The Idolm@ster games are great, but we’ve yet to see an affordable, translated installment available outside of Japan. The Idolm@ster Shiny Festa games don’t count, really, since they’re iOS games that are normally over $50, and if you can find them on sale, often still over $30. Which is why it’s a good thing that we now have School Idol Festival, a free-to-play rhythm and visual novel game.
School Idol Festival is a freemium game. Players pick a main idol schoolgirl to back, and play through an array of JPop songs as part of her after-school idol club. There are nine idols to start with, but completing songs and chapters can earn you more character cards representing additional singers who can join your group.
Don’t worry if it sounds complicated. It really isn’t as convoluted as it seems. Character cards can be combined and leveled up, to make the group members stronger, and thus make it possible to earn better scores on songs.
As for the music portion, School Idol Festival is a rather standard music game. Your nine currently active idols appear as icons on-screen, and indicators move towards them as a song plays. All a player has to do is tap in time with the music, hitting one or more notes at once, sometimes even holding them. Depending on your score, you earn extra girls and the ability to move through the chapters and see new stories.
The only downside is that this is a freemium game. You’ll need to make in-game friends to help give better chances to succeed through the songs and earn points, and the option to purchase Love Gems with real cash is always looming overhead to give easier access to stories and songs.
Also, School Idol Festival is a memory hog. It seems like every time log into the app, it’s downloading additional content. While it plays very well on a smartphone and tablet, people with a small amount of storage space may want to take a pass.
Still, as an occasional time-sink, I can’t help but endorse School Idol Festival. It’s quite entertaining, the songs are catchy, and there’s quite a bit of content available for free. If you enjoyed the Hatsune Miku: Project Diva games and always had an interest in Idolm@ster, this is a title to check out.
Product Page [Google Play]