Imagine you can have control of an up-and-coming Idol Singer. You have to guide her to stardom by deciding what outfits she wears, picking what songs she sings, and helping her deal with the pitfalls of growing up in the spotlight.
That's The iDOLM@STER by Namco (now Bandai Namco Entertainment). It's a Simulation Game where you play as a producer for the "765 Production" (pronounced "na-mu-ko") studio, and you have nine (technically ten) girls to choose as the company's next big singer.
Incorporating elements from rhythm games, Dating Sims and competitive online battling, as well as an All-Star Cast and a generous helping of Moe, this game from Namco was an incredible hit in the Japanese arcades and created a whole franchise of sequels and spinoffs:
- An Updated Re-release for the Xbox 360, which included one new idol.
- Live For You, which was essentially the Xbox 360 version with new content but with the "management" aspect removed.
- SP, a trilogy of PlayStation Portable ports, each of which contained three of the nine original idols.
- Dearly Stars, a Nintendo DS spin-off focusing on solely three new idols.
- A proper sequel, The iDOLM@STER 2, which introduces a brand new storyline and three-girl groups to the gameplay.
- Shiny Festa, a series of rhythm games for the PSP. Brought officially overseas as iOS apps, marking the first time an iM@S product is licensed outside Japan.
- Gravure 4 You!, a set of PS3 games bundled with the limited edition of the anime (later rereleased through the iM@S CHANNEL) that allow the player to photograph the girls in a series of different outfits and poses.
- iM@S CHANNEL, a free-to-download app for PS3 that contains SHINY TV, a PS3 remake of Shiny Festa but with enhanced graphics and new songs and stories and support for Gravure 4 You! and One For All
- One For All, a sequel with new storyline where you can produce up to all 13 original idols at the same time.
- MUST SONGS, a rhythm game for PlayStation Vita with Taiko no Tatsujin-style gameplay.
- Platinum Stars, a sequel on PS4 set in a training camp with more rhythm focused gameplay than previous main titles.
- Stella Stage, a sequel on PS4 building on the gameplay of Platinum Stars, with a new storyline.
- Starlit Season, a Milestone Celebration game for PS4 and PC, featuring idols from Cinderella Girls, Million Live!, and Shiny Colors.
An anime, Idolmaster: Xenoglossia — from the makers of My-Otome — was released in 2007 and later licensed by Sentai Filmworks. Rather than being a straight Anime Of The Game, it was instead an Elseworld Real Robot show that cast the main characters as pilots (or "Masters") of Giant Robots called IDOLs (making them IDOL-Masters). A more straightforward anime adaptation (called The iDOLM@STER) aired in Japan during the Summer and Fall Seasons of 2011.
There are also some manga telling their own stories, one of them being Puchim@s, which got its own internet anime adaptation in the Winter Season of 2013 and the Spring Season of 2014, simulcast by Funimation; it can be found on their official youtube page.
This page talks about the 765 Pro games. For the rest of the franchise, see the Franchise page.
Tropes common throughout all games:
- Alternate Continuity: Akihiro Ishihara, Bandai Namco's director, said that iM@S SP and iM@S2 are parallel worlds, as in iM@S2, Hibiki and Takane are 765Pro's idols from the beginning.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: A major selling point of the games is the ability to mix and match any combination of three idols and decide who sings what lines, customizing the track to your liking.
- Haruka, Miki, and Chihaya are frequently put together in non-canonical works, such as drama CDs and the OVA.
- Miki, Takane, and Hibiki, each specializing in a certain stat. Interestingly, in the PSP games, they form rival company 961Pro's unit "Project Fairy".
- Costume Porn: A wide range of costumes are available for the idols to wear.
- Downloadable Content: New songs, costumes and accessories are regular fixtures as DLC. Some games include extra stories or additional rival units as well.
- Early Installment Weirdness: In the original arcade version, some idols had different hair and eye colors that were changed for the Xbox 360 version and have been kept in all subsequent games. For instance, Haruka and Yayoi originally had brown eyes, and Azusa and Chihaya originally had black hair.
- Elegant Gothic Lolita: A few of the costumes.
- Endless Game: One For All and Platnium Stars still track weeks and seasons, but neither have the 52-week time limit to win that was present in previous games.
- Entertainment Below Their Age: Takane Shijou is 17 in the first vision games and 18 in the second vision games, but loves to watch shows intended for preschoolers.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Happen often in the main games.
- In the Updated Re-release for the Xbox 360, Miki cuts her hair shorter and stops dying it in her alternate route.
- Azusa cut her hair short in 2. Going by the anime, it was when she was scouted as part of the Ryugu Komachi. She keeps this hairstyle in future games.
- Makoto grew out her hair slightly in 2 to look more feminine. This has also stuck.
- Ritsuko trades in her braided pigtails for a messy bun in 2 to look more professional as a producer. She keeps this appearance in One For All but changes her hair again to a side braid in Platinum Stars.
- First-Person Snapshooter: The sole premise of The iDOLM@STER Gravure for You.
- "Freaky Friday" Flip: This has happened in two dramas within the franchise. The first was the bonus track from the Masterpiece 05 CD, where all the idols switch with each other just before an interview recording. The second was a DLC scenario for SP where Chihaya switches with the Producer.
- Fun with Acronyms: The first MASTER ARTIST CD series has one hidden. If you look at the covers of the CD jackets of each album, every girl is saying something, most of them in English. If you put them in the correct order, they spell...To be (CD Finale)
Happy and (CD Finale)
Exciting! (CD Finale)
I Love you (Iori CD 8)
Dododo (Makoto CD 4)
Oui! (Chihaya CD 5)
Lucky! (Haruka CD 1)
Music! (Azusa CD 7)
@! (Ritsuko CD 10)
Surprise (Miki CD 3)
Twin! (Ami/Mami CD 6)
Eat! (Yayoi CD 2)
Really!? (Yukiho CD 9)
- Fur Bikini: A costume or two.
- Girlish Pigtails
- Going Through the Motions
- Limited Wardrobe: A rare case where this series is both this trope and Unlimited Wardrobe. With the amount of DLC out there's almost no end to the clothes the girls can wear on stage. But in the in-game communications they are always using the same set, the only difference being that it changes between Summer and Winter.
- Morale Mechanic: Tension. At high tension the idol will perform better in auditions, gaining more points per appeal and being more likely to select a Good memory during a memory appeal; the opposite occurs at low tension. In addition, at low tension the idol has a chance to skip a week completely. Tension's equivalent in 2 is the Unit Status.
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: Played straight until 2, in which everyone is one year older. None of the idols have aged since then, however. This is a side-effect of Comic-Book Time being used throughout the series.
- Multiple Endings
- No-Damage Run: Some of the games provide a score bonus or other reward on completing a song with a full combo, though the amount of that bonus depends on the game itself.
- Only Six Faces: All the girls are distinguishable only through their hair, eyes and body types. The face template for all of them is the same.
- Palette Swap: Though an Unlimited Wardrobe might be available, many of the items in that wardrobe are the same outfit with a different color scheme. This sometimes gets combined with Colour-Coded Characters, with a singular outfit or accessory having a different color depending on the idol wearing it.
- Pimped-Out Dress: All the costumes with any kind of skirt would count.
- Pink Means Feminine: Some of the outfits are pink, one of which is the aptly titled "Cute and Girly" clothing line. Iori's image color is pink, and she is shown to nearly always wear dresses and act very princess-like.
- Playing Against Type: "I Want", one of sweet, dorky Haruka's image songs, carries strong dominatrix overtones. Also, have a listen to Yukiho's version of "Overmaster"!
- Poor Communication Kills: In this case, kill your chances of getting a Perfect Communication during jobs.
- Pretty in Mink: A few of the outfits have fur trim.
- Title Drop: The highest Producer Rank in the original game (as well as in Starlight Stage). Later games added ranks above this such as True Idolmaster. In the true ending of SP after the player character proclaims he'll stay a Producer rather than become the new president he says he'd also like to be known as the Idolmaster.
- You Lose at Zero Trust: In some games, having a low amount of memories can make the difficulty of lives, auditions and especially festivals range from simply hard to nigh-Unwinnable.
- Alternate Reality Game: Touched on this in the arcade version: if you enter your cellphone number into your account, your idol will periodically send you text messages.
- Averted in the 360 game where your idol sends you texts to an in-game cellphone.
- Dye Hard: Miki is an In-Universe example.Her hair color is actually brown, and it's only revealed in her alternate route. Also see Important Haircut below.
- Endless Game: It's impossible to "win" in the arcade game, per se... the goal is to keep your idol's career alive for as long as possible. In the Xbox version, you "win" if you last a year.
- Important Haircut: During one path of her character storyline, Miki cuts her hair and stops dying it blonde.
- Relationship Values: The Affection and Intimacy values in 2, which show your relationship with the unit and the unit members' relationship with each other respectively. Starlight Stage also has an Affection value for each card, and this needs to be maxed in order to convert it into its + form. Memories could also count as this.
- Scoring Points: The number of fans your idol has.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: On one of Chihaya's rank up promotions, she delivers the bad news about her parents getting divorced, she cries, and you have to wipe her tears. ...All while the cheery music that plays in all other Rank Up events plays in the background. This also applies to SP as well since the promotions are the same as the console version. It really needs to be seen to be believed.
- Trauma-Induced Amnesia: In the alternate Miki route, after she knows that the unit will be disbanded, she is surprised. Days later, she shows up having forgotten the memories between her and the Producer.
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: While very possible to do by yourself, it's also probably one of the reasons why 961 has the three idols it has - in fact, it's an odd case where the "redhead" of the trio is actually blonde, considering Takane's silver locks. Unless, of course, you count Miki's hairstyle from after she stops dying it, which is probably closer to being red....
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Perfect Sun girls (Makoto, Haruka, Yayoi and Hibiki) are red, the Wandering Star girls (Takane, Ami, Mami, Iori and Yukiho) are yellow, and the Missing Moon girls (Azusa, Chihaya, Miki and Ritsuko) are blue. This color code was also used in the mobile games, although changing the name of each category.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Why did Miki switch from 765 Pro to 961 Pro? Because President Takagi ate her onigiri.
- Lover Tug-of-War: The Producer is the victim of this in Azusa's ending, with her and Miki on each side.
- Noodle Incident: Kuroi mentions an "underwear incident" in Wandering Star.
- Ascended Extra: Most of the opponents that you run into during rank-up festivals are cameo characters, some with models (Ai, Eri and Ryo from Dearly Stars and Touma, Hokuto and Shouta from The iDOLM@STER 2), others In Name Only (Cineria, Yumekonote and riola also from Dearly Stars, and Hikari, Tsubomi and Nozomi from episode 10 of the anime).
- Everyone Has a Special Move: Each of the idols gets a unique burst skill of her own which triggers either during or after a burst appeal is performed.
- Skill Scores and Perks: This game introduced a skill board for each producible idol, with differing stats and distributions for each idol, but all of them get access to trio memory appeals and trio burst appeals, and each idol has her own unique burst skill.
- Slice of Life: When compared to its direct predecessor, the game has a higher emphasis on the girls' day-to-day life and how they interact with each other.
- Meta Multiplayer: Leaderboards are maintained for the highest scores on each song.
- Rhythm Game: Though the entire series has had rhythm-game-styled elements about it, Platinum Stars more closely resembles other rhythm games, with a setup that involves button patterns flying to a central, fixed point on-screen.
- Uncanny Valley Makeup: Getting a low score on the cosmetics lesson results in the idol who took it wearing makeup that looks... almost stenciled on.
- Mythology Gag: There are six major titles the player can compete for. Of those, four appeared in previous games (Idol Ultimate from SP, Idol Academy from 2, Star of Festa from Shiny Festa, Idol Extreme from Platinum Stars).
- Rhythm Game: The live gameplay is carried over from Platinum Stars.
- Skill Scores and Perks: The Coaching board, which contains both idol skill bonuses as well as costume and song unlocks.
- The Cameo: Dearly Stars, Jupiter, and Dramatic Stars make appearances during the songs. When the girls perform their special moves during a song from Dearly Stars or SideM, portraits from their respective games will show up.
- Chromosome Casting: While having an all-female cast isn't unusual for this franchise, this installment in particular is the anniversary game, so it includes representative idols from every main branch...except the all-male 315 Productions. SideM does get representation in the game, but to a very minor extent.
- Big Damn Heroes: On the Live For You OVA. Iori sends a helicopter to pick up the girls that are stranded somewhere in the middle of Japan, so they can make it in time for their concert.
- Chromatic Arrangement: From the Live For You OVA. Haruka - Red, Miki - Green, Chihaya - Blue.
- Off-Model: In the Live For You! OVA, near the beginning when all the idols walk away, there are two Mamis instead of an Ami and a Mami.
- Tempting Fate: Inverted on the Live For You OVA.MIKI: At a time like this it would be nice if a giant robot or a spaceship suddenly appeared to take us... *cue a helicopter sent by Iori to pick them up*
- Beat:TAKANE: My name is Takane Shijou. [Beat] [Beat] [Beat] I'm afraid everything else is a secret.
- Freudian Slip:YUKIHO: I'm Hagiwara Yukiho, 17 years old. I'm REALLY fond of boys. Ah, wait, I meant to say tea!
- Sound Effects Bleep: Just a bit of it:
- Who Writes This Crap?!:RITSUKO: Eh? You want me to be an idol? I guess... if I could just be your very own idol, then... Wait, why do I have to say such embarrassing lines?!
- Call-and-Response Song: There are a few of these, most notably "Kouhaku Ouen V", in which the audience responses from Producer Meeting 2017 were incorporated into the official recording.
- Intercourse with You: "Agent Yoru wo Yuku" was introduced in the arcade version and deals with male prostitution, as was "I Want", the song of a sadist.
- In general, the game versions of songs that can be inferred to be of a sexual nature are much vaguer about the topic than their extended, album-only full versions.
- Obligatory Bondage Song: "I Want". The narrator of the song is a sadist, known in how they treat the person the song is directed to in the lyrics.
- Vampire Lolita Archetype: One of the songs is called "Kyun! Vampire Girl", which is about a girl that fits this archetype. The accompanying outfit My Dear Vampire also evokes the trope.