Category Archives: Franchises

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.


By the Grace of the Gods

This adaptation of the same-named isekai light novel is pretty low key and comfortably paced. The focus seems to be healing, or iyashikei, but more so for the protagonist than the audience. Is that still iyashikei? I do think it provides a gap that allows some more, uh, spicy interpretations. By the Grace of Gods, Kami-tachi ni Hirowareta Otoko, or Kamihiro for short, is kind of lukewarm but interesting, to me anyways.

The setting more or less follow the bricks outlined by various video game mechanisms. I get the most vibes from World of Warcraft, but it could be many others in the same genre. What’s also notable is that the 11 or 12yo protagonist periodically checks in with the Gods in the isekai, who watches over him a bit like an idealized set of parents (all three of them), who doesn’t pester their son who live far away all the time with phone calls–wait that might be just me. The gods live in their own realm, and don’t physically manifest in this isekai.

The joke goes, though, that the child has a middle-aged worked-to-death salaryman’s soul. Instead of learning how to code, the child just have a very stable sense of what a functional and sustainable business looks like. He ends up being a manager of a slime-dry-cleaners and a part-time adventurer, taking odd jobs farming mobs in an abandoned mine or cleaning the sewers using the same slimes.

If you liked how Tensura has world building, in the good old MonHon style, Kamihiro just boil it down to how slimes can do everything, given enough of them, and enough different varieties of them. Later on, these slimes (which are tamed, a bit like familiars) are trained to run the laundromat and automate the cleaning process, while player-character types would handle the transaction and upkeep of the shop.

There are a few big “moments” in this show that comes down to the main character making some big decisions. One of them is the decision to join up with some adults who happen to be neighborhood big shots, letting our protagonist settle in the town that they run. Another is the one when he end up opening up the slime laundry shop. Let’s take a look.

As someone who started out living on his own as a 10-year-old, physically, he didn’t know what was going on in this isekai besides the initial guidance he got from the gods. Rest of the way, he figured things out through trial and error (and as per isekai light novel troupe, guided by pop cultural knowledge from anime, game, and light novels). He was able to tame and control slimes, which, in this world, is low level stakes. Noblefolks train their kids on them. What is different is that Our protagonist takes slime taming seriously and was able to figure out a few rare varieties, including the cleaner slime that will become the thing that runs the dry cleaners.

Running into these grown men, and learning that they were nobles, were a big deal. As someone on the receiving end of power harassment in the other world, and as a proper Japanese adult, the protagonist knows what could go wrong if the powers that be were not benevolent. By associating him with this new society, he will be relying on the graces afforded by the locals extended to this outsider. As you know, Japan is this kind of a society, and this is how the show approaches the protagonist’s standing and association.

The other big decision, starting his small business, spent a lot of time doing the logistics as a small-brain kind of stakes, which is a fun thing since that’s the appeal of something like, say, Animal Crossings. It’s like doing the thing many of us want to do with most of the complicated hardship removed. And as it ought to be–viewers don’t really need to spend that much time doing paperwork with our prodigious slime-cleaner. Instead, we see that he thinks through how his employees will be treated, how they’ll live as live-in workers, including even their treatment and meals.

And that is well and good. In that sense, as someone who thought about this show as not only about a flock of party parrots, or someone who runs a small business, but as something regarding our protagonist’s earthbound history–basically dying to a “black company” working him to death–isn’t this more about labor rights? Yet, this series takes on the view in the polar opposite–we are here to do our bosses/lords bidding, and we live and die as a result of these decision makers and the systems they empower.

It explains why it’s called “By the Grade of the Gods” because that’s the way this kind of naive thinking works. It’s not about personal or labor rights, or rather, it is the fantasy in which you don’t need such rights. Rules and regulations are not really necessary when there are no cheaters and people who would exploit things for their own profits at the expense of others. You might still need laws as guiding stars for a society, but if people treat each other as they would treat themselves, maybe it’s a lot less complicated.

That said, clearly this “other world” is not even that world–we know that there are monsters that will steal, kill and pillage from civil society–such as the goblins that were exterminated in the mines. We know that there are bandits that our protagonist has slain during his solo adventures based on his own recollection. We know our protagonist is enterprising and thinks about the edge cases. He is curious. But maybe not so much on the social science side.

Given all this I’m hesitant to call By The Grace of God anything like “good” but it doesn’t seem “toxic” or even “bad.” It nurtures a fantasy that is way, way too specifically asian in my opinion, and the other execution problems I omitted in this post probably dooms this anime series any kind of intrinsic entertainment value worthy of recommendation. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting hypothesis, as with many of these isekai light novel stories. It just took this show a while to develop that core idea.


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).

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Just How Much PriconneR Global Version will be Censored?

Short Answer: I have no idea, but likely. Oh yeah, there is finally news on Pricone EN version, which will launch on March 2021.

There is some rumbling about censorship regarding the way DanMemo was handled, which was published also by Crunchyroll Games. This is not at all relevant here, given CR is not the one running the Priconne ship. Still this is something to consider given Pricone EN version is a real global version.

I think the real question is, the EN/global version of the game is going to be available in just about every region except the ones that don’t do Google (ie., China). It might also be locked out of existing localized countries like Korea, Taiwan/HK/Macau, and Thailand–although I don’t see why they need to. Japan is also possibly locked out just because CR games don’t Japan, even if there is basically no reason to do so. (For what it’s worth, the Youtube videos from CR Games channel are geoblocked in Japan.)

The truth is, Princess Connect: Redive is a really tame game. It goes for the cute factor, which is ironically what torpedoes it on the Japanese internet for being a lolicon game when it really took off last year/earlier this year. It’s got a lot of cute little girls in this game, and while they don’t show a lot (with maybe exception of the actual demon that is Akari) there is definitely some sexually suggestive content involving minors. There is also some sexually suggestive content involving adults, for example Io, who, well, is explored in this youtube video covering the details of the EN Priconne announcement.

If this was a game targeted for North America only, I don’t think any of the content in the game is worth censoring. It’s pretty tame versus your average late-night anime.

But for countries like Australia? I really don’t know. Or any of the other more conservative regimes and cultures? Is Pricone ready for that? I guess we’ll find out. Most likely the game will just sit in the app store, and CR (and their partners) will target some key regions to advertise. For the most part these products run on words of mouth and are very siloed-in in terms of actual advertising. In other words, Pricone is not something that should see the light of day anyways, probably even in Japan.

My personal take is that Pricone is really tame, the racy stuff is not a big part of the game, even if it can be front and center if you look for it. For the most part, the game errs on the conservative side. Unfortunately(?) for Japan, that means presenting U18 characters in ways that other cultures may find uncomfortable. Between Ilya, Akari and Io I think things might have some changes. Which is to say, it’s for the most part cosmetic except maybe some of Akari’s lines?

Still, this is again not anywhere close to typical anime on Crunchyroll, so I don’t know what the deal is with any possible censoring. I’m thinking they won’t, just because it’s not something that is worth the upside given the downside. Maybe they’ll not make some things into wallpapers? That could be all that there is to it.


Dig Delight Direct Drive Disc Jockey: First Mix: Hopes

What is there to say about D4DJ’s TV anime? My approach to this is multi-fold. And personal, as my usual style…

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