the past 11 years meant that the producers of the series had to overcome different and various challenges, and take on more that are yet to come. I think the Yukiho swap series of events is the guiding data point on any consternation regarding Taneda Risa, and I think everyone who has been through it know that having the idol take a year or two off is something the IDOLM@STER series, at least since the beginning of the mobamas era, can deal with.

The real challenge, from a personal point of view, is the reconciliation between the two aging card-based mobile games to the new, full-feature rhythm games. On a business level it makes no sense to stop the classic Deremas game. It’s money on the table, and another way to put out content for a series, that I think, is bottled up in terms of its full potential on the content level. They were able to leverage this to throw in 876 Pro stuff and still periodically add interesting content there. But what is its role outside of that? It seems not just quaint, but kind of irrelevant. The current Million Live game, too, will hit that same crossroad.

Since I think it’ll be a business decision, it seems unlikely to see the classic Greemas game go away as to leave money on the table, but with the newly introduced idols, how will Tsumugi and Saki meld into Greemas? It’s an unique situation that oddly only the 765Pro games had to face, which is adding Takane and Hibiki in SP and still not able to produce them in the arcade version. But obviously, Bannam has now the power to retcon the Million Stars, as the cost of doing so is much lower versus doing it back in the arcade days.

Which is just to say, this does feel like when Takane and Hibiki was added to 765Pro. It’s not clear to me why Takane or Hibiki was added, but if today’s trajectory of the 765Pro seiyuu is any indication, our two new Million Stars will be able to shoulder a larger share of work in the future as more and more of this generation of Million Stars move on to having babies or what have you.

Well, at least on paper. There are already 37 Million Stars. It would be weird to not able to call up, I don’t know, 6 of them, at any given time, if Bannam needed to do an event. Maybe a more ideal way to channel cute young voice actresses is to churn them in this mean, sprawling, 2D seiyuu idol machine. I have been thinking about the difference between CG and ML in this way, where our set 37 Million Stars were all auditioned and recruited from the same generation of newbies. CG on the other hand recruited from the full poll of newbies every year, so both it allows CG to get a fresh boost of new blood every so often, and allows the cast to draw from a much bigger pool, and potentially pulling in a wider fanbase (from seiota point of view). Of course the downside is that the Million Stars have a different chemistry, as result of this, than the Cinderellas, but maybe that’s not as important when you’re already at 37 people strong.

The impact on team chemistry will play out in the long term. Nunu, Haramii and Azumin are the faces of 765Pro today, in a way, because they are in a lot of the more recent events versus even Eriko and Mingos. This is possible because even Azumin has been with the franchise for over 6 years now, and as I can testify from 765ML TW, she fits right in there with the other old ladies. Looking back, the seiyuu changes and additions to 765Pro were bumps in the road, not drastic landmarks where the series turned towards a very different direction. I’m somewhat hoping this is the case for Million Live. However I think the concern over seiyuu that I have is dwarfed by my concern over the franchise as a video game IP. Perhaps the arrival of Project Fairy signaled the end of the Arcademas era and the start of the mobile gaming for the franchise, and perhaps the arrival of Saki and Tsumugi signals the end of greemas and the start of “hey we’re just gonna copy Deresute, don’t mind us.” I hope that’s all there is to it.

And to just be super honest here, I don’t want to put my money into two Million Live games. It would be really nice if they can just fold the old game into Militheater, even if that’s probably not going to happen. Realistically speaking I’m just going to spend in both, so I am my own worst poison.