- System: iOS, Android
- Publisher: LIBER Entertainment
- Developer: LIBER Entertainment
- Release Date: Jan. 27, 2017
- Pricing: Free (offers in-app purchases)
- Genre: Gacha
- Official Website: https://twitter.com/mankai_company
A3! Official Opening
Who it Caters to
The main appeal of A3! lies in its characters’ varied traits and tropes, its storylines, and beautiful illustrations. If you’re into the raising simulation games like Ensemble Stars, or if you’re a fan of the idol group genre in general, then this game is for you. However, while this game sort of offer a little bit of otome-like fanservices where the player seems to be the love interest of all characters, it isn’t the main storyline of A3!, so I personally would not recommend this if you’re looking to get into an otome game.
What to Expect
Those who play Ensemble Stars might find A3!’s gameplay a bit more relaxing and laidback, however. Especially because A3! does not have the number of characters Ensemble Stars have—which, in hindsight, I personally think works to A3!’s advantage. You ‘raise’ the actors’ levels and stats by sending them to Practice, ‘feeding’ them other cards or put them in special training with certain items, giving you special cutscenes as a prize. If you ‘bloom’ the actor’s card, you’d not only raise its level limit, but also get a new illustration. In short, what the players collect in this game isn’t just the actors’ card, but also little gems such as extra illustrations, stories, lines, and dialogues.
One of the strongest appeal of A3! that had gotten a lot of fans waiting for its release is the fact that it is a fully-voiced game, which makes it quite heavy on your phone memory. But A3! does boast a number of really popular seiyuu, such as Kakihara Tetsuya, Eguchi Takuya, and even Toyonaga Toshiyuki. If you’re in the middle of learning Japanese language and has a problem with reading kanji, reading through A3! storyline could actually be a helpful way to practice!
The premise of A3! is not much different from other idol-based series. The player takes the role of a young woman named Tachibana whose Father is missing, and in her attempts to find clues, she reaches a run-down theatre called Mankai Company—a theatre her Dad once worked as a Director before he went missing. What began as her sympathetic efforts to help the theatre from being annihilated by the yakuza ended with her somehow becoming the Director for Mankai Company, tasked with saving and bringing the theatre back to how it was in its golden age when her Father was the Director.
Here are the conditions given by the yakuza in order to save Mankai Company theatre: you have one year to complete Mankai Company’s mountainous debt of rent payment, and in order to both pay the rent and keep the theatre going, you need to form four different theatre troupes to perform seasonal stageplays. Each Troupe consisted of five actors—because apparently Mankai Company has always presented male-only stage plays, and even had actors who specialized in female roles (which would sort of remind you of a male-version of all-female theatre troupe Takarazuka, perhaps). This marks the beginning of the new generation of Mankai Company, one handled and raised by your very hands, categorized into four troupes: The Spring Troupe, Summer Troupe, Fall Troupe and Winter Troupe.
A3!’s main storyline is really one of its strongest points. In order to unlock the main storylines, you have to advance your level as a player by going through Practices with your actors’ cards. The entirety of Episode One consisted of five chapters: the Prologue and another four chapters for each Troupes. Having each chapter focusing on different troupes makes it possible to focus on each troupe’s character and relationship development, and yet, since there aren’t that many characters, they managed to integrate the four troupes’ story into one satisfying ending. As you progress through the main storyline chapters, the previous troupes’ characters would appear here and there, just enough to give a sense of a friendly dorm life and establish relationships between characters from different troupes. For example, Minagi Tsuzuru would pop in every chapter because he’s in charge of scriptwriting. Chigasaki Itaru has a considerable amount of cameo in the Fall Troupe chapter, while Ikaruga Misumi appears to scold Tsukioka Tsumugi and Takato Tasuku in the Winter Troupe chapter.
If the main storyline leaves you wanting more, the game also offers the “Backstage” stories, which you could unlock by filling the heart meters of each card you have. Each heart fulfilled would unlock a backstage story, and a new card would mean you’d have more stories to unlock. These backstage stories are arranged by characters, but they are some of the most fun stories in the game because you could never tell who’s going to appear in a character’s backstory!
A personal favorite part of the gameplay would, however, be the mini game, Working Outside. The mini game basically lets you choose two actors to go downtown and promote Mankai Company (in very cute chibi forms!!), where in the span of thirty seconds, you’ll have to tap all of the hearts floating on your phone screen. Each heart tapped would either give you coins or drop material items. There are three different locations, and once you’re done with one location, it would take some time before it got unlocked again and you could replay it. Most interestingly, no matter which pair you decide to do the Working Outside with, the game would display the pair’s relationship, and you’d get to see different dialogues that would show you what sort of relationship these actors have! If you choose Minagi Tsuzuru and Fushimi Oumi, for example, you’ll see them talking about what food to make for lunch or dinner today. These dialogues change depending on the places and the pairs, so it’s a great incentive to try out all possible combinations!
There’s still a very important part of gameplay we haven’t touched yet, and that is Blooming the cards. Those familiar with Ensemble Stars might have an idea of what Blooming is, but the mechanism of Blooming in A3! is completely different. You can Bloom a card by feeding it the another copy of the same card—which means the higher the rarity of the card is, the harder it’s going to be to Bloom it. Blooming the card increases the maximum limit of the card’s level, and the first time you bloom a card (you can Bloom a card twice), you’d unlock a new illustration for the card. If, like me, you are unlucky when it comes to gacha rolls, you might not even be able to Bloom your favorite card at all. This is definitely a good ‘trap’ that makes players want to spend more money to buy diamonds and do gacha rolls.
All in all, it’s a fairly straightforward gameplay that doesn’t really require players to do much. Once again, the gameplay is not the appealing point of A3!. Rather, it is the prizes you can unlock—storylines, extra stories, new illustrations, badges and titles. Once you get attached to the actors and have your own favorites, you’d definitely keep playing to collect all your actors’ stories and extras!
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
It is, however, geared to a very specific market, so if you’re not into the genre or if you’re easily bored with a very simple gameplay that’s largely automatic, you would definitely not enjoy it. To those who like similar games, though, this game is highly recommended, because not only does it have a neatly integrated storylines and very fun extras to unlock, it also has very catchy and enjoyable music—both songs and BGMs—and very cute chibi-esque performances. While the game is fairly new and hasn’t done a lot of events and campaigns, so far it still has a lot of tricks to keep players highly interested in the game.
- Interesting storylines.
- Beautiful illustrations and really nice character designs.
- Each characters have distinctive traits and develops relationships between themselves that keep them interesting.
- Simple, easily understandable gameplay.
- Very fun mini games that also explores the characters.
- Fully-voiced with a number of popular seiyuu.
- A+ in-game music and songs.
- Only in Japanese (as of April 2017).
- Gacha rolls need considerable amount of diamonds, so tougher for F2P players.
- Not many events or campaigns yet.
- Story episodes are quite short.
Honey's Final Verdict:
Being a fairly new player myself, I actually advanced rather quickly in the game. Yes, it gets very addictive, especially when you get very immersed in the stories and begin to crave for more extra story materials. Compared to several other mobile games that I have played, A31’s gacha rolls are actually quite tame—getting SR and SSR cards is not impossibly hard, and the Friend Scout option gives you both Normal and Rare cards rather generously. Your bad luck of gacha rolls might even manifest in how you keep getting SSR cards of all the actors except the ones of your favorite actor. Blooming SR and SSR cards is definitely a challenge that only depends on your luck, so that part is kind of disappointing, but other than that, A3! has offered a very fun gaming experience, one that I probably would not get tired of in the short future.
If you’re interested in A3!, definitely give it a try! If you know zero Japanese language, do consult the internet for various translations of the stories and characters lines and dialogues, because they’re really the strongest point that A3! has. And if you’ve decided on your favorite, don’t forget to let us know in the comments!
Note: This review is written using terms translated by the fandom found in A3! wikia. I’d like to thank the wikia contributors for that.