While I’m sitting home, working from home, and eventing from home under this COVID-19 scheme of things, the world keeps on ticking. Just because life may have paused somewhat for me, the world has not. Which is just to say, I feel like this blog could use a change.
I thought about doing a newsletter type format thing for this blog for a while now, and maybe that makes more sense. Of course, to make a proper email newsletter, it’s a different type of syndication. I will probably still post the letters on this site for posterity sake. It is going to have a similar voice.
Nonetheless a newsletter format of journaling seems a bit more appropriate for the things I’m thinking about. It takes a lot of time to germinate ideas worth the while for public posting, and then survive the iterative review I do. It’s not like my unpublished draft count is going down… Only a portion of what I write is gets published in the end, no matter how stream-of-conscious the rambling gets. I don’t have a formal clipboard process but that might change as a result?
In short, below is an example from this week. I’m not committed to a set schedule, but I’ll aim for a weekly schedule. I’ll post them in the emails at least, and probably on the blog too, as I go. You can subscribe to it by entering your email below. At some point those emails will go out, when I figure out how this works anyways. Meanwhile I’ll post them on the site for now.
RIP Daft Punk? But the Clock of the Cinderella never stops ticking.
The real joke is RIP Daft Punk vinyl prices. Ye gads.
This Past Week
I talked about D4DJ First Mix in general but finally, Waipa talks about his work in the anime! It’s in this week’s D4DJ presents Peaky P-key no SaichoutenMix. Miyu and DJ Wildparty have met from way back, and it’s rare that these DJ gets the backstory spilled out this way. The full thing is available free: here (need VPN or region-bypass plugin for Radiko), or check it out on Spotify, Amazon or Apple podcast.
I was able to catch some of Bloom, the Hololive idol concert thing. Really not that bad, but this is at the same level where I can see how some other groups (namely: well-stocked Chinese companies and vtubers) can do just as good if not better of a job. But it’s evaluating the situation backwards to think that, I think. At some level this is the way a properly postmodern regurgitation would feel like. It’s easy to look at the output and say how it would be written as a SQL statement, but the management and creation of the database is magnitude harder. That said, I am not really familiar or vested in the the characters (and maybe not even the performers) so it really is not that appealing. But then again…this is its own thing that will appeal to certain folks.
Hironobu Kageyama’s birthday was 2/18! More over, check out this video talking about JAM Project 20th anniversary and their new docufilm. For some reason they got Angela’s Atsuko and Masayoshi Oishi as MC–anisong’s biggest shittalkers. Sure is weird. Also this article IN ENGLISH!
Checking out on Zaiko was the eufonius anniversary concert stream and it was pretty chill and got all the hits. A bit short but also pretty spot on. That falsetto sure is something.
On the Mind
I had a lot of good memories surrounding the Crest series–Crest of the Stars, and then the Banner of the Stars. They are a series of SF novels from Hiroyuki Morioka. If you copied the form of LOGH and made it more superficially interesting in line with modern popular SF, this will be what you get kinda. It’s infrastructural, it’s a bit 40k in space, it’s about relationships that otaku will care about. While the anime adaptations have come and went for over 20 years (goddamn it has been that long?) the light novels recently have been rebooted by EN localizers J-Novel Club. In fact they have been retranslated and it has made past volume 3 of Banner, which IIRC was how far the original official EN translation went. Volume 5 just recently came out, with part 1 of volume 6 in prepub.
Sunday nights anime watching has becoming a bit of an experience this season, between Attack on Titan Season 4 and Mushoku Tensei. While I never did the GoT thing on Sundays, I get that same vibe with these two. I just don’t get the “water-cooler” talk for these shows. It’s like you either get smug light novel/manga types or very, very deep and wide pool of plebs like myself enjoying the ride. Unfortunately many don’t watch the shows right as they come out.
Lots of event backlogs this week, despite being more of a light weekend for most. Going to churn through that…maybe catch the 8bitstory BAC show?
Was there supposed to be a Kurocon announcement? LOL.
Coming up in a couple days is the launch of the long-awaited Umamusme mobile game (which will be on iOS, Android, and DMM/PC). Watch the launch live stream?
The big show this weekend is LisAni Live 2021. I probably will try my best to watch it all real time, but we’ll see. Unlike Animax Musix, anyone can watch these, no geo restrictions. Of course, CG and ML are representing so that makes it a no-brainer.
May’n is celebrating her 15th anniversary this year and she is doing 5 monthly concert streams. Saturday is her 2nd one.
The extremely cold temps hitting Texas (cold for Texas) causing power outages affected me also indirectly, because of friends and family out there in the cold. Learning about the details of this is just extremely sad. Say what you will about how authoritarian governments and communism can make countries ineffective internationally because so much energies and overhead spent on dealing with polity, there’s something to be said when unregulated rampant greed dressed as capitalistic policy undermines a nation’s fundamentals. The money it cost to fortify the Texan power grid against cold is a tiny fraction of costs inflicted on blackouts of numerous factories and interruptions of businesses. Worse, almost the exact same thing happened 10 years ago. If the government isn’t willing to fairly referee and revise the rule book for the best net outcome, it is it still even capitalism? This is literally the case of spending a big fortune to make a small one, just backwards. [BTW, that’s a saying I learned from Everquest (any Enchanters…), thanks Log Horizon.]
The scary thing is how a certain philosophy of greed has really taken hold the momentum for change in the US government. It’s one thing for Texas to struggle with this, but the fear is it will merely be a reflection of other crises the country have to deal with in advance, that nothing happens even after those bad events happen.
In a lighter note, Priconne Fest came and went–it’s the first in-person type festival the series has had. Too bad the live concert segment was postponed? Bummer. This past week was pretty crazy for me on PriconneR just because of the EN new level cap, event, and the festivities in JP. Now there’ll be horses on the plate… Ugh
Budding sensation of the Hanshin Tigers talks about it in English. Jerry Sands plays the outfield and the fans enjoy this emotional guy on the field (for NPB standards), aside from his raking. Anyways, this NC native kind of made the meme circuit in 2020. Like many hitting prospects of the modern era, they’re kinda, uh, chonk.
Somewhat more on topic, here is the TL for Noriko Hidaka’s Famitsu interview having reaching 40 years in the biz as of 2020. There are 2 parts, and the same person is translating the interview for Kouhei Tanaka also in the same issue (and also 40yrs).
I have a lot of various feelings about Otakon generally, and it is facing an existential crisis due to COVID-19 shutting down the con and impacting its finances. No surprise–many expected the pandemic rolling into the second year to put some cons six feet under, given the way many cons are run. Naturally my feelings are, uh, mixed.
Let’s mostly put aside the execution of the Otakon fundraiser, but I need to rant a bit about it. A 401c3 US Educational Non-Profit based in Maryland is once again asking for your donations. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it at all–except that it complicates their business model as Otakon never really had to play the fundraiser game. It ran more like a normal con (for profit or otherwise) but it also did not really keep a lot of money on hand. More over, the burn rate for Otakon, as we now know through direct communication, is something like $250,000 USD per year, even during the pandemic. Those are all key details that were eventually revealed–they could disclose this important data point from the start, and that they half-ass the ask is just a reflection of a bigger problem. Those keeping tabs on Otakon’s historical financial disclosures already have a good ballpark estimate. Knowing how that con is run somewhat, it does not come as a surprise how things are coming to ahead and they need to make the savings withdraw on public sympathy.
Aforementioned bigger problem is the main problem I have with Otakon: It does not feel that the leadership has a clear focus on what to do with the con besides treading water. Maybe that is the result of the rotating committee structure, and every year feels a bit like its own thing. Maybe it’s bending over backwards a bit too much to play that straight and narrow Educational Foundation stuff.
That’s the thing. Anime conventions, from my point of view, are better compared to country clubs. A bunch of people come together, pool their money and resources (time, energy, connections, knowledge, and more) to hold a party so everyone else not running it can participate at whatever level they are comfortable with. Maybe this is walking 18 holes and not playing it. Maybe this is doing a panel on drivers, or selling golf carts, whatever. But the economics of it only works if there is critical mass, and the larger such mass the more expensive event you can put on. If you want big name guests, they are expensive and can only really happen at large cons. There are only so few of these in North America, and so few with enough credentials and networks, and can put that budget into that kind of thing. That’s my point of view anyways. I realize for many others, this is not as big of a deal, but this does roll/trickle down in that Stone Soup allegory that makes any con worth going to–the networking effect of enough draws relevant to your interests and your friends’ interests make the party happen.
As someone who’s actually been to every Otakon (East Coast ones at least) since 1998 I am kind of done with it, in that while over the years I enjoyed this con and many of the things it did, I also see that it isn’t going to really level up its game. Things also have changed a lot since 20+ years ago and it is not like there is a lack of anime cons around here. Actually, there kind of is? But only ones like Otakon’s size and overall organizational quality. It isn’t because we don’t have a scene for it, it’s more because, well, it’s not easy to run a con like that. There are many smaller cons around that do many of the things just as well as Otakon, but Otakon occupies its spot–both in the calendar and in my con spending budget (time and money).
Which is just to say, I already made my donation and I hope the best for them, but as an attendee who is somewhat invested and someone concerned about anime cons, I think replacing Otakon with whatever that will happen in the vacuum of its possible demise is likely not a net negative in the long run. It’s not just me being the usual silver-lining optimist, but I do think this con really can be renovated or something, like the BCC. Too bad COVID is either going to make that even less possible, or kill it outright. Neither is great…
Popmas/Popm@s, or IDOLM@STER’s Tsum Tsum game, launched Thursday in Japan on 1/21. I’m writing it on Saturday–that feels more like 48 hours in, but I really didn’t play the first 6+ hours since it was the middle of the night.
Like the Android-only Beta, the game more or less retained everything and added more features. For one, you can now buy in-game premium currency which are gems. Under gacha (“Scout” as the game calls it) the suptix/offer feature is retained, but there’s now also a money (maney) based gacha which is like the free currency gacha. There are four rare outfits for each idol which can only be obtained in the premium currency gacha (Platinum). I think it’s reasonable to expect additional banners–the UX even have space for this. Read my post on the Beta for more info I won’t rehash here, and some historic notes.
Coaching, unit management, training and work features all remains the same. I think there are more stickers, accessories, songs, idols, skills(!!), and possibly more category of things I’ve yet discover, than what the Beta had. Well, some of those they told us–like the song list currently available and the cast currently available.
There is a tournament live stream between the Popmas branch ambassadors this weekend, so that will be another source of news. If I were to speculate, Popmas will reuse core “content” deliverables from other games, such as the songs and characters.
Worth noting is that Popmas did get an original theme song which is the only other five-branch song, so it will have more original content down the road. I wouldn’t count that as its main bread or butter though.
The game itself feels more or less the same overall as the Beta, and the combos and techniques work between the two, at least the ones I have tried. Having the full range of characters with all the character-based skills both makes the game a bit more of a handful to manage at a high level, but it’s nice that all the jobs work lol. The gameplay itself does feel a bit more restrained in terms of the way various bars charge, between now and Beta.
In terms of the state of play, Beta is a lot more hardcore. People are put into brackets of 20 when they join the game, and my bracket has only so many competitive players.
The game gives you more stamina than you can use for the first 20 or so levels, if not more. It is a bit daunting to learn the game while just grinding away and learning how to play a bit the hard way. Since most of the gameplay is about building stats (which is only earned by playing) and equipping/using the right skills, it would have been nice to have a more hand-holding tutorial given this is the “casual” entry into the franchise.
The game does let you burn 3 bags of stamina on each play for three times of certain rewards, which is how I was able to use it all up within the first 24 hours (among other games, day job and what else). I would say, treat the first 10 levels as “tutorial” and levels 11-20 as “learning how to play the meta game” and it really get started from 20 onward.
As for rolling and reset marathoning, I don’t really recommend it for this game unless you are hard after an outfit. With the launch bonus it’s pretty easy to game 2 rolls right off the bat. But given there are 4 rare outfits for everybody, the odds of getting any specific is quite small, smaller than most marathoners would like. It also is the kind of game where, well, you are mostly casual about it.
That said, there are still some mechanics which gacha affects. For one, you can rank up your skills and idols with gacha. I suspect there will be other ways to do it through future events and achievements (it would be the gold shard item that it asks for). Second, skills are kind of random. There are also rare skills. All I know is the team I started with, which I disregarded the idol attributes, didn’t fit many good skills. Maybe this is worth the rerolling if we knew which skills are available and how good they are–the real tier lists are skills and idol with certain matching attributes.
Anyways, I am way too casual about this casual game, so maybe we’ll revisit this once some months have passed and this game really gets going beyond the early stages. Assuming it stops crashing every 30 minutes, that is. Sounds like this is really an Android issue and it runs fine on iOS, but it is a battery hog on both. Also, two serious bugs in 3 days! Makes you think.
Since the soft launch of the Princess Connect Re:Dive global version of the game in December, I have been playing it. Yes, I am double-dutying this with Pricone JP, between all my other games, like I still do the Theater Days events, and log in to the other two galge IM@S series for the free gacha. Plus other login-bonus kind of thing (D4DJ is actually worth talking about?) for a couple other games. And I’m still 30 or so hours in Cyberpunk 2077, thanks to Stadia.
Now that you know what I did during the New Years break, maybe there isn’t a lot more to say? In a very half-ass bid to possibly help new players with the imminent official launch of Princess Connect Re:Dive global version, which is the English-translated version of the game, I want to just give some really high level and some orthogonal point of views, as someone who’s been playing this game in Japanese from the start, and who actually played (semi-seriously?) in the original Princess Connect game.
My old posts are like time capsules now:
Right when the game launched: some background on the in-game anime scenes, which are not animated by all the same folks who did the TV show (also because Cyberagent started their own studio).
One year review. – main thing is that Gamewith link. It is the top stop for JP Pricone content…outside of Twitter and Youtube, that is. Read my 1-year review for some big ideas.
If you go to the Wikipedia entry to Princess Connect Re:Dive, and hit Japanese, you will actually get the Wikipedia entry to Princess Connect! That is an accurate reflection of what people speaking English natively knows about Princess Connect!, LOL. It was a web-based game from Cygames as they teamed up with a set of companies trying to push this co-op style RPG out. It died after about 2 years, full server shutdown and everything. (The ~200 I spent in that game went poof. RIP Pricone Ding.)
Most of the commu were voiced even back in the first game, and you can watch it all on youtube here. This is the dark history. Along with the game there were some media-tie ins as well, like the character songs. This all being otaku/seiyuu focused content meant also a lot of supplementary behind the scene stuff, which is all gone now.
Princess Connect! Re:Dive came about roughly 2 years after shutdown of the original Princess Connect! game. Re:Dive and the original share a continuity. The cast and overlapping characters are retained in Re:Dive, as with the character designs. Twinkle Wish was the main unit from the original game, although they still play a major role in Re:Dive. The Gourmet Guild trio are new to Re:Dive and they are the spokespeople for the game.
Princess Connect! Re:Dive launched in Japan on 2018-02-15 for Android and iOS. It features 2D animation, full-voice commu, and sparsely in the game are 2-D anime-style…anime, which highlights and pull all the visual design vibes together. This is the RPG where you literally are playing an anime. About a year and half later, a PC version of the game launched via DMM’s platform.
Re:Dive did okay in Japan at first and slowly found traction. The Korean and TW/HK ports which launched about a year after Japan also found traction over time, both are doing well now. The ports follow typical app-game based progression with a set lag from the mainline JP release. This is typical because the localization goes through a different publisher for each region. It seems that Cygames merely blesses the port and translation, and don’t actually work on the TL in house.
Recently in the last 12 months the game has launched also in Thailand and Mainland China. It did really well in China, by the way, and it even has CN-specific characters (based on Hashimoto Kanna).
Everyone knows by now there is a TV anime series that aired in mid-2020. Crunchyroll streams it for the EN audience in certain countries, and they are also the publisher of the EN/global version of the Re:Dive game.
There are a series of character songs (released on maxi singles), a couple soundtracks and best collections, and the TV anime music available. Pricone music is quite good, highly recommended. For a game that pulls legit gacha game numbers, it does not have a lot of merch. Probably because the margins are not as good as Cygames’s other properties…?
What is Princess Connect! Re:Dive?
It’s a game in which you play the role of Yuuki, as Princess Knight who wakes up without his memories. You see pieces of it from your interaction with other characters as the story unveils itself over time. Players recruit characters who makes up teams of 5 to battle enemies. Characters can be fed gear, experience, and affection, each increasing various stats the character has. Characters can also rank up once each gear for a rank is obtained, and furthermore characters can gain stars (from one to six, so far) to become more powerful and unlock more story and abilities.
For battling things, Re:Dive features plain old PVE content as well as PVP content, where you battle other player’s pre-set defense teams. There are guilds, which are called clans, where players can socialize and tackle monthly clan battles as a team. There are other solo content such as dungeons, grotto, tower of Luna, and other farming stuff.
A tremendous amount of content can be found in the commu in the game, which are unlocked as you meet various conditions. In addition, on the Japanese server, events are regularly released–these are limited-time content and maps where you can fight stuff and unlock event characters, event story, and other goodies. Typically there is one new event once every one to two months, and in progression old events get reruns down the road.
New content also gets released through month/bimonthly main story unlocks as level cap gets released once a month. New character equipment and ranks are added, plus other character bonuses (6-star uncaps, unique equipments, etc). Of course, new gacha banners unfurl several times a month, with new characters almost every month.
The main story is also broken up into major arcs, and JP is only on the second arc still. These full-voiced commu are released in episodes, and further broken into chapters, which are tied to different main world maps the player needs to clear.
Character and guild-based (in Priconne, a guild is group of characters, not clans) commu are released based on your affection level with each character.
Princess Connect! Re:Dive, or PriconneR, is the most anime game. As an anime otaku who watches a lot of that, and played some anime games over the years (decades, more precisely) this is taking the inspiration of mid 00s sensation Sakura Taisen and bundling it into the most safe otaku tropes. Nobody is going to ask if this is an idol game, it is if you want it to be, but it really is just something more mainstream, and generic, and yet niche/kink/hardcord all at once. I don’t particularly take to the content, personally, but the characters are fun I do like almost all of them. Most of them are amusing and cute, even if cliche. It ties into the rest of the game, which is build like this funky aged RPG vibe because you are playing an anime…game. In that sense it’s an otaku anime with at least some mainstream-facing edges…and more.
The actual day-to-day grind is going to depend on what you are looking to get out of Priconne. I like it because if you are catching onto the content releases, level cap increases, new events, and all that, it’s a kind grind where 20-30 minutes a day is spent doing daily missions, and if you want, there are more things you can do to play around. The meta is pretty rich and it does rotate, both PVE and PVP. There are a lot of youtubers talking about this game now, because I think the meta is interesting, it isn’t too esoteric (there are spreadsheets but you don’t need them). It’s the kind of thing where people would like to make tier lists but nobody really needs it.
[The kind of player-based info I had to look up over the years, mainly, are CB boss battle compositions. Short of that, it’s the one big design bone in my mouth that needs to be addressed: how some characters become less useful/powerful in certain fights if you rank up too much/add too many stars. This is a problem that has been partly addressed, both with changing star-level feature in JP and gear tuning, but it still is quite problematic. Really a big-time design pitfall.]
A big reason why you don’t really need too much help, and a big reason why I like Priconne, is that the user experience is great. For essentially a game where you are just navigating menus half of the time, it has great QOL. Skip ticket is one thing, but just a lot of little touches make this game not a pain in the rear to press all those navigation buttons or confirm buttons or back buttons. I mean, they know this is a thing they have to get right to be successful. But to me this is a textbook example of good game UX.
Part of that good UX is the in-game help, and graphic design so the mechanics is as intuitive as possible. Sure, it doesn’t tell you what a point in “physical crit rate” does or what power level means and how it’s calculated, but you get what it generally means.
There are other QOL stuff along those lines, such as the plentiful rate-up that happens throughout every month, basically giving you bonus drops from normal/hard mode/grotto/dungeon and what have you. In fact the game really cannot be played fairly without taking into account those rate-ups. This is something to watch for if you read a review of Priconne Global release based purely on the soft launch, since a lot of those things are not available in the game until after the official launch, and it makes a big QOL difference.
Lastly, in standard Cygames paradigm, it doesn’t matter if you whale or if you don’t–both can enjoy the game. Both can even enjoy the game equally, except if you are a 1-percenter in CB. That is not a easy challenge for a PVP-centric experience. The standard gacha that is available always do not have suptix, because all the characters are not limited. In JP all of them are actually farm-able except for the latest few. There’s a reason this gacha exists and it is good to roll it as you are starting out. The only real tricky thing is when a limited character drops that later turns out to be critical in some event or CB, if you can save up enough (or whale enough) to spark for it. In early game, the whale/non-whale difference is not significant if you know how the game works.
Lastly, some tips.
The two things that drive this game are events and characters (or character obtaining, raising, unlocking commu, etc). Ultimately these experiences are capped at your player level cap so…raising your player level is the number one priority until you hit level cap. Really no buts here. To do that, buy stamina using your free gems. You can do this 40 times a day, but it gets progressively more expensive the more times you do so. Typically I stop after 3 to 6 times assuming the premium currency is not an issue. This is really how you catch up.
Practically speaking, you will also quickly run into the other caps: mana and exp, but both are things you get more of the higher level you are, so ergo, hit that level cap as a priority, within reason. (IMO, those caps are more anti-whale game balances.)
The UX is extremely helpful. Please, read the UI carefully for helpful monster descriptions (like they outright tells you what they’re weak against sometimes), different settings to make your life easier, and other hints. But moreover, use the “what other players used to beat this map” feature to clear hard stages and learn which characters to buy memory pieces for first.
On that note, it’s worth noting that the EN version has an older UX that JP has moved on from, but it also comes with some retrofitting which fixes some old issues JP Had.
Early in the game, gacha is actually progression. Don’t start to hoard gems until you got a working toolkit of cast of characters. Each character is a tool in your toolbox, some are better than others, perhaps, but the meta for PVP and PVE will evolve and change over time, characters get better or worse relatively over time, and you will encounter types of enemy over the course of the content release to find the need for some characters you never had a use before. What’s always true is that you need 3 teams to play Princess Arena so you need at least this many good characters in PVP to do well. What’s always true is that you need at least 2 teams to clear Tower of Luna, probably 3+ for EX mode and all, so you need that many for PVE to do well.
Enjoy the game at your own pace. This isn’t the kind of game that gives hardcore players more rewards than F2P casuals. As long as your pace of leveling is faster than the rate of level cap increases, you will eventually catch up to whales. Meanwhile you would have spent a fraction of what they spend. Smart money would be buying the daily jewel/dungeon pack, for $8/30 days. If you want to splurge more, the grotto pack on top. Pricone rewards players who play the long game. It might mean you want to rush the Arena bracket after a reset or just take it easy, but if you do it smart you will be rewarded. And this is why I like Priconne so much–you really can take it as it comes and enjoy it however you like it. There are many ways to best enjoy the game.
It’s been 5.5 years since I started investing in Princess Connect and honestly it felt like 10. A lot happened during that time and I don’t even know where I really stand on this series today. It is charming, fun, and good entertainment at least, so I don’t regret it. I am glad the game is easy to go down and a good match for those people who are already playing a lot of similar mobile/f2p games, because this won’t take up much time at all while still be really engaging, and inexpensive (usually). I really don’t know what’s on the market that fits this bill. Maybe players who came from more grindy games will find this too light-weight, but I think that’s not the appeal of this game anyway. Priconne is certainly not flawless, far from it, but this is a great execution of a rich concept that is worth paying attention to.