Coming off their recent movie release, THE [email protected] girls are back with a new game that looks like it's learned from past mistakes. The latest addition to Bandai Namco's ever popular [email protected] franchise, THE [email protected] ONE FOR ALL came out on the PS3 last week and so I decided to see what it had to offer. As always, the game places the player as a new producer at the 765 Production agency where they must lead the agency's 13 young girls to be super idols.
For the most part, the game retains its atmosphere from the previous [email protected] 2. The colour scheme, user interface, sound effects, are all the same. I wouldn't be surprised if even the character models were being reused. That's not necessarily a complete negative against the game, since what they already had worked. Besides, this isn't a numbered title.
The song selection that you have the idols perform is mostly preexisting songs from the previous game with the same dance steps. I'd say overall, if you're looking for a new experience with this game, you're not necessarily going to get one -- but if you're looking for a better experience, step right up.
It's in the details where you can tell the developers have worked to make the game fuller. Characters will greet you when you come in in the morning or run around in the background when you're at your desk, giving the agency a sense of activity and life and making the game more immersive.
System-wise the game has much more freedom than its predecessors. There's no longer a one year time limit to the campaign. You can essentially cycle through the year infinitely, which takes the pressure of a time-limit off of your shoulders. As the game progresses, you can also produce for more than one idol and eventually all 13, which removes the character restrictions.
It seems that Bandai Namco took a hint from the initial negative feedback from THE [email protected] 2 when they made 4 of the girls inaccessible to the player and making them rivals in the campaign mode, and instead have made everyone accessible with a new separate character to serve as the titular rival. You're free to switch which idol is the team leader and focus on producing for different girls if you like, so there's no having to restart the game if you feel you want to focus on someone else at any point.
There are hurdles and seasonal objectives as well as the arbitrary main objective of making all the girls under your care rank A idols, but if you've played and cleared [email protected] 2, it shouldn't be too hard. It's not exactly a cake walk, but you probably won't be throwing the controller across the room either. In fact, you'd have to actively sabotage your own game not to do at least decently well.
As for the stage performances, the standard rhythm game remains the same. This is another part where the developers have opted not to fix what isn't broken and just focus on what didn't before.
If I was to point out a negative, system-wise I'd say the game is a little too easy. But then again, it's not trying to be hard. It's trying to be fun. It's a game for fans, and in that it succeeds.
Perhaps the biggest negative of the game is the fact that by creating a new game, it gives Bandai Namco licence to rev up the DLC machine and offer ridiculous amounts of pricey downloadable content as they tend to do. I guess the spirit of generosity only goes so far.
All in all, THE [email protected] ONE FOR ALL feels a lot like fan service. Not the panty-shot titillation kind, but more of a "thanks for being fans, here's a game where we fixed all the technical problems and lowered the hurdles so you can just have fun" sort of fan service -- A gift, as it were. Twice a year there's even a festival event where all 13 girls will take the stage to perform, which is honestly kinda heartwarming to see. The game doesn't bring a whole lot new but tweaks what already was and makes it better. Honestly, this was probably the least frustrating game I've played in a long time. It wasn't hard. It wasn't exactly easy. It was just fun.
THE [email protected] ONE FOR ALL is currently out in Japan for the PlayStation 3. No word on an international release.