As originally reported by オレ的ゲーム速報＠刃 and later by Kotaku‘s Brian Ashcraft it seems that there is a possibility of seeing a new iM@S game early next year. Apparently a leaked release schedule by Microsoft Taiwan’s official news blog Xbox Life shows Idol Master 2 out February 2011. This has since been removed. Of course alone this is dubious at best. However there is also circumstantial evidence from the official iM@S Staff Column dating from February 2010 like this or this that mention that they have started work on their new project, gathered all their production notes, wondering what the idols will be doing at this time next year (2/2011) and that revealing any more details could get them in hot water. I hope this is real though for now this is only but a rumor. Instead of debating the validity of the evidence presented as that won’t change the iM@S staff’s production schedule the rest of the article will focus on what I want to see in the next game.
As much as I like Dearly Stars which I got last year I want to see iM@S back on home consoles. In the portable releases some things had to be cut out or changed to fit the limitations of the respective consoles. For example the PSP games did not have correct lip syncing while Dearly Stars had weaker 3D modeling and in general more 2D art. Both were limited to the number of onstage idols as well as having a limited idol repertoire. I want to have the game in all it’s graphical glory on a home console which will be subject to much less constraints. I mean the amazing graphics of the XBox port is one of the biggest reasons I became an iM@S fan in the first place 3 years ago (or was it 4?). Preferably I’d like it back on the XBox 360 or possibly even the PS3. It would also be amazing to see it on the PC but I doubt that will happen.
Now onto game content. I’ve tossed this idea around several times but what better time than now to restate it–I want all the idols. When I mean all the idols I mean all of the main idols from 765, 961, 876 Production. That’s a total of at least 16 idols. Canonically this would be perfectly reasonable considering that 765 eventually absorbs the 961 idols (if I remember correctly) and that 765 and 876 Production have close ties with each other and sometimes work together. Maybe as a bonus include other idol characters such as Cineria or Kotori. More importantly I would like to see at least a few more new idols so that it doesn’t feel like just a rehash plus it would be a great way to see even more cross-idol relationships.
For this to be a full iM@S game it needs some sort of story mode. For the old idols it would still be possible to have story modes with them though it would probably focus on group interaction since their individual stories should be covered fairly well by now. They could also play side roles for any new idols in much the same vain as iM@S DS. As long as you can unlock them for play eventually I’ll accept it. Anyway the focus of story mode should be on the new idols for the same reason as mentioned above. It would be terrible for all the old idols to steal the spotlight from the newcomers so they should get more screen time to buildup their characters to the same level as the previous idols. I can’t really say what I want out of the story but I’ll say that I appreciated the slightly messed up backgrounds of the DS idols so I wouldn’t mind seeing that again. Sugary sweet is fine too. There is also the question of what perspective the story will be told from. Will it be from the producer’s point of view or will it be from the idols’? Personally I want to be the idol but either is fine by me.
Yet again I want it all. Counting all the songs 39 have appeared in-game so far plenty enough to make a massive splash. What I don’t like about IM@S DS is the relatively small selection of available songs due to space constraints. With a home console release this could be partially avoided. However with 16 idols X 39 songs space would still somewhat be of an issue and that’s not even taking new songs and idols into account. Of course the solution would be rather simple–throw more DVDs at the problem or use Blu-Ray. As mentioned a few sentences ago I also want a few new original songs which if there are new idols is bound to happen. It would be pretty interesting to also use some of the billion or so CD-only songs like Azusa’s Mythmaker. I know this is a lot to ask for but at least I would like plenty of songs available from the start or unlockable eventually before I start dumping my life savings on DLC.
If Microsoft were clever they could sell the new 250GB hard drive with iM@S branding such as an exclusive new faceplate pack-in and have the drive preloaded with an assortment of DLC. This premium product would both move units and alleviate the troubles of multi-disc gaming by providing ample room to install to the hard drive. If Microsoft were to do as I just outlined I would be $150+ in the hole despite knowing that it’s just an overpriced 2.5″ notebook HD. I wouldn’t care though since the extras would make up for it.
First off all stage options should be at the very least as robust as Live for You and DS. That’s not to say those were perfect but going backwards would not be preferable. Support for three idols on stage at once should be reinstated. It could be possible to add support for more simultaneous idols but the difficulty of choreography would increase exponentially. To make it even doable a new more advanced system would have to be developed and implemented. Considering the possible profit to be had it would justify development costs. I would appreciate such a feature but it is not necessary to satisfy me. Though I wouldn’t use it myself being able to change individual dance moves in a routine like in DS or Dance x Mixer would be nice. I guess the last thing to mention is the possibility of more individual idol customization. I touched on it briefly with the individually customizable dance routines but I would love the ability to select costumes and accessories on a per idol basis. Wouldn’t it be so cool to have Punkish Gothic Haruka singing back to back with Cute & Girly Ai? Basically I want expanded stage options.
Another personal irk of mine is the limited ability to save performance data. In all the games so far you can only save about 10 different arrangements per account. For a game where part of the appeal is to create different performances to share with others there really shouldn’t be any limit other than hard drive space itself which really should not be a problem since it’s only replay data. In addition to increased performance save slots the next game should have the option to record them as videos that can be watched independently of the game. Imagine being able to export your replay as a video file which you can then play from the XBox dashboard or be copied over to your PC. I’m pretty sure that would be a great way to use Windows 7 and XBox 360 connectivity. I also imagine it would be convenient for those who have never shared their videos online or even for the pros. Have Bandai Namco do a cross-promotion with say Nico Video and imagine the possibilities. In short more save slots for performance replays and the ability to export them as actual HD video files that can be copied over to other platforms would allow more versatility in sharing videos with the fan community.
Bandai Namco has already stated their intents to reinvigorate the franchise with their 2nd Vision Project so the only question is what forms it will come in. We already have Dearly Stars which I personally love. However I’m still awaiting an all out console release. If it can somehow match my probably unreasonable demands it would easily be the best iM@S game ever. I guess the only thing left to do is wait for more news to appear.