Been meaning to make a review-first-impressions-like post for the mobile app game Aikatsu! Photo on Stage!! or Photokatsu! for short, but I decided to put it on hold until I gathered enough cards and experience of my time with the game.
I’m gonna talk about my impressions with the game and also talk about some other stuff that had happened. So yeah.
AT THE BEGINNING
My first Rare card on my second attempt at playing.
I actually started playing Photokatsu! last yeah, I think, but dropped the game because my tablet (a dual core, Android 4+) device was underpowered. The app stuttered, switching menus took forever to load and the app slowed down to a crawl during gameplay. And add my tablet’s general slowness, it wasn’t a fun experience, and I eventually gave up after playing 2 songs. I needed a modern tablet or phone for this.
In the following months after the game’s release, I’ve been seeing weekly events featuring new cards to collect. The art work is certainly nice, but it didn’t bother me much… until I saw a lot of Aoi-related cards being posted by Japanese fan artists I followed on Twitter. I saw new Aoi cards almost weekly and the temptation to buy a phone grew.
Eventually, and months later, I ended up buying a Samsung J7 2016 smartphone last August. And boy, this game is so addicting… and frustrating.
When I booted up the game using my new phone, I was greeted by this screen and gave me some rewards for logging in. And apparently I was right in the middle of a special event called GLAMOUROUS BLUE.
Navigating through the menus at first was a real pain, but I managed to browse through most of them because majority of the text were written in Kana and Furigana. Navigating was half the trouble because it took me a while to figure out the mechanics like the card drops, leveling up system, dress up system, unit composition for special abilities, stamina regeneration, daily challenges, Johnny Time, etc. Fortunately for me I got some pointers from my followers over at Twitter.
And yes… SHiNxAoi is my character’s name, and…
…it was awkward getting called SHiNxAoi-chan or even SHiNxAoi-honey in the character scenarios. I mean, Jesus Christ, I could have chosen a better name if I knew the characters will use it to interact with me. Names SHiNAoi or AoiSHiN, for example. :V
The character scenarios plays out like a visual novel, but I wished the character models had more poses and more voice clips. I did try to read as much as I can but 60% of the time I just skipped the dialogue I had trouble reading. Still, I managed to read a few lines that were amusing and thankfully the scenarios and characters are loyal to the anime canon.
So what is the gameplay like? Photokatsu is part rhythm game, part card collecting game. For the rhythm part, you place a maximum of 7 cards to the stage and gain score by tapping the colored tiles appearing on screen. You gain more score if you hit the tiles perfectly or get a low score, or even a miss if you tap late.
That’s the basic part. There are some other factors in raising the high score like you get higher ratings and a higher chance of hitting S rank when using higher quality cards, take advantage of each card’s special bonuses, etc. The higher the score, the faster you level up, and more event points (if there are events) you receive.
The mechanics are pretty fun and addicting. However, once you’ve reached the point you’ll never run out of stars and you got all the non-event cards, you can ignore the game until it announces another big event that happens almost weekly.
The second part is the card collecting and it’s obviously the biggest draw, the… Special Appeal… of the game. The main and only reason to keep on playing is to collect 500+ cards of varying quality.
Cards are divided into 4 categories:
Normal (N) cards: These cards feature side characters like Yuu, Michiru and the other classmates. They’re serviceable in your first hour into the game and once you acquired better cards, you’ll usually end up selling these for hearts.
Rare (R) cards: These cards are for the main characters in the series like Aoi, Ichigo, Ran, etc., and they’ll help you get high scores 90% of the time. They’re almost easy to get, like, for example: To get a Rare Aoi card, simply play prism spiral multiple times. Aoi is a guaranteed drop… if RNG really likes you.
Special Rare (SR) cards: These cards are the best for they offer better score multipliers and have the most beautifully drawn artwork. SR cards are not random drops (save for some specific events), so in order to get them, you need to spend stars and pray to the heavens you’ll get one.
Premium Rare (PR) cards: The cream of the crop and the most difficult to get, these cards have the highest score multipliers with beautiful artwork to look at. These can only be obtained by spending stars, so good luck with that because PR cards are the hardest cards to get with a 2% chance drop per 250 stars.
Behold my Ran collection!
THE EXPERIENCE AND THE OBSESSION
Photokatsu! is essentially a freemium game with elements that forces the player to constantly log in and play, and there’s always that option that lets you get the items you want faster. If you’ve got the iron will, a ton of patience, and with a dab of luck, you can play and get everything in this game for free.
In my case, I am very obsessed with farming for those stars and event points because I wanted to get every card as humanly possible. There was even a point I exploded into a fit of rage because I lost the in-game stamina used when playing one song. It wasn’t very healthy.
Aikatsu Island was the first event I participated in day one and despite my lack of experience handling hard and legendary songs, I managed to be in the 1000 bracket. What the means is I was one of the highest scoring players and received better rewards like multiple copies of unique Rares and SRs. Sadly this fueled my obsession (along with the desire to get an PR Aoi card), and I went too far in the next major event.
The big event last September was the Dancing Diva special event featuring the new song Kiremeki Messenger.
The event is point based: You get event points for playing a random song, and you use this event points to play the event-only song Kirameki Messenger. Clearing the event song nets you points and you unlock rewards (badges, hearts, stars, unique Rares, unique SRs, etc.). You need to repeat this process multiple times to get all rewards from the event.
I got all rewards 3 days after the event started, with 4 days to spare, and in the end I was shamefully at the 500 rank bracket, the highest so far. I can’t help it, the 100 stars rewards was too tempting. :V
TWO MONTHS LATER
Earning 250 stars is very difficult and I estimate you can get 250 stars per 3 weeks. And the sad thing is, events happen every week. There were few instances I was tempted to buy blue stars with real money because of my desire to get more SR cards and hopefully PR cards. What’s insulting is paying customers are still subjected to RNG, so that 20 bucks you spent will end up in nothing.
The temptation went away after I finally got this…
Yep! After two months, I got my very first Premium Rare! And it’s an Aoi card! Oh my god, it’s like, uh, the game knew what I wanted. Goddammit, DAT AOI THO.
Yeah, I know, it’s a very beautiful card.
Her beauty comes at a price, though. You can dress up every card to make it stronger, so I’m currently undecided to dress up this Aoi card and get a new one, or keep this one because the Milky Way Cosmic coord is my favorite Aoi cord. ;_;
ONE SMALL STEP FOR ME, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR AOI
I’m still playing the game and I will continue to do so because it’s addicting and fun to collect every card possible. I may not pay for microtransactions, but if the game shows off another Aoi card that is only obtainable by spending stars…
God help me. ;_;
— SHiN @ Lazy Lily Fansubs