The good news: the Idolmaster Mobile i app is totally free to download, and just by downloading and launching the app, you’ll be able to play with an interactive Haruka Amami 3D character model – without even having to log into the game service proper.
The bad: unfortunately you literally have to be in Japan to actually play this, or even access most of the non-gaming features (like the augmented-reality photo-taking mode).
(Unless you can trick your iOS device’s GPS sensor by spoofing your location, that is… a little bird – no, not 765’s Kotori Otonashi [音無小鳥] – tells me there’s an app for that in Cydia for jailbroken devices).
Anyway, there’s a very good reason why Idolmaster Mobile i is, quite literally, Japan-only: the developer calls this an “area game”, and what it means is that you, as a humble producer for one of 765 Productions’ aspiring idols, are supposed to schedule work for your idol in various locations in Japan – any of the 505 areas within the country’s 47 prefectures – and physically travel to that location by a certain date in order to “clear” the assignments.
If that sounds a little preposterous to you, well, you don’t really have to go out of your way to clear these assignments. Suppose if you live in Ueno and travel to, say, Shinjuku for work. Along the way you’re going to pass by Akihabara, Akasaka, central Tokyo, etc – if you picked up any jobs offers for your idol in those locations, one train ride will clear all of those jobs in one go – provided you’re lucky enough to find offers in those areas on the same day.
That said, you will eventually want to have cleared job assignments in all 505 areas of Japan for trophies and improving your idol and producer ranks – although, again, players are not actually expected to physically go to all 505 areas. Instead, producers can entrust job offers in out-of-reach areas to other producers. An in-game message board functionality will help facilitate such exchanges.
Apart from the main “area game” itself, there’s also a built-in Twitter client, an augmented-reality photo-taking mode, and a clock feature – tap on the time to have the idol you’re currently managing tell you the time. Unfortunately, none of these features are actually accessible until you’ve logged into the game service proper – which you can’t access unless your iPhone’s GPS coordinates say that you’re in Japan (I’ve tested this myself). Why the developers weren’t generous enough to at least offer a taste in some sort of “attract mode”, I’ll never understand.
Regardless, Idolmaster Mobile i is a pretty novel app, and one that series fans should certainly check out – if you’ll be visiting Japan anytime soon. The app is compatible with the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPod Touch (4th generation) running iOS5.0 and up.