Bang Dream is a media mix sort of a thing where characters and performers come together to produce a rock-band-oriented experience. Up to this point, the most unique thing about Bandori (henceforth) is how it employs the voice actresses to play out these fantasy girl band scenarios by actually having them play also the music that accompanies their vocals. In short, the selling point for Bandori is the “cool” thing about youthful girl rock bands but brought closer into real life. (Just to clarify, this is only in the live part; the recording uses professional musician playing.)
Now I say “closer” because ultimately voice actresses are not pro guitarists/DJs/drummers/etc. (handful of exceptions aside), and there is a large chasm between a real girls’ band trying to make it versus actresses playing instruments and acting out their characters who are in girl bands. But at the same time, it’s not a stage show in the traditional sense, when something like Roselia happens, as you can see in this video.
Or rather, it is a form of stage show. There are an assortment of bands in Bandori, with Poppin’ Party taking the lead in both the musical production (they have over a dozen original songs already), and the narrative attention in terms of the ongoing anime and manga. Roselia seems to be second. None of the other Bandori bands have performed live AFAIK. The lives for Bandori so far are the standard seiyuu event kind of thing, with the exception that the girls actually play the music you listen to (for … the most part).
Anyways, I had to explain this because it is what makes Bandori the game interesting. The game itself is a Deresute-style rhythm game in which you select a team of 5 characters and tap the screen as various notes fall down. The rhythm game itself is actually quite solid, and the presentation is reminiscent of Rock Band/Guitar Hero with the tracks lining up each of the 7 spots you could tap on the screen. The charts are pretty beat-centric and groovy, which translates to fun, when the music is fun. It’s not super hard but there is a pretty steep learning curve compared to Deresute. Just to wrap up the rhythm game portion of the gameplay, so far I have no issues with the note except the flick-up notes, which is partly due to tighter timing than other notes and because my thumbs don’t always register on fast flicks on my phone. Times like this I wish I can play on both iOS and Android.
This is an app game, and unlike Deresute it doesn’t have an unified login, so game accounts are tied to the device. For the most part in early game, you’ll be spending time hitting the screen to go through the large amount of dialogs (fully voiced…not counting minor characters) as all dialogs give you EXP, band EXP, various goods, and/or jewels. In the early going of the game, I’d say, there’s just way too much dialog skimming, as a lot of it are tied to levels and you level up really fast early. Unlike the anime, the Bandori game exposes you to the full spectrum of the music and narrative content, for not just Popipa but all the other bands in the universe, maybe except some of the anime (or manga? Not sure what’s in it) bands. I would even characterize “early game” as a very different experience with “non-early game” as you’ll see in a bit.
Bandori doesn’t have a stamina system, but instead it uses “fire” as your time/money gated system. In a nutshell, you can play any songs you have unlocked in the game at any time, as many times as you want. Each time you play you will consume 1 “fire” and every time you successfully complete a song while consuming 1 or more fire, you get a 5x multiplier on the rewards. If you have no fire, none gets consumed and you just get 1x the rewards. For event points, you can get more than 5x multiplier if you consumed more than 1 fire. This means you get 5x the experience when you play with “fire” in stock versus when you do not have them in stock. You can re-generate up to 3 fires (but store up to 99) at a time, each one taking 30 minutes to regen. Once you reach 3 or more fire you stop regenerating over time. Every time you level up you get 3 fire, and you can purchase 3 fire using 50 jewels.
I like this system, because it trivializes “stam” as 1.5 hours is not a very long time. It’s very much unlike, say, LLSIF, where it’s easy to store over 5 hours of stam. You’ll be wasting fires all day and all night long. But I think that’s an overall good; using jewels to grind is probably what you ought to be doing anyway, and for free players you can actually play the game a whole lot over the course of a day. What this mean for early game is that by the time you hit level 10 or so you will have like 20 fires or more stocked up. It means you are encouraged to keep playing until you run out of them, which you will likely do at around level 20. But that’s actually a lot of playing time. During this period you effectively “do not recover” stam since you are over 3 fires, and there are seemingly an unlimited number of dialog things to click through, both story mode and within the game menus.
One last thing to keep note about the system is that there are two play modes right now, free play and multi-play. Free play lets you play any song you have unlocked as normal and as you would expect. Multi-play basically is solo play that you play together with four other players in real time online. First you have to select a bracket to play in, where each give different rewards upon completion but also require a minimum strength of your team. Then it pairs you up automatically with 4 other randos. You can select a song (or pick omakase/skip) and once everyone selects a music choice the game randomly picks one from those who have selected a song, and that will be the song you play. Then each player selects her own difficulty level and the game begins. Multi-mode adds “fever time” which is a bonus point mechanism, where all 5 players have to successfully clear the pre-chorus to get bonus points during the chorus. The reward in multi-play is also much higher than free play, despite using the same amount of fire.
One cool (and annoying?) thing about Bandori game is how it crams these micro content things. It’s like Cingeki 1-koma you get in the Deresute load screen. Bandori has the same thing, but in addition to the loading screens, the main menu UI is the Bandori town, and you can go from location to location, clicking on randomly placed characters, who would give a quick dialog thing, often 4-koma style. It’s a great way to add character expo and develop the feel for the characters and the IP in general, since they’re short and interesting. But the problem is there are so many of them in the game available early, and you’re incentivized to read them all as they give EXP. Little did I know it means by the time you get to level 30-ish, you would have exhausted them all. Clicking on all the dialogs involve finding them across the whole map, which can take a while and is a bit of a menu hell, and I didn’t like having to do that between every song I played (it randomly resets between songs and app loads).
The gacha mechanism and the jewel economy is fairly straightforward. The base price is 250 per pull, daily 60 pull for paid jewels, and a 10-pull for 2500 jewels with 1 guaranteed 3* (SR equivalent). It has an intro package where you can buy 1000 jewels and it triggers a 25-day login bonus of 80 jewels each, and it costs roughly $10 USD, which is unique but a little too obvious.
As you can see, unless you are hooked by the game’s characters or seiyuu in some way, it’s tough to see what Bandori offers that the other games on the market doesn’t already. To that end, the bet is in the music. First of all, stylistically it does take after the romanticized K-ON motif, featuring at least 3 bands within that spectrum: Popipa, Roselia, and Afterglow. The original songs cover a fairly small spectrum of what Japan’s mainstream band scene offers, at least in terms of the imagery Bandori wants to paint for the three bands. It’s small, but at least it’s something. In addition, the IP has hired out Elements Garden, a composer group who are known for a lot of popular anison, to both pen the original music and to rearrange their band covers. So yes, there are girls band covers of some popular anime music. That is a huge draw given the talents behind the arrangements and some of the seiyuu/singers. One thing that jumps out immediately is how Hikasa Yoko (K-ON’s Mio’s CV) is part of Afterglow (she plays the drummer, Tomoe), and Afterglow covers Don’t Say “Lazy” as one of the in-game songs–and she doesn’t sing it, her bandmate Sakura Ayane (she plays the lead guitar/vocal, Ran) does.
The other two bands in Bandori, Pastel*Palettes and Hello, Happy World, are more off the beaten path and provide, unfortunately, not exactly more musical variety but just more…comedy? Pastel Palettes is the “idol” band and Hello, Happy World is sort of a concept band with some strange folks in it, most notably featuring a kigurumi member. Musically, Pastel Palettes is what I dislike the most about Bandori, because it features basically idol music in the tunes of Love Live, precisely the antithesis to girls band music, at least in theory. In practice obviously the overlap is there, so I understand it. Hello Party World right now is a bit of a catch-all group, currently with more of a children’s pop style to it.
In actual practice, after “early game” is over, is that you log in every a couple hours and burn those fires in multi-play. So the quality of play and amount of fun you get depends on the rando you pair with. This means when someone reps a Pastel*Palettes reject Love Live music every 3 plays and you get unlucky, you get to play the song despite not liking it. There are some things you can do, such as disconnect from that group before the music begins. (In other words, Bandori needs a “song blacklist” if it forces you to play Multi). You can play Free play, which rewards you about two-thirds of event points as Multi-play and only half the rewards. Given the game does not discriminate against which band or character you choose (you can mix and match members based on your draw luck or what have you), there are not a lot of Popipa players, but half of the songs in the game are Popipa songs. This means while Popipa songs get enough play, most people are picking one of the covers or original songs from the other four bands, really cutting into the music diversity you see in Multi. (In other words #2, Bandori needs more songs for everybody not Popipa.) FWIW I am the kind of person who picks mostly covers, because at least those songs are proven by the market to some extent, and are kind of neat to hear different arrangements. How can you go wrong with the likes of Sobakasu or ETERNAL BLAZE?
That’s not even the worst part of the Bandori multiplayer experience. It’s kind of buggy right now, so sometimes the game just gets stuck on loading and I lose a fire. I can get around it by restarting the app after every song, so that’s not the worst thing either. The worst thing is for the newbie and intermediate brackets, there are a ton of freeloaders, people who play just a few notes and give up. Since you are rewarded mostly on group performance, they get most of the reward, without playing. It means the overall score is worse than if everyone contributed. It might not make a huge difference in terms of gameplay balance, but it is bad for player morale when they see they just missed A or S rank, only because someone didn’t bother playing.
In terms of the event, it’s not very competitive. There are rewards for people who rank–best items are achievement badges–but you get the event SR and R from accumulating a certain point total in the event. It’s definitely a casual experience compared to some of the other rhythm games out there. It’s kind of a casual game, too, with a deep enough chart to keep me interested in that way. I also adore HeloHapi so it’s been fun lately, both in terms of the Helohapi event that ended on 4/19 and getting lucky with free draws with the fairly generous of jewels you get from the game starting up.
Unfortunately I have yet to find any motivation to pick up the game after the event was over and gotten a good draw that picked up a bunch of 3* and a 4* Helohapi characters. At least if I end up at a Bandori live, I know who I can rep with good consciousness. I log in for the freebies, and maybe check out the new songs, but that’s pretty much it.
On the live event note, Bandori has a lot of them relatively speaking. Popipa members have done 3 one-man lives already. The past weekend Roselia did their first mini set, a step up from their appearance in Bandori 3rd. They will have a solo event on 6/30. It’s pretty exciting if you dig more seiyuu playing instruments, I guess. Aiba particularly has a nice rocking voice that will work with this sort of thing, so you can go pester her at AX later this year (along with Roselia guitarist Kudou Haruka?)