Uta no Prince-sama Repeat LOVE
うたの☆プリンスさまっ♪ Repeat LOVE
Broccoli / Nippon Ichi Software
Haruka is a self-admitted loser, but she hopes her luck turns around at the famous Saotome Gakuen. There, wanna-be composers and idols team up in the hopes of going pro. The school has one strict rule: love is forbidden. Will Haruka and her partner manage to make a professional debut, or will their partnership be in jeopardy long before that?
Uta no Prince-sama Repeat LOVE shows off why the series took off in the first place, but it’s not necessary to repeat the game if you have already.
As you may or may not know, Repeat LOVE is the third version of the same game. First was the original Uta no Prince-sama that spawned a couple of fandisks and a sequel game and later spinoffs and alternate storylines. Then Broccoli decided to upgrade the first game with the better sprites introduced in Uta no Prince-sama Debut. Now Broccoli has decided to move the franchise to the Vita, and, unsurprisingly, Broccoli has decided to port the series over as they work on the newest entry (Dolce Vita).
So this review will answer two questions: is Uta no Prince-sama Repeat LOVE worth playing, and is it worth importing if you’ve already played the original or Repeat. That’s why this review is longer than normal.
Let’s start with the former.
If you’re reading this, I imagine you are interested in Uta no Prince-sama because of the anime. The basic story is the same: a girl who dreams of writing songs for the idol she admires (HAYATO) enrolls in a special music school. Of course, there are some major differences between the two versions, mostly notably the anime’s harem endings. But while anime-Haruka is a former sick girl who didn’t even know how to read sheet music at first, game-Haruka is a bit of a music otaku who seems to have bad luck. Let’s recap what happens on her way to the school’s opening ceremonies:
- A molester feels her up.
- She accidentally kisses a guy.
- She nearly collapses from a lack of sleep and from running so much.
Despite her rough first day (which is different if Haruka gets into S class, but more on that later), Haruka pairs up with one of the three guys she met to prepare for the competition at the end of the school year. Of course, various things happen, and she and her partner grow increasingly closer despite Saotome Gakuen’s strict rule against romantic relationships.
The game features seven routes. Three are available from the start, and you choose which guy Haruka gets paired with. (No common route.) The game is divided into months (chapters), and in each you have five points where you get to choose her response. Each month closes out with one of four minigames. The minigame and dialogue choices will affect the love and music gauges. If either of these are low in December (January in the secret route), you get an ending; otherwise, the story will continue on to one of the other two endings depending on your levels. Get any ending for Otoya, Masato, or Natsuki to make their roommate’s path available. Get the good endings for the six guys for a bonus route. As you play, you will unlock various text-only stories told from various characters’ perspectives.
As this is set in a school, certain events are featured in every route (school festival, Christmas party, etc.), but the dialogue and choices are always different during each route. If you are replaying the game (or just want to Platinum the game as fast as possible), there is a “skip to next choice” option along with “skip already read” and “skip all” features.
Excluding Cecil’s route, the routes have the same basic story: Haruka and her partner struggle with their personal problems and insecurities as they fight their growing attraction to each other. Here are her potential partners:
- Otoya: friendly, energetic guy
- Masato: the quiet heir
- Natsuki: cheerful, but when he takes his glasses off…
- Tokiya: lives in HAYATO’s shadow
- Ren: a playboy
- Syo: small but hates being called cute
- Cecil: mysterious
If you are familiar with the anime, some of the issues will be pretty obvious, like Ren being a flirt or Tokiya not wanting to be compared to HAYATO. But then take Syo’s route for instance. He’s confident and a bit cocky in the anime, but in the game, do you know what he does on the first day? Announces he’s looking for a slave. Syo’s brother is only mentioned in the Christmas OVA I believe, an episode not available on Crunchyroll or the Blu-rays from Sentai. And that’s not even bringing in the real conflict in this route, a serious issue that I don’t think anime-only watchers would expect.
For those who are going into the game without the benefit of the anime, then be assured that most of the basic archetypes are covered: the tsundere, the nice guy, the flirt, etc. However, the game puts a nice spin on some of these tropes. Syo for instance is not exactly very good at being a tsundere or ore-sama type considering a) he blushes easily and b) he’s constantly getting teased about his height. On the other hand, Ren spends a good portion of his route barely even acknowledging the heroine’s existence. It makes his route a lot less enjoyable than a normal playboy-turned-devoted-boyfriend storyline should go. However, in almost every visual novel, you are going to have routes you love and routes you’re not that fond of.
As for Haruka herself, I don’t how she has never had friends but gains at least four on the first day of school. I guess were supposed to feel so sorry for her. A good amount of the story is focused on friendship (both between guys, the guys and Haruka, and Haruka and her roommate), but even in the “bad” ending, her partner is still romantically interested in her. She definitely isn’t destined to a life of Forever Alone. If you like exploring all the branching paths in a visual novel, you will be disappointed by this game. She gets a happy future no matter if you choose the “correct” answers or not.
However, the real star of Uta no Prince-sama is right here:
Looking back, I can see why a lot of the other games have struggled to be the breakout hit the original game was. Since the other games don’t take place in school, Shining Saotome’s presence isn’t as important when he’s the boss you randomly have to report to versus the always-around-somewhere eccentric school principal. Just when you think you’ve seen all of Shining’s crazy stunts — which include building incredible machines, stealing an American icon, and “transforming” into his Super form — in comes the next route where he goes and tops himself. The characters never know when he is going to appear with another crazy scheme or ability. Plus he has a hilarious speech pattern that can only have been provided by the beloved Wakamoto Norio. When he drops his famous repeating syllables and rolling r’s (which he’ll always deny after the fact), you know there’s something big going on. Any other time, however, you better watch out — you’ll never when he’ll kidnap someone and strap them to a rocket to the moon.
Back to the minigames. They are:
- Knowledge quiz – Answer questions about music and the UtaPri universe
- Lyrics test – fill in the missing words by stopping the gauge at the right time and/or selecting the correct choice from a list
- Rhythm lesson – see the buttons to press, copy the pattern on your turn
- Performance test – rhythm minigame where you “play” a song by pressing the right button at the right time
Minigames have an easy and a hard mode. Scores do not carry over into another route. If you get a perfect on the rhythm lesson in Otoya’s route, that score doesn’t count in anyone else’s. Later games would eliminate the first two minigames (and the rhythm lesson here is the revised version that debuted several games down the line). The quiz ranges from simple questions like “who wrote Romeo and Juliet” to more difficult questions asking what zeffiroso is. (You are supposed to use the in-game dictionary to know the answers.) The lyrics test makes no sense in the context of the game, as in most routes, Haruka doesn’t know what lyrics her partner knows until graduation!
The main minigame is the one where you play the song. There are two songs in each route (the first reused in three or four routes), and three levels for each song. Each note will be graded as a POOR, GOOD, or COOL. Unlike Project Diva, you cannot press either Up and Triangle if the Triangle button is next. The direction pad operates as an additional key that you either hit on its own or in combination with another. Your right hand will likely become exhausted as it jumps between buttons while all your left hand is press any of the directional buttons.
Unlike later games, depending on your grade, you get a different reaction based on S, S Perfect, A, B, or C/D. Later games would change this to S, A/B, or C/D. So if you want to 100% the dialogue (which the game keeps track of), you need to get a COOL on every note in every song. It’s absolutely not fun to play the exact same song on three different levels three or four times — let alone how many times you need to redo the song because you didn’t press a note perfectly.
As I mentioned, Repeat LOVE is a port of an upgraded version. In Repeat, bonus endings were added, one for each guy’s three endings. For this game, Broccoli highlighted seven changes:
- Added 49 new episodes, all voiced
- Added 21 new illustrations (CGs/stills)
- The ability to touch the stills for voiced comments
- Character animation while speaking
- Added combo voice to music game
- HAYATO and Satsuki can be selected in the music minigame
- General tweaks like being able to skip tests, rewind the game, menu changes, etc.
Obviously, some of these enhancements are barely worth mentioning (I never play the minigames outside of the main game), but many of these are complaints I’ve had for a long time. Skipping those blasted tests, characters who actually move their mouths? Yes!!
Well, unfortunately, most of these features aren’t that great. The ones involving the minigames are pretty pointless. New stills are always welcome, but only one is added to each route; the rest are unlocked through the bonus scenarios. Many of the new images have the characters looking younger than they should be. Even that I could forgive if the touch voices were included on more than just the new illustrations; to get a trophy, you need to keep pressing the new illustrations and have them randomly give you two or three sayings. Really no reason why the old CGs couldn’t have a phrase added to them.
The bonus scenarios are unlocked upon completing routes, although one section for each guy is locked until you view Repeat‘s extras. In an absolutely baffling choice, some sequences are listed multiple times under each guy. The graduation scenario is listed seven times! Why just not have a “group” or “misc” section with all these sequences? These duplicates don’t count toward the 49 scenarios, but it still makes it seem like Broccoli was trying to pad the game. On the plus side, there were some backgrounds I don’t remember ever seeing before in the series, and they did bring in Shining, the teachers, and Tomochika to record new lines for the scenarios. I do like how some scenes are shown from someone else’s point of view, a feature I hope the other Vita ports will continue.
Also, because this game turned out to be incredibly popular, the True Love Endings feel like endings. The characters’ issues are wrapped up unlike, say, Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~. The game’s follow-ups don’t always seem (or seem at all) to fit the timelines in the eventual sequels. I was disappointed that they didn’t really work on connecting the fandisks and Debut to Repeat LOVE, such as mentioning there is a Master Course.
Finally, the biggest one: animations. Characters now blink and their mouths move. Great, right?
Well, just one problem: it looks incredibly stupid. The characters’ mouths do not stop moving for the entire text box. Masato introduces himself one time like this: “Hijirikawa Masato ………… that is all.” But the mouth flaps continue even during all the ….! Every. Single. Time. I understand it’s more work, but this is a far cry from the technology Hakuoki used in the PS3 version to turn the still sprites to the motion ones. Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi‘s sprites take a little getting used when you compare this to this, but when the characters are sighing or just thinking, their mouths aren’t moving. I know it’s more work, but it also gives you a more rich visual experience. Well, at least all the character’s mouths move unlike Hakuoki PS3. Definitely a major disappointment on what should have been a key feature.
Audio-wise, I didn’t notice much difference between Repeat and Repeat LOVE. The original recording didn’t seem to be that great, and Ren’s deep voice in particular can be hard to hear. Once you play the extras, however, the audio improves dramatically. However, in the new sequences, Wakamoto’s Shining sounds like either he was ill or that someone had a little too much fun with the mixer. Otherwise, the series’ all-star cast is likely to be familiar to many anime and otome game players. Taniyama plays both Natsuki and Satsuki full of emotion, and no one screams “let me go~~~!” better than Syo’s seiyuu Shimono. Miyano’s HAYATO is so annoying that it makes you wonder about Haruka’s poor taste in celebrities. But that’s a knock against the character, not Miyano, but you still will probably want to lower the volume whenever HAYATO appears.
The art style definitely screams that this is a Japanese game. Odd hair colors, unusual ways to wear a uniform, and even shoujo classics like kabe-don. CGs are unlocked every month or so, and like the game, there are a mixture of romantic and hilarious ones. Graphics-wise, colors seem to have gotten a boost. The backgrounds look even more vivid, and the few flourishes are enhanced. In Repeat LOVE, sometimes a different sprite is used.
Finally, I did notice at least one dialogue box is missing a sentence, so I honestly have no idea if certain dialogues were revised or whether this was a mistake.
The story is still fun, but the feature I was most looking forward to turned out to be a disappointment. However, the next game will be an Amazing Aria and Sweet Serenade double pack, and those are the two games who most need to be updated. Since I know what to expect now, I can temper my expectations.