Monthly Archives: January 2021

IDOLM@STER Pop Links: First Impression

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.


Quick Guide to Princess Connect, Global Version

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.
  • First impression of the TV anime as a player. Not much to say about the anime, enjoy it for what it is. Buy the Blurays for powerful JP codes?

Helpful? Links

Background & Where we are

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.

Overall take

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.


Anisong 2020 Remote Special

One giant postscript that I should’ve added last post is the stuff that happened in 2020 after the world went into shutdown mode in the early days of the pandemic. Well, regarding anime music at least, there were a lot of online collabs in 2020 that are worth remembering and calling out as a result of musicians and similar types who lost gigs from the shutdown and had to make do with online and remote stuff, some free, because what else are we going to do other than Animal Crossing?

This better serves as its own post to remember what happened anyway, so a list. Also, I am not going to remember all the ones worth highlighting so any help in the comments is a great add.

The Seatbelt online project was pretty rocking, and the online Tanabata stream was really frigging good. I can’t understate how good that was. Like, that is once-a-decade level good. In addition to the big show (which has other YK stuff), there were a bunch of Youtube releases of re-recorded songs from the show. I even bought this vinyl, lol.

YOASOBI struck gold late 2019/2020 and Yori ni Kakeru was the third or second-most covered song in anisong-world, in 2020. I don’t know:

The First Take did fill a void in 2020 when we were void of the usual variety shows and live performance footage, so check out their channel. Even if they started in 2019, 2020 was a good year for what they do.

Watanabe Keiko’s vocaloid covers are pretty solid! I think the Crypton-sponsored Vocaloid social game launching brought a lot of that stuff back in the fore.

Then there are things like Yamamura Hibiku’s covers, which is in line with what indie artists do, pandemic or not. Maybe the song choice?

If you watched Kurocon, it was quite the covid event and we brought marble to our first show! They had been doing a lot on Youtube during the year. Micco from marble has her own covers during the lockdown here. Acoustic sets from some of their hits are on their official channel.

Continue reading

Anisong 2020

Why write a list when I can just point you to one that overlaps with mine a lot? Apologies but no Spotify playlist here orz.

You can ignore the ordering–it is not important. I will just append some of the ones I enjoyed that were omitted:

  • 700,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 no Sora de – Lights (Lapis Re:Light)
  • Literature – Ueda Reina (Wandering Witch OP)
  • Holy Passion Roses – Horie Yui, Matsuzaki Rei (Princess Connect! Re:Dive)
  • Daddy! Daddy! Do! feat. Airi Suzuki – Suzuki Masayuki (Kagyua-sama S2)
  • Goodbye Seven Seas – Jun Maeda x Yanagi Nagi (Kamisama ni Natta Hi)
  • Geki! Teikoku Kagekidan Shinshou – Sakura Ayane & Shin Teikoku Kagekidan (Shin Sakura Taisen OP)
  • Koori no Torikago – Amamiya Sora (Kimi to Boku no Saigo no Senjou, Aruiwa Sekai ga Hajimaru Seisen ED)

Other mentionables:

  • Fascinate – Velvet Rose (IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls) – Technically 2019 even though the CD came out in 2020. I just didn’t know about this song until 2020. Would have put it up in the previous section otherwise.
  • WOW WAR TONIGHT ~Toki ni wa Okose yo Movement~ – Mizuki Nana, RACHELL (D4DJ First Mix) – This cover is historic. Also I love the DJ WILDPARTY reference animation, it feels just like the real thing.
  • Kimi ni Aeta Hi – Itou Miku, Kito Akari (Adachi And Shimamura OP) – A proper seiyuu duet.
  • Parade d’amour – Opera Seria Kiramekiza (IDOLM@STER Million Live) – Managed to channel chills for me the same the way as Generations 04.
  • Hyakka wa Gekka ni Chirinuru wo – Hanasakuya (IDOLM@STER Million Live) – Appropriately time froze for me in that January weekend, and maybe for the rest of Million Live kingdom.
  • Kiseki no Kane (Taisho 29 ver.) – Shin Teikoku Kagekidan (Shin Sakura Taisen) – This song still has so much over me 10+ years later.

PS. Some more music.

  • Waver – Tadokoro Azusa – The title track of her self-produced album technically isn’t released until 2021/01/27 but it’s good!
  • Hana no Ame – Ueda Reina – I am tickled pink by this art project. Or her earlier album.
  • Wahl – Roselia – Nice album.
  • Sky Full of Magic – Lapis Re:Light – Generally a lot of fun, all the songs. Wish it included the Sky songs though.
  • Delicious Smile – Wataten 5 – Special image album from Wataten and it’s a great bright holiday spot in a dreary year.

PPS. I’m ready to put Database back on the list, but is NHK?