Review: Uta no Prince-sama: Music 3 is all about the music

Music games are great. We don’t get enough localizations of these button-tapping delights, and that’s a shame. Fortunately, they’re the sorts of titles that are easy to import with barely any language barrier. Uta no Prince-sama: Music 3 is one of those games. It’s good, for what it is. This is basically a budget music game with 33 songs you’ve never heard with multiple degrees of difficulty for each one. Accept that, and you’ll have no trouble accepting it.

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This is where I would tell you what Uta no Prince-sama is about, except Uta no Prince-sama: Music 3 doesn’t really have a story. It assumes anyone picking up is familiar with the game and anime series and isn’t going to go out of its way to explain things to newcomers. It’s especially weird when you unlock the optional Edo storyline after beating every song on the three Easy difficulty levels, as it suddenly makes the heroine, Haruka, and the “princes” legitimate royalty.

Here’s the short of it. Don’t worry about your motivations. The “hows” and “whys” aren’t important. Help potential pop stars perform their pieces.

You can enjoy practically every part of this game without any level of Japanese literacy.

Which is exceptionally easy to do, even if you’re importing Uta no Prince-sama: Music 3 without recognizing hiragana, katakana or kanji. Most of the game is in English. Many of the important details, like conversations with characters, song commentary, options, bios and shop information, are in Japanese. The important things aren’t. You can enjoy practically every part of this game without any level of Japanese literacy.

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That doesn’t mean you can immediately jump into everything, though. Uta no Prince-sama: Music 3 is a game that thrives on unlocking. There are 33 total songs available. 11 are accessible at the outset. There are additional songs, hats, costumes and story segments for characters, but you don’t get them until you’ve beaten songs on specific difficulty levels. As an example, let’s say you play “Horizon” on Easy mode level one. You also need to beat it on Easy mode levels two and three to earn all three hearts for that song at that level, unlocking new items in the shop and a story segment. To actually make purchases in the shop, you need to play even more for additional in-game currency. You’re expected to play each of Uta no Prince-sama: Music 3’s songs at least three times on the first difficulty level, in the name of article acquisition.

The whole game is geared around this mechanic. Uta no Prince-sama: Music 3 has some very, very trying tracks. The initial difficulty levels involve pressing the triangle, circle, square and cross buttons infrequently in time with the music. By the time you reach third level of Easy, directional buttons have been worked in and notes fly by more frequently. Pro is an overwhelming button barrage, where multiple action buttons are being pressed alongside directional buttons, with the only occasional salvation being tying the triangle button to the L trigger in an attempt to save yourself from inevitable carpal tunnel syndrome. I can’t do it. It’s too much for me. But maybe you can? I don’t know. Maybe it’s easier for people who’ve experienced the original otome games and watched the anime, since they’ll be more familiar with the songs.

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There are allusions to Uta no Prince-sama: Music 3’s otome origins. Going through the Easy, Hard and Pro difficulty levels multiple times wins up to three hearts in each mode, which unlock more content within the game. The various princes call you by affectionate nicknames while you play. Many of the episodes you earn from good performances provide an opportunity to enjoy endearing moments with the suitors. The additional Edo storyline has them seeking your hand in marriage. You’re still rewarded with virtual affection for your very real performances. The payoff isn’t as satisfying as it is with a traditional otome game; this isn’t where you go when you’re looking for love, since it will make you work so hard to survive those Hard and Pro versions of songs for rewards you might not want.

Uta no Prince-sama: Music 3 is where you go when you’re looking for a musical challenge.

Uta no Prince-sama: Music 3 is where you go when you’re looking for a musical challenge. It isn’t the best rhythm game you can grab for your Vita. There are others with more diverse tracklists, perhaps even with more recognizable music. Replay is only an attractive prospect for aficionados, as the rewards are very specifically geared toward fans of the series, giving you intimate moments with Uta no Prince-sama idols. It does give you 33 tracks and very trying levels of difficulty, which offers its own sort of satisfaction.

I’d recommend Uta no Prince-sama: Music 3 as more of a last resort. It’s an attractive import, to be sure, and will offer substantial challenge, but is best as a budget-friendly buy. People with a gap in their gaming library and an interest in Japanese pop music can grab this and know it’ll easily leave you occupied for five hours or so, before the difficulty becomes too overbearing or tracks to obscure.

Score: 6/10
Publisher: Broccoli
Release Date: January 28, 2016
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Platform(s): Vita
Questions? Check out our review guide.
This review is based on an imported product. It is based on the experience of playing the game with little to no knowledge of the language, and the content may change if/when released in other regions.

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