SideM began life as one of those terrible tapping mobage in the same vein as the original Cinderella Girls or Million Live games. Officially, the genre was Dramatic Idol Training Card Game, but it wasn’t the even sort of fancy tapping game that you have to download an entire app for like Ensemble Stars. That all changed when LIVE ON ST@GE! got announced at 2nd.
At the time, it wasn’t announced what kind of game it’d be, but the expectation was that it’d likely be something more in the vein of Starlight Stage. As the march of time continued, closer to the end of the year, we got more and more information, some of which was a bit alarming. For instance, there was some rhythm gameplay shown but no tracks, very strange. Then there was the producer roundtable where the producers dropped the hint that the gameplay wasn’t going to be a huge challenge.
So what did we end up with? We have a (maybe too) simple rhythm game with a “production” minigame in the same vein as Ensemble Stars. A quick appraisal leaves us with the impression that it’s sort of a compromise between the other imas mobile games and the other popular women-targeted male idol mobage. I’m not entirely sure that’s a winning strategy, considering the type of gamers imas fans are likely to be.
Personally, I think LIVE ON ST@GE! hits the right spot for me. A good chunk of the displeasure with the game are about the scammy nature of a lot of aspects of the game, but I think that’s part of the reality of playing mobage. Further on that point is that I always have to remind myself that we don’t call them Scamco because it’s cute. This isn’t the first scam they’ve pulled and it’s not going to be the last. And I’d argue their other comparable mobage offerings, Starlight Stage and Theatre Days, are just where they happened to find the right balance of tricking you into thinking you’re not getting scammed. They don’t always get this right, even with imas.
As for the rhythm game, it’s a nice enough game to pick up and play for a few minutes when I’m bored at home or the office and I’ll even throw some money at it for gacha once in a while. That’s perfectly fine for me, because all I have to do is just look at Starlight Stage’s charts to get tired immediately. Instead, I kind of like that it’s simple enough that I don’t have to turn off all the effects and 3D and I can actually enjoy my idols’ performances. It’s a nice game that gives me a way to interact with my idols in a more concrete way than just clicking through bingo or something. I think if it were any more complex than it currently is, it’d step over the line to being frustrating.
A lot of this is rationalizing, sure, but I also feel like I’ve made my peace with it not being a hardcore gamer’s mobage. It’s the right game at the right time for my work-life situation at the moment. Of course, that doesn’t mean the game is good or that Scamco’s got the right strategy down for this, because you probably don’t want me as the target audience for anything where you’re trying to make money. And in that case, they probably don’t want the game to be in this state for very long, otherwise, it’s going to get tricky to get people to spend their yencoins.