Let’s Talk About Idols – Mobile Game Edition

If it’s not been undeniable that I’ve been very interested in idol games. I’m obsessed with one in particular, but I’ve obviously been trying out a few different games. Most of the ones I’ve tried aren’t officially available outside of Japan, but I’ve wanted to do this post for a while.

I thought it would be a good idea for me to try out a few of the idol games available in the west and to talk about them.

So, I downloaded three games on top of Ensemble Stars Music and thought I’d let you all know what I thought about them. Especially as games for users new to rhythm games.

These sorts of games are so much fun. None of them is the traditional kind of idol-raising game, as they all have musical components. But if you’re at all curious about anime idols and want to have some fun playing with them? This post could be for you.

I’m going to list these games from worst to best. I’ll add that this is just my personal opinion, so if you disagree, that’s fine. But I had a lot of fun preparing for this post, so you can definitely take some recommendations.

BanG Dream!

This is a game I’ve been reading and enjoying the manga adaptation of, so I was definitely excited to give it ago. Unfortunately, after downloading it…I wasn’t able to play it.

Checking out the reviews, a lot of users have problems actually being able to open the app. This only appears to be a problem for the En server and has been for a while. I’m not saying don’t play this game, as you should definitely give it a try. I’m leaving the app on my phone for a little while to see if I can ever get it to work, but I’m not that hopeful currently.

What I did for this game was to enjoy the opening video in the app and also watch a little gameplay online. From what I know of the music options, and from what I’ve seen of the play, it seems like a pretty good game. In fact, I’m pretty sure that were it not for the login problems, this game wouldn’t be in last place.

BanG Dream or Bandori follows 7 different all-girls groups with 35 characters in total. That’s a pretty decent amount, and it looks like there will be some variation in how they sound. Bandori doesn’t feature all original music like some other games, but its covers of various Vocaloid and anime songs make it appealing in itself.

This is the only girl-only game on this list, but Bushiroad has also released another similar game if you want more girls.

Is this a game that I would recommend widely? Not really. But I know that it’s got to be popular for a reason. So, it can go on this list for now, but until I can actually play it… it’s hard to say.

Utano☆Princesama: Shining Live

Funnily enough, this was the first game on this list I downloaded way back when it was first released. But it didn’t stay on my phone long.

Utapri has a long history of games. An early example of an idol management game with rhythm elements, Utapri has since had anime adaptions and much more. I watched the anime first and loved it. In the series, you play a producer who has to pick one of six boys – with a slightly magical 7th addition – to work with. They wind up as a group, and Shining Live has you working with Starish and a rival group, Quartet Night.

Yeah, this game only focuses on two individual groups and 12 characters. That’s a lot less than something like Bandori or Enstars. It’s not that uncommon in other Japanese idol games, but I personally find that having some variety really does make games more attractive, as there should be something for everyone.

Shining Live has a limited selection of songs you can unlock as you go through the levels and story. You can get a few more songs with the changing event lists, but even that feels limited as they all sound very similar. Even with my on-and-off playing, I’ve barely unlocked any songs, and in my recent playthrough…I didn’t unlock any more songs or stories. Sigh.

When it comes to the actual gameplay, this game plays how you’d expect from a K-Labs game. Before Shining Live, they’d released the first Love Live game and Glee Forever. Both games I’ve played in the past. But I didn’t care about Love Live and I wasn’t playing the Glee game for the storyline. Plus, I didn’t have much rhythm game experience at the time, so I didn’t have many opinions on the song play.

This time I noticed that it feels like the notes feel like they slow down as they reach the bit you tap. It kept knocking off my rhythm. Because of that, I didn’t really enjoy myself. This game also has an autoplay option, even if you haven’t played a song. But if you use it, you won’t be scoring as well if you didn’t play yourself. That kind of sucks if you’re trying to grind events and are busy.

On top of that, these stories felt short and dull. Plus they’re a pain in the ass to unlock. You need tickets to unlock even the main story, and getting them feels pretty hard. Maybe if you’re invested in this game, it won’t feel that way. But even as someone who loves these characters, I just couldn’t find it in me to care.

I liked this game the least out of all of those I played. The only reason it isn’t last is that I could actually play it.

Would I recommend this game to beginners? Maybe. It’s certainly going to appeal more to people who are obsessed with the characters, or who don’t have much experience. But I’m not sure I would actually recommend it, as there are definitely better games out there and easier to get through.

Hatsune Miku: Colourful Stage

Also known in Japan as Project Sekai, this is the only game on the list with characters of multiple genders. There are a few girl-only groups but even they get the chance to perform with guys in certain songs. This, if you couldn’t tell from the name, is a Vocaloid-inspired game so you do get to see Miku and friends in every song.

Out of all the games I’ve just downloaded, this is the one that’s interested me the most. The plot is a little weird. The idea is that members of five different musical groups have, in their search, wound up in a virtual Sekai out of the blue. Sekai is the Japanese word for world, so it’s a bit sci-fi. These worlds are used to encourage and share people’s dreams. In these worlds, the characters perform with various vocaloids who are a group of their own. I’m not sure I get it, even after playing it for close to a week. But I am enjoying meeting the characters.

Once again, this is a game with some variety. You can perform with six groups, each utilising at least one Vocaloid character. Aside from the virtual singers, these groups are all new and introduce us to some interesting characters. Plus, there are a few new Miku designs that are adorable.

Also, the way you pick your group in this game is pretty fun. You can obviously choose who you like at the end of it all. But it starts with a little quiz suggesting the unit that will best fit you. My results have seemed pretty accurate, and I like the characters and music. So that’s fun.

If you’re into games like this for characters, the little world map home screen will be fun for you. Rather than having one or two specific characters on a home screen, you can explore a map that takes you to a room you can decorate and different shops. Each of these locations will have little chibi characters on the screen, and you can talk to them to earn an extra 10gems for scouting. Wonderful.

The music in the game is obviously Vocaloid music, but you can unlock a few different versions of each song. They also seem to update regularly, which is a bonus. You can play songs alone or in co-op mode, and there are virtual shows that you can watch too. Plus, when playing songs with whatever character cards you have, you can select to see the song’s original characters in the music video without having to change your cards. Something helpful when you like to see the original music video but don’t have many cards. This game seems to be so focused on enjoying the whole experience, and I appreciate that.

Finally, the stories do need to be unlocked like in Shining Live, but it feels easier to complete. Maybe this is because I’m still at a pretty low level, but I’m enjoying reading through what I’ve got, and each story feels worth it.

I’ve been unsure about Project Sekai for a long time, but I can now tell you it’s definitely worth it. I could easily recommend it to a beginner because the song play is like standard American rhythm games, and Miku should be a recognisable enough character to get your interest.

So if you haven’t tried this one out yet, you should.

Ensemble Stars!! Music

Obviously, I didn’t download this game for this post. I’ve talked about it three times before on this blog, but now we’re out of the beta, I want to again. When the game opened up to the public, we got some new content, and I imagine that the beta and new game servers will be joined soon. 

Why do I think that? We’re coming up to an event story fairly soon that could be considered the main plot and introduces a new unit out of current characters. So I feel like Happy Elements is going to want everything smooth by that point. Can’t have beta players talking about this new unit that new players don’t know about.

Speaking of characters, Enstars definitely has the largest cast out of all these games. With 49 characters – 51 if you include Akiomi and Jin – across 14 units… That’s a lot of variety. Each group has its own individual sound and style, which means there will always be something for everyone. Within each of the units, there’s a variety of characters and no effort has been spared on their backstories. Some of them you might not find out much about in the game, but boy, this world is soap opera wild. I love it.

When it comes to the gameplay, Enstars is pretty kind, and that could lead you to some bad habits if this is your first rhythm game. So bear that in mind and don’t let go of the hold notes- even though you can. Still, you can hit good notes and not lose your combo, which is rare, and if you drop to the bottom of the voltage bar, the song doesn’t end like others. You have time to get past clear again by hitting the rest of the notes.

As well as all this, the autoplay on this game is great. You can’t autoplay a song until you’ve had a full combo, but when you do, it’ll be your best score for that song. If you score better when playing a song, you can update your autoplay. This is pretty useful for grinding events.

What’s not so good is the gacha system. It costs a fair few dia to do a 10 pull – 3500 – and though it’s fairly easy to earn dia. It’s still a very slow process to get enough. If you’re waiting for a specific character or event, you can’t pull just so you have the dia for the cards you want. More so than in other games.

The other thing you’re probably wondering about is the music, as this is a fairly new game. It’s only been available in English for a few months, and that means that the song selection is still kind of lacking. There’s definitely some variety in what’s available, so there should be something that you’ll like. Plus, all these songs are original, and if you really like one? You can save up a certain type of coin to unlock it for your home screen. Fortunately, new songs are being added fairly regularly. Some of them as part of proper events, and sometimes just with extra prizes. On the Japanese app, there’s a much bigger selection that’s also growing regularly. So we know that we’re going to wind up with a lot of songs.

There are also plenty of options to play songs. You have:

  • Normal lives.
  • Starry lives that can earn you extra dia but can’t autoplay.
  • Joint lives around three times a week.
  • Infinite lives where you can earn specific points to trade for jewels or scout tickets.
  • Expert lives where you can play hard-level songs depending on certain colours.

As well as that you can now join societies. You can decorate the society room together, chat – though the censoring is ridiculous – and earn special coins for trade or work on your talent. The talent points can be unlocked to improve your scores during songs, so it’s definitely worth it. You can also do a society live performance twice a week on the weekends.

Finally, you have the office. Don’t feel like playing songs? Send chibi versions of the characters to work, decorate your office and dress them up. Project Sekai has room decoration, but the other aspects feel different to all the other games available. I’ve spent a lot of time playing in the office, but I’d recommend leaving it when you’re focusing on events.

If you can’t tell I really like this game, and I do highly recommend it to all. But if you are picking this up as a beginner, then I would suggest downloading another game with it. Just to get an idea of what other games will be like rule-wise. But if there’s any game that will suck you in and get you invested in this sort of story? Enstars will definitely do that.

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