If I don’t get “The IDOLM@STER” in my Xbox 360 soon, I may just up and die. Nobody wants that to happen. I know I don’t want it to happen. The simple fact of the matter is that The IDOLM@STER is the only game that has ever been produced in Japan for the Xbox 360, and I need to have it now. In my hands. This instant. Don’t lie and try to tell me there are other Japanese Xbox games. There just aren’t. Okay?
I recently wrote about how much I hate the console systems, and how I own every single one of them anyway. I tried to sell my 360 when I made my mind up to purchase the PS3, but they didn’t want it. Now it’s back in my living room, but I don’t own any games for it. This wasn’t so bad when I could still go on Xbox Live and just download demos of crap I never wanted to buy. Apparently, Microsoft recently decided to punish anyone not living in America that bought an Xbox, and they cut the rest of us off from being able to download just about fucking ANYTHING. All the crap is still in the “hey download this” list, but it’s a lie. I hit the A button, and it takes me to the “confirm download” page. I hit the A button again, and the little progress bar pops up for a split second, then it’s like the Xbox remembers “Oh yeah… Pearl Harbor”, and suddenly another window pops up saying that the download isn’t available from your current location. You can go down the list trying this with every title, or you can just give up and hate Microsoft a little bit more.
Feel like watching a movie trailer? Sorry. That’s apparently top secret classified Hollywood trade secrets. That’s right folks; I can’t even voluntarily watch a fucking commercial.
This was all until I discovered one game in the list that let me view it. And oh boy there’s content as far as the eye could see. Enter “The IDOLM@STER”. This is apparently a game where you guide a small group of pre-teen girls through the climb to pop stardom greatness. I’m not sure if they’ve included the obligatory “defiling of your nubile nether regions by some old horny man with corn kernels for teeth” mini-game, but they could always patch it in later if not.
I honestly have no idea what the fuck even happens in this game, every trailer I watched for it (there are like 15) just shows three of the girls on stage dancing in perfect timing while smoke and lights swirl around. Do you control them by pushing buttons rhythmically? Do you choreograph their routine, and then just pleasure yourself backstage while they flawlessly execute it?
Bewildered, I left the ‘Video’ blade of my 360’s UI, and was confronted by an ad for some virtual shoes or something. The little advertisement areas of Xbox live usually feature upcoming crap for the service. I’m pretty sure in America they’re probably plastered with pictures of large KY-Jelly tubs so you can be sure to stock up for “HALO 3: ZOMG”. In Japan, we only have one game over here, though, so the UI for us is IDOLM@STER all the way, baby. But what the fuck is up with the shoes? They’re awfully cute, with little pink bows and sparkly frilly frills that twinkle in the spotlights. But why would you…. Oh… wait.
I GET IT.
A quick trip to the Microsoft Marketplace confirmed my fears. I never really go the marketplace, because anyone spending actual dollars on an avatar or wallpaper for their UI always just seemed a little odd to me. But sure enough, the marketplace was packed to overflowing with all kind of cute little outfits and accessories for the girls as far as the eye could see. Boots, hats, skirts, chokers; you could even buy them a watch! I jumped on Google, searching for IDOLM@STER, and immediately came across the developer’s own marketplace. There you can browse all the various stuff that has been released, with the latest update (what... Tier 5?) having just been released last week.
Let me step back for a second, and take another look at this from another angle. Japan is a culture that loves “teh cute”. I can dig it. I’m kind of into it myself. You can’t go overboard with it, but in small doses it’s… I don’t kow… refreshing? In America, no male would be caught dead admitting anything is cute for fear of being called a fag. Females want to be taken seriously, so they either go for “I’m sexy, dammit, and I’m in charge, too”, or just downplay their sexuality altogether. Those are bad examples. This isn’t coming out right, so let’s just move on to point #2.
Japan loves to collect shit. They collect Zippos, SNES cartridges, Yugioh cards, business cards… they love to collect shit, and they love to organize it. They sell special binders that you can keep your associates’ business cards in. They have those in America, too, but they also just have Rolodexes that you staple the card to. Stapling a business card wouldn’t fly over here. It’d be taken as an insult. You can’t say they’re alone in this phenomenon; just look at how popular Pokemon is over in America as well. Gotta catch em all! It’s just that in Japan, collecting things in binary format is the most convenient way to do it, because none of that shit is actually taking up space in your little apartment. It’s just stored in the RAM of your GBA cart or whatever.
The thing that gets weird is when you’re collecting little outfits for your virtual pop group. I mean, okay… the point could be made that even that isn’t that weird. I used to play “Need for Speed: Gangster Thug o Whatever Version” with my roommates, and we’d spend more time in the garage applying decals to our cars that actually racing them. It got to the point where we seriously just began calling it Barbie Cars. We’d play with the little outfits of our cars, and give it a bigger spoiler or new fancy rims, then just drive around the town, not really doing the quests. When you look at all the people enamored with Forza 2 right now, you’re seeing the same thing… people love to “play dolls”, but boys need to feel like IT’S A CAR, SO I’M NOT GAY, OKAY?
In Pokemon, though, you run around and find little monsters in the shrubs or something. I really don’t know how it works. In IDOLM@STER, you go shopping with your credit card. It’s similar to the new ‘free’ MMOs that are becoming so popular in Korea. You can play for free, but if you want that sword, you buy it for 8 dollars. Need new shoulders? That’s another 4.
Looking at the website I mentioned forever ago, I can see things like a swimsuit for 500 Microsoft Points. A watch is 250. They do the exact same thing as Barbie Cars… raise your “cute rating” or whatever, so that you can climb the charts and do bigger shows (in Barbie Cars, you’d need to reach “Fucking Coolguy level 2” before you could unlock new rims. The cooler your car was, the more ‘the next guy’ wanted to challenge you… hence, progression).
It gets weird when you can buy one of the girl’s “keitai (mobile phone) email addresses” for 100 points. Umm… what?
The Babelfish translation of the description there is “It reaches the point where by the fact that it procures the mail from Chihaya (the girl’s name) reaches in the portable telephone inside the game.” So, I guess you can send them in game mails? Be like:
I've never had a chance to tell you this, but you’re totally my favorite one. That blond bitch is such a slut! You’re so much more mature than the other girls! I bought you a new swimsuit, I think it will show off your perfect thighs and calves. OMG ur so beautfifusstgfgfg