Uta no Prince-sama is quite an established series. After all, the original otome visual novel launched on the PlayStation Portable in 2010. The first anime appeared in 2011. There have been remakes of the original otome installments, a spin-off Music series that is a straightforward rhythm game, three manga series and an animated movie has been announced. But then, we have been through all of this before. What you need to know now is that Utano Princesama: Shining Live, the first worldwide release, is a wonderful introduction to the series.
Utano Princesama: Shining Live is the free-to-play Android and iOS installment. It combines elements of the visual novel with rhythm-based gameplay. Not only that, but it eases us into the world by helping us learn who these characters are and why we should care about them. Part of the reason it works so well as a primer is how it first starts out. The game begins with a tutorial. We see a concert where Starish, the group that contains Natsuki, Tokiya, Cecil, Ren, Syo, Otoya and Masato, performs. We go through a song on the easiest difficulty level, learning about the different kinds of notes. It then exposes us to the visual novel element, as it takes us backstage to show how excited the guys after this worldwide performance. After a brief introduction to Quartet Night, the group made up of Ai, Camus, Ranmaru and Reiji, we are launched into the main game.
Now, 11 characters are a lot to care about. But, you do not have to. Utano Princesama: Shining Live eliminates the need to care about eleven guys at once; it asks you to select one idol as your focus character. This is the one who is on the menu screen and greets you whenever you open the application. It does not lock out the others. You can swap at any time, and bonds will form between you and any characters you have equipped to your “unit” when performing songs. This allows you to focus and learn about one character, but then swap to another once you feel you have had your fill and want to favor someone else. In this way, it mimicks the otome element of the original games, since this focused character is always affectionate with you.
The visual novel elements do a good job of encouraging light interactions with different characters, while also reward you with more songs to play. Each of the early story segments focuses on about three characters and is divided into three chapters. After completing three of these segments, each of which requires a ticket you earn from leveling up or buy to unlock, you collect a song you can play at any time that is performed by the singers who were the star of that segment. In this way, you learn about the characters in a very brief series of segments and get more music you can access at any time. There are 33 of these songs in total, though someone will probably only be able to play six of them after their first two or three logins.
Of course, having this sort of requirement might leave people concerned about the Utano Princesama: Shining Live tracklist. Except, the game has that base covered too. There are two ways in which you can play songs you have not permanently unlocked or enjoy special tracks. One is the Campaign. This opens up access to tracks for a certain number of days or hours and with different rewards. So even if you do not own “Force Live,” for example, it is currently available in Campaign until February 27, 2018. There are also regular events, which give you an opportunity to play randomly selected songs you may or may not already own.
It is incredibly easy to get into Utano Princesama: Shining Live. If you want to avoid the visual novel element entirely, you can do that. Just head into the Live Show’s Campaign or Event sections and play the songs immediately available to you. People who want the whole experience can easily get up to speed with the idols through fake radio shows and performances, learning a little about each one as you earn more songs you can play at any time. It is very user-friendly, which means anyone can start tapping along with these idols’ tunes.