Ensemble Stars by Tanner Radcliff

 

In Japan, there is a recent trend of high school students joining musical groups and gaining fame during their time in high school, sometimes carrying on into their adult life. These individuals are called “idols”. Japan has a huge obsession with idols, to the point where there are entire anime and games dedicated to these rising stars. One of these games is Ensemble Stars!, a visual novel-style game about a private school called Yumenosaki Academy, which has several courses, including an idol course, which is filled with teenage boys and idol groups of varying themes and personality. You, the player, are the sole student in the producer course, and thus it is your responsibility to oversee these groups and make sure they do well and rise to stardom.

 

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The main story follows a recently formed idol group named “Trickstar”, which serve as the protagonists of the game, and their struggles of rising to fame to compete against the academy’s strongest and most influential idol group, “fine” (pronounced fee-nay). Other idol groups include “UNDEAD”, “2wink”, “RYUSEITAI”, “Akatsuki”, “Knights”, “Switch”, “Valkyrie, and “ra*bits”. The characters are all mostly likable with unique personalities and quirks. They also have side stories that go more in-depth into the characters.

 

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Gameplay is simple, yet very hard to describe. The core of the game is the “Producer Lessons”, which sort of serve as the rehearsals for the idols and include tasks to complete. You take a unit of five boys in the form of cards with one of three different attributes into these lessons and collect “fragments”, which help you get jewels which you can use to improve your idols and unlock several different things on their “Idol Road”. You have a limited number of days to complete these tasks, and on days 11 and 1, your idols perform in lives, which in reality, plays out like a game of rock paper scissors, with each of the three attributes – Voice, Dance, and Performance – being strong or weak against another.

 

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In addition to Producer Lessons, there are special events that happen at regular intervals throughout the year that can allow you to get points to get rewards and better cards. Another way to get cards is by “scouting” in one of several boxes. There are two boxes for Points Scouting, which uses the regular in-game currency of “producer points”, and there can be up to three boxes for Diamond Scouting, with two boxes being dedicated for special, limited time event scouting. Cards are ranked from 1 to 5 stars, 1 being the most common and 5 being ranked the rarest. 5 star cards contain a number of different things for you to unlock on idol road, while 1 star cards have very little. 1 star cards tend to be very weak as well, and have a very low level cap, while 5 star cards tend to be very strong. Points Scouting tends to only give 1 to 2 star cards, though the more expensive box has a chance of giving out a 3 star. All Diamond Scouting boxes give out 3 to 5 star cards, though 5 stars are a very rare drop.

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Currently, there is no way to download Ensemble Stars! in North America legally, so if you want to play it, you have to pull some strings and download it from a special app. Furthermore, the game isn’t translated, so you have to rely on translations from the internet to navigate it, though it isn’t very hard to navigate it in the first place. This game can be recommended for anyone who likes idols or cute boys, but it’s mostly for recommended for teenagers because of the language a few characters use.

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