The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage

The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage

Onegai, Cinderella!

Idolmaster Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage is a idol-based rhythm game from Namco Bandai. This is based on the latest installment of the popular Idolmaster franchise. You'll take the role of the Producer of a talent agency and guide the girls on becoming sought-after idols in the music industry. ICG Starlight Stage is currently available only Japanese but there are translations and other English-based resources available. There's more to that in the game's guide.

First off, I'll start with the statement that this game may not appeal to everyone, especially to those who don't like rhythm games, anime-looking characters, or basically J-pop/idol music. The game has a lot of similarities to another idol rhythm game I reviewed before, School Idol Festival (Love Live). The game's premise may not seem interesting but with what the game lacks in story, it makes up with the music and individuality of many idols.

ICG Starlight Stage has RPG elements and other interesting features incorporated in it that you won't find normally in most rhythm games. The story is told in an attractive, fully voiced visual novel style, separated by chapters. However, you won't appreciate it fully unless you can understand Nihongo (Japanese) very well. The main story mode also unlocks new songs, introduces you to the other characters, and many more. Interestingly, other individual characters have their own short backstories that you can unlock once you max out their bond and "Awakened" (evolved) them to real, full idols.

The idols in the game come in different rarities as well. SSR are considered the highest, and they come with higher stats, special art, powerful leader skills, and higher level cap. They are followed by SR (super rare), R (rare), and N (normal). Having higher rarity idols in your group significantly boosts its charm and stats, making it easier to reach score goals. However, that doesn't mean that the normal girls don't have a chance; there are many ways of having normal idols in your group while also reaching the Live's score target. Also, the diversity of the idols you can select from will surely appeal to almost anyone.

Idols can level up to increase their stats through normal Lessons, get "Star Lessons" to help increase the chances of getting more money and rare items, and even change their outfit by Awakening. Unlocking an idol's alternative outfit gives you a new art / portrait for that idol which you can interchange deliberately later on. Awakened idols will also have increased level caps.

Live performances always require five idols in a group, the idols individual stats add up to the entire group's overall stats. Live performances have a minimum required amount of "Appeal" that you must meet or exceed before you can perform. Some Live songs require specific cumulative stats such as Visual (orange), Dance (blue), and Vocal (red). That said, it's recommended to form a group with members possessing high stats on specific attributes. For rainbow-colored Lives, all attributes will be considered and counted. You can freely decide the girls you want to have in a group. You can create up to 10 teams, specializing on different attributes or based on your personal preferences.

Before starting a Live, you'll be asked to select a support character, either from one of your friends or the list of randomly selected players. These support characters further boost your group's stats and may compensate to what your group is lacking. After the performance, you can then add the guest to your friend list. Using a support character gains Friend Points, which is doubled when you use a friend's character.

Stamina is needed to perform Lives. Stamina is recovered automatically after a few minutes or by spending Star Gems. Stamina is also instantly recovered if the player levels up. (Different from Producer level) The stamina cost for Live songs increases depending on the difficulty as well.

The quality of actual Live performances will depend on your device. If your device is powerful enough to run the full 3D version of the performances, you're in for an eye candy as you'll be able to see your idol group singing and dancing in front of a huge crowd in lavishly designed stages. The camera angles, choreography, lighting, and effects vary per song, making it a very pleasing (albeit distracting) and engaging.

If your device can't run the 3D version of the performances, the game will automatically select 2D for you. This will just let you see the cute, smaller sprites of your idols which is kind of anti-climactic, compared to the full 3D performances but less distracting.

Another interesting feature of the game is the Room, which is basically your office where your idols and your manager hang out. The girls you'll see hanging around in your office are either the members of the main group or the ones you manually selected as "favorite". The lockers in the office generates Awakening items from time to time so make sure to check the office once in a while. You can play additional songs in the jukebox to play as background music. As you unlock more songs, they'll be added to your jukebox as well.

You can also place furniture, objects, and move stuff around to design the room according to your tastes. You can also view your friends' rooms and "like" them. Furthermore, you can upgrade certain non-decorative objects like the gift lockers, fan table, and manager table to boost the benefits they provide.

Aside from getting them as Live rewards, you can get new idols through Local Auditions and Platinum Auditions. You can get one free normal idol recruitment once per day. Local Auditions require Friend Points with a chance to get up to an R-rarity character. Platinum Auditions require Star Jewels, the premium currency of the game. You'll have a chance to get a minimum R-rarity character, up to a very rare SSR. If you saved your Star Jewels to at least 2,500, you can do a 10-pull, which will give you one guaranteed SR on top of the 10 randomly generated pulls. This is the best option so far so don't go spending those Star Jewels for one-pulls.

ICG Starlight Stage boasts charming characters, a clean easy-to-navigate user interface, and captivating visuals. The character designs are great, and the 3D animation is excellent as well. In a good device, you'll appreciate every little facial expression and lip movement which makes the girls seem alive. While the visual quality of the game will really depend on the device running it, having the 2D option for the Live performances is a great option, allowing more devices to run the game instead of getting bogged down by device performance issues. The audio quality is superb (great earphones recommended), what you'll very well expect from a rhythm game. The game's BGM also changes accordingly to the menu you're viewing. Adding voices to the characters give them life and makes the interaction with them more immersive.

The game requires constant online connection. There are no annoying ads but there are microtransactions. However, purchasing anything is entirely optional in the game. If you just want to play casually, you can get by by simply logging daily for the log-in rewards or just play the game casually on a pace that you want. There is hardly any connection issues to the game servers; as long as you have a good, stable internet, you'll be able to play the game without any hassle.

Being in Japanese language may hinder some people from playing it and players can only appreciate the story mode if ever the game is localized. Despite this, the game is very easy to pick up and navigating through the menus and options isn't that hard to learn. There are a lot of guides to learn from. If you really want to try the game and enjoy it, I suggest checking Appgamer's guide or join the Idolmaster Cinderella Girls group in Facebook so you can get more help from other players.

I'll repeat once again, that the game may not appeal for everyone. While it's clearly made primarily with fans in mind, those who appreciate anime, Japanese idol music, or anything in between can definitely enjoy what the game has to offer. The game is quite outstanding by delivering excellent presentation, audio quality, and visual eye candy.

4.5 / 5.0
review by vhayste | Sep 24th 2015

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