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Review: The Idolmaster Shiny Festa

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We paid thrice and still feel nice

When it arrived on the App Store in April, The [email protected] Shiny Festa made waves among English-speaking gamers, but unfortunately not for the reasons publisher Namco Bandai was hoping. 

Rather than celebrating the first-ever of an [email protected] game, fans and the uninitiated alike gawped incredulously. Many were confused that the game had been ported from PlayStation Portable to iOS for its English-language debut, but most were stunned by the app's asking price of $54.99 for each of Shiny Festa's three versions. In an ecosystem where most users balk at the prospect of paying more than a dollar or two for anything, Shiny Festa commanded a price point more common for a triple-A console blockbuster.

But is it worth it?

That's the question I tackled, alongside fellow Japanator staffers Jeff Chuang and Elliot Gay after we each purchased a version of the app. Was the ticket to Shiny Festa money well-spent, or has buyer's remorse has set in?

This is our discussion.

The [email protected] SHINY FESTA: Melodic Disc/Harmonic Score/Rhythmic Record (PSP, iOS [reviewed])
Developer: Namco Bandai
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Released: April 22, 2013 (NA)
MSRP: $54.99 each*
*As of press time the game is at a promotional price of $26.99 each

Josh Tolentino

To kick this combination review/discussion off, let's tackle the big question: Is Shiny Festa worth the nearly $55 asking price? And that's just for one version out of three. We bought our copies at personal expense, so that's technically a "yes" in our case, but what's the rationale, both for us, and for the "average" gamer, who's had virtually no exposure to I[email protected]? What is Shiny Festa, and does it merit the kind of green that might be laid out for a Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed?

Jeff Chuang

I'm probably the worst person to answer that question. Nothing happens in a vacuum. It's not like someone put a gun to my head, but after following [email protected] for a couple years now, and that this is a legit, English-language localization of a franchise that probably will still never get the full light of day in English-speaking countries, it is a miracle.
Unfortunately it is also a miracle fueled by money, and as an import gamer that is something I've already accepted. I really have no idea how someone who is entirely unfamiliar with [email protected] at all would even want to play this game, let alone paying for it, if they didn't already know what it is. And maybe that's just the thing, triple-A joints have triple-A marketing, Shiny Festa has just us poor Producers. Even if the game is great, I'm not sure it will make any sort of impression outside the established fan base. 

What I want to know is, what made you choose the Harmonic Score edition of Shiny Festa? What...or who is so special about that version?


Josh: I'm in something of the same boat regarding motivation. Doing the math, importing the original PSP version from Japan at retail prices would cost me more. And I don't hate iOS, so this is basically the cheapest way for me to get the game, short of me asking a local to buy the game at a secondhand store and mailing it slow, and in that case it still wouldn't be localized. So yes, a miracle indeed.

In the end I picked Melodic Disc, which was Groovy Tune, which is the one with Miki Hoshii, Makoto Kikuchi, Takane Shijou and Yukiho Hagiwara. Of the thirteen idols in the core cast, those are the ones I care about (except Yukiho), so that's the version I picked. I'm lucky, actually, since the characters I like are all in just one version, so whoever's in charge of the roster is on the right wavelength. For me. Sorry to people who like, say, just Miki, Chihaya, and the Futami twins or some other wallet-destroying combo. 

That said, since the game has a selection of full-group songs that don't just feature my core four, so the character models are in there. I imagine that UMD storage and the like motivated the three-way split on the PSP, but iOS has no theoretical size limit (beyond the device itself), so having the same split active for this port, with all still at full price, feels a bit sleazy. I suppose Namco couldn't be bothered to rejigger the game that much, but again, that price. Even for a fan it stings, you know?

Elliot Gay

I'm the unique position of living in Japan, therefore I'm used to paying upwards of 7,000 yen ($75.00) for some new releases. Media here is expensive, and even digital copies of games aren't even close to being as cheap as their western counterparts. Indeed, these iOS versions of the Shiny Festa games are actually about the same price as it'd cost me to grab physical copies. That being said, I no longer own a PSP, so downloading games for the Vita is my only option, meaning that the idea of paying full price for an iOS game isn't all that scary to me.

I do get that Namco isn't exactly aiming to expand the brand out west, so much as they're testing the waters to get an idea of how far the western fanbase is willing to go. I think somewhere in the $30-40 range would have made more sense, but as both of you said, the [email protected] fanbase is one that is likely used to the high cost of importing. That doesn't make the situation any less unfortunate, but I suppose it does add some perspective to things.

As for the games themselves? I picked Harmonic Score, featuring Haruki Amami, Chihaya Kisaragi, Azusa Miura, and Ritsuko Akizuki. I thought the track list would be significantly more focused on these four idols, but I too was surprised to find that there are plenty of songs featuring the entire cast. I would suggest folks grab the version that has your favorite characters though, considering the story mode focuses entirely on them. 

How are you guys feeling about the game itself? I'm actually really pleased with the mechanics and the song list. The touch controls feel natural, and I've yet to encounter any substantial slow down on my iPhone 4s. I also checked out the "DLC Store" expecting the worst, but all the songs there are free. I'm assuming these were tracks included in the original PSP releases, but taken out of the base game to save space?
Josh: As far as I can tell, the iOS version unpacks to a hefty 2.6GB on my iPad 2, which is larger than a UMD can store. Without the actual PSP version to compare I can't tell how much or how little was left out, but I'd like to believe that the songs on there are DLC that's just been made free as opposed to space-based cuts. Personally I figure all three games could have been consolidated into a single app without a substantial increase in size, but I'm no iOS developer, so that's just speculation on my part. 

Indeed, the "sweet spot" pricing point - that still ignores App Store psychology, mind - would have been about $40, or about the same as DJMAX Technica Tune on the PS Vita. In fact, DJMAX is an interesting point of comparison for me, as well. Some discussion surrounding that game already balked at the idea of paying $40 for a game on a dedicated gaming handheld, one that offers roughly three times the songs and slightly less fluff (no story mode or real-time dance graphics). 

That said, the actual rhythm gameplay so far isn't as complex as a DJMAX game. It's more purely timing-based, and centered around tapping the screen in time, rather than hitting icons ala Ouendan/Elite Beat Agents. That feels a little simpler, and at the lower levels, less satisfying. 


Elliot: It's very much like Hatsune Miku: Project Diva in the way it plays, with lower levels being almost deceptively easy, and higher levels being mind numbingly difficult. I've been mostly playing on Master level, and it sometimes feels like my fingers aren't fast enough in the way they respond to my brain. Hah! 

As far as the visuals are concerned, I've yet to play on the iPad, but on the iPhone 4s' retina screen, it definitely looks a whole lot better than it did on the PSP or Vita. Since most of the backgrounds are essentially video files, I wouldn't be surprised if the bump in resolution caused a hefty bump in terms of file size.


Josh: Speaking of video files, each version of the game comes with a full exclusive episode of the [email protected] anime series, animated by A-1 Studios. You can't even miss it, because it starts playing the first time you start the app (at least, that's what it did when I started).

As I may have mentioned, [email protected] was my favorite anime of 2011, so that would be a big draw for someone who's thinking about watching the show for themselves. From the looks of things each episode is different and stars the cast of the version you bought. My Melodic Disc version naturally starred Miki, Takane, Makoto and Yukiho going off to perform at an island "Shiny Festa" (hint hint) and practically dragooning the Producer into taking them on dates to better understand how to sing love songs. Really. 

How did your versions go?


Jeff: I picked up the PSP version of Melodic Disc, or Groovy Tunes, as it's known in Japan. Not only I might have to share a waifu with Josh, but that game simply had the best track list and that's why I went for that one. I thought Rhythmic Record (aka Funky Note) has the second best list of songs, which is what I ended up getting on the iPad Mini when the English version came about. The music video for "Kyun! Vampire Girl" is quite hilarious... And my tolerance for Yayoi and the twins has gone up by a magnitude since a year ago, making the dip into the loli version of Shiny Festa a lot more bearable. Any fans of Hibiki walking downstairs around here?

Playing on the iPad Mini is rather nice because of its relatively large screen, especially since you could play while holding it up, similarly to how one would play the game on a PSP. Actually, I recommend playing that way if you have a Mini, since if you don't hold on to it, you're likely to push the tablet around while trying to ace some of the high BPM songs. Maybe it's not as bad with a full-size iPad plus a case with grip? The resolution of the videos definitely got a bump versus the PSP version, especially when you compare the anime portions. But on the iPad Mini, you can see some jaggies for the various music videos and the still images during the story mode looks obviously resized to fit the bigger screens.

Gameplay-wise, Elliot has summed it up. Shiny Festa is a surprisingly fun game that has a nice and easy learning curve until you hit Pro and Master modes. And unlike most (if any?) rhythm games, getting perfects on your notes is everything. When you want to get that triple-S rank, "Good" is simply not good enough. It's probably the only game of this kind where you can get a full combo and only come away with an A rank (which is scored below 90 percent, making it more like a B?). It's probably also the only game of this kind where you can use helper charms (cheats you can buy with in-game money to make things easier) guilt-free, similar to the main[email protected] games.

Shiny Festa is twice the fun if you are already familiar with the songs from the [email protected] franchise, like I am. It's too bad that about a third of the songs on each of the games are the same, because I will eventually get all three versions. Granted, those 7 songs are some of the most popular songs from the franchise, so at least I enjoy replaying them over and over again. The two other noteworthy things I would also bring up is that hitting the upper left corner when you're in the middle of a song brings up the in-game menu (which sometimes I hit by accident, since there aren't too many places you can hold up an iPad securely and still hit the screen), and there are still some minor difference between the iOS games and the PSP games, such as what the achievements are, that you can access the iOS Game Center for public rankings and such, and probably some other differences that I haven't run into yet.

One other way to have fun with Shiny Festa on an iPad is to set it for loop playback using a random playlist via the music video mode. It feels way less pointless than doing the same thing on a PSP. If you enjoy watching the videos it's a great way to have it play it in the background, setting the iPad on a stand.


Elliot: Interestingly enough, the OVA that came with Harmonic Score is significantly different from what you described, Josh. The Producer (who is the player character in the core [email protected] games) only appears at the beginning and at the very end of the episode. It mostly centers around the girls discovering how music can connect people who don't speak the same language. The episode essentially serves as the first half of Shiny Festa's story mode, which took me off guard completely.

By the way, am I the only one who absolutely adores the new "Music" track? It's ridiculously catchy and probably one of my favorite songs on the playlist. 

Jeff: "Music" is a great track. Too bad Columbia or Namco-Bandai feels like taking their time releasing any versions of it other than what we got with the games. "Eden" is probably my favorite new track out of the whole deal, though. [The four Shiny Festa theme songs have been solicited for CD release since time of writing.]


Josh: Interesting point on how different your OVA seems from mine. After seeing mine I initially figured each variation would simply be a "branching" style: same events, different characters. That they basically went and made three different original episodes pumps the value for true fans I guess.

"Music" is pretty good, though I've still got a soft spot for "READY!!" and "CHANGE!!", which were the opening themes of the anime. As a filthy casual who doesn't even own the core [email protected] game yet the anime is my main exposure.

Still, after this and once my wallet recovers, I might just be *ahem* LADY for more [email protected]. Random Ace Combat skins will no longer be enough.

On a tech note, did anyone have trouble with input response? Since unlike DJMAX this thing is more purely tap-rhythm-based I'm wondering if you've encountered situations where, like, you're sure you tapped in time but the note didn't register. I have, and I'm not sure how much blame to assign to hardware or me just sucking at rhythm games. We're all playing on different device models to boot, so checking how it works across "platforms" should be important to note.


Jeff: The primary [email protected] game is a slippery slope to financial ruin, just to let you know. But at the same time maybe you are READY for it, if you can swallow the price tag of Shiny Festa...

I haven't encountered any input problems playing the game on an iPad Mini. Actually there were a few times where I registered a tap by mistake because my finger got too close to the screen. It's a different play experience than the PSP because it's so much ever slightly less precise due to that fact, but at the same time you don't have to wait for the buttons to "bounce back" before you hit the next note, pressing the same spot on the screen. So theoretically you can hit the notes even faster on a touchscreen with just one finger on each side.

Josh: So you would say that the increased speed makes up for a comparative lack of diversity in inputs? I know it changes up the appearance of note paths to keep you on your toes, so if it can't change the input itself, it alters the presentation.

Jeff: The way the notes flow down the lines is both decorative and can impact gameplay like you said, Josh. I also found that it can help you measure out beats in some cases, such as the "stairs" pattern in some songs where how and when the notes "turn" can give you an idea the beat it will come across when it gets to the center point.
Josh Tolentino's score for Melodic Disc:

Ultimately, what I keep coming back to is that The [email protected] Shiny Festa is a perfectly decent rhythm game, with good iOS implementation and substantial content geared towards preexisting fans. What its music does for you depends on your preferences, but like any proper rhythm game there's enough there to get you into the familiar groove of pushing for the perfect run. The story mode and extra character moments work, to an extent, but again, only in a specific context: that of an [email protected] fan.

When it comes to writing reviews, I hate having to bring up price or the idea that a game is "for fans", but I'm finding it unavoidable when trying to regard Shiny Festa. That price tag - that triple price tag! - thoroughly narrows the value proposition, and it's hard not to wonder a bit what could have been (or what could be) for the game had Namco Bandai opted for a price point with a wider appeal. As I said, it's a perfectly decent rhythm game, but costs far too much, and for the non-fan, even selecting which variety of the game you want is an exercise in guesswork. 

But for fans of [email protected] who haven't yet imported Shiny Festa, there's no real reason not to get this, unless they dislike playing games on iOS. And if they don't, they're actually saving money by doing so.

Incidentally, Japanator's descriptive text for a score of 7/10 fits how I feel about the game quite well: 

Score: 7 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)

Jeff Chuang's score for Rhythmic Record:

The one solid gameplay/design aspect that underpins Shiny Festa is both how shallow and deep the gameplay is. For the casual producer who just like [email protected] like a fan of an idol group, he or she can enjoy the game through its 20+ music videos (or 40+ if you count special MVs), the anime it comes with, and the various character interaction and in-jokes baked into the game in the story mode. The game is easy and sufficiently challenging for people who normally don't play rhythm games, in beginner and normal modes. For those who are into rhythm games, Shiny Festa dangles big enough of a carrot on a long enough of a stick that it is still a good effort to achieve all the top accomplishments, and it's a fun ride to get there. Unfortunately that is also why it relies heavily on speed and accuracy to award the top and most difficult accomplishments, versus the wider variety of inputs or tricks many other rhythm games offer. 

If you can rationalize spending real money to play games involving your waifu, then these are the games you are looking for. For me, it offers a good balance of effort-versus-reward in addition, making it fun to keep playing and seek out that second (and probably third, eventually) version of Shiny Festa as I slowly conquer the tracks in Master mode. And if you came into Shiny Festa already an owner of [email protected] on the PS3 or Xbox, for a couple DLC's worth of money you can have a slice of that dancing magic to go on iOS, in addition to all the extra perks the game comes with. It feels like a no-brainer. It also helps, however slightly, that compared to most iOS games, Shiny Festa just feels well-polished. Even if the character bio page says "HOOBIES." 

Score: 7 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)


Elliot Gay's score for Harmonic Score:

Shiny Festa doesn't exactly set the rhythm genre on fire, but it never really tries to. The game was developed as fanservice for fans of the franchise (anime and game alike), and the inclusion of OVA episodes only further pushes that point. It's mechanics are welcoming to newcomers but remain challenging to veteran gamers as well. While the lack of more varied inputs is a bit disappointing, it's an understandable omission considering the platform. The music is catchy, and the entire package is of a substantially higher quality than the majority of games available on the App Store. This was initially a packaged release, and it shows. 

If you're a fan who already owns the PS3/360 game and its myriad of DLC, I can't see why you wouldn't bite. Yes, the price is high, but at the end of the day, it's sadly never been cheap to be an [email protected] fan. If you were looking to grab a copy of Shiny Festaanyway, I think the iOS versions are the way to go. 

Score: 7 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)


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The [email protected] Shiny Festa: Melodic Disc reviewed by Josh Tolentino

7

GOOD

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
How we score:  The Japanator reviews guide

 
 
 

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoManaging Editor   gamer profile

Josh is Japanator's Managing Editor, and contributes to Destructoid as well, as the network's premier apologist for both Harem Anime and Star Trek: Voyager For high school reasons, he's called "u... more + disclosures


 



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