Since I only watched IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE 7thLive Q@MP FLYER!!! Reburn (that is a mouthful) online, I did not actually travel to Fuji-Q Highlands Conifer Forest to participate in the audience. There is a world of difference between going to a concert live in person, versus watching it in the comfort of home (although I enjoyed the comfort of someone else’s home, not mine). As a fan of the franchise, and especially the live concert part of this franchise, I think there is enough in the remote viewing experience to count for something.
Anyways, I will save the pontification later. First, on ML 7th.
(I had wondered by what “Conifer Forest” meant but it gets clearer if you see it.)
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.
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).
Songs of Tokyo Festival is an annual1 special program from NHK World, as part of its Songs of Tokyo TV segment. Songs of Tokyo showcases Japanese music acts with translation and feedback from global fans. Now that its 2020 fest had the ON AIR moment last weekend, it is free on demand viewing online here. The VOD expires January 31, 2021.
While Songs of Tokyo and the associated festivals have been going on for some time, it’s always pretty wild to catch the artists on domestic TV that I had to fly to Japan to see. NHK World is commonly broadcasted as a community program in metro areas in the west, or as a freebie in world packages in bundled television services like cable. It’s weird to be able to see all that at 1080 broadcast resolution, where as the real-time web stream looks like, well, a piece of crap. I mean, it probably looks fine normally for NHK programs but these live shows have a lot of visuals going on, and there were just not enough bits. In fact the VOD has the same mushiness look, just much better than the stream.
For this 2020 edition of Songs of Tokyo Festival, instead of in-person audience, there are a bunch of people put on 2 big TV in the venue (NHK Hall), Zoom-style. They act more or less like your typical studio audience.
Enough leading up, I think it’s time to reflect on this 25-minute TV segment that I’ve watched 4 times already in about 48 hours. First of all, the visuals in the back is full blown Mai-Note production value. Fans of IM@S lives will know it well, but I think this is more cranked up than usual given the set is just a giant half-circle LCD wall.
The 15th Anniversary song survived the Coronavirus and we got a presentation of it at Songs of Tokyo Fest. It’s the first time everyone’s seen it performed. It’s not even performed by the original cast–but this is the kind of song that everyone will get to perform. Nandodemo Waraou is also the first IM@S group song with SideM, which means dudes and gals get to sing together, a first for the franchise.
It’s an hour-long TV program including Nana Mizuki, BanG Dream (Popipa, Roselia, RAS), and IM@S. So that they gave ~22 out of 48 minutes of the time to them is already pretty great. In usual JUNGO fashion, team IDOLM@STER’s performance is crammed with little things. Let’s try to unpack some.
Theater Days launched June 28, 2017. I still remember having to deal with it on the flight to Anime Expo after it went live server-side and thinking about how much to kakkin in the early days. It would not be hard to guess that I will still be playing it 3 years later, at the time.
To reminisce a bit more, on June 28, 2019, I was in Japan, just finished with day one of ML6th Tour Fairy Station. Days later I would get to see the anniversary celebration in Akihabara, while I was en route to Anime Expo. Notable, mainly, because I had changed my flight to do it. This paints the backdrop for 2020, as the pandemic has wrecked a lot of it.
Going from the highs of having UNION@IR Special announced to this year’s general blank of (almost) 6 months since Kanshasai, we’re in the same place the rest of the world is in–a lot of uncertainty and adjustments. As a non-essential good/service, Million Live generally took a back seat to the real life crises the world face today, but at the same time it can be a salve to those hunkered down at home during this time.
I think this is a nice pivot opportunity for the franchise. One, it did the full month of live streaming leading up from the make-up nico nama (thanks Zoom) to the anniversary stream. That brought the fans together online and celebrated when the world didn’t give us much to celebrate. Personally I did the exact thing they did in the months leading up to June so it was a nice reliving the same thing, but once again with more experience.
With UNION@IR and the end of the MTGeneration phase of things, I thought it was good that the series didn’t take a break and swapped into the MTWave series. It chopped up the units to form new ones, although separating 765AS from the Million Stars. With Theater Challenge though, it was pretty sweet to see how Emily or the handful of 765AS might surprise guest in each other’s events.
Well, that was just wishful thinking. What really should have happened, as it were, was Million Live’s first outdoor live concert at FujiQ, complete with sunset UO songs, Glow Map, and fireworks when the stars came out. There we would have shed buckets of tears (assuming the weather held out) while they announce the TV anime project. Imagine all of that PLUS all the TC cameos? That would have been nuts.
Instead, none of that happened. At the most, we got to buy 3rd Anniversary goods from Gift, Amiami (btw one retail staff caught the rona recently), and Asobi. Yes, for about a week there were some stuff in Akiba Animate and Atre by the station, as things were. But it’s probably not a great idea to go there, in this kind of a situation. At least a month ago the coronavirus cases in Japan didn’t spike like it did recently as of this writing.
The Third Anniversary event came and went. Just a brief note on that–even though I wasn’t at Anime Expo as it was cancelled, I ended up being super busy running KuroCon. At least after it was over I had some time to grind up top 1000 for Matsuri, although what was hard is the forced nature of the rest-and-boost mechanism. I had a busy dayjob, so there were only so much of time outside of that 9-hour rest period in which I can play, and I had to also grind that boost once a day during the week after KuroCon. It was not the easiest thing, just because 9 hours is a tad too long. I certainly do not even (get to) sleep 8 hours a day, and before and after I sleep were my prime playing hours.
Bugs and repatriation aside, the Glow Map event went by uneventfully. Glow Map itself is sort of just OK, maybe not as cool as Flyers but also not as emotional as Union, so a happy middle. The outfit glowing was almost as impressive as how it was basically the menu background from the game. I mean, really? That is cool in a very dorky way–but not dork enough to be fashionable? Maybe? Not sure I dig the shoes but it was a focal point of the outfit.
The QOL changes from the game as of the 3rd Anniversary was mostly in the new outfits that you can now unlock via getting the 3rd Anniversary SR to four-stars. It now require you get points to awaken the cards, most of it coming from playing lives and unlocking missions that give points. Some of the biggest sources are Full Combos, and number of Million Lives.
Believe it or not that is a real game changer. Fundamentally, people like myself play Million Live Theater Days for content. And I think it’s not just me–a lot of people do this over trying to rank highly or get a high score. It’s not that kind of a rhythm game. Content, as I mean it, comes in the form of lives and commu–so songs, performances, stages, special characters, and outfits. Anniversary SRs give new outfits (and free gems–which gives outfits and characters and commu). So now there is a reason to get Million Lives and FC, beyond FCing each song once and forever. Because, let’s be honest, most achievements in Theater Days are next to worthless.
Also, the game now introduces the B-side type event, which revives MTG B-side tracks as new event songs, using existing MTG units. As of this writing the BORN ON DREAM event is going on, and so far it is both a good move to open up more content (Another outfits for the full team) but also a definite minus as it replaces rebooting a pre-Theater Days unit into Theater Days. In essence no new unit is introduced unlike every event up until now (save for the Anniversary ones I guess). We got a fun minigame, even if it doesn’t really keep your attention for long. Having a booster deck like the Twin Stage event seems gimmicky, since it took no effort for me to hit that 20% bonus. The bonus commu lines are bare-bones, but at least it’s good if you are a fan of the unit.
Since none of the MTG units really wowed me, I’m not too sure how to feel about this new event type, or having to deal with another 11 more units. It’s hard for me to not see this as a way to “ramp down” the content in the game so more stuff can be regurgitated. That in itself is not a huge problem, and I don’t have an issue with that per se–maybe after all the pre-Theater Days content is in game, I’ll be happier about this.
The more important thing has to do with a slew of other changes introduced in the 3rd Anniversary updates. One is the Birthday Live gacha. Not that you can pay 2500 paid gems for some next-to-worthless bragging rights, but you can gacha for all the SSRs for that idol up for the first 2 years. That is turning out to be a great bargain, even if it isn’t a guarantee, due to the high rate and the small pool. There are other small tweaks, like the booster deck in the b-side events, that rewards some players over another, and in ways that’s not exactly predictable. You can see why they did these things, both as balance and as a way to get new producers caught up, to lower the barrier a little. For a price.
Will it work? I don’t know. I’m not sure if I like these changes, but in the big scheme of things it is not a big deal. Just like how eventually all the LTH, LTP, LTA, and LTF events will have their week in the game, well before the heat death of the universe.
It just feels a little weird for folks who have invested $$$$$ into the game during earlier days, or into pre-Theater Days content. I mean, sure, do what you want… What I want, really, is more content: songs, dances, outfits, subunits, everything. And switching it up, not doing the same thing again. And blow it up. All the things that made Chupacabra great, and maybe not the things that makes Chupacabra divisive.
PS. Major feelios when 765AS live goods on sale included unit goods for Arcana and Xs. Man that would be flight worthy to see Rabbit Fur lmao.