As far as video game plotlines go, Producing Perfection will likely take top spot as this year’s most bizarre. Aside from its parodical narrative, however, there is little else going for this self-aware visual novel adventure.
The latest game in Compile Hearts’ series starts off with you, the player, embarking on a summer-long gaming marathon. Needless to say, Producing Perfection starts off on a comical note and one which will no doubt resonate with those gamers returning from college or university. Your pre-meditated gaming spree is cut short, after being summoned to the whimsical and reference-laden world of Gamindustri. Divided into four competing nations, players are introduced to one representative from each, all of whom having banded together in a time of crisis.
Gamindustri and its warring continents Lastation, Planeptune, Lowee, and Leanbox are under threat thanks to the recent emergence of MOB48. This new alliance of power players has conquered the hearts and minds of Gamindustri, sapping “Shares” from its existing factions and becoming the dominant power. In retaliation, Console Patron Units (CPUs) from each of the four nations are attempting to beat MOB48 at their own game. Bizarrely enough, this means transforming themselves from JRPG heroes into pop idols.
So, where do you fit into all this madness? Put simply, you have been chosen to produce for one of the four rising stars. Together, you will rehearse, study, and hold publicity events in order to retake shares and claim top rank in the pop charts.
As a visual novel, a good eighty to ninety percent of PP is spent reading (or skipping) dialogue between your character and a variety of NPCs. Surprisingly, these interactions are mostly enjoyable, brought to life by decent voice acting and the occasional sprinkle of humour. It must be said that the game doesn’t cater well towards a female audience, characters continually addressing the player as “Dude” while making suggestive comments. The game also presents the option to court each of the four idols, who are never that modestly dressed.
The only time players get to experience active gameplay is when staging a concert. After preparing the venue and stationing up to three idols, you shift the camera using a variety of shots and angles. When combined with the right stage effects and timing, this will boost fan appraisal and the amount of Shares earned from an event. This approach to the gameplay is strangely fun to begin with, but playing the same five songs over and over really starts to drag.
In between concerts, the rest of the game has players cycling through menus and spending days improving performance stats. With only 180 days to hit the top rank, it can seem like a daunting prospect at first. However, on both my first and subsequent playthroughs, I managed to “beat” game in less than half that quota. In real time, this amounted to maybe two or three hours, depending on how much dialogue I actually stopped to read. This lead me to think that I was playing the game wrong, or that I had completely missed out on a vital web of mechanics. This isn’t the case, however; not only does Producing Perfection have a limited pool of content and features, but its handful of brief tutorials also fail to fully explain what to do.
With that said, fans of the franchise will find these shortcomings easy to overlook. After completing the story mode with one character, players start afresh while carrying over their stats and unlocked items. Collectibles such as outfits for idols and hidden endings will keep a niche group of fans coming back again and again, as will the spread of romance options available.
For those who aren’t invested in the series, Producing Perfection is a hard-sell, especially to gamers not acclimated to anime/otaku culture. Some of the dialogue is genuinely witty and charming, as is the world of Gamindustri itself, yet tedious concert gameplay and a lack of unique content do little to justify the asking price.