This post is really more about me, but I think there’s something to take away for anyone. In short, I’m getting less and less happy about playing Princess Connect! Re:Dive (Priconne for short) Global, and a big part of it is that I also play JP and I also play several other mobile/gacha games out there. You might too, or not. Anyways, in 2022 what is going on in Priconne Global is just irking me, and I’m writing this to get it out of my system.
For background, I played the Japanese version of Princess Connect! AND I am an active player of Japanese version of Princess Connect! Re:Dive, in addition to the Global version. The company managing and developing the game, Cygames, manages its own release in Japan. Cygames also licenses the game for local distribution. Notably, the mainland China release became very popular a few years back (how time flies…). There are also Korean, Taiwan/HK, and Thai releases until the Global/English release about a year ago. Crunchyroll Games handles the Global release.
I really enjoy the game! Enough to play the same game twice. In a nutshell, Priconne is very much a “content” driven RPG where regularly the game updates with events, main story quests, and new characters, all which builds on previous revealed content to tell a story to describe its kind-of mysterious world. Being a player of the OG Priconne game, that predated Re:Dive, it’s pretty natural for me to get drawn in to the setting and the layers of mysterious things around it. I also had more time to take to the wide cast of characters so everything was mostly familiar to me from the get go for Re:Dive. You can read more in my earlier posts.
The various regional localizations of Priconne has to also follow this content release strategy where everything is slow-dripped at a certain pace. Some “down time” that the original release had was cut, but most of that was in the first year and things don’t really slow down after that. For reference, we celebrated Priconne JP’s 4th anniversary just earlier in the month. [You can buy this sandwich press lol.]
Being a popular Japanese game is fine, but it isn’t a chart-topper–more like Priconne’s niche is being easy to play, deep if you want to dig deep, and a lot of top notch QOL-ness come with the game. In a way the best comparison I can make is that Priconne is the Everquest-to-WoW leap from all those painful Asian farm-for-everything-based-off-a-guide mobile games. Even later entries (like, say, Konosuba, which is quite new! Or Kirara Fantasia, etc.) are significantly more painful to play. Priconne remains a standard bearer to make mobile games less of a menu hell, that the UX has to be a key deliverable to keep a game relevant in the 21st century. It is the kind of game that can allow players to play other games, because it takes so little time comparatively.
That said, nobody says you can’t play Priconne based on spreadsheets and spend hours to farm everything–many people do precisely that. When China opened up to the game (noteworthy for having local-only releases of characters based on lol Hashimoto Kanna) this only intensified. In fact it’s probably safe to say the CN player base is larger than the JP player base at this point, especially from an oversea perspective.
I am quite thankful for all the Chinese players who sank their love, hard work, time and money into Priconne! Overall they have enriched the experience with things like the currently-best Arena database and other guides. Some are outright better than pro sites like Gamewith when it comes to meta and dealing with fast-moving or player-based changes.
Unfortunately this also means by the time Global gets its latest content, that stuff has been juiced by every other release that started before Global. Unless you go out of your way to not look up anything, there’s nothing about the “meta” (as opposed to “being what’s popular” but the game on top of the game) that hasn’t been spoiled from start to finish. This is the unfortunate thing about Priconne–it was a game where almost all the hints you need to be successful are in the game by default. There are tons of ways to experiment on your own to figure out the game, and now in English you can read and experience that yourself…but few probably will.
That isn’t really a big problem by itself, if one at all. As someone who plays JP Priconne, I still enjoy playing Global despite having first-person knowledge of everything that’s going to happen in the game. It’s as if I know what the FAQ says, but I didn’t have to follow one. Instead, what I miss is all the things in a game that was constantly honed over 4 years that isn’t in a drip-release game that is the same game 3 years behind. Many of the QOL changes in Priconne JP would be so great in Global, as I am feeling exactly those pains now. Funny thing is, by the same token Priconne JP has evolved on top of those QOL changes that the meta-meta is about different things, so a different pain is setting in.
The best example I can provide is the Clan Battle. Basically clans are guilds, and you and your clanmates have a certain numbers of tries to beat up NPC bosses to rack up the highest cumulative score. A game-wide ranking battle among all clans ensues, once a month. It requires a lot of individual coordination and a fair amount of teamwork to compete in the top 10%. That said, for the rest of us, it still can be gleamed by spreadsheets, but Priconne has this “recommend” feature that builds in the teams you can use right in the game, basically bypassing the need for them for most players. This once-a-month event is really the main reason why a lot of people are hard in, as it is also one of the biggest draw from the OG Princess Connect game (clan versus PVP). One thing you need to do a lot in CB is trying out various teams. In JP, we can use 4x speed. But in JP the game is about finding teams that don’t all use the same meta (in the slang sense) characters, so there’s a lot of jigsaw-puzzle-type sort of matching going on. In Global right now it’s dur-derp given the much fewer combination of characters available to work with, but Global doesn’t have 4x… It doesn’t even have “recommend to select” as a feature yet–it’s not even about knowing who to use (derp), it’s having to pick it out of your character list. Again, trying out teams is arguably the most time-consuming part of CB, and it can be tedious. Why not make this easy already?
Basically, not only Priconne Global is a pre-COVID mobile game showing its age compared to Priconne JP, it’s a pre-COVID mobile game showing its age compared to its contemporaries. I tried Blue Archive JP when it launched and I liked it, but it clearly had a lot of launch problems (and I stopped). A year later now I am playing the Global release, and I am having a blast. In a lot of ways BA is a step down for me compared to Priconne (long story here), but it has a faÃ§ade that is clearly built in this decade. I don’t know, that should count for something–a whole lot, probably, especially for an gacha galge. And to heap on top of that, Priconne Global has nothing truly new to look forward to, unless you count hand-me-down UX improvements that Global could have had much sooner rather than later? Or having all of its meta and meta-meta game juices squeezed out by millions of Japanese and Chinese players before I can enjoy it in English? I am waiting patiently for my New York Carl memes. Maybe Crunchyroll can self-insert its mascot like Hashimoto Kanna’s characters in Priconne CN, lol.
[That said, BA meta is a PITA too and unlike Priconne, not knowing that meta is almost killer. There are hints to what to do to play the game well, but the gameplay depth just doesn’t get served by the game’s faÃ§ade, so you really have to engage a community and do external research to get somewhere. Also, BA PVP is utter trash, coming from Priconne. You can tell the creators of Shadowverse at least knows how to apply basic rock-paper-scissors balance tricks to a gacha game architecture. I can go on, but BA is basically superior despite its many shortcomings–largely due to that faÃ§ade.]
As I said, this is more a “me” problem than a general problem. If I bothered to love Priconne’s commu (ugh) I probably would play Global to enjoy its fun translations alone. And they are fun. I just can’t stand how Priconne dialog UX insists to animate no matter how fast you click on it, so it’s really slow (relatively) to scroll through a bunch of one-liners, sound effects, or one-worders. I still have countless reasons to love the game–this is why I play it in Japanese despite being unable to navigate it well in a foreign language in the very first place. It also happens to turns out that, the reason to not play Priconne Global is because a superior version exists, and that’s the Japanese release.
Maybe this is also reflective of an information asymmetry. Maybe unlike AAA vidya discourse, there isn’t something like this holding together all the Asian gacha mobile games in English. Or rather, people (often self-professed “gamers” lol) are too busy complaining about censorship and lootboxes to talk about things that are actually important to players? If Priconne JP is not available to you or you refuse to deal with its barriers, so be it. Knowing the forbidden knowledge in this way may worsen your experience if you only play Global. But in a way these gacha games live in ghettos, and that’s messed up. Most players don’t engage in a whole lot of it. Maybe people in the QooApp community (or similar) can speak to this, but that audience is really skewed a certain way due to race and geography (and not available on IOS). If people came away with a bad impression of Priconne Global because it’s not as good as its contemporaries, I understand it, but it is also a form of injustice because Priconne is a much better game than Priconne Global.
There, I’ve had my say. Maybe it’s finally time to hang it up and reclaim my average of 15-20 minutes a day of playtime.
PS. If you’ve been enjoying S2 of the anime in the past couple weeks, this is basically the heart of the setting that carried me from OG to Re:Dive, early on. I hope they explore also more the OG universe, but I doubt the anime will get anywhere close even if 4 more cours were added. The whole lead up to the end of “Act 1” of the main story is a lot of fun. Possibly magic they may not fully recapture ever again…speaking as someone who wasn’t too allured by Act 2.