IDOLM@STER Pop Links Beta

THE IDOLM@STER POP LINKS, or Popmas, as they say, is a new game published under the IDOLM@STER brand and it is the first and only game that includes the 5 currently active brands of the …franchise. Or should I say they’re sub-franchises? Anyways, the open beta is going on and it will run for about 4 days, ending after the weekend is over.

For more about the nitty and gritty, you can read this blog article and it goes into some details. Just to repeat what it says, the open beta and a few online streams and videos are all we have, which are entirely subject to change between now and launch later in 2021.

The creator of Popmas is NHN PlayArt and they created the currently-active Disney Tsum Tsum game, which is available in English speaking countries. Give that a spin and you then have some idea what Popmas is. They have other games, mostly rebranded stuff for other IPs, but one kind-of original in #COMPASS, which is a 3v3 RTS kind of a game. On that note, also they have a lot of dead games.

I think the other noteworthy items to point out is that the lead producer on the game looks really young. Kitajima Nao (KitaP/Kitajii), as described during the title announcement stream, had the idea when she first joined the company and was later put in charge on said idea (seems to be not too much later either).

On to the open beta.

The time-limited beta is Android only, administered via Google Play store. You need a Japanese account, unless you are into sideloading from the usual places. A lot of phones don’t work. On my Pixel 5 it crashes quite often, but to its credit none of the crashes caused any problems with the state of my game. Most of the crashes came from transitioning from one sub component to another.

Speaking of which, it might be helpful to break the game into its sub components.

  • Album cover design
  • Unit management
  • Unit coaching
  • Training
  • Working
  • Live/rank up lives (the tsumtsum portion of the game)
  • Social component
  • Main screen

If you read the blog post I linked earlier, it basically covers all of these. I won’t belabor explaining the mechanics, but more their interactions.

Each player is grouped into brackets of 20. The top player in the bracket will get their favorite team’s album cover displayed on the ranking building in the main screen for all players in the bracket. To get top rank, you need the top score. To get top score, you have to obviously do the best in the tsumtsum part of the game, and most notes popped, with the right bonuses that are stackable (note size, loop, bonus scoring ticket, bonus multiplier from sparkles, combo count, link size, etc), plus you need to have a high base value (your idol’s Vo/Da/Vi) which comes through leveling, level breaking, equipped microphones, and unit coaching.

Players can send each other help as stamina (everyone gets 10 max, recharges every 30 minutes; on ranking up you get 5 bonus–stamina flows over and can go into your gift box). Players’ training events also show up on their friend’s screens which you can help boost the timer?

Training is basically the timer job/expedition in other imas mobile games. The jobs types come in 3 hour chunks from 3 to 12. If you select the idol with the matching attribute to the job, you get higher change of good drops. Drops also seems to be more plentiful (slots) if you do better in the tsum tsum game (seems to rank from C to SSSSS?).

Generally, drops come in many forms, but mostly in terms of maney (free currency), CP (coaching points), stickers (for your album art), and colored balls that have different rarity ranking, which are used in coaching. Training gives specific drops outlined in each type of training, and you increase chances at SR drops with the right idols available.

Coaching is actually the other “game” in Popmas. It’s basically a grid-looking random puzzle game in which you have to navigate “rooms” that you can choose the path. The hops you get to pick from are limited, and each hop has a cost (and you get something from it). This is how you power up your unit as a group, and also how you get rare microphone drops and other small perks, such as fractional XLB’ing your idols or get premium currency in the game. Quality of node have corresponding rarer drops requirements (colored balls).

  • Base stats are capped based on idol level, but they are the cheapest, usually only taking CP to hop to. The best stat node require N balls.
  • Sticker, microphone, and costume accessories nodes take N, R or SR balls at varying quantity. The ribbon colors indicates what rarity it is. SR microphones adds 600 stats in total, so they are very nice to have early on. But they all require 5 SR balls of a particular color.
  • There are mission nodes, which gives a time-limited (60min) mission to give you 5000 many. They cost 2500 CP only.
  • There are stats-increasing nodes, which has an idol on it. Those take balls and CP and increase maximum coaching stats point (the circle on the bottom left).
  • There are premium currency nodes, which is 1000 CP only and gets you 1-5 pop coins.
  • Red star with an idol’s name are XLB/level up idol nodes, which adds 2 points and takes some CP and R? balls. You get 10 per dupe so this is not great unless you are loaded with R balls.

After you clear a room, a new room is randomly generated. So you could blow CP over and over to roll for premium drops, but every jump costs CP. The main way to get CP is doing lives and oshigoto, and buy CP from the store using maney (which is capped on a per day basis, although you can affect it using premium currency).

We don’t know how the premium currency system works besides that you can use it to pay for nodes in coaching, and obviously you can gacha, and buy stamina refills (100 stones for 10). You can’t buy pop stones, the premium currency, during the beta. There is an option in the store that lets you buy things using pop stones, but that one is disabled for the beta.

Also coaching is tied to a unit, so if you disband it, you lose all the unit-specific boosts you got (stats and stat uncapping). It seems you can recover coaching from disbanded units by regrouping the same idols up to 3 disbands old?

Gacha so far are 2500 stones for 10 draws, and you get 1 “SR” outfit at random. You also can pay 250 for one draw, and 1500 to “offer” a specific idol directly. At this point it’s better to save 2500 and roll for dupes, since XLBs go up to 7? The pool is only 15 characters anyways.

One weird curiosity is that each character comes with a skill, when you roll that character, you also get that skill. Just like idols, skills also level up and needs XLBing. When you actually create your unit, skills are just equipments you select (with type restrictions). This is not obvious at all but it just kinda works. I don’t know how you can skill up without gacha though.

Working seems to be just a game-play-free way to burn stamina (think oshigoto in MLTD). You get a fraction of the rewards but it’s fast.

Both the live portion and work lets you select between 1, 2 or 3 stamina per use. You don’t get 2 or 3 times the drops, but you do get 2 or 3 times the experience and fans. The song you selected also gets leveled up accordingly if you picked a live.

Most, if not all the pop stones you get in the beta are from achievements from just moving forward in the game. I’m at about rank 26, and I’m out of stamina, so I’m writing this blog post. Seems straightforward to me. There is definitely a lot you can do in this game to blow the premium currency, which makes sense, but it’s hard to say how often those come by. If you don’t spend the dough, the coaching game is slow, and you won’t get some of the big perks early game.

Seems to me, it makes more sense to actually engage the timer earlier on than later on, and rank up to unlock stamina. But of course, your training slots and unit management slots are locked to your producer level, so the first 10 has to go by pretty fast.

Or you know, just roll the die and get a lot of premium currency.

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