So for this one, we... Wait, what?
I did not sign off that artwork above this text! Not OK! God, poor Taito's gonna have a fit if they ever see this!
... Eh? What do you mean, 'it's randomised and this comment might not make sense'? Oh, bloody 'ell. I'll have to have some stern words with that writer of mine.
Alright, let's get back on topic. As these are both iOS games, we've shrunk the screenshots, so click to embiggen them. We do mention this at one point below, but for the purposes of these reviews (one of which does not have a proper score at the end, which I'm pretty sure is illegal in certain states and provinces), we played these games on an iPhone 4S (specifically one encased in a completely banjaxed Space Invaders case- my writer has expressed interest in getting a Cirno cover to replace it, but I took great delight in showing him how expensive Touhou phone covers are). If I had my way, we'd still all be on Nokias playing Munkiki's Castles and Bantumi rather than al this smartphone nonsense, but alas, it's not my call. Not yet, anyway. Wait, where was I going with this? Oh, yeah, the point is, we played 'em on an iPhone 4S. Both games are iPad compatible, however, but while Groove Coaster Zero worked on iOS 6, Love Live! School idol festival requires iOS 7 to operate. Yes, he had to update his iOS to play this. I wish I was lying.


Social games!


I've just scared off 90% of my readers. Success!

(The remaining 10% will flee once I start talking about Love Live!, of course.)

OK, let's set the stage a little here. I wouldn't say I'm particularly iPhone-savvy when it comes to games on the system, but I've seen bits and bobs here and there (my favourite game being the one I have to play with iTunes every time I want to add new music to it, am I right!). My experience is mostly in ports of older games, with some (The Act, fuckin' Road Blaster!) working far better than others (Splatterhouse) and some (Rodland) kinda in the middle, but over the past year or so I've been dipping my toes in other areas, in particular the area of Free-to-Play, which you shouldn't dismiss outright just because of its model. I'd rather try it than instantly decide I hate it, you know? I haven't totally branched out (mostly because I, ahem, can only have so many games on this phone at once, and damnit Road Blaster is going nowhere) but I've picked a few to try out. Luckily for me, I happened to play two very similar games that have wildly different implementations of a Free-to-Play model pretty much one after the other, and neither of them are on the Saturday cartoon villain kind of level present in games like Dungeon Keeper, Tales of Phantasia and Angry Birds Go! (that is to say, what people immediately think of when you say Free-to-Play). Well, I lke to think they're not. Both are rhythm games, both are kinda weird in their own little ways, and visually speaking both of them couldn't be further apart, but we got a match here- why not let 'em duke it out?

So, welcome to the Free-to-Play Rhythm Game Battle Thunderdome!

In the red corner, participating as a team of nine songstresses who put the smash back into smash-hit songs...
It's the idols of Love Live! School idol festival!

And in the blue corner, weighing in at forty-six pixels each, ready to get even and invade the Earth like it's 1978...
It's the Rhythmvaders of Groove Coaster Zero!

Idols Vs. Invaders! Get ready, fighters! Go for broke!

Before we get started on what is almost certainly the weirdest article on the entire site (a hotly-contested prize, although not as fought-over as the most pointless page prize), we'd better make something clear- one of these games is basically unreviewable. As a result, it will be probably the only game on the entire site to get a Flat Carbuncle out of Five- basically a big ol' question mark (which is better than the other weird score we could've nicked from N64 Magazine to use, the other being simply 'NO' out of Five.). Might be a bit weird to write about something like this- in fact, this is about the fifth time I've tried to write about this and given up because I thought it was impossible! This game showed up on gaming.moe's Waifu Awards, though, as the winner of the Thank God I Haven't Touched this Thing Award, with the comment "a lot of people I know who I wouldn't think would be into an idol-group game are positively addicted to [this game]" and it got me thinking, "I really need to articulate- at least partly to myself- why I played this thing for so long'. So let's start with that one!

The game in question is, if you didn't figure it out already, Love Live! School idol festival.

Or just School idol festival on the App Store in English territories because, um, I don't know.

(Before we continue- this is based on the English version, far behind the Japanese version, played between May 2014 and October 2014).

Well, this is very different territory for me. I'm only really used to virtual idols, not 2D ones (and that includes THE IDOLM@STER so you have no idea how so very lost I am here). What I do know is that Love Live! is a multimedia project involving a fictional idol group that's not real (but it is because they're real singers singing real songs by fictional idols [but they're not real]), with a manga (haven't read it), two seasons of anime (watched the first one, obv), a PS Vita rhythm game (observed through a powerful telescope, detected the distinct musk of a game thrown out the door as fast as possible oh of course I bloody played it) and, since it's a series about idols, lots and lots and lots of singles/albums. Lots. Many. By the time word was getting around the game was due a release in English territories, it had my attention mostly because I'd been playing Groove Coaster Zero so much and I wanted to try another mobile rhythm game to shorten bus and train journeys. The other main reason was one of the in-game characters looks a little like our site mascot, Sarah Sowertty I am a complete sucker for cute things and oh god no don't let me get sucked in I wanted to try another style of Free-to-Play, for the purposes of curiosity.

That and a few people on Twitter were chirping about it so we can blame them too.

Alright, folks, strap yourself in. Welcome to Idol Producing Hell.

After some wordy introductions where you get a very basic team for the rhythm game (including one Rare card of your choice), you're thrown into the game proper... To be honest, I almost feel like a pure game mechanics breakdown like we always do here wouldn't really be very helpful for this game, so we're going to be a little sketchier on the details than normal. What we will provide, however, is some anecdotal experience of the game, sprinkled with how the mechanics work, and hopefully we'll have something readable. The best place to start is, well, starting the damn thing. I was completely blind-sided. I was slammed head-first into a confusing wall of numbers and stats and goals and stuff to the point where it actually wiped me out. I had to have a sit down, a nice cup of tea, and a proper think before trying the game again. It is, at its heart, a numbers game after all, but I just felt bombarded by it all. It doesn't do a particularly good job of easing you in, is what I'm saying, and while there are tutorials, a few of them are actually part of the story mode which has to slowly be unlocked (achieving goals set by the game, either 'reach Rank X', 'beat X song on Easy' or 'you're too far ahead, wait for the next update', unlock new story segments which are basically tiny visual-novel sections, and clearing these/waiting for updates is how you gradually get more songs to play) so some of the lessons are on things you've already figured out just by messing around. Said story sequences themselves are what you'd expect, with most problems being solved by a Live Show (I'm assuming that's not how it goes down in the show, right?) although special mention must go to site-mascot-doppelganger strongest idol Nico who's kinda very full of herself but is quite endearing at it. Even if you can ignore half of what she says.

Anyway, the actual rhythm game itself is pretty basic. You have nine note markers forming a semi-circle on your screen (each one representing a member of your chosen team) and notes emerge from the centre, either as single notes, hold notes or multiple notes- bop the notes as they hit the markers to get either Perfect, Great, Good (breaks your combo), Bad or Miss. Miss and your Stamina drains, and if it empties you lose (unless you spend one of the in-game currencies for an instant revival). The speed of the notes, regardless of the tempo of the song, is actually determined by difficulty, so Easy is incredibly slow, but once you get to Hard, the rhythm game itself is... I think the word I'm looking for is pleasant. You'll need fast fingers to keep up at times, and the game can get confusing when multi-notes get involved (you need to think where you place your fingers in advance for the next set) but it satisfies that button-smashing urge quite nicely, and it has a good flow to it once you start getting into it. As for the songs themselves, they're almost exclusively in the 'chirpy, upbeat J-pop that gets drilled into your head and refuses to leave for months' genre (as if you expected anything less) and while some do sound quite similar, there's some catchy tunes in there (in particular I still have Mermaid Fest Vol.2 bouncing around my head, and I just wanna point out there's literally a song called Oh, Love&Peace! in this game). You asked for a rhythm game with idol music, and that's what you've got here. If it's your cup of tea, then you got it.

If that was the end of it, then sure, I'd probably say it does its job (and actually give it a score) but literally everything else, mostly owing to its Free-to-Play nature, gets in the way. The very first thing I did was play the game's first song on Easy (Normal and Hard have to be unlocked by beating each previous difficulty, and Expert is reserved for Events/Daily Shows), and I got a Full Combo, not missing a beat... And got a C Rank, the lowest named Rank. You haven't levelled up your squad, you see, and the starting one is full of Common made-for-this-game idols with no special skills and useless stats, and one from-the-show Rare card with a special score-boosting skill activated under certain conditions. Use better/higher level idols and your potential score increases in each song (as long as the stats are aligned, as there's Smile, Pure and Cool-type songs and use the wrong alignment and your score plummets). (See, I wasn't kidding, there's a lot going on here). (Oh, and your squad determines your health points too). Building up your team into a song-crushing workforce will require you to farm for precious resources in the form of new character cards (earn by playing songs and scouting for new cards, pair doubles of cards to 'idolize' and boost stats/level caps or 'practice' to sacrifice cards to boost other card levels), Friend Points (earned by using a partner from your friends list, used to scout), Gold (used to level up or idolize cards), and the most precious of all, Love Gems (earned by various tasks but rare, let you continue after losing, refill your energy meter [more on that in a sec], scout for Rare/Super Rare/Ultra Rare cards).

(Of course, the old 'sacrifice cards to power up old ones' thing is not unique to Love Live! in the world of Free-to-Play phone games. Just note that down.)

It all hinges on is The Grind, though. Gotta grind songs to get all of that stuff, gotta grind to get enough cards to level up your good idols, gotta grind to build up Bond Points so you can unlock the very weird side stories for each card that lead to precious Love Gems. It's all busywork with the rhythm game sort-of at the centre, but in reality it all revolves around numbers, but somehow it makes you feel like you're making progress, that you're getting better at the game, when really you're kinda not. This isn't even like grinding in an RPG because at least then you get somewhere, but here it just feels like a constant, unending grind... Unless you'd rather just pay your way through. The two main ways the game throws a large Free-to-Play-shaped spanner in the works is through the energy meter, called Love Points here, that limits how much you can play (this increases as you level up, but each song and difficulty setting takes up a certain number of Love Points, and it takes 5 minutes to gain 1 Love Point back) unless you top it up with a Love Gem, and that rather than Friend Points, scouting for Rare (i.e. good) cards costs Love Gems (and you need 50 of them so you can get 11 in one go rather than 10).

Love Gems are basically the premium currency here. Of course, you can earn them the hard way, or just buy them and keep the energy meter topped up/hope the random number generator likes you today. I will be fair- the game is not nearly as weaselly as it could've been in this regard. The prompt to buy Love Gems never pops up unannounced, only when you try to do something that warrants their purchase, you can still earn them without paying (although over 6 months I only ever got three 50-gem card pulls) and it never made me log into Facebook or rate the game 5 stars to get at stuff. Finally, it is not impossible to progress for free, just really, really friggin' monotonous. Even so, it taps into your willingness to skip The Grind, and the way the standard Events work (every few weeks or so playing normal songs earns you items you can use to play an exclusive song, earn Event Points by playing it to get time-exclusive Super Rare cards) gear the game towards asking you sweetly to buy Love Gems so you can more effectively grind and actually get good cards to get higher scores and vainly make progress. Additionally, the Events put you in indirect competition with other players (as well as prizes via Event Points, you get one for your ranking amongst other players) so if you don't keep up, you won't get a second prize and you need them if you want to get something out of the Super Rare Event Points prize you get (if you even do!) because only when you combine two of the same cards do you really get the most out of them .

In fact, it was one of the Events that showed me how little progress I really was making. The thing that was basically the death-knell for me was the first Nico event. Having failed to get any of the real prizes in the Events up to this point, I decided I was finally going to play it properly, because Nico is the strongest, right? She wouldn't give up like this, would she? I was going to do the Long, Endless Grind, playing the limited selection of songs I was good enough to reliably Full Combo to get the hearts to play Love Novels on the hardest available difficulty to get enough Event Points for the Super Rare Nico card. This took a lot of work- in fact, I don't think I've ever put so much work into one game for one single reward. The main problem was by playing the normal songs, my Love Points would drain so I'd have to wait for them to recharge unless I used up my precious Love Gems... Fortunately at this point I had been stockpiling them like a greedy little dragon, so I began using them up, In a moment of weakness I also bought a few, as time was running out and I was completely, 100% determined to win one of these bloody Events for once.

An unknown amount of time later, and at last:

"Alright, I won!" I said to myself. "Finally got me a Super Rare card from an Event. Yep. Pretty neat. Good ol' Nico there."

And then, slowly, it dawned on me. "So... Now what?"

I only had one. I was never going to qualify for the Rank prize to get a second. Couldn't get a Side Story Love Gem or max level outta this one.

Even better, while using this card boosted my scores, it still wasn't really enough to justify the work for it.

Another sit down, another cup of tea.

That last story encapsulates the experience for me. Even when I thought I was making headway into getting higher scores and better rewards, I really wasn't. Even later on when I finally got some Ultra Rare cards from card pulls, they helped my scores but not enough to feel like a significant benefit. Even so, I wanted to stick the game out just a little longer so I could see what the Score Match Events were like and keep my opinion at least fair, skipping the Events in-between. The Score Match finally came around and... Well, it was sort-of better? Rather than have to play songs to get points to play a specific song, you're entered into a match with three other players )sometimes bots) and play a random song (from what appeared to be a very limited pool, sadly, so I hope you like Snow halation). The highest scoring player gets a multiplier bonus for the amount of Event Points they earn, and each other place gets a lower multiplier except for 4th place, who gets just the basic points. It's certainly a little more engaging than the standard Event, but the same problem is at its core- the other players are going to crush you, and practice will not help you, only The Grind will (you can see this in one of my screenshots! I got a Full Combo and still came in dead last!).

And the thing is, I get it. I totally get it.

Until it was pointed out to me by that Event story, I felt I was slowly chipping away at the game and making progress. Now, I felt that The Grind simply wasn't worth the effort required nor the goods delivered, but then again, I have to look at the fact that I played this thing daily for nearly half a year. Sure doesn't seem like half a year, but I did. The game certainly keeps you busy doing things- working towards the next level-up, the next idol to power up with other cards, the next Event prize- and the tiny little tasks you get every day seem like you're making real progress and getting better at the game, even when in the big picture you're kinda not really, and that feeling is probably why people get so into it... But for me, after a while, it started to wane and wear thin. Even after levelling up as much as I did, the energy meter dictated that I'd get as little playtime as possible, and it also feels like the game is specifically geared to pressure you into not stopping, what with the daily login bonuses and the very nature of the Events (and, well, if you want any decent Super or Ultra Rare cards without waiting months between card pulls, it's after your wallet too). As pleasant as the rhythm game is, at some point The Grind must stop, and that's why I gave up.

In the end, this game's not getting a score because The Grind was not for me. It's probably the same reason I've never got into MMORPGs (or, to be honest, RPGs in general) but the idea of a game that puts an inordinate amount of pressure on players to constantly play and not stop during Events solely to make even the most basic progress is absolutely not my thing, although it's a shame it only really dawned upon me that I was playing the game daily after I had done so for half a year. And, if nothing else, I had to give up! I mean, damn, that's rare for me to just completely give up on a game, but it had to be done. The Grind had to end. I wanted to write about it- again, partly to reaffirm to myself the exact circumstances of how and I why I continued to play this game for as long as I did- but I deleted the app after the Score Match Event. I felt that the game wouldn't really let me play casually as I'd make even less progress than if I tried (not to mention the energy bar would put a stop to that) and to play it properly felt so completely exhausting that I had to give up. In its place, I downloaded NANACA+CRASH and haven't looked back since.

For being impossible to review, Love Live! School idol festival is awarded...

In a sentence, Love Live! School idol festival is...
A case of 'I get it, but I don't get it'.

This leads me nicely on how to do this sort of thing a different way- Groove Coaster Zero.

To be fair, Groove Coaster Zero has an advantage over Love Live! in so far as it was originally a paid app (indeed, one of the few bad things I can say about it is people who bought the original Groove Coaster must feel a bit cheated- owning the paid game does unlock an exclusive song for Zero but after it was released, support and DLC basically stopped for the original) but even so, it's treated as a separate game from the paid one, it is free, and almost every little thing that irked me about Love Live! is gone completely. In common with Love Live!, though, is the simplicity. Rather than note markers, Groove Coaster Zero lives up to its name and has your chosen avatar float across a line, upon which notes are placed, which have to be hit on the beat of the song by either tapping, holding, scratching or swiping the screen (they're colour-coded to help with this, although some stages switch the colours around) with Great, Cool, Good and Miss ranks. The pass/fail mechanic here comes in the form of the Groove Meter, which builds up as you successfully hit notes and decreases when you miss. Get it in the flashing 'pass' area before the song ends and you get a passing grade. That's it, really.

It's got a nice feel to it, suited to the iPhone's touch-screen system, and the presentation allows for some slick, colourful visuals, but what's nice is the little things. A good example is what Groove Coaster Zero does with its music- rather than just play the song regardless (unless you pick a specific Avatar with that perk) your taps actually add to the music, and in cases of songs you've heard elsewhere, add new parts to the music to make it still sound fresh. Sometimes it'll accentuate the backing beats, other times the melody, but this also means you have to pay attention to the part of the song the game's interested in right now. It requires a bit more attention, but it's a nice change-up mid-song. There's also secrets to find- in addition to the notes you actually can see, the game rewards experimentation like Parappa the Rapper's freestyle segments with hidden 'ad-lib' notes that can't be seen but will show up if you tap empty spots on the line. Random mashing the screen won't work as it'll probably make you miss the next note along, and while there is a consumable item that makes Ad-Lib notes appear, you only get them in limited quantities so for the most part, you've got to learn where they are for yourself. The lone foible mechanics-wise is it's a bit tricky to get the exact timing down to get the best note rank, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be No Missing and maybe even Full Chaining your favourite songs.

As for the Free-to-Play stuff from Love Live!, then? None of that here. There's no energy meter at all (you are free to play a song as many times as you like), no stat-building (the only thing that's remotely close is that you can build your avatar up, but this isn't nearly as important as the stats in Love Live!), none of that. On the one hand, that makes the game far less complex, but it also makes it far more friendly to new players, and rather than new avatars simply being better than others, they change the game up in different ways (some decrease the amount needed to pass, others play the entire song in full whether you miss notes or not, and some show the precise timing to get good note ranks). Above all else, there's zero pressure- the game wants you to play it at your own pace, never directly hassling you beyond offering Recommended songs. Where the two diverge further is song delivery. Groove Coaster starts you with two songs and as you level up, you can unlock a solid number of songs that are completely free to play with no limitations on them, and also offers Recommended songs where you can try songs you haven't bought yet for free. It's less of a slog to level up too, as it only takes a few songs to do so. Additionally, during events (which are much less intensive than those in Love Live!, as it's just the top score on the song that gets items as a prize) there are often free songs to play and sometimes they're given to you as a freebie anyway. Early on, you'll probably have to play a song a time or two extra to get the next song along, but it's not even close to The Grind for making progress. Besides, I found myself playing the game just to relax a little rather than push forward to unlock stuff, because it allowed me to do so with no energy meter or anything.

No, the main area of Free-to-Play here is the DLC song list, with an impressive list of songs, including remixed Taito songs, Vocaloid hits from Nico Nico (including songs you might recognise from Project DIVA) and even songs from the arcade version of Groove Coaster, available to buy in packs of four. Unlike Love Live!, this means there's overall less songs going for free, but the DLC model at least makes sense for a rhythm game, you can still unlock plenty without paying a dime, and it's not asking for your money just to continue playing. It's also interesting to note that several Konami games released on the iPhone also have DLC shops, but they have no unlockable songs at all and only give you three freebies, with literally every other song requiring your cash. While it is perhaps fair to say some of the more desirable songs (i.e. the ones from other video games) are DLC, I didn't mind, as Taito have added new free-to-unlock songs anyway since launch, and I'm happy to give a little extra for things like Invader GIRL! and Quartet Theme Reborn. With that said, the entire soundtrack is excellent across the board, whether free or DLC, as the free stuff is populated almost entirely by songs created by members of ZUNTATA (most prolific amongst them is COSIO) and these tunes gel so well with the game's visual style and are excellent tracks to boot. While mostly electronic music, there's a nice mixture here, and any fans of ZUNTATA need to get this game just for the tunes.

(Of note: originally, the game used a premium currency for song and item purchasing, but this was phased out in favour of directly paying for them.)

One area where Love Live! has the upper hand is the presentation of the rhythm game itself. Well, except for the decision to put a pale-blue font on a white background (who is responsible for this?!) the rhythm game in Love Live! is much clearer (after you switch the character portraits off when special skills activate). You can very clearly see the target markers, where the notes come from, everything. Groove Coaster Zero is mostly OK in this department, but especially for some of the DLC tracks, the standard notes are sometimes a little hard to see, as they're white on a pale background- the shot on the left above is from Kagerou Daze, and while it seems fine in still images, in motion those notes are a little trickier than they should be to see. Sometimes the notes that float in mid-song are a colour that is very close to the background too, which is very frustrating as you'll just barely miss them and break your combo. I played both these games on an iPhone 4, and when it came to missing notes, Groove Coaster Zero had a few more missed due to just plain being unable to see them. I imagine this problem is alleviated when playing on a larger model, and I wouldn't call it ruinous, but it did dampen the experience a little bit.

Overall though, Groove Coaster Zero has that pleasant feeling of the Love Live! rhythm game, but adds its own subtle flourishes and, more importantly, has absolutely none of the exhausting Events, constant barriers, crushing stat-grinding or pay-to-win mechanics present in its rival. It's a solid, nice-to-play rhythm game that is OK with you just playing it every now and then (although its portability is hurt slightly by the fact that DLC songs may require you to download data before playing them on the road). There's no pressure, and the game is fun to play in its own right that I was fine with throwing Taito a quid or two for some extra songs to play in it. It's one of the few iPhone games that I've never deleted since downloading it, and I imagine it'll be on my phone alongside Road Blaster until it expires or I finally drop it in the sink by mistake.

For being a good model of free-to-play, Groove Coaster Zero is awarded...

In a sentence, Groove Coaster Zero is...

So, this was a little odd, yes.

I hope we were fair! To be honest, that's the other reason we didn't give Love Live! a score.

While our experience with Love Live! wasn't exactly all roses, it just meant it wasn't for me.

And hey, it's not necessarily representative of all Free-to-Play games, ya know? As our look at Groove Coaster Zero should verify.

If that sort of thing sounds like your kinda deal, then try it!

But if Groove Coaster Zero sounds more like your cup of tea, you should try that instead.

That's the message to take from this, I guess.

And now, it's that time, folks!

Now, both of these games received plenty of updates and revisions after this article was made.

So, for each game, we're going to look at one update each, of particular importance.

Let's start with the Love Lives. While we never reinstalled Love Live! after our playtime, we know that it's constantly been updated since then- just before this update went to print, the Japanese revision had a massive upgrade including more ways to earn Love Gems and UR Cards you can grab by trading others- but one update in particular stands out. Fans of the series found that some of the more overt homosexual references in the game were changed for the English version, with three examples in particular cited- Nozomi likes 'cute things' instead of 'cute girls' in one side-story, has a line about Eli altered in another, and Chiduko mentions relationships between a boys and a girl rather than those between girls (although the translation for this is disputed in the comments, it's still obviously changed). This also changes some in-world context- in-game, you take on the role of a student chosen as producer for the idols, but in the localised version the Chiduko line suggests said producer is male. The Japanese version suggests the player is female, which makes far more sense as the series is set in an all-girls academy. They didn't change all the dialogue like this in the game, but they definitely changed some.

Later that month, KLab made a statement on the issue on their Facebook page which you can read here, which seemed to suggest there would be no changes, then had a change of heart as the next month, they went on to alter those lines anyway (as I understand it, this update also changed 'Nico Nico Smile', which the localisation had stuck with since inception, to the more familiar 'Nico Nico Nii'). Whether KLab reverted any other lines, we don't know as we stopped playing the game (but if you know any more, you got our email address, right) but in any case, a positive example of reverting localised text via post-launch updates, hmm?

Additionally, in February 2016, Bushiroad and Square-Enix of all people announced Love Live! School idol festival ~after Schook ACTIVITY~ (their capitalisations, not mine), an arcade version of the iOS game. It's not out at the time of writing, and we're probably never going to play it (honestly, we were in Japan just a few months before as well) but judging from the size and style of the cabinet, it's gunning for the Aikatsu and Pripara market of smaller-cab, card-dispensing idol-based games, but with the game mechanics of the mobile game. Visuals-wise, it also looks like what the Vita game should've looked like, 'cause damn, 60 FPS and character models sharp enough to cut your eyes on? School idol paradise wishes it looked this good. Anyway, we thought we'd note it, and we had this appropriate Love Live! screencap to go with it, so there you go.

As for Groove Coaster Zero... That game no longer exists, as a 2015 update changed the entire game into Groove Coaster 2: Original Style.

(Which is also on Android now!)

This is a massive update to the game that, among other things, adds missions such as playing for a number of days and No Miss/Full Chain-ing songs to unlock items (including new ones that mirror the track, hide notes, make their appearance delayed, etc.) and new icons, titles and avatars for use with your Taito ID, and more significantly adds three Arcade difficulties to songs that appeared in the arcade version of the game. These are new beat maps that include new note types inckuding hold-swipe notes, and 'double' tap, hold and swipe (you swipe two notes opposite directions, like you're zooming in on a smartphone) notes that are made possible by the new ability to touch two parts of the screen at once. The final major addition is a microphone mode that lets you tap anything you like- the table, a pen, a tiny drum kit- and have the game pick that up as a tap. It's perhaps not an entirely new game, but it certainly rekindled my interest in Groove Coaster, and for a free update it adds a lot.

There are two criticisms here, though. The first is that the new note types in the Arcade stages are actually kinda tough to spot- in particular the double-swipe notes have the same colour as the standard swipe notes, meaning it's entirely possible to miss them- and it doesn't help that the game tries to teach you about these new notes in the middle of the stages. They make the game much, much harder but luckily they're confined to the Arcade stages so you don't have to play them if you don't want to. The second is that Taito were a wee bit cheeky with the Arcade stages, and while songs you unlock through levelling up and events are automatically given the Arcade stages where applicable, any you've previously bought must be upgraded for 79p a pop (in packs, fortunately). So, it feels like people who've bought a lot of songs are unfairly punished- buying those packs now automatically gets you the Arcade stages. Bah. Even so, you're automatically upgraded to Groove Coaster 2 if you have Zero, so there's no need to look for it- you already have it.

And after all that...

I never figured out what the term 'snow halation' even means.

[Hey! You lied to me! You promised there'd be no Love Live shit on this site! You promised!!
- Ed]

You mean in that last caption on the Project DIVA F 2nd page? Read the fine print, bucko, I said the Love Live Vita game.

iOS one's fair play.

[Gah. Caught out by your legal mumbo-jumbo again!]

[And hey, only my mom's allowed to call me bucko, bucko. You ain't earned that yet.].

go my way, punk!!