After being rumoured for at least the last couple of weeks, iDOLM@STER: Live in SLOT! was announced yesterday (PV here for the curious complete with new song, We Have A Dream).
Live in SLOT, aside from being a pretty stupid sounding title, is a pachislot game. Basically (as is my understanding, at least), it’s a slot machine on which a game also runs on a video screen at the top of the cabinet. The reels on the cabinet are essentially the randomisation element of the game – an event plays on the game screen, and the result is determined by what comes up on the reels. Whilst I gather at least some of these machines have some limited player control over the stopping of the reels, in generally, like all slot machines, they’re designed so that the establishment ultimately takes as much of your money away from you as possible.
And for some people, that’s fine. The Pachinko and Pachislot market is one of those secretly kind-of-important things in regards to the anime industry – a lot of popular franchises end up in Pachislot form, and because the budgets for these things often run pretty high (the Castlevania pachislot machine has way better production values than any of the Japan-produced Castlevania games in the last decade), it’s not uncommon for a lot of original content to be produced for these things, even if it means creating new animation in the style of a semi-obscure 30 year old anime TV show. Popular pachislot games can even lead to franchise revivals or, in the case of original-content machines, anime adaptations of their own.
Getting back to Live in SLOT, there’s some pretty interesting things about it. The most immediately curious thing is that they’ve completely thrown away the designs the main franchise has been pushing hard for the last year and a half to go back to the designs from the original iM@S game. This, of course, means there’s no Hibiki or Takane, but for those who swing that way, Azusa does at least have her long hair back.
Technologically, whilst it’s certainly better looking than the original iM@S arcade cabinet or the PSP game, it’s a step downwards from the PS3 or 360 home releases. They’ve lost the more complicated shading model, and the self-shadowing has completely been thrown out the window. That’s a little by-the-by though, really – what I rather suspect will rub franchise fans (or at least those ones outside Japan who’ll never get to play it) the wrong way is the original content the PV displays, or at least the amount of effort that looks to have been put into it.
By which I mean, the events actually have proper animation! Also, Ritsuko firing a Megane Beam! Haruka being the only one to fumble that diamond in the PV! YukihoXMakoto shipping! Seemingly some kind of super Sentai show! You really don’t get that kind of content in a proper iM@S game, especially not with that kind of production value behind it.
Which, again, makes it a shame that those of us outside of Japan aren’t in a position to enjoy it, really. I suppose the only hope is that, somewhere down the line, many years later, they release a home-console version of the game. It has happened before – there’s home versions of some of the Sakura Taisen and Fist of the North Star games – but given it’s rather harder to generate additional income from a home release of this kind of game, it’ll probably not happen.