Umamusume Pretty Derby is a media-mix franchise that has a series of character songs, two anime series (more like seasons 1 and 2), and now a F2P mobile game. Turns out, the game is really great. [The official EN name going by CR is Umamusume, without the space.]
I will just focus on the game and not the meta nor the nitty gritty. Well, I can link to the nitty gritty. Reddit and the Reddit-attached discord server are two places anyone can start (especially in English). It’s not clear which JP game site is the go-to, but the usual suspects are posting about it. There is a lot to the game that is still not yet unearthed, some parts of it we don’t know how it works, etc. Anyways.
In a nutshell, Umamusume the game is when you build a raising game like IDOLM@STER Shiny Colors using the shell of Princess Connect! Re:Dive. I don’t know why two games I really like are now combined into one in terms of the core conceit wrapped with one of the slickest and most enjoyable interface dynamics out there, but there it is, sitting on my phone, in the year of 2021. And to dig a bit deeper to my claim–it’s not like I love Shiny Colors the game, more like the content in it and the idea. Shiny Colors, unlike other modern IM@S games, is actually game first and content delivery mechanism second. It delivers a very VN-y story on top of the raising-and-fes model that now folks know.
Umamusume undergirds the same raising-and-fes model with the UX and polish of Princess Connect Re:Dive. I’ve said repeatedly on this website that Princess Connect Re:Dive has the best F2P mobile game UI that I’ve ever seen (although I don’t look at many of them), both as a day-to-day thing and seeing the devs improve it with quality-of-life changes, and as a way to drive the play experience (in a nutshell–playing an anime). That it takes only less than 30 minutes every day to clear your daily tasks in the game was a big win when everyone is loaded with F2P engagements like this, or that it isn’t menu hell, or that it has inventory but you spend basically no time with it as it is auto-managed, are huge wins.
For people following the belabored game since its announcement so many years ago, you know that Ishihara, a main contributor of the original IDOLM@STER series, was the producer of Umamusume until he left the project and Cygames about 15 months ago. It was really hard to tell why, but fallback KimuraP took over and now, we have this game. It feels like the game was actually ready 2+ years ago. At the same time, it’s good to remember that Cygames is intimately familiar with the IDOLM@STER series, too, being the developer of the arguably most profitable IM@S games ever, Cinderella Girls and the subsequent Starlight Stage. That is not even getting into how that company has its share of fervent Ps and other “People of Culture” as memes go. All that adds up to is that it is really not to see them take on some of the iconic gaming aspects of Arcade/SP IM@S into the 2020s while Bandai Namco figures itself out the past 10 years.
While it’s not even a week in (officially launched on 2/24), we already know that Umamusume is a game that has a lot of layers–there is the URA raising scenario, which compares well to WING for those people who played it. This is the biggest piece of gameplay we have today. On top of that is that you can build teams of horses (a group? a class? of Umamusume? I don’t know what plural noun applies here lol) from the raising scenario and pit them against each other in a ladder/rank format similar to the festival system in Shinymas. Underneath that are the Umamusume themselves, the support system (which is another page taken from Shinymas), the kakusei and gacha system (taken mostly from Priconne), the Circle system or guilds (Priconne), and that the two gachas types are basically one from Priconne (with memory pieces on dupes that you can trade for or grind for star level) and one from Shinymas (with dupes you can use for level breaking or trade in for in game goods). On top of all that, there is a breeding/inheritance system, which is new, plus the way skills work between gaining it through various means and support cards, and actually having them make a difference in gameplay.
Oh, there is also a concert mode.
The story mode also follows Priconne–there is a main story broken into chapters, and episodes in each chapters (McQueen’s is the only chapter available right now). As you gain affection with the Umamusume through racing or raising there are also individual commu for every Umamusume. And like modern Priconne, these story scenarios give good loot.
Cygames launched Umamusume with a lot of freebies, and there are reset guides and what not. At the same time I think you don’t really need to reset to enjoy, since you basically have some paid guarantee rolls that are not too expensive, plus free 3* pick ticket. At this point, I trust the Cygames guys to know how to give us a good time.
At the same time, I feel incredibly targeted. Cygames have my number and they are close in check on my wallet. It’s one thing to realize that their strengths and weaknesses, but having seen them play to their strengths in Priconne and now they’re moving hard on an IM@S style raising game, this is a hole that I’d properly fall in not due to good content delivery (which is unfortunately a lot of the gunk on the market) but actual interesting gameplay concepts and smooth execution of them. The fact that the racing scenes is both so authentic and actually enjoyable to watch says a lot about what is good about Umamusume.
For another example, Rice Shower is the “Chihaya” of URA right now, given her propensity to suffer negative effects and having a very difficult path and checkpoints on her way to winning the scenario (relative to other horse). But the satisfaction of figuring out the breeding system to strength her base and deciphering the various stats criteria to pass each hurdle is addictive, boosted by the character scenario, the anime, and the fact that Iwami Manaka has an angelic voice LOL.
Anyways, I’ve been playing it a lot among all my other game and work and actual responsibilities. It’s really fun and you can dive right in on iOS and Android (or via 3rd party android marketplaces). A PC version via DMM will join the fray in mid-March.