With the first episode under the belt, the Pricone (Priconne?) anime is turning out to be very charming. It’s also faithful in the meta, which is always how I want my anime.
Coming from the POV of a day-1 JP player, I can say that everything I like about Princess Connect: Redive! can be summed up as QoL. The mode of play, the actual interface, the way content is delivered, the kind of content present, the considerations put into place for their target audience, and so much more, is about you, the player, having a good time. And I don’t mean it in the way where you pay or not pay money to play this game, or whatever, but it is in how much the experience you have with Pricone can charm you. The game happens to be one aspect of it.
In so much that there is so much content that can make Pricone anime a simple matter to adopt, or that Pricone game has a ton of anime already in it, the ground-level truth is that all those things merely set the tone and tune the players’ expectation. It’s in how the game invokes that Sakura Taisen vibe, for example. It’s the skeuomorphism but without the menu hell, just so it invokes that early-era RPG vibe. It’s not about what the characters do in its world-breaking story, but how charming they really are.
In the first episode we the game players are invited to witness the translation of the charm of Pricone into the anime medium. Of course this will invariably involve its huge cast of playable characters. It will have a truck ton of details and references, enough to make me moved just from watching how Landosol becomes a proper anime versus just being the background of commu that I skip because there is no way I got time for all of it. It’s like seeing Nozomi singing At That Place in the end of the first episode, or Yui’s silhouette, or the music they used in town.
Most importantly, they even brought over Yuuki. The protagonist stand-in crossed with main plot device has those two roles, and the fact that he is both is also part of his charm. It is pretty amusing to see it play out through quiet action, rather than having that gap in the commu you read.
That’s not even to mention the reused animation and background, plus other assets that we saw already in the game in the past 3 years, nor the lines, nor the character quips (“Isn’t that crazy?”), the reused music, and a lot of other things. It’s like the other meta (that I don’t like)–it’s what greases the wheel of the various mechanisms (like Arena and how powerful gacha characters are). I get it, we need them, and that is the nuts and bolts of what makes the execution good.
But those things all mainly serve the greater good. It is that greater good, the thing about Pricone that attracts me as a player and a fan, and hopefully, attracts newcomers to the world of Princess Connect as well.
T1: Playing a lot (log in several times a day, do all the stuff):
Princess Connect! Re:Dive
THE IDOLM@STER Million Live Theater Days
T2: Playing occasionally (daily logins only, with bursts of normal play):
THE IDOLM@STER Shiny Colors
Magia Record (EN)
T3: Playing rarely (log in occasionally–just to gacha really):
Hachigatsu no Cinderella 9
THE IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage
I didn’t mention it on my blog much, but I have been playing Princess Connect! Re:Dive since its launch in 2018 and have been playing it regularly ever since. We are about 1.5 years since launch. I still enjoy that game a lot. Let me write about it.
Princess Connect (Pricone for short) franchise, which first launched in 2015 as a browser game, shut down in 2016. Princess Connect! Re:Dive (Pricone or Pricone-R) launched in 2018 as a mobile app game as a continuation. Pricone-R was originally an Android/iOS game, now also available on PC via DMM. An anime has been announced with no air date, but Studio Wit has extensively provided animation for the app/PC game.
Why do I play it so much? Because it scratches a RPG itch that sort of is at the core of the Cygames RPG theme, yet unlike their other entries, Pricone manages to provide all the flavors with the least amount of filling. “Grinding” this game usually means playing a set 30 or so minutes a day, which completes your dailies and maybe spending a bit of extra time to “tower” or “PVP.” For people who actually are into grinding, this game is going to run dry pretty quick. For people already playing other things or have obligations in RL, it’s an easy thing to keep tabs on and is not laborious.
Re:Dive also balances well between free and paid play, and given its PVP slant there has to be decent balance for the game to still be taken kind of seriously 1.5 years into it. In usual Cygames fashion they are pretty generous with in-game currency, and instead monetize by providing frequent and cheap options to augment your teams. Spending the currency to improve your existing team members usually trumps spending it on gacha, but both do happen.
What I refer to by the Cygames RPG theme I mean generally the following: a stats building core in traditional JRPG sense, the usual rock-paper-scissors damage/defense model, evolving meta (a bit like Shadowverse except it’s with characters and not expansion sets), and clan battle and coop events. In some ways if you are familiar with Cygame’s original properties over the years, you can see those themes progress from one game to the next. In that sense PriconeR reflects a level of maturity in both Cygame’s development process and experience in game design.
One huge way PriconeR reflects mature development process is how it is one of the best quality-of-life games, both in the UI design and in terms of mechanics. Over the last 18 months the game consistently improved its user interface, and updated to add several common shortcuts and to removed mechanics that reduced player enjoyment/added tedium. It’s very clear they are tracking how players are playing the game in a very direct sense, like what menus are being opened and what stages people run, not to mention obvious things like which characters people are raising and using with others and where.
There used to be a player-matching PUG mechanism that gave out pretty decent rewards, but the fights for that feature were so easy that it was just pure grind. The challenge was actually doing the PUG part. That feature got axed pretty quickly because most of the time the players are dealing with the matchmaking interface rather than actually playing the game. You can see that they even upped the reward to get more people to play prior to axing it, but a lot of people cannot be arsed to wait for matches.
Visually, the game is a cute-girls-gets-stuck-in-a-mmorpg kind of a theme. It is very cute and generally the visuals roll between the SD models that you see in the 2D game engine and the full-on anime visuals, or the 2D static graphic for the dialog/adventure game/VN portion. There is a lot of skeuomorphism which adds color to the whole experience of this rustic RPG vibe circa Ragnarok Online. Once in anime mode, though, the game, complete with Kouhei Tanaka-style sounds, reminds me more of Sakura Taisen. The next-episode preview bits for its in-game events and main story chapters drive that home.
Actually the composers for the game range a lot. Tanaka wrote the main theme, but just eyeing through the in-game music store (you can unlock songs from events and the story to use as in-game menu BGM) you see composers like InoTak, for instance. Which is lols.
Usually Princess Connect! Re:Dive means clearing the daily quests. It requires stamina (generated over time, the primary gameplay driver) to clear 20 nodes, 3 hard nodes, do 1 Arena battle, do 1 Princess Arena battle, buy mana once, skill up a character, star up a piece of gear, give someone in your clan an “ii ne,” do 1 dungeon battle, do 4 “explorations,” and you get 100 free stamina from noon JST and another 100 stamina at 6pm JST. Occasionally there are events, which are self-contained areas which have their own daily and event-specific quests, plus the monthly Tower of Luna daily and Clan Battle daily.
To do the daily quest as someone in UTC-5, I log in once in the morning and once at night. You have a “room” (similar to Deresute) in which you can grow and farm bonus stamina, exp pots, skip tickets and mana. Harvesting twice or three times a day keeps everything under their maximum limit. Also, that lets me collect the daily quest stamina. So I would probably do the “early day” stuff and finish as many quests as I care for when I log in at night after work, and log in once in the morning to clear out the accumulated stuff in order to finish all the dailies.
I would probably play a bit harder on evenings for Clan Battle nights to save the clan battles for the morning, since it require using up 900 stamina. It’s just easier to wait for the bonus daily stamina. Tower I generally hate so I try to play it only when I’m in the mood for, and have time for.
Since I have been playing the game fairly closely since launch, the routine also carry me at the top of the player level cap all this time, as the level cap extends once or twice a month. Having access to all the content probably makes all this easier from the start. Events are a breeze to grind through, where the challenge is in only clearing the VH boss with 1 try, and the exhibition mode/special mode. In recent months the game has been sort of trying to be more relaxing in order to allow late comers to enjoy the later content.
Given the PVP drive of the game, there is a lot of advantage for being first mover. To use a recent example, the latest meta-altering character, Neneka, dropped into gacha as a limited character about a couple weeks ago. For the first 2-3 days people were easily topping Arena and Princess Arena. Now it’s full of people with 5* Neneka (and 6* Kyaru) a week since. To get 5* Neneka to rank 14, that is a fairly significant investment that even I was able to make (despite being mostly a free player).
There is definitely an online community for the game in which a meta exists, either because that’s what “gamers” read on the internet or seen others do. Obviously, a social game that is Pricone, with clans and all, people talk about what works and what doesn’t. This especially matters when it comes down to arena and princess arena, which are really just a giant puzzle where if you can recognize the hand the opponent fields, you can figure out your counter. The fun is figuring it out, mostly, because it’s not so fun to play janken when you know what your opponent throws, unless you just want to enjoy winning (and it is enjoyable).
This is at odds with the social/meta nature of this Cygames game (think Shadowverse) where people competitively come up with “teams” (or decks) in which you can beat via some kind of RNG (since you can’t control play). If your team is “rock” enough against an opponent team that is “scissors” enough, you will more likely win than not. So in the end everyone tend to pick teams that are really the rock/paper/scissors that has the most difficult counter. It isn’t even like janken where you have to guess, or like “arena janken” where you have to think about if the opponent’s teams are like rock or paper or scissors, it’s just a matter of balance.
So when a new winning combo drops due to a new character, it becomes fun again. Until the meta settles or is altered (like how Neneca is kind of replaced by Kyaru 6*), it’s kind of fun again.
This game fits my lifestyle. Reality is I don’t have a lot of time to sit down and play. Console games are rough. I can do stints with Steam, although lately my PC needs an upgrade to really enjoy that. Half of that time I am either watching anime or sportsball, or catching up with tons of free seiyuu content online in radios or promotional talk shows or weekly streams. I can grind, and the game has grind-type content if you want it, but I’m never forced to do that, nor does grinding convey so much advantage. I can just put in my 20 minutes a day if that is all I have time for. I can even skip if I really want to.
The game is also fun, which is why I have not gotten bored with it. The QoL changes over time makes the game less painful to other entries. The art and voice over (fully voiced game) is top notch and the anime style really apes from that Sakura Wars-shaped hole in my life.
It also helps that the main story is kind of interesting, although I don’t really care too much about the characters themselves. It is a serious game with silly characters and I’ve had enough of those. They are features I don’t need, but enjoy, and maybe others like them more.
So overall this is a great little gem of a game that could take off in the right situation. In South Korea the game apparently is doing very well, and it isn’t too bad in Taiwan/HK/Macau either. I believe there is even a Chinese knockoff of it now. Pricone shows that a quality product that does many of the little things right will still find an audience.
To be honest, it sort of reaffirms my nagging suspicions that The Ancient Magus’ Bride works better as a manga than it does as an anime. I don’t believe this is the fault of the WIT STUDIO adaptation, because it is beautifully done and the quality has remained high throughout. Instead, I suspect the stories featured in the series might just lend themselves better to print than anime.
Having no real horse in the race and not have read the manga (but watched all the anime so far), somehow it makes sense. Like, this anime is not going to get me to read the manga. Maybe it serves as a meta, a talking point, for people to bring up the manga and get people interested (“Oh you are watching Magus’ Bride? The manga is so much better.”) but that’s like throwing on too much shade. I think the anime is decent, it is, to a more jaded viewer like me, something refreshing and different. It might still be kind of the same yokai story centered around a gifted human child, but this spin is way up my alley than, say, Natsume Yuujincho. Just like how Fate-verse is still the best for recasting western folklore and historic figures to do some dumb things, I don’t really like and I am not interested in the Japanese standards on this take. It’s refreshing, even if the anime and story content is quite drab and obtuse I think… Perfect for Kyoto Animation, in retrospect.
WIT STUDIO is also producing the anime inPrincess Connect Re:Dive, which is the latest and greatest galge-mobage from Cygames. Having seriously played the original Princess Connect game, I was looking forward to this with some trepidation, and so far I think the developers have answered my concerns.
Big picture-wise, Princess Connect and Pricone:R are the player-versus-player realm wars equivalent to social gaming as the hoard of Korean grinders were to the EverQuests and WOWs of the 00s. Well, it’s more like guild wars, ha ha. But in the greater Japanese social game pachinko-machine-like scene, it is a relative rarity. There are other games like this but none with the spit and shine of Pricone:R I think; well, certainly none with a Tanaka Kouhei score. Pricone the original was a browser-based game with some real-time stuff, and most of the graphics are rudimentary, as you’d expect a game launched in 2014-2015. Pricone:R on the other hand, is a little piece of Sakura Taisen heaven coupled with a standard auto-playing, character-party, fantasy RPG, side combat doohicky that you might see in the Danmachi social game or some such.
Which is to say, there’s a ton of actual anime in the Pricone:R game itself. Well, maybe a ton is exaggerating, but every commu chapter ends with an ending animation with animated next episode preview? LOL. About 90 percent of the commu is the standard talking sprite over a dialog box sort of deal, but they do drop those anime in and around fairly consistently. And WIT did well with them.
My worry in Pricone:R was that it would stop being a PVP focused affair, and it turned out to be a dumb thing to worry about, because it still is. It’s the only game I play that does not a have friend list (let alone friend support). It retains the whole clan mechanics, except so far it doesn’t have any elements of clan warfare (so you can’t filter clan recruits by time slots of when people will be online to play versus battles, as there are none such things). There are two PVP arenas players can participate for loot and glory, but they are both for individuals. Clan interaction so far is a mix of friends list and the ability to ask people for gear in exchange for rupees. The lack of clan-based PVP is still a concern, but I hope they address it soon since they have some outright “to be deployed later” place holders in the game right now.
Some straight up disclosure and Pricone:R meta, because I’ve been playing it quite a bit lately. Some key thoughts:
Spend some money to make more money. The core of this game is a versus experience. Payout in arena and princess arena are in the 1000s of gems. By bucking the bell curve you can stand to make good dosh. The game is also fairly generous, because you can’t be competitive until you roll enough to get your core team up and running, and enough memory fragments to upgrade your 1* and 2* characters. If you want to save up gems for a future roll, you can, but know that you will not make as much gem-wise as someone who spend them wisely. It literally is spending gems to earn gems, and there will be a balance point where the end result is a powerful team of characters and still lots of free gems in the bank. Playing it too safe means you might have a lot of gems, but your parties’ development will be lagging.
Princess Arena needs more balance tweaks. It’s hard to maintain rank, easy to gain rank. The result is it becomes expensive time-wise and a bit expensive gem-wise to reach heights in Princess Arena. Basically, you need to have 2 great teams to stay afloat, but just 1 great team to go up. This is mainly because NPCs have 3 good teams, which is harder to beat sometimes, but less of a sure thing on paper than in practice, so people don’t fight NPCs and instead fight people with 2 great teams, since you just have to beat their second-best team to win.
Comp is life, but actually levels are more important. Assuming at rank 7 and equal star power, a level 60 fully upgrade guy will beat a level 50 fully upgraded guy often. Even if the level 60 paper versus the level 50 scissors are, well, paper versus scissors in rock-paper-scissors. This is the zen of Princess Connect Redive. The essence. The zeitgeist. The soul. Whatever. In other words, don’t be the level 50 paper fighting a level 60 scissors. Things also gets much more complex when you deal with a team of 5 characters where the flaws of one guy can be covered up by another guy, but you get the idea.
Team comp thus can be boiled down by characters and their counters. Like, the ever popular Suzune/Io back row versus, say, Tamaki, who is flawed in Arena but powerful in this situation.
Anna is fun, she is not great, and her explosion power is what makes it fun. Don’t let people tell you that she sucks because her explosion power sucks. That’s like saying because individuals almost never win the lottery, having a free lottery ticket sucks. Without her explosion power, Anna is plenty good. If her power helps you even or win a losing game, so much the better.
This is still the game I call characters by seiyuu, but now that I’m talking to plebs on reddit and elsewhere I kind of have to learn the names of the characters.