Something that I’m a little ashamed to say is that I find kind of fascinating are Idol groups. Maybe this is because there is absolutely no way that a music company would ever devote the amount of time and effort into them, or perhaps some of them come across as very likeable people on the surface. This might explain why when I found out there was an upcoming game called Idol Manager where you could essentially manage an idol group that you could create from scratch, I found it to be intriguing.
If you clicked on this it’s likely you already know what an Idol group is. For those who don’t, let me give you a simple rundown. Idol groups are a type of entertainer marketed for image, attractiveness, and personality in Japanese pop culture with many of these idols having backgrounds in acting, dancing, or modeling. While there are Idol boy groups such as Exile or BTS, they are mostly known for being young girls ranging anywhere from 12-25. Examples of these include NiziU, Momoiro Clover Z, Babymetal, and AKB48.
The beginning of the game sees you walking into a studio ran by a benefactory named Fujimoto. Interestingly, everyone who worked for him left the company shortly before you joined and now you are the only one who is currently employed by him. This means that you are now the boss of a model talent agency. This will see you go through a tutorial showing you all the things you will have to do in order to run your empire. This means hiring staff for your office, casting girls for your idol group, train their skills, and grow their fanbase.
To say that this game is fairly accurate in how an actually talent agency would run an idol group is an understatement. Not only will you have to have them perform shows, you will also have to handle their public image. This means how their outfits will look while performing concerts, to public relations. For example, you could have an idol take an image with a random fan who then turns and goes on social media stating they are a couple. Depending on your response in handling the situation, you can lose fans, gain scandal points, or no effect. You can even allow your idols to have relationships. While this is considered acceptable in Western culture, the idol scene is notorious for having a strict “no dating” policy in its home region of Asia.
Before we go any further, we do feel like we need to address something that could be controversial and might explain part of the “Adults Only” title it received on Steam. You are able to create relationships with these idols. Most if it is socializing to get to know them, asking their ambitions, or to spy on other members. However, it is worth noting that you do have the option to flirt and possibly date the idols you manage. We do want to note that during our current playtime of 13 hours we have NOT scene anything that would make it worth of an Adults Only tag. You also do not have the option of flirting with any idol that is under the age of 18.
The gameplay itself is not to overly difficult either. While it is true that there are several things you do have to worry about in the day-to-day operations, it wasn’t as bad as I had initially thought when I started the game. Luckily if it does get overbearing, there are options to have a staff member automatically do something like vocal sessions, dance sessions, and scout for advertising. This, along with the tutorial actually pausing at each step, made me only restart my game three times.
Despite this, there are still some issues that I do have with the game. One thing that saved my ass for restarting after a couple hours in was that I could go back and change the idol’s salaries. At the beginning I just wanted them to be happy with what they were making. On my third restart I just had it set to a maximum. Despite them showing they were unhappy with their salary, they never once complained to the point where they just decided to “graduate” (idol term for leaving group for greener pastures) from the group. This made it so much easier on me since finances play a major part in the game for obvious reasons, but could be interpreted as a broken game mechanic.
Another thing that annoyed me was the pace of the story itself. For example, there are multiple chapters in the story. In order to go from Chapter 1 to Chapter 2, a player must have a top-selling single for a month. This isn’t just for a specific genre, but overall. This was actually difficult for me as you do make a rival within this chapter who already have a massive fanbase. By the time I finally reached this goal, the single had to sell over 500,000 copies which roughly equated to around 8 hours of gameplay. Since I had reached a goal of being able to sell thousands of copies and make over a million yen on most songs, it just felt like I had already completed 90% of the game before I even made it to the second chapter.
Finally, the third complain I had involves the World Tour. Every 6 months of game time, you have the option to go on tours and perform around the world. While this already takes a ton of money to do, you can still manage to still lose major amounts of money from these tours if you travel anywhere outside of Korea, China, or Southeast Asia. After each tour you can gain stars in the country based on how full the venues were. I’ll use the United States as an example. I managed to get all five starts for the United States which meant that I could theoretically play in arenas. The cost to do a tour in the country was 13 million yen. Despite this, even if you sold out the entire tour you would still walk away with only 10 million yen in revenue. That’s right. You just sold out arenas and still managed to lose millions of dollars!
Despite my criticisms that I’ve named and not named, I still do recommend this for those who are interested in idol culture. It’s obvious going to have a majority of its fanbase in Japan and Korea, but it’s still worth playing. Honestly, I believe that if they fix some of these small issues and make a mobile-friendly version it has the potential to be a gigantic money make in the region more than the real idols themselves.