Category Archives: Franchises

Umamusume: The Finer Points

The theme song “GIRLS’ LEGEND U” from the game Umamusme Pretty Derby starts with this phrase: やっとみんな会えたね! It translates loosely to “We finally get to see everyone.” Mixed into that is the marching horns and battle cries of the cast in an anthem. It is the banner theme song of the core product in a media-mix property years in the making–partly due to a multi-year delay between the initial release date and the actual release date. It’s really cute that the song tips the hat to the delay. In fact, in a way this song tips a hat to the strange journey of the video game from conception to coming out on our phones, tablets and PCs: Don’t stop until you finish.

But we can farm a lot more out of GIRLS’ LEGEND U than all that. Much more. Woven into the instrumentals are these thematic strings that you can also get a good glimpse in the bridge, as well as different parts of the game as background music. Having the theme song of a thing synchronize musically with the other background pieces of the thing isn’t unusual–it’s rather expected, especially in video games. But also the song itself tells us more up front–really, what I want to write about isn’t the song, but horses.

Umamusme is about horses…girls, of course, but it’s really about horses. Specifically, the legends of horses IRT to horse racing. I would call Umamusme a game about HORSE GIRLS’ LEGEND but the titular song is, instead of HORSE it’s… U for Uma? Umapyoi Densetsu (うまぴょい伝説) is the first theme song for the franchise from 2016 and the title really says more or less the same thing, just more horse than girl.

On paper, the conceit of these alternative character-based franchises (ships, guns, katanas, cities, appliances, etc.) are as database as it gets. You put these things (and animals in our case) in the otaku database machine and create a character story out of it. Bundle a bunch of these and tie it together with a setting and a few themes, and out comes a media franchise.

In that sense, Umamusume is no different. But the big difference that I can see between Umamusume and the garden variety ones out and about, is that Umamusume has been imbued, at least from what I can tell, a spirit that is horse-like. Horses are large, majestic, temperamental and sensitive land mammals. Horses are social, in that they exhibit social behaviors such as pact mentality, dominance, individuality, competitiveness, and others (such as being able to be domesticated). They play and court. It’s easy to translate a particular natural aspect of horses into anime characters, and I see that being a very strong underlying pattern in the Umamusme franchise.

It’s easy to see this in the characterizations of all the horsegirls. It also helps that the “good girl” trope resonate well with the audience–our racing horses all are good horses (and presumably their rights owners wouldn’t allow otherwise). I mean there are so many of them (even just in Japan alone) and the ones that people commemorate enough to put in a video game are already legends themselves. Of course they are good girls. Even if you run into problems like making El Condor Pasa into a she… Doesn’t that break grammar LOL.

Contrast this with, say, things that are based on WWII heroes or weapons of destruction. How do you channel “the military” except only superficially? You can do a lot more when you’re channeling legends about racing horses, it turns out, maybe because it’s not problematic.

And I think this is where Cygames really flexed their muscles. You can directly take what is lovely and endearing about these horses and put them right in the game, down to the way their tails wag or the way their ears twitch. It’s beyond the whole sexual aspect of furry appeal–we are talking about making fiction where you combine the best of what racing horses have to offer with typical otaku tropes. (And including the sex appeal as appropriate, as it never was gone, just not in the fore.)

This to me comes across like all the strings in the instruments throughout the game BGM. Cygames was tasked to make Umamusume a game that conservative Japanese businessmen would gladly sign over their legendary horse brands over to, so I think a certain level of restraint was needed throughout the entire Umamusume experience. The characters (and the cast, FWIW) are still going to do the same rigmarole, the same toe taps and dance routines. Tracen Academy is extremely generic but it does adhere to a classy all-girls school vibe. Symboli Rudolf and Meijiro McQueen can walk down the school yard gracefully, while Vtuber Gold Ship can jump kick the trainer while it happens.

That is the framework that allows things to happen, but what endears us is the individual stories themselves, and how it’s executed. For me, the game taught me the one behind Rice Shower, who was put down during her final race due to injury. It’s sad, sure, but the story in the anime and game makes it a lot more approachable due to the execution and details. The most famous of them all–Haru Urara–only got as popular as she did because of marketing/promotion and production, after all. In a way, Umamusume is the same pitch, but for a lot more horses besides Haru Urara. When these horsegirls channel their named legends, it’s where the magic happens. Even if it’s extremely normal/boring like Special Week, it is still endearing that our mother-loving, Hokkaido born glutton became one of Japan’s best.

Which is all to say, GIRLS’ LEGEND U is a great piece of music, and you can tell by hearing someone playing it on the piano. This is some great composition fit for a sweeping orchestra. Instead we have a bunch of seiyuu grunting calls about winning races. No matter how you cloak it, a good story will shine through–and that’s what Umamusume really is about, putting into character-stories of racing horses, their lives, and their struggles.

PS. There are other finer points to Umamsume Pretty Derby. So far it has largely inherited many of the QOL stuff that I love about Princess Connect! Re:Dive. It being a raising game doesn’t quite translate into how not to make it into the same kind of “menu hell” that JRPGs can be, but I see some small glimpses of hope here as is. It is also kind of time consuming given each raising run takes a good half hour, at least. There are many little touches in the game and in the IP generally that I wish I can highlight but it will make several post at least. Anyways, I’ll end with this video.


Umamusume Raising Guide: 101

As of this writing, we are about 12 days since the launch of the Umamusme Pretty Derby video game service. I probably won’t make many updates to this guide to keep up with changes, but I will fix any errors that I am made aware after the fact.

For a very high level intro to the game, please see this post or this post. More translations and data can be found in this subreddit. Gamewith (reroll tierlist) seems to be the first spot to check JP-side updates. Gamewith’s raising guide is probably a good starting point before reading this article as well as the reddit thread.

Background & Start

The raising scenario URA Finals puts you as the trainer and your Umamusume (horse henceforth) through a scenario of about 72 turns. Each turn you can do one action. For every horse, there are a set of goals you need to clear to first complete the raising goals, then three URA races. If you win them all, you have cleared the URA Finals scenario (congrats you’ve beaten the game…not really).

Beating the scenario is just one desirable outcome. Currently this is also the only way to breed and create horses with more powerful or desirable traits that can be used to raise new horses. If you are going after breeding, completing the scenario is not necessary, but more traits will be passed down the higher rank your horse is at the time the scenario ends (which is just to say, it’s possible to have zero traits passed down if you end the scenario by the first year).

When you begin the scenario, you will need to pick two horses that you have already raised (or the 2 the game prepped you for from the start), or one of horses from trainers that you follow. I will cover breeding more extensively at the end of this post. For newbies, the “osusume” or auto-select button (green button underneath the rectangle in the middle) is fine.

You will also need to select up to 6 support cards to begin the scenario. First, get some and level them up. Needless to say the higher the level the better they are, but that’s in very general terms. Once you get the hang of it, you can figure out what levels and which cards to use better, since there is a lot of nuance and during early game, money is scarce without massive whaling. You can also use auto select here, but generally it doesn’t quite do it.

Being a basic trainer

Without going deep into which training to do with your horse every turn, the key things to know are:

Supporters Tazuna and Kiyruin: If you play their support cards, they will appear as characters that you can power up. At high enough levels (3 bubbles), random events with them will appear in which you can then go out on a date with them, up to 5 times. In general these dates replaces the “rest” action since it recovers a large amount of stamina and give a variety of other benefits such as condition up and adding stats. More over it eliminates the risk of the negative side effect of regular rest action.

The supporters also affects your training action normally when they appear under one. Specifically, Tazuna reduces the stamina cost of the action she appears for, in addition to the random proc bonus she gives. The 2 aforementioned supporter cards, reporter, and the principal all will have extra event(s) at the end of the URA Finals after you beat it, as a bonus, if you level them up to the final bubble.

There are always 2 summer camps that happens on the second and third July/August turns. While they may be interrupted with checkpoint races for a particular horse, during camp, all training are at level 5 (and conversely, you can’t level up the training during camp). When you rest during camp, it is guaranteed 35 energy back with a condition up.

On the first new years turn (first half Jan.), you get to pick between 20 energy, 20 skill points, or randomly some stats. On the second new years turn (Christmas, second half december), you also get the same option but the stats may be improved to 5 points per stat type. There is also a kanshasai event for all the horses, with different benefits (usually 5 stamina loss for 25 skill points). In addition, there is a street raffle event on the second half of January on the second year. You either get some energy back, some energy and some stats, and more energy, stats, and onsen trip tickets. The trip tickets unlock a special ending for your horse if you also beat URA Finals.

Every start of the year (year 2 and year 3, and I suppose also year 1 as that’s the start of the scenario), your horse inherit some traits from her parents and grandparents. The second and third year inheritance is random, but it will always pick from the stats side with 0-3 skills and attributes also passed down. Stats are based on each procced inheritance from 1 star to 3 stars.

When you take a rest action, 3 outcomes can occur: 30 energy recovery, 50 energy recovery, or 70 energy recovery. In the case when you get 30, there is also a random chance of getting a bad effect, which can be cured using the heal feature (it will be greyed out normally until you have an ailment). Generally you want to heal negative effects ASAP as they negatively affect you every turn.

That said I don’t know how big the energy bar is at the start–some events (support cards, doctor event) can increase your max energy bar.

Healing action procs a commu choice and you have a chance of removing the negative effect. You also gain 20 energy. On that note, when you fail a training action, there’s also a chance of getting a negative effect, although the odds of that is much lower than getting it from rest. Also, when you fail a study action, you typically only don’t gain any wiz points.

Yes, you can fail anything that has a fail rate of greater than zero percent. Just because it says 1% or 4% and it fails don’t be mad, it’s just how RNG works.

Here is the rare doctor event explained (similar to Shinymas’s reporter)–you have 5 choices, every choice has something like 50-60% fail rate. 5th choice has 100% success rate.

  • First choice: +20 all stats. If you fail, -15 to all stats, motivation down, and an illness (which can proc same turn).
  • Second choice: 2 energy recovery skills for free. If you fail, motivation down and -20 energy.
  • Third choice: Max energy increased by 12, and gain 40 energy. If you fail, motivation down and -10 energy. [not sure what the negative effect is here]
  • Fourth choice: One time 20 energy recovery, gain “adorable” trait. If you fail, -10 energy, motivation down.
  • Fifth choice: Tell the doctor to bugger off. Gain 10 energy.

Goal: Get to the URA Finals

The below chart, sourced here, is what you need to get to the URA Finals. I tested it a bunch of times with half a dozen horses, and it looks pretty spot on. Just don’t take the numbers too literally–RNG is always ever-present to mess you up, so buffer is always good. That said you can also fly in under these but that’ll make the URA Finals harder. Lastly, this chart is not gospel–there are other ways to beat the scenario while not adhering to this. High power breeding is a big way you can get a leg up against your competing horses. Some set of skills also will give a great advantage, especially when paired with a specific strategy–although often that requires specific race horse or support SSRs.

StrategySpeedPowerGutsWiz
Nige/Escape750350300+300+
Senkou/Runner650500300+300+
Sashi/In-between550600300+300+
Oi/Chase (Goldship)550600300+300+
Stamina Short courseMile courseMedium courseLong course: Arima Kinen (2500m)Long course: >3000m
Mid game150200250300300
Before URA3000400450500550

I’m not going to explain in detail how the stats work, but that table will work for a majority of horses. Why not? Because nobody really knows the full picture. In a nutshell, think stamina as an energy tank that depletes as the horse run the full course, the more stressful and faster the horse runs, the more it depletes. If the horse is in front the whole time, they will need to keep up the chase. Being crowded by horses, having to run through a crowd, and being chased all deplete stamina faster.

If the horse is chasing at the end, the horse needs a lot of power to make up the difference. If the horse is in front, it needs to have a high speed to avoid being taken over at the end. That’s really the two stats with a clear interplay between strategy and application. Smarter horses have more skill procs and don’t get flustered when crowded by other horses, so it affects stamina. Horses give up chasing if their guts is too low.

Again, these are just broad strokes since I don’t know (does anyone know?) all the details. These are basic info that you can apply to the skills that you pick up over time–as far as skills go, whatever reads good, go for it. More skills, more skills procs. Some are synergetic, some directly increase proc rates of others, some are upgrades of others. Some depends on other procs.

Lastly, note this section deals with just getting to the URA Finals. If you want a ballpark stat hint, look at the other horses in your races to know about what you should be at in terms of your core stats. To be safe you should get another 50 points more in speed, power and/or stamina to be truly successful in URA Finals.

Basic trainer tips and tricks

It doesn’t hurt to be conservative, but it also doesn’t hurt to try being aggressive–ultimately you want to raise many horses for the purpose of passing down good traits. However you should have objectives planned out every run. This way, if RNG screws you up, you know when to stop (and not waste any alarm clocks), or how to make up for the key stats you need to continue raising.

This means, you should check out the raising goals for every horse at the start, knowing which races and what each one is, before she has to run them. That will let you figure out which cell in the above table to aim for. Obviously you won’t get all the stats from the get go, but do try to get through them without neglecting any one stat too much, it will make losing races in the intermediate much less likely.

After trying out training a horse for the first time, come up with a plan. First start with your supports, then breeding (optional at first). Know which stat your horse has a bonus to (usually every horse has a 10% bonus in one stat and 20% in another) and plan accordingly. If it helps, set intermediate goals for key stats so you can pass every race easily. I keep a spreadsheet for some of the trickier ones like El Condor Pasa.

Use the int/wiz training/studying to your advantage–since a set amount of wiz is needed anyway, you will have to train in studying. Training the horse’s brains/wiz also has the side benefit of gaining energy instead of using energy. Early in the scenario and during summer camp 1, use this to your advantage and increase your level with your supports while preserving energy. The more you have to rest the less you can train. On the other hand, once you are close to maxing out your supports, use that energy to get the maximum amount of stats, especially the stats you need immediately (sometimes over the training that might be more efficient).

Early on, the stats tips Tazuna gives you in the main screen is helpful, but at the end she will complain about your low brains and guts even if you don’t really need much more than 300.

I typically pick up skills on the turn of the race, after checking out the weather. This way I can pick up the skill most relevant to my horse’s immediate passing chances. Some skills depend on weather and track condition, as well as which specific track. If you know what you’re doing, you can pick whatever in advance if you would like.

Inheritance basics

At the end of every raising scenario, the horse that finished may get some traits that she can pass on. These are like tags that have 1, 2 or 3 stars. If it is a stats tag, it will be blue. If it is a skill tag, it will be green. If it is a attribute tag, it will be red. Lastly if it is a hint tag, it will be grey/white.

Stats tags are the most straightforward. 3* tags adds 21 points. 2* tags adds 12. 1* tag adds 5. Add all the tags the parent and grandparents have, and your scenario will begin with that bonus.

Also straightforward, the number of stars in a skill trait provides a default level when it becomes available for the horse during the raising scenario. Just to mention it in case it’s not clear, every level a skill has reduces the skill point cost to obtain it by 10%.

I don’t know how hint tags work besides it might make some skills available to the horse.

Attribute tags are a mystery, but it does improve the baseline stat of the horse up one grade for every * up to grade A. You can’t start beyond grade A.

Some horses, when paired with other horses, increases the amount of traits inherited by the raised horse. This compatibility is still being documented, and it involves grandparents–generally speaking we’re talking about inbreeding.

Finally, the pain-in-the-butt parts. The traits and things that gets assigned to the horse is entirely random. If you got far enough, you’ll at least get one of each type. But it could be a 1* stat that you don’t care about. Which is most of the time. It could be your F rank dirt ability or C rank mile course ability when you are A in everything else.

The other pain in the butt is that when the parents and grandparents pass their tags down to the child horse, it’s all random after the start of the scenario, during the two goddess events in April. Even if you have a bunch of 3* speed tags, it might skip that more than you’d like. Or that one grass or long course 3* never get passed down. Again, completely RNG other than categorical bias towards stats, and if there is double-circle compatibility, more tags get passed down.

Learning individuality, skills worthiness

While each Umamusme has similar set of stats and capabilities from any other, which can be changed by inheritance, as well as support cards and the guidance of the trainer, each horse still has her own eccentricities. Play around and learn about each horse to be a proper trainer. Of course, the starting kit and the list of racing checkpoints to clear will guide your play largely for each horse, but do take care to learn about their other eccentricities.

In a similar way, this applies to the process of learning which skills are worth buying and for who.

Some horses are easy to train and beat URA, like Special Week, Sakura Bakushin O (spam stam/power at nige short/mile courses), or Silence Suzuka. Others are varying amount of from easy to hard. The current banner, TM Opera O is also a strong, easy-to-train horse girl. I think El Condor Pasa is somewhat difficult. Harder would be, maybe, Grass Wonder. By far the hardest, though, is Rice Shower.

Dealing with RNG

There is a lot of RNG. Don’t be surprised. There are a lot of negative traits and bad things that could happen outside the racetrack, and inside. There are also good things that could happen. You can choose to ride the RNG or reduce its impact by using some strategies. You can play it loose or play it safe. Each have their pros and cons. At the end of the day we all are likely going to sleep in the bed we made, so there’s that.

That’s it! Feedback and corrections are welcome in the comments, or ping me at @omonomono.


Umamusume Game Primer

Given a merely 10 days since launch as of this writing, there has not been a lot of detail writeup yet. Why? Probably because we’re all busy playing the game, and the developers have not released the game early enough to professional media types (the folks that work behind sites like gamewith/etc) that the pros do not have it all up yet. And if Japan authorities are behind, it’s free for all on twitter in terms farming various nuggets of info. EN players have to farm it from the game and social just like JP players.

This primer is more for new players–I will still skip the “download Japanese game” portion because that is the same for every Japanese mobile game on Android and iOS. The PC version will be available from DMM in a week or so, to get that, use the Princess Connect Redive guide. For helpful links, read this post.

What is Umamusume?

It is a Cygames franchise about raising racing horse girls (horse henceforth). Each horse is based, in various degree of looseness, on existing race horses in Japan’s horse racing scene and history. Best example primer I can give is this ESPN short. This article is about the video game, but there are some TV anime stuff related to this which gives you a crash course on the setting and some characters.

There are many horses in Umamusume. They are all Japanese race horses (but their heritage do span across overseas). There are 70 of them on the official site. They are all voiced except 4 (who are not debuted). The game do not yet feature all 70 of them as far as we know.

What is Umamusume game?

TL;DR: It is a raising/breeding game with a social/team competition component.

TL;DR2: It’s Priconne x Shiny Colors

It is a raising game with a competitive stats “racing” component. Players control a set of racing horses and a set of support horses. The goal is to make the best states on your horses, and then they can go on to win races. The actual racing part is just back end math calculation (think rolling the dice in Risk, but with 4d chess variables with different horses, and a pretty visualization). Almost all the game play is in how you run a raising scenario.

It’s just like IDOLM@STER Shiny Colors, but for people unfamiliar, you pick a race horse (or idol), select some support horses to go with that race horse, and you go through a period of up to 72 turns in order to complete the scenario. At different points in the scenario you have to clear various objectives–usually winning or placing above a certain place in a race on a certain turn. All the races in the game are loosely based on real races, or actually based on real races–just like the horses (if their rights owner let Cygames do it).

At the end of the scenario, either you win or you lost prematurely, you end up with a “raised horse” which can be used in PVP races, as well as daily races (basically 3 free races to earn money or support points), clear races in the main story, and for “breeding” (I guess it’s called inheritance system). Completing the full training gives you a horse that has more stats, since you had more time to train it.

What’s the gacha system?

The racing horses are rated from one star to five stars, and the gacha system drops horses based on 1* to 3*, 3* being rarest. You can upgrade racing horses up to 5*, including all 1*. To upgrade them, you need to feed it money and memory pieces from the specific horse. When you roll a horse you get some pieces for that horse, and if you roll a dupe you get some pieces for that horse plus a megami figurine token, which can be traded for memory pieces of any horse.

Racing horses with more * level gets more powerful–higher stats, mostly. You can also “social link” or affection-up with them, by using them in races and in the horse raising scenario, as it unlock the character story for that horse. You can also rank them up using drops from races which give them more skills.

Support horses are ranked R, SR, or SSR. For each dupe up to 5 you can level break 5 levels. SSR by default caps at level 30, SR at 25, R at 20. Dupes beyond the 5th card can be sold for other tokens. Support horses are used during the raising scenario (currently, the URA racing scenario) to help you increase the stats on the race horse. Leveling up support horses gives them more powers, and you can do so using support points, money, or via use in the raising scenario.

As for rolling gacha, there are one pool for race horses and one pool for support horses. They are separate. You can spark at 200 rolls for race horses and 200 rolls for support horses. You can only spark the banner at any time, which is its own thing that you ought to read closely before trying for it. Besides that, both support gacha and race gacha follow the “150 for 1 roll, daily once paid 50 for 1 roll, 1500 for 10 roll with guaranteed 2*” model. Just remember the pool is separate for their sparks.

Racing horses can also be obtained through trading in memory pieces of a specific horse at certain quantities, starting at 50 for 1* horses. I’m assuming they’ll follow the Priconne template and allow this for all non-limited horses. You can buy memory pieces in the shop for all non-limited horses currently, and it has an incremental system where the first 25 pieces for a horse costs 1 megami figurine piece (or 25 for 25 of them), the next 25 cost 2 (25 pieces for 50), etc, up to 5(?), which is the prices for all subsequent memory pieces for that horse.

For support horses, there isn’t an obvious way to obtain them besides rolling, but you can get free ones from events and the main story.

What do you do in this game?

For most people, this means raising a horse or three or fifteen, or all of them. In reality, this is a raising game with a breeding component. Each turn in the URA scenario you pick one action, and bare the consequences of that action. This is also one of the more random raising game I have ever played, and while some random events do benefit you, most do not. A lot of the randomness comes in how horses win races–skills have to proc, your horse have to have the right gate, the other horses can’t be blocking yours too much, your strongest opponents might also be blocked or not, your horse might have a bad start out of the gate, whatever. There are so many ways you can lose a race, and generally completing the scenario means you have to take first place in a series of races against 16 opponents. Oh, there are also the usual raising game negative events too. Managing a kid through high school is rough, even if she is a horse!

Every time you start the raising scenario you have to pick 2 horses to be your horse’s ancestors, and some traits from those horses (and their grandparents, so 6 total) will get passed down to the horse you are raising. In the URA scenario, this happens on the 2nd and 3rd April First Half turns. Raising horses through inheriting is very important because not only you can get some limited/rare skills, but you can also increase the horse’s basic parameters, like their innate strength and weakness versus different track types and race strategy. Unfortunately, the way skill passes down from one horse to the next is largely random.

But because it is only largely random, there are things that are not random in which you can manipulate.

Once you produce five raised mares, you can put them in the racing team and start to enjoy that side of the game.

Or, read the Japanese explainer.

Lastly, the horses do a music number after some races, which you can unlock. Songs have interchangeable vocals!

No really, what do you do?

First, reset marathon for what you want–I actually recommend rolling support first since it feels like good support makes the game notably easier, even if you have fewer strong horses to raise. It’s more fun when the game is not nails-tough, trust me. Once you get some good supports, get your guaranteed 3* race horses and roll the race horse gacha once so you get some 1* and 2* horses too, because some of them are pretty good. This game is so easy to resemara, since the menu has a build in player data wipe plus a tutorial skip.

Follow 10 players with good support cards, pick an easy horse–I recommend Sakura Bakushin O, Mayano Top Gun, Silence Suzuka, or Special Week–build a support deck, and go raise her.

When you set up your raising scenario you can also breed from other player’s horses (with a fee). May be worth it sometimes!

Repeat until you get tired of losing, move on to another horse, and keep doing it until you get a feel how the raising game works. Meanwhile, collect support points and money, and upgrade your support cards too.

Multiplayer

TL;DR: Circles are guilds, PVP as much as you want, free bonus.

Players in Umamusume can form “circles.” Circles are basically guilds. Players in the guild collectively earn scoring (in terms of fans) when they raise horses. Later on they probably will introduce team racing.

Individually, there is some kind of ladder (also like Shiny Colors) where you assemble team of horses in a showdown with random opponents. It is set up as a ladder. Each horse is assigned a point value based on how powerful it is, and players are assigned a letter grade based on the total point value of their racing team. Players around the same letter grade then randomly match with each other. You can initiate a race using racing points (which recovers one point per 2 hours, up to 5 total). The race is consisted of actually 5 matches: Long, Medium, Mile, Short, and Dirt Mile. When you build your team you have to put from 1-3 horses in each of the matches (most people are only class 2 so only 2 horses per match), and each match unfold with the horse winning the race winning the match. After 5 matches the player with the most won matches wins the race.

Win or lose, all that matters is the loot that drops (random) and the highest score (when you win against the toughest team). A ranking is generated about once a week and reward is given out to players based on the high score. Players can also advance in class based on their high score ranks, which unlock more benefit.

In addition, there is a bonus to your support horses based on the strength of your racing team. So there is no reason to not put up a team (and let us beat on it).

Anything else?

There’s so much more to say about the game, but I’ll let the people making money or fame from it do the talking. I got horses to raise, I don’t know about you.

I’ll leave you with this.


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.