デビュー２１ ● Genre: Simulation ● Release Date: 1998/09/10 ● Developer: IMAGE WORKS ● Publisher: NEC INTERCHANNEL ● Media: CD-ROM ● System Specific: PlayStation
■DRAMATIC IDOL TRAINING SIMULATION GAME
DEBUT 21 is a futuristic training simulation game in which the player must manage the career of the first-ever female android idol「AI KANZAKI」in hopes of making her the top idol star of 2020.
DEBUT 21 was the first idol training simulation game I've played. The game was the spiritual successor of the very popular at the time (in Japan anyway) simulation game「TANJOU 〜 DEBUT 〜」which premiered on the PC-98 but also appeared on the PC-ENGINE, 3DO, and SEGA SATURN.
Personally by that time I really couldn't give a damn about the Japanese idol scene, since in my opinion it went down the drain in the 90's. However to this day I'm still very fond of the few awesome 80's idols which actually had talent.
In any case, the idol scene was and still is pretty big in Japan, so it's really strange how very few of these types of games were made back then.
As far as parameter building and training simulation games are concerned, DEBUT 21 is definitely one of the most accessible ones you can find on any given game system. The character parameters, menus, and most other stuff are in English, so even non-Japanese speakers should be able to get through the game with little difficulty.
Most notably the game is designed in a very user-friendly pick-up-and-play fashion, and after only a brief introductory CGI movie (which can be skipped altogether) you will be given complete control over AI's idol career.
There are no lengthy character introductions whatsoever, nor there's any tutorials neither since the game mechanics are pretty self-explanatory.
The game also lets you save and reload your progress at any given time, something that if you really so desire it can be exploited so that you always get the kind of outcome you want.
■THE IDOL M@KER 2020
The events of DEBUT 21 take place during the whole year of 2020. Your ultimate goal in the game as an idol manager is to lead AI to win the 2020 IDOL GRAND PRIX contest which will be taking place at the end of the year.
In order to turn AI into a「Super Idol」you'll have to work hard at promoting her idol standing throughout the year. This is done by making AI take part in all manner of promotional events in hopes of catering to the widest possible fan audience.
While you're given a「LONG PLAN」of obligatory events that you must follow (one per month).You still have pretty much complete freedom to build up and manage AI's idol career however you see fit.
Figuring out which events will benefit AI's idol standing the most in the long run according to the type of idol you want her to be is the core strategic part of the game.
Events aren't only for promotion though, they're also your main and only source of income. The money you make from events can be used to upgrade AI's hardware which will improve her overall performance.
Most importantly you will want to upgrade her battery capacity as soon as possible since that will allow her to train and engage in events for longer day stretches.
Be advised however that while the money certainly will come in handy, you aren't going to win the GRAND PRIX by making cash, period. Some of the best paid events will actually net you very little idol points, while in turn some promotional events will give you no money at all.
Overall, making money should be a secondary goal since earning idol points it's the only way to go up in the idol rankings.
■HARD LESSONS ARE SELDOM FORGOTTEN
Once you've made up your mind on the events you want AI participate in, you still have to make sure that she can perform them successfully by training her singing, dancing, and acting parameters.
Training AI is pretty self explanatory. You select your lesson, the style you want to develop (ELEGANT or ACTIVE), the lesson difficulty, and finally how many days you want to train.
The more difficult the lesson is, the more of AI's energy battery will be spent, but also the more her parameters will raise if the lesson was performed successfully.
Whether AI succeeds or fails at a lesson will depend mostly on her current parameters and also on sheer random luck.
No doubt at first you may be inclined to just save and reload your way to success, however that really isn't necessary. In fact, you can clear every single lesson and event in the game and still end up failing miserably at the GRAND PRIX if you don't handle AI's career the right way.
■AIM FOR THE TOP !
As one of the aspiring top idols AI will be competing in 5 different categories :
写真集売り上げ = PHOTO ALBUM SALES
・Relates to gravure (グラビア) and other photographic sessions. カラオケリクエスト= KARAOKE REQUESTS
・Relates to any events that involve music.
ＴＶドラマ視聴率 = TV DRAMA AUDIENCE
・Relates to TV drama sessions.
バラエティ視聴率 = VARIETY AUDIENCE
・Relates to variety events and other misc events like radio sessions, interviews, etc.
アイドル人気投票 = IDOL POPULARITY POLL
This relates a bit to your overall performance but specially to public relations (PR) events.
You can choose to try to make it big in all categories, or you can focus in the ones you like the best. Note that most of your rivals will be specializing in a certain category so you'll have to do pretty good to beat them.
Once every month the TV ranking program IDOL 5 HIT'S will show you how well you're faring in the idol bussiness. You can also see more detailed info anytime in the RANKING section under the DATA options.
DEBUT 21 was a game I was really looking forward to when it first came out, and for the most part it did not disappoint.
What I like the most about the game is how deceptively challenging it is. I mean, the game is just so simple to play and enjoy that it's just as easy to think you aren't going to have any trouble beating it.
I remember how in my first playtrhough I was so sure I was going to ace the GRAND PRIX but surprisingly I ended up not winning a single category.
Of course the game is not without its share of flaws. While the core gameplay aspect is well done and addicting, the game is hugely lacking in content on a level it sort of feels incomplete.
There's not a single complete vocal track to listen to, and the storyline and character interaction is bare-bones at best. Worst part is that this probably was done in purpose.
You see the game was released alongside a music CD and a novel book, and you basically had to purchase them all if you wanted to get the total DEBUT 21 experience.
The music CD comes with detailed info about the other idols in the game, while the novel book covers the bulk of the storyline. Neither the music nor the characters or storyline get much exposition in the game which of course comes as a huge disappointment, specially on the music part.
Just imagine if the original OUTRUN had only tiny music samples and you had to purchase the soundtrack to enjoy the music in full. Music is a crucial part of the idol scene, so the lack of it in a game like this is just plain unforgivable.
In spite of the lack of complete music tracks and a more compelling storyline, DEBUT 21 is still one of the most fun and addictive training simulation game you can find on the PlayStation. The core gameplay mechanics have more than enough stuff going to keep players hooked for a while.
It's only too bad that DEBUT 21 never got a sequel since historically these types of games have always benefited greatly from a sequel.