Estimated reading time: 22 minutes
I like a good simulation game now and then and I have always wished Bandai Namco would localize The Idolmaster games for North America. But since it never happened, when I saw Idol Manager I thought it looked interesting and now is my chance!
When starting up Idol Manager you can decide if you would like to play in Story Mode or Free Play. Unlike Story Mode, Free Play lets you play Idol Manager without any stories and just manage Idol groups. In both modes, you will pick from three difficulty levels. Relaxed mode, where you can't lose and money is not an issue, normal mode, and an “unfair” hard mode. In any of these cases, you can choose to play as either a binary male or female and you get to both name them and the first group you start with.
In story mode you will also get to pick a binary male or female rival. For the story segments of Idol Manager, these will be presented in a visual novel style. This is where you get a job from a person named Mr. Fujimoto who owns the building you will be starting off in. Mr. Fujimoto gives you full control of managing Idol groups and even helps you out by letting you have access to one floor of the building rent-free. From there, getting more story moments to unlock is not an easy task. The first few needed me to get a music single into the top five and then the next wanted me to top the monthly charts with a single. I do wish these moments were a little easier to get.
As you progress through, there are moments where your Idols or staff will talk to each other and you will get a choice to say something about it, like if you think someone is doing something right, or wrong, as an example. These actions can change your friendship levels with Idols or make staff members do better in their job tasks. One of my favorite main story events was when I was helping my Idols at a zoo while they were feeding penguins. While taking questions from visitors, one little boy asked if they would explode if you threw them. Knowing that they were talking about Prinnies (dood!) from Nippon Ichi Software / NISA's Disgaea series made me laugh. Playing story mode will also unlock a gallery that you can look at from the menu and can also unlock music by getting a good ending to Idol Manager.
Other story moments that can happen are in the form of scandals. Scandals are things that can happen to your Idols which can affect a few different things depending on how you respond to them. As an example, one of my Idols was being bullied online and she got mad. I defended her since she was not the one at fault. Another moment like this was when my Idol was spotted with a guy who may not be the best of people for her or her image. Some of the ways you can handle these scandals are by making an apologizing statement, apologizing and putting your Idol on probation, defending your Idol, or doing nothing.
In any of these cases, you will sometimes get scandal points, lose fans or other things such as if the fans don't like your response. Having scandal points can hurt your singles sales, concert attendance, likability, and so on. You can get rid of these scandal points by firing a staff member and blaming the scandal on them. If you don't fire them in this way you will have to pay them a severance fee. It's not all negative though. Being good to your Idol during one of these scandals will raise their influence points or their friendship level.
As the producer, you can hold local, regional and nationwide auditions to find new Idols. Local auditions are the cheapest but you won't find as good talent as you would in a regional and nationwide audition. Idol Manager groups new Idols as Normal, Silver, Gold or Platinum, with the Normal being common and the rest being more and more rare. When doing a regional search you will get at least one Silver Idol while nationwide you will get at least one Gold Idol. Of course, because nothing is free, regional and nationwide searches cost much more than local searches so it's up to you as to where you would like to search. Do you hold a lower end audition and train a Normal Idol into a star? Or do you spend more money for Silver or Gold Idols who may help your group get famous faster? Each search will give you five random Idols to potentially hire. You can hire as many of the five as you want or none at all.
In regards to Idols, each has ratings in different stats. One Idol may be good at singing but not as good at dancing while another Idol may be the opposite. Others may be okay at everything but not excel in anything specific but that’s where you come in as an Idol Manager. You can train Idols in different areas that you think need improving. Idols have a rating for their looks, such as some may look cool or cute, while others can be sexy. Seeing a sexy rating on a younger teen was a bit odd but luckily these ratings were low and only really went up as the Idols aged. However, older Idols lose their cuteness. In any case, you can raise certain looks by sending them to a stylist and finally Idols also have stats for being funny and smart.
To be a good Idol Manager, you will need to build rooms in the building you work at. As stated above, Mr. Fujimoto was nice enough to let you have one-floor rent-free but as you go up or down a level in the building you will have to start paying rent for each room on that floor. The places you can build are your office where your character does their work, offices where other managers work, a break room for your Idols to regain stamina points, a dance room, a recording studio, a dressing room, a doctor's office, and two more specialized rooms such as a café, where you get a daily income for food that your Idols come up with, and finally a theater.
For the café where you can have your Idols work, you will get to pick what foods you want to serve on each day of the week. Keeping an item on the menu for too long will lower its novelty which means lowering both its sales and your profits. Having the café though will also allow you to gain you a few new fans each day. Unlike the café, the theater that you can open is where you can set up a schedule for performances as another avenue to bring in profit, or at least try to. The rent on both the café and theater often seemed to be higher than I could make, but you can upgrade the theater to enable streaming to fans making it easier to make a profit and keeping it open.
Back to the more normal rooms, once you build them you’ll have to hire the staff for them. It’s one staff member per room, so you’ll need to build several of these rooms for a larger and more complete staff. One important thing to note is that every position title such as producers like your character, managers, choreographers, and music producers all generate research points when they are idle. Starting off with producers, they can research or upgrade different kinds of lyrics such as lyrics about love, or lyrics about friendships for example. Producers can also research new media genres for your radio, internet, and TV shows.
From the producers, you can hire either sales managers or production managers to fill an office space. A sales manager has a better chance of getting business proposals and is faster at it than the production manager, however the production manager can do production tasks faster. Managers can also use research points to unlock or upgrade different kinds of marketing for your singles and different kinds of business contracts they can get. From the office spaces you have dance rooms where you can hire either a dance coach and or choreographer. Dance coaches are better at teaching your Idols to dance while choreographers are better at production tasks. Choreographers with research points can unlock or upgrade different dance choreography to be cool, cute, sexy, etc.
For the recording studios, you can hire either a voice coach or music producer. Like the above dance coach and choreographer, the voice coach is better at teaching and the producer is better at production tasks. Music producers with research points can also unlock or upgrade different music genres so if your favorite group in real life is Baby Metal? Then you can do the same in the game.
For the dressing rooms, you can hire stylists. Unlike the rest, a stylist is a stylist but you can choose from whether they are better at making your Idols look cool and sexy or if they are better at making your Idols look cute and pretty. Lastly, for the doctor's offices, you can hire either a physician or a psychiatrist. Physicians are better at restoring physical stamina and helping your Idols overcome injuries. Psychiatrists are better at recovering mental stamina and at treating depression. For any of the above though? All staff can get better at things they are not used to so a physician for example can get better at restoring mental stamina as they do it more. For any of the above, if you don't want to wait for the research points to accumulate? You can simply buy them with in-game currency which uses the Japanese Yen.
On the subject of stamina, all Idols have physical and mental stamina points. If an Idol does just about anything they will lose physical stamina and if that reaches zero they will start losing mental stamina. Once you reach zero on physical stamina your Idol can become injured easily and if that happens you won't be able to use that Idol for some time. The lower the mental stamina the more chance that Idol has of becoming depressed so these are key to watch out for.
To manage all of this, you will spend most of your time on the main building screen of Idol Manager with a bar to the left of the screen that can let you do things like daily activities. Every day you can perform three activities such as performances for money, promotion to gain more fans or spa treatment. All three are easily mapped to the up, left, and down d-pad buttons so it is easier to remember to do one of these if you can afford to. Performances and promotions on top of money will also cost your Idols three stamina points while spa treatments can restore this lost stamina but for price. Performances and promotions can also be leveled up by reaching certain milestones.
One of the main aspects of making an Idol
group, on top of all of the management aspects, is its music which you can do
by hitting the singles tab on the left side of the screen. There are a lot of
options for you to pick from such as naming the single, picking how you want to
promote it, what type of lyrics, type of dance and music genre. You will also
get to pick the formation of the Idols so you can pick the singer and then back
up dancers for that single. From there, you will then have to pick how many CDs
you would like to produce. Make too many, and you may lose money, make too few,
and you may not be making as much as you could be and it's not easy to guess
how many CDs will sell.
Next, you have the media where you can make shows for radio, the internet or the TV. You can then pick the genre of the show, if you should have a host for the show and what grade of host you want. You can go from no host or a low-level newcomer up to a legend. The better the host, the more they cost. After picking if you would like a host or not, you will decide on the cast of the show. You can pick from the entire Idol group, a rotating cast where each new episode the game will randomly pick the Idols that will be on that week's show or you can pick a permanent cast. These shows can both generate or lose money if not enough fans watch or listen to the show. Fans will also lose interest in shows that run for too many months but you can re-release the show to reset the fatigue, but doing so will make the fatigue rise faster with each re-release.
You can hold special events like holding a concert to gain fans and money. When you do a concert you will be able to pick up to three songs to play and can add breaks between songs. You can then pick who sings what song keeping in mind that singing takes a lot out of your Idol and costs thirty stamina points for each song. You can select where to have the concert and how much to charge for tickets where you’ll be shown an estimate of how full the concert will be, its hype and its profit. Once you have a concert ready and you start it, you’ll then be shown your chance of having a successful song or a failure.
For the success or failure of a song, a little wheel will spin and if it lands in the green you pass without any issues. But get in the red and it will trigger an event where something will happen. An example of this is that one of my Idol's heels broke which gives you the option to either make fans wait while it's repaired, or take the faster option of gluing it back together. I picked glue and it ended up breaking in the middle of the set. The fans were clearly not too happy and my hype went down…
For more special events, you can hold an election where fans can vote for their favorite Idols. You need to be managing at least five Idols, have held at least three concerts and need both a single and concert ready to go before you can hold an election. Idols ranked in the top ten of the vote will gain fame points so it is always good to hold an election now and then. As another special event, you can also go on a world tour. World tours let you pick where in the world you would like to have a concert. While it's useful to bring in more money and new fans, it will cost a lot of stamina from your Idols. As you go on world tours, you will level up the areas where you have a good concert allowing you to hold even bigger concerts the next time you go on a world tour. Of course, world tours can be costly too but if you pick the right country to go to, it can be worth the while.
One of the features of Idol Manager that I liked was being able to socialize with the Idols. Socializing allows you to learn more about them and to build friendships. There are a few things you can chat about with your Idols, the first being a casual conversation where you can learn a little about them and raise friendship levels that way. With older Idols, you can flirt with them but some Idols don't like this and won't take kindly to it lowering your friendship level instead. You can also talk about their wishes where you will get a little side mission of fulfilling said wish and gaining more influence with them.
You can also talk to an Idol about the group where you can hear gossip about the rest of the girls and ask about relationships as the girls can be girlfriends with each other or with boys. Finally, you could always ask the Idol to mentor another member of the group. With these conversations, you can try to influence the girls to stop bullying if they are a bully, have her find blackmail material on another member, or force them to break up with the person they are seeing. To do this, you will need to have a higher influence rating for these options to work out.
Lastly, you can ask an Idol about their graduation. When an Idol graduates, they are moving on from the group. This usually happens when the Idol gets too old, but you can find out when they plan on graduating so that you can plan ahead to keep the rest of the group going or even fire her if you wish from this menu. Before graduating though, you will have to set the Idol's salary to try to keep them satisfied. The more famous an Idol gets the more pay they will want.
To pay an Idol, you can set the salaries manually or they can be set automatically through your policies and if you find yourself low on money? You can take out a loan. There are two types of loans you can take out. The first is from Mr. Fujimoto and the second is the bank. Mr. Fujimoto will charge less interest, provide smaller loans and you will have to complete a task for him before he will let you have another loan. The bank loans have high-interest rates but you can take out larger sums to help with what you need to cover. With either loan, you can choose to pay it off in one month, three months, or six months and you pay it back in weekly payments. Making money in this game is hard so you may find yourself taking out lots of loans like myself.
Lastly, you will be able to set policies for your Idols. This is where you can set the game to automatically set your Idol's salaries to keep them satisfied, keep it low, or manual. Next, you will be able to select what kind of business proposals you would like your managers to go after more like photo shoots or appearances on TV shows and such. Next, you can pick what kind of vibe your group is going for such as cute, sexy, or cool for examples. You can also set a limit to how much your Idols train when low on stamina.
Next, you can pick your image from neutral, orthodox, or rebellious and be able to set up if you do background checks on any Idols you may hire. You can pick from none, basic, or extensive. You can pick how you want security to be at events from relaxed, normal, or restrictive. You can set a policy about dating, if they can post on social media, and if they can, how moderated it is, and finally if they can stream online. This next one is interesting as you can pick what skirts the Idols wear. You can pick from short skirts with no safety shorts, short skirts with safety shorts, long skirts, or pants. I picked skirts with safety shorts as I didn't want any wardrobe malfunctions after the broken heel incident!
With all of this together, if you’ve survived that long, at the end of every year, there will be an award show where you and your Idols can win awards. Before the show, you will be told that you were nominated and then a little later you can pick who you think the Idol should thank for the award. You can pick from yourself, Mr. Fujimoto, a staff member or let them decide who they think they should thank.
Overall there is a lot to take in when you first start off Idol Manager, and this may scare off some new players, but if you give the game a chance it is a decent little sim. Idol manager has some good ideas but is a little too hard at times and may get a bit repetitive after a bit as you are staring at the same screen for hours.
I enjoyed my time with Idol Manager, and while it's not perfect in any way, it gets the job done. Give this a try if you're into hardcore simulation and maybe you will feel the same as me.Score: 7 / 10