OK, So What’s This “3rd VISION” Malarkey?

Posted by DiGiKerot in Gaming, idolmaster at July 12, 2013 on 9:56 pm

OK, so apparently Namco Bandai have been outed as registering the 3rd VISION trademark. The potential significance of this is likely obvious to at least a few of those reading this – all the iDOLM@STER works span-off from iDOLM@STER2 were tagged as 2nd VISION, so it follows that this is likely to be advance notice of a third core installment to the franchise coming up in the near future.

Its probably make a lot of sense that this is something that’s potentially coming up shortly. Aside from the fact that there are new hardware platforms coming in the near future for them to exploit, and the otaku market are probably easier to sucker into being early adopters than most, there is also the forthcoming iM@S feature film. Bundling the movie’s eventual home release with a new iteration of the game makes an awful lot of sense, particularly considering how well the iM@S2 plus TV anime bundle sold when released on PS3.

Aside from that, though, they’ve pretty much milked iM@S2 as much as they can without bringing in some kind of shake-up at this point – even discounting the mobage, they’ve more-or-less exploited it as much as they managed to with works derived from original iM@S. They’ve had their TV anime (though the A1 Pictures effort was obviously a lot more “core” iM@S than Xenoglossia!) and their three PSP games – this time combined with their rhythm-game-bundled-with-OAV title. DLC for iM@S2 has naturally run it’s course by this point to.

All told, it’s probably about time they did something to revitalize interest in the core franchise, especially now that they are actually facing some degree of competition in the idol game market – I mean, there’s Aikatsu, and there’s an upcoming Love Live Vita game forthcoming, and who even knows what the heck SEGAs Project575 is. Attention is divided.

But, hey, it’s obviously early days right now, so who knows what this actually is, or what they’re going to do with the game. I do have my own suggestions, however…

1) Add Another Year
As a franchise, iM@S doesn’t really have much of what you could call a continuity – there’s a certain consistency in character between the works, but ultimately, each work is essentially a continuity in and of itself. iM@S2 contradicts iM@S1. iM@S SP contradicts iM@S1. iM@S TV contradicts iM@S1 and iM@S2. These are all their own things.

The one vague sense of continuity they left between the first and second “visions” of iM@S is that, in the production of iM@S2, they elected to age the characters upwards by a year. I’d be peachy keen for them to do much the same for the next title.

I’m not sure that everyone would agree with that – after all, it’d make Yayoi one step less loli – but from a character point of view it’d open up the younger end of things, where there’s probably the most room for expansion, for adding new characters. From the more selfish gameplay perspective, it’d give them a reason to at least equalize the character stats a little more. This isn’t to say that I’d expect all the characters to have Chihaya or Hibiki level statistics in aggregate or anything, but running with Yayoi or the Twins needs to be made way, way less of a penalization for the player. It’s not that I’m against challenge in games or anything, but when you are trying to maintain escalation of your producer rank, it ultimately became difficult in iM@S2 to justify not having Hibiki in your unit (Chihaya was also a valid choice in the 360 version, but they nerfed her as part of the PS3 port).

2) No More Geography Tests
For anyone who hasn’t played iM@S2, this suggestion may not make much sense, but iM@S2 has a distinct habit of stopping the game to quiz you on the location of the various prefectures in Japan. I can’t imagine it’s particularly fun for Japanese players, and it’s veritably toxic for those of us who haven’t grown up having such things drilled into their heads.

3) More Rival Units
I do actually wonder what they’ll do with the whole Ryugu Komachi situation – do they abandon it for iM@S3, or do they run with it? Obviously, whilst I’m not really sure anyone actually continued to have a problem with Jupiter after the game actually came out, they probably don’t want to raise another poop-hurricane like with iM@S2 by making further classic idols unproducable.

Whilst I’m not necessarily suggesting Ritsuko, despite being a fan of her myself, is added back into the main roster, it’d be interesting to see them have Ritsuko producing an internal unit of members semi-randomly selected from those idols who you don’t select for your unit, whilst somehow managing to formulate some kind of narrative around it.

Other than that, yeah, I’d just like to see more characters in general, and adding more competition seems like it’d be the easiest way to balloon the cast a little. I dunno, add the Dearly Stars girls, or even Shinkan Shoujo from the TV anime, as rival characters, even if they only show up for the length of specific events or live performances. It’d break a certain degree of monotony then it comes to repeating the same tasks over and over, at any rate.

4) None of this Cinderella Girls Clap-Trap
The above suggestion made, I don’t really want to see the game filled with Cinderella Girls characters. No particular offense to that title or it’s cast – I don’t play it, so I don’t even really have any larger comments regarding it – but they get so out there and fruity with some of the designs simply from the necessity of having such a large cast that it doesn’t really have the necessary consistency of design to work in the context of a core iM@S game. Cherry picking some of the better/cuter Million Live characters I’m a bit more open to, though, given there’s a more concerted effort to style-match with that title.

5) More Kotori
I’d be nice to see 765Productions resident Advice Ninja a little more. I’m not necessarily suggesting that she actually takes more of an active role in things, simply that it’d be nice to see her a little more. Have her turning up – visible and voiced – at the start of each day of gameplay would be a nice touch for Kotori-fans like myself.

6) A New Performance System
I don’t actually have – geography tests aside – any problems with the general gameplay flow of iM@S2. It’s fine, and play results in that horrible compulsion loop that any game where a short looping section leads to just enough discernible progress to lead you to want to continue immediately.

What is a bit of an issue is the way that performances are handled. It all ultimately ends up being rather too monotonous. You pretty much end up doing the same thing over and over, and as I mentioned earlier, it leads to situation where you pretty much have to have Hibiki as part of your unit to score highly in the ranks. It’s not really something which develops the more you play, either – infact, it gets simpler as you discover certain equipment load-outs lead to a certain specific play style which leads to what are far and away the highest scores you could possibly achieve, to be changed only for festival events where charging bars is more immediately important than the total score.

This isn’t to say that the original iM@S didn’t ultimately have fair rote Audition gameplay either, but in that case there was at least the online component which would occasionally shake things up due to the meta game which was going on. Not that I’m necessarily saying that they should constrain the gameplay design due to the need to support online play in all events, more that I’m hoping that they at least come up with some kind of system with a bit more variance, which isn’t necessarily “solved” quite as easily as their prior attempts.

Just don’t make it Shiny Festa. I suck at that game, and don’t want to have to be good at actual rhythm games to be able to play the thing!

7) Five Member Units
I’m kind of making the assumption that they’ll be jumping to the xBox One or, more likely at this point, the PS4 with the next iM@S, which begs the question as to what to do with the extra processing power they’ll be able to throw at it.

From a visual point of view, I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with how the characters look in iM@S – there’s enough in the way of polygons to them, and their shading model is still pretty much the best out of any of these cel-shaded games. It’s certainly true that they could probably use a little more geometry in the backgrounds – at least if a couple of the more complicated ones in iM@S2 are taken as examples – but I’d rather they simply use it to throw more people on screen. Whilst there’s a few songs which can be performed using a five-member unit in iM@S2, it’d be kind of neat to see that as being the default in iM@S3. Heck, it’d be fun, if kind of potentially overwhelming, to see you have to lord over the entirety of 765Pro at once, but let’s be realistic here. At least one all-765Pro performance would be cool, though.

8) More Physics!
Actually, I guess the other thing they could improve on visibly would be to deploy more physics over the characters. I mainly mean the fact that things tend to completely ignore the existence of any accessories your characters are wearing – the fruity hats are all well and good until you notice that hair and the like clips straight through them like they weren’t there. It just looks silly enough to dissuade one from using them.

On a similar note, there’s some clothing items that are clearly attached to the characters skeleton structures in fairly weird ways – if you don’t know what I’m talking about, look up a video of a character using the Miku DLC costume and watch the way the sleeve openings fold along with characters hand movements…

9) English Version Please
Enough said ^_^

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