As Super Smash Brothers being the celebration of video games, many fighters in Smash represent not only themselves, but their genres as well. Mario, arguably represents a 2D to 3D platform action game, Pikachu represents monster capturing/breeding RPGs, Ryu represents 2D fighting game…there are various characters represent the genres of their games. Is there any other genres that haven’t introduced in Smash yet join the brawl in some form? In this article, I would like to explore one of the genres that haven’t represented in Smash yet. And as I have made a Case of article with a crazy choice before, I’m back with another crazy choice I’ve made. That is the idol simulation genre.
For those Western gamers who knows what it is or not familiar with it, idol simulation game is a character training game that’s popular in the Japanese gaming society. Similar to those digital pet games like Tamagotchi and Digimon, the player has an opportunity to train certain characters to become the most popular and successful top idol, using rhythm action system similar to Parappa the Rapper and Dance Dance Revolution to train their characters. Not just to compete with others, but also a main objective to finish the game. Ever since Japanese idol groups like AKB48 has become popular and well common from the year 2000s, virtual idols have become a new category for the gaming society, and it keeps growing through many medias like mangas and animes.
Here are those idol games that I have chosen as examples…
The idol game where it all began…
THE iDOLM@STER series (Bandai Namco)
Originally released for the arcades in 2005, this game has become very popular for many idol fans in Japan, especially in Akihabara. In this game, a player play a role of a producer of a talent agency 765 Production that contains 10 idols (3 additionals in later events), and their main objectives is to train certain idols to become the most popular top idol in order to achieve stardom, while competing other rival idols and production studios, and gaining relationship with certain idols. After the success of its release in the arcades, it was later ported for Xbox 360 in 2007, along with many sequels and spinoffs throughout many consoles, including the Nintendo DS. The series have even released through other medias, such as mangas, animes, radio shows, audio dramas, and even a Korean drama.
Here’s the kids mode of iDOLM@STER!
Aikatsu! series (Bandai / Bandai Namco)
From the Bandai side of Bandai Namco, Aikatsu! is an arcade collectible trading card game that was launched in October 2012. Unlike iDOLM@STER series, this game uses scannable trading cards to upload in-game characters or player’s avatar in the game, which is similar to Dragon Ball Heroes and Yo-kai Watch Ukiukipedia. The main objective of this game is to use certain cards featuring various coords to help the certain idol character to pass audition in order to become a top idol. Unlike iDOLM@STER series which was mostly focused towards adult male players, Aikatsu! series are mainly focused upon young female players, using trading cards and easy rhythm commands to play. After the arcade was released, the anime version was later aired on October 8th 2012, while two films were released in December 2014 and August 2015. Three mangas were also published, and the game was later ported to Nintendo 3DS with five different titles. The series later ended in May 2016, but quickly returned as their successor, Aikatsu Stars, was released in the same month.
Here comes a new challenger for Aikatsu!
PriPara series (Takara Tomy Arts)
As their predecessor Pretty Rhythm series ended in March 2014, this game was later released in the arcades in July 2014 as a trading card arcade game, being the competition of the Aikatsu! series. In this game, the player can choose over 20 different idols (and to let you know the pink haired idol on the right side of the picture above is a GUY) or creating your own avatar idol, and their objective is to become a Divine Idol by earning popularity from fans. Although this game rivals with the Aikatsu! series, PriPara series uses tickets to scan the character and certain coords in the game. This game also contains easy rhythm mechanics, which is also focused towards younger female players. The anime was released along with the arcade, which the fourth season has aired in April 2017, along with the fourth film aired in March 2017. This game was also ported to Nintendo 3DS with three different titles, and a puzzle game app for the smartphone. The series have later updated to a new title as Idol Time PriPara in April 2017, with the additional of three new characters.
Meet the DIVA of all virtual idols.
Hatsune Miku (Crypton Future Media / Sega)
Although it’s difficult to classify this as an idol game, this is a humanoid persona voiced by a singing synthesizer application, which uses Yamaha’s Vocaloid technologies. While the program was meant to use for synthesizing purposes, the character became popular for her voice to be used for music purposes, not just only replacing vocal over other musics, but many music producers and composers created songs for Miku and release it through the internet, such as Youtube and Nico Nico Douga. Sega decided to support the character by releasing music rhythm arcades, and many titles like Project DIVA series for Sony handhelds and Project Mirai series for Nintendo handhelds. It even opened a concert of a holographic Hatsune Miku globally, and made crossovers to other games like THE iDOLM@STER, Just Dance, and even the Aikatsu! series.
Reasons for Inclusion:
Idol games have been strongly a popular genre toward many idol and music fan gamers in Japan. As for the games I’ve introduced above, THE iDOLM@STER series have earned over 10 billion yen for every games and other medias as in 2013, while their console games have sold over 1.2 million units as in 2014, and even winning the 54th Japan Record Awards. While iDOLM@STERS are popular among adult male gamers, Aikatsu! and PriPara is popular among younger female players (and of course adults are involved too), releasing their anime series at the same time of their arcade release. Aikatsu! have earned over 1.5 million users, while PriPara earned over 3 million users. Both franchise even released their smartphone app game, which Aikatsu! earned 1 million downloads, and PriPara earned 500 thousand downloads . For Vocaloid’s Hatsune Miku’s case, 60 thousand units of her Vocaloid software were sold by January 2011, with over 100 thousand songs released. Her popularity not just only grew through the internet like Youtube and Nico Nico Douga, but through other medias like radios, animes, public events, and even video games, releasing over 12 titles and over 3.1 million units sold globally.
Also, most importantly, these franchises have even released their games to Nintendo as well. While iDOLM@STER series have mostly released their games on the Xbox consoles and later to the Playstation consoles, they’ve once released iDOLM@STER Dearly Stars for Nintendo DS in September 2009. Both Aikatsu! and PriPara have also ported their games for Nintendo 3DS, as Aikatsu! have released four titles, while PriPara released three titles. For Hatsune Miku’s side, most of her games were released for the Playstation handhelds, but few have been released for Nintendo 3DS as Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai series, a spinoff series of Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA series as you play as a super deformed or Nendoroid formed Miku and other Vocaloid characters. This game have released three titles for the 3DS, which two out of three titles were also released in the West.
Reasons of Exclusion:
Of course, not anybody or everybody can join Smash. Back in Brawl, Sakurai have stated that any characters that’s not fitted in fighting games can’t join Smash, which Animal Crossing and Nintendogs were one of the examples to that point. Sure, Sakurai may change that part if he brought up an idea for what only that character can do, which lead Animal Crossing’s Villager to become playable in Smash for 3DS/Wii U. However, for the idol game’s case, it is difficult to think of how an idol character could fight in Smash, which their ability of simply singing and dancing seem to lack specialties. Hatsune Miku may probably work due to her crossover experiences through games like Brave Frontier, but it’ll be impossible due to copyright issues. Furthermore, bringing idol characters to Smash may be impossible as none of their games experienced fighting before.
Another reason is how viewers view the idol games as, whether to be a game, or more of an anime instead. Sometimes, the arcade games receive new contents whenever it’s introduced first in their anime series, such as a new character appear in the anime first then the game, which confuses viewers which is really originated from. Aikatsu! and PriPara series had both their game and anime released at the same time, which Japan prefers it to be a game than anime. However, to the West, since the game was never released in the West, while they can possibly watch the anime through the internet, Western viewers view them more of an anime than a game. Sakurai have stated that any characters that was originated from the anime/cartoon, manga/comic, movies, etc. aren’t allowed in Smash because they’re not video game characters, and with that reason, it is possible that idol games cannot join Smash because Sakurai may view them more of an anime instead. But that would be a contradiction. Although Lucario is the character from Pokemon Diamond/Pearl, he appeared in the movie first, he still made it into Brawl. Some video games characters who have appeared in the anime first are simply advertisment for their upcoming new game or their update, so even they have appeared in the anime first, they are still originated from the games. But even then, it all depends on how the creators view the series as.
And finally, and the most important reason for their exclusion, is that some of their games were never released in the West. The games may be popular in Japan, but it has never been popular in the West as it hasn’t been released there yet. I do believe some people who are reading this article may have never heard of some titles I’ve introduced above before either! It is possible that the idol games aren’t really appealing to many Western gamers, which most Western players prefer games that involves more actions and violence, rather than having any simulation games that involves female pop characters. This is also the reason why some other female character involved simulation game, such as Love Plus series and Sakura Wars series, were never released in the West due to lack of appeal. Hatsune Miku at least released their localized version, but it didn’t sell well than in Japan due to lack of popularity.
Furthermore, Japanese idols are part of the Japanese pop culture, and that is something that the West would never understand as being unappealing and unacceptable. Due to these reasons, it is possible that any characters from the idol games can’t eligibly join Smash in any way. But if there were any idol characters that could join Smash, then they’ll possibly choose characters that’s fitted in fighting, such as Tokyo Mirage Session #FE’s Tsukasa Oribe, or Splatoon’s Squid Sisters. But either way, it is true that any idol characters doesn’t have a hope to join Smash as they really don’t fit in the world of fighting. But eventually, you may never know; Smash is a game full of surprises, whether to be happily or shocking, and things may change if an idea is born for what only that character can do…
What is Smash Bros. without music? Well, idol simulation game is all about music! But which music should we use for a fighting game like Smash? Here are some music that I’ve chose that may sound fitting.
Mains: Yoshi (64), Game and Watch (Melee), Wario (Brawl), Wario/Pac-Man (Smash for 3DS/Wii U)