The best game featuring idol cannibalism.
So, presumed audience, you are reading this because you want to know if you should play LoveLive! school idol festival (yes, that is the proper capitalization of the English-language release). This is a pretty simply question to answer, and honestly doesn’t even require that you read the rest of what I’ve got to say. Do you enjoy rhythm games? If yes, then you will probably like LLSIF. Do you not like rhythm games? If yes, then you will probably not like LLSIF, no matter how much you might like the rest of the franchise. All the folks I know who’ve stopped playing the game, save one, stopped because they don’t like rhythm games even though they like or love Love Live.
LLSIF is a rhythm game first and foremost, with a fairly crappy kinetic novel tacked on. The kinetic novel’s scenarios and dialogue are inane to an extreme, although I suppose folks who are into the anime might get something out of it since they already care about the characters while I only care insofar as they can raise my score on songs. As for the rhythm portion of the game, its fairly solid – here the point is to tap the idol when a circle lines up with them, points awarded based on how accurate the hit was (Bad, Good, Great, and Perfect). The songs themselves have various difficulty levels, and at levels above Easy special star circles are added (these count for more points but don’t count for any points if you don’t get a Great or Perfect for them) as well as circles that require that you tap them at the same time. Also affecting your score are the levels of the idols themselves – Normal, Rare, Super Rare, and Ultra Rare, which proceed in terms of point levels as you would expect. Idols have regular forms and idolized forms, and are idolized by combining two of the same idols together*. Additionally, there are three attributes every idol falls under: Cool, Smile, and Pure, and this, too, affects score for songs, as the songs are typed in this way. I suppose another way to put it is to call it a slightly more complicated Guitar Hero with idols and no plastic guitar.
Roughly twice a month there are special events that involve a single song that requires some sort of item to play (past ones have included macarons and leaves) that are earned by playing the regular songs. Prizes in the event are awarded as one goes along for point totals, and then at the end for final event ranking and song ranking. This is a chance to earn a Super Rare (SR) idol, as each event centers around one of the main idols from the anime series.
I’ll admit that for the rest of the minutiae (how does one obtain idols? what are LP/Love Gems/stamina? etc.), I’ll defer to the LLSIF wiki, which, while far from perfect, will answer a lot of questions about gameplay and its assorted items. Honestly, like with most games, playing it is the best way to figure out how to play it, and that is how I went about it. I did ask a couple questions on Twitter since I knew that folks following me were playing it, but I mostly figured it out through trial and error.
I’ve really enjoyed the rhythm game part of the game thus far, although of late I find myself primarily playing during events given the better rewards for gameplay, but also since I tend to burn myself out during events and not want to touch the game for a while after. The kinetic novel is hideously dull and I only bother with it as it unlocks new songs and rewards useful items to do so. Most of the songs don’t appeal to me, but muting doesn’t affect gameplay (at least for me) and it doesn’t bother me to not hear anything coming from the game at all.
I should add the caveat that I find the whole ‘Pure’ attribute kind of gross, especially when put in the larger context of idol culture, and it doesn’t help that for the idolized forms of the Rare Rure idols they don fetish-tastic maid outfits (having seen part of the anime, too, I’ll note that I have difficulty believing that several of the girls would ever slip on such an outfit, even in the name of pursuing idol dreams). One idol in her idolized form spouts, every so often, “Hey, isn’t this outfit a bit tempting?”, which is fairly vomitous. Hilariously, the idolized Rare Smile idols don bathing suits, most of which, as a woman, I can tell you wouldn’t have a prayer of staying on during a song and dance number (or even just when wading into the ocean).
Another caveat: some of the folks I’ve known who quit the game ultimately did so because it had become a money sinkhole. The game itself is free (available for both iOS and Android), but to scout strong idols requires Love Gems, and while Love Gems are available through the game, they take a while to accumulate. Love Gems, however, can also be bought, starting at ninety-nine cents for one, or available in larger quantities for slightly discounted rates. I haven’t spent any money on it, but I have been tempted at times, and its undeniable that the game is more fun if you can load up on the idols that are further up the food-chain since they boost your score.
Anyway, TL;DR if you’re a fan of rhythm games, LLSIF will most likely be to your liking, but anyone else will likely find it a slog (even diehard LL fans).
* This is what I meant when I said ‘idol cannibalization’ – the idols get their powered up forms by combining two of the same idol, and the idols get leveled up by using other idols as practice partners for them – the practice partner disappears forever! Sacrificing girls to idols? Sounds like some older religious practices, huh?