• Idolmaster Shiny Festa Review Sony PSP

    Since making its way to home consoles in 2006 on the Xbox 360, the Idolmaster series has seen sequels and spin-offs on both console and handheld. Shiny Festa is the newest entry in the series and, like Idolmaster SP, it's on the PSP. The series is one that always has a small section of Western gamers hoping for a region-free release, so is Shiny Festa worth importing?


    Shiny Festa shares two big similarities with SP they are both on PSP and are both split across three separate versions. In this case, Honey Sound, Funky Note and Groovy Tune. Each full-priced version contains several of the girls and features its own unique anime episode and exclusive songs. Crucially however, it differs in that it is less Idol management sim and more rhythm game. The animation, character designs and voice actors are similar to those used in the recent anime series, something that should please fans as well as offer some continuity throughout each. That it is produced to a good quality is even better.


    Upon starting, entering the name of your troupe and being awarded your all-important producer pass, there are a number of different options including Contest, Theatre, Stage, Backstage and Shop. Stage is a good starting point as here, the twenty one songs on offer can be played in any order, on a variety of difficulty levels. Initially Debut (easy) is available, with more being unlocked once the previous difficulty has been cleared. Whereas Debut and Regular won't pose too much of a problem, Pro and Master really ramp up the overall level of challenge, meaning it is something that those who like to master rhythm games will be drawn back to many times. Further incentive to finish as many as possible on the higher difficulties is that money is awarded upon completion. The songs themselves are the usual J-Pop mix of upbeat and slower tunes, and anyone who found themselves enjoying the soundtracks of the Project Diva games (that were also on PSP) will be right at home here. Each version of the game contains the same amount of songs overall six are found in each version, with fifteen unique, one of which sees the entire group perform. Although there are enough songs no matter which flavour you buy, anyone who has a favourite song or two will definitely be tempted to buy at least one more, such is the way they are split up.


    Star of Festa though is the main mode on offer. Three songs can be selected from all those available and, where applicable, which character(s) singing can also be freely chosen. After the first two songs, the final one will be a challenge with a girl from a rival Idol company. If they are beaten (the gameplay is the same as before here, although the rival's score will also be displayed and must be beaten in order to defeat them) then their character card is awarded. Although it doesn't allow that particular character to become playable, long terms fans of the series will be pleased to note that some of them are from a mobile phone game that never made it out of Japan and is therefore next to impossible for Westerners to have experienced. Additionally, playing on a higher difficulty level and achieving a higher score will unlock a better ending, meaning that there is reason to keep on playing through this mode. Each round of three songs takes the form of a day, with five of these in total. Between songs and days there are voiced scenes, providing more context for all the singing and dancing, culminating in an ending which differs depending on overall score.


    In terms of gameplay, the mechanics are quite basic and easy to get to grips with. Notes will come in from the right and left on tracks, ending up at a point in the middle of the screen. For those appearing from the right, the R trigger or any of the face buttons need to be pressed when the note reaches the centre. The ones from the left need the L trigger or any of the directional buttons to be pressed. Aside from notes where the input button needs to be held down and some with a green outline, where a button from the right and left of the PSP need to be pressed simultaneously, that's all there is to it.

    The Shining Burst mechanic is what deepens the gameplay. Each song features two background music videos. As notes are successfully input, a star meter builds at the top of the screen. Once filled, a star icon will appear at certain junctions within the song that, if hit accurately, changes the video and allows a higher score to be obtained. This mechanic is one that is crucial to success in Star of Festa mode, especially on the higher difficulties when facing off against a rival character.


    As is expected of the series, the Shop allows a number of upgrades to be bought and equipped, such as changing the appearance of the notes. Strangely, however, costumes and accessories cannot be changed, which is something of a surprise given the amount made available (mostly through reasonably expensive DLC) in the console games. Further options from the main menu are the ability to change gameplay settings, view records and high scores and install the game to memory stick, something that is useful given the sometimes lengthy loading required throughout. Contest mode is where the opening anime section can be rewatched, broken down into smaller episodes.


    Idolmaster Shiny Festa is a title that will appeal to fans of the games, anime and rhythm action genre. Although, in terms of gameplay, it doesn't do anything too drastic to differentiate itself from the multitude of examples of the genre on the PSP, the quality of the presentation and light Idol management is unique enough to allow it to stand out. Those coming in expecting another portable version of the arcade and console titles will leave disappointed, but those wanting to experience the series in an import-friendly way will likely be impressed.

    Pros:

    - Easy to learn mechanics.
    - Story mode fleshes out the experience.
    - Quality presentation.

    Cons:

    - To experience everything, three full price games need to be bought.
    - Costumes and accessories cannot be customised.

    Developer: Namco Bandai
    Publisher: Namco Bandai
    Other Versions: N/A
    Version Reviewed: Asian

    Score: 7/10
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