Released on: January 19, 2021
Available Platforms: iOS, Android
Price: Free (Has microtransactions and gacha/loot boxes)
Often when I watch Youtubers (or more recently, VTubers), they recommend games they’ve been sponsored to play. Ninety percent of the time, I don’t bother with them since most of them advertise the same game. I check them out sometimes because, as stated in my “The Stigma of Mobile Games” article, I am always on the lookout for the surprise mobile game hit.
One game that was being advertised on VTuber channels recently is Princess Connect Re:Dive. On the surface, it looks like a typical gacha game, where the player collects girls by randomly acquiring them via the gacha mechanic. I do sometimes like to play those games, even though I never spend any money on them. Since I was in the mood for a gacha game, I decided to check it out. Is Princess Connect Re:Dive worthy of royalty?
Our story begins with the player and his friends confronting a powerful deity-like villain. Try as our valiant hero might; this unholy foe defeats them. In the player’s defeat, they wake up in a different world. After waking up in this unknown world, they meet up with Kokoro and Yui. Kokoro, for some reason, pledges her elegance to the player, and Yui who has that “childhood friend” vibe. They make their way through a forest, where they soon meet the epicurean knight, Pecorrine. With a posse formed, the player sets out to find a way back home.
In typical mobile game fashion, the story is forgettable. After the intro, I instantly forgot it existed. I only remembered the enemy at the beginning of the game when writing this review. I appreciate Princess Connect having a “story” section to recap the player on what happened and any further story developments that players can view via this mode. However, the catch with that is that I never found myself looking for more story; thus, I never accessed the mode. The player is even rewarded by experiencing new story chapters. Sadly, that seldom got me invested in the story, meaning I passed on some easy rewards.
The visuals are what I like the most from Princess Connect. The cutscenes are cool, and the in-game chibi characters are cute. I like the character design of the characters. The game also features fully voiced cutscenes (in Japanese) with impressive animation.
Princess Connect’s gameplay essentially happens automatically. The player selects up to five characters to have in their party, to which they then go through three waves of enemies. During the level, the characters will earn TP that, when at maximum, enables the character to use their ultimate ability. If the player’s party successfully clears all three waves of foes without any of the character’s hit points reaching zero, the player will be able to use Skip Tickets to clear the level instantly to get its rewards. As the player beats more levels, they will unlock new story chapters and new features.
The most significant level of input the player has is when equipping and upgrading their characters. Each character can have a set of six pieces of equipment. If the character has all of their equipment slots filled up, they can increase their rank to gain a permanent increase to their overall power. Characters also have skills that help them during battle. Each character occupies one of three positions on the battlefield. Most enemies prioritize attacking characters in the front, but later on, some enemies attack the middle characters.
Princess Connect is not the game for those that want to affect every step of combat. In a sense, it reminds me a lot of Azure Lane when set to automatic mode. Princess Connect also has an automatic mode that activates the character’s ultimate abilities as soon as they are ready. The player can also double the speed of the game to make things quicker. I’ve personally only turned off automatic mode when I need to save the character’s ultimate for a later wave. Princess Connect is more about micromanaging each character than it is about going into battle.
Luckily, Princess Connect gives plenty of opportunities for the player to earn all kinds of rewards to help them level up their princesses. The grotto, a battle map that the player unlocks a little later in the game, has two different rooms that give them specific rewards. The EXP grotto will reward the player with EXP potions, while the Mana grotto offers the victorious player mana that the player needs to create specific pieces of equipment and level up skills.
Princess Connect also has a multitude of stages and different modes to keep the player busy. The primary campaign has a hard mode to go along with the normal mode. Hard mode allows the player to earn character memory shards that, when collected enough, will enable the player to upgrade the character’s rarity.
While I find the process of getting my party to new stages fascinating, the gameplay is weak. The player doesn’t have to use the game’s auto mode. That said, I found it much more convenient to have it turned on. Princess Connect Re:Dive falls into the familiar mobile RPG archetype, where the character assembles their team, then starts the stage in the hope of beating all of the enemies. Thinking about this makes me realize that most turn-based RPGs fall into this same gameplay loop. The difference is that turn-based RPGs (like Bravely Default 2, for example) need to emphasize strategy as a philosophy to remain engaging. Princess Connect, sadly, fails in this aspect.
As per Sergiereviews.com tradition, it’s time to talk about the game’s microtransactions and gacha mechanic of Princess Connect. During the game, the player will acquire jewels that they can use to recruit more characters. The game separates jewels that the player gets for free and the ones that they bought in the in-game store. The jewels’ prices are steep, especially since the player is not guaranteed to get the character they want.
Players earn character points for using the premium gacha that they can use to get the character they want. The amount a player needs for it to matter is so high that they will likely not gain enough to use them unless they spend money on jewels. The player can use the free gacha twice a day, but those will only net the player some equipment for their characters or some character shards. Fortunately, the gacha itself is fair, and I could get some good characters without paying anything.
Subjectively, I enjoyed my time with Princess Connect Re:Dive. I like the character designs, and I find it strangely fascinating when my party succeeds. I like outfitting my characters to the best equipment I can give them, and having rank up is satisfying. If I were to review this game squarely on an objective viewpoint, however, I can’t point to anything that makes Princess Connect Re:Dive stand out. It has the same gacha mechanic that other games of its genre have, and the gameplay is trite and mostly plays itself. The story is entirely ignorable, and when I do snap out of the gameplay loop, the game loses its allure. Those that like mobile RPGs will get a kick out of Princess Connect Re:Dive. Those looking for a more profound gameplay experience, however, will find better options on mobile.