Once upon a time, I was a young girl, into video games, but there were no good video games targeted at me. So I said forget this, played my brother's games, and got good enough to beat him. But I always wished that games would be made for people like me - you know, people with two X chromosomes? Like over half the population of the Earth?
So I have become fascinated with all the DS games coming out for girls, and I try to pick up the interesting ones. Imagine Ballet Star has certainly been among the more interesting ones.
You pick from three characters, living in Tokyo and aspiring to become prima ballerinas. They have three backstories, three distinct sets of circumstances, and three separate plots that play out. In general, these plots are about living strong, being true to yourself, getting along with people and taking the time to understand them, even in a tough, competitive atmosphere.
Game play is pretty easy to pick up - you play a variety of mini games which each boost one of five stats. Your stats do matter - higher stats of different kinds unlock different moves as you go along. You wander around a map and listen to people talk to you, revealing said plots, and you use your stylus to guide your character across the dance floor. You get points for doing well at recitals that you can spend on costumes for your character, and if you dress like the part you are supposed to be playing in the recital, you can earn a bonus. Unlike Imagine: Figure Skater, there are no gaffs in translation, and the game reads the stylus input well. Some of the moves are timed, but I found the timing to be generous, and the ten year old girl I sit for can complete most of the moves easily. Overall, it's fun, accessible, and the different characters give the game a good replay value.
Is it like real ballet? No. No way can a teenager become "number 1" by doing a year's worth of recitals. It takes years of practice, and a lot of being part of productions and recitals that are not at all competitive. It seems like they tried to apply the idea of competition of figure skating - which is directly competitive and skaters do rise and fall fairly quickly. So realistic? No. But it is fun and it is a decent game, based more on getting into the role of the character rather than the absolute truth of ballet.
Trick is, you can really only play through three times - one for each character. I mean, the game will let you play again (and even let you play through again with a character who has already won), but while the game presents you with decisions at several points in the games, it doesn't matter what you put in. I decisively picked the opposite partner on my second run through of one of the characters, but I still got the other one as my partner when we studied abroad. I thought multiple endings based on character's choices had been a given since Chrono Trigger was introduced for the SuperNES. Apparently girls don't merit that level of effort in writing and programing - I was more than slightly put out by this. I also feel like it goes against the idea of "imagining" - isn't part of the fun of imagination that you get to make things turn out how you want? Or at least explore what it would be like if something was different?
So it was fun, worth buying especially for young girls, especially if you can pick it up discounted or used, but it is not what I would consider as a really competitive gaming experience compared to what is out geared toward boys.