What might be the best Taiko no Tatsujin crossover has hit Japan, and PlayStation Vita owners will never be the same. Brace yourself, because the series has teamed up with The Idolmaster. This in and of itself isn’t unusual. Songs from one Bandai Namco game have appeared in others for years. Taiko no Tatsujin Plus, Taiko no Tatsujin Portable DX and many other, recent releases feature music from 765 Production. But, with Idolmaster Must Songs: Red Album and Blue Album, we’re getting all Idolmaster Taiko, all the time.
The question is, which do you go for? Like the Pokemon series, Bandai Namco has a habit of dividing up The Idolmaster portable releases into multiple games. The Idolmaster SP is divided into Perfect Sun, Missing Moon and Wandering Star. The Idolmaster: Shiny Festa comes in Harmonic Score, Melodic Disc and Rhythmic Record varieties. With other games, it’s more about which characters you like, since the aforementioned titles each focus on four girls in each release. Since all characters are in The Idolmaster Must Songs, it’s all about the music. Also, considering Bandai Namco’s record, we should be thankful there are only two versions to choose from this time.
See, The Idolmaster Must Songs games are something of a greatest hits album for the series. It’s a retrospective that looks back at 80 songs that have appeared throughout the series from all games and media. Each entry has 40 songs in it and all are good. Wait. Okay. Every song that isn’t an image song for Ami or Mami Futami is good. (Have you ever sat through all of “Do-Dai”? Word of advice, don’t.) The games mostly have the same characters, and thus similar costumes, so it comes down to your familiarity with the music.
People who have been with The Idolmaster from the beginning will want The Idolmaster Must Songs: Red Album. It begins with songs from the 2005 arcade game, and covers music from games up to 2009’s The Idolmaster SP. There are a few other tracks from live performances and concerts, but it focuses on the original music, image songs for specific characters, and DLC. One of the only exceptions in its track listing is “Ai Must Go,” from the 2015 concert in Japan.
This also means people will only see the 12 “main” idols in The Idolmaster Must Songs: Red Album. Takane and Hibiki were only introduced in The Idolmaster SP, so spin-off characters and more recent rivals aren’t really included as backup dancers while a player performs. Kotori does show up to sing her song, “Town ～Must Mix～,” which is a highlight. It also has “awakened” Miki performing “Furufuru Future.”
The Idolmaster Must Songs: Blue Album, the version I happen to be devouring, focuses on more recent music and supplemental material. This means it starts with The Idolmaster 2, the 2011 PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 game, and continues up to The Idolmaster: One For All‘s 2014 PlayStation 3 release. It also includes some music from the animated series and movie, as well as the DS spin-off, The Idolmaster: Dearly Stars. If you didn’t get invested in the series until it appeared on the region-free PlayStation 3, Blue Album is the best place to start.
Blue Album also offers a bit more diversity, compared to Red Album. More characters were added to the series, starting with The Idolmaster SP. That means the songs for these specific characters and groups in The Idolmaster Must Songs: Blue Album offer those characters as backup dancers while their music plays. So, if “Smoky Thrill” plays, the Ryuuguu Komachi unit will only have Iori, Azusa, Ami and Ritsuko performing. They’ll even wear their Idolmaster 2 costumes while dancing. Jupiter, the male idol group, appears to perform “Alice or Guilty,” Leon has a cameo with “Acceleration” and “Hello” stars the 876 idols, Ai, Eri and Ryo.
Honestly, it would almost have been better to refer to these two entries as “Classic” and “Fresh.” The track listings for both of The Idolmaster Must Songs games are fantastic. Which one is right for you depends on your familiarity with the series. If you’ve only recently developed a fondness for the games, Blue Album is for you. You’ll recognize more of the music and characters. Those who always supported 765 Productions will probably want to relive those fond memories with Red Album.