Review by FFandMMfan
"A pretty good rhythm game... but are you secure enough with your sexuality to play it?"
Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking... "Pop Princess? WTF is this crap!? This is probably some casual, crappy, EBA ripoff aimed at young girls to make a quick buck from stupid soccer moms buying a 'cute' game for their little girl!"
Thats partially true, actually. It IS a merchandise cash-in (based on the Japanese Pinky Street doll line), but its not crappy, and its not an EBA ripoff. Despite being a clear attempt to appeal to the preteen girl crowd and make them buy what appears to be a shallow game full of girly things like shopping and dancing, its actually not a bad game, and while its not nearly as good as say, EBA/Ouendan/DBBDX, its a pretty solid (if easy) rhythm game that I would definitely recommend to someone looking for a new rhythm game for DS.
Of course, due to the general nature of the game, you'll not only be tapping your touch screen to the music in the dancing mode, but you'll also be shopping for clothes for your little character and watching the characters talk to each other in between dancing stages. The question is, are you MAN ENOUGH (unless you ARE a girl) to not be set back by these girly gameplay mechanics (and overall feel of the game) and be able to sit down and enjoy the game?
Story - 6/10
You (who is by default named Gaby, but you can name her whatever you want) are the new girl in town, and you want to be the most fashionable and best dancing girl in all of Rainbow City. To do this, you take Rainbow City's star, Anna, as your mentor and set off around Rainbow City, challenging the girls in the various clubs around town to dance contests, to win popularity and hopefully be just as good as Anna is someday. You also have a rival, named Elvira, but its a rather one-sided rivalry, as your main character doesn't seem to have any interest in the rivalry at all, but Elvira makes every attempt to upstage you that she possibly can.
Now, I'm not giving this score to the story itself, but rather to the conversations between the characters, which can be very amusing at times and actually caused me to laugh on more than one occasion. Not just because everyone takes dancing and fashion so SERIOUSLY, but because every character has a little quirk to their personality, and some of those quirks are genuinely funny.
Gameplay - 7/10
Since I'm sure you're reading this because its a rhythm game (and because its the biggest part of the game), I'll cover the dancing section first.
On the main map screen, you can go to the different sections of Rainbow City and from there, go to the dance club within each one and challenge the owner to a dance competition. The characters will talk for a bit before you start playing (which can be entirely skipped by pressing Start), and then you'll be prompted to flip your DS on it's side (like Brain Age), which is how the rhythm section of this game is played.
The gameplay is very simple, and only seems to present some actual difficulty towards the end of the game, but it doesn't change the fact that its extremely fun.
On the touch screen, there are three large rectangles stacked on top of each other, which will light up in various orders and with various designs on them to instruct you to touch them in a certain way. If the rectangle simply lights up, you tap it. If it displays an arrow across it in either direction, you slide the stylus in that direction. If it displays two arrows, one going in each direction, you rapidly slide the stylus back and forth on that spot until you need to hit the next spot. Sometimes, all 3 will light up with arrows going up or down, in which case you need to start at either the top or bottom of the screen and slide the opposite direction. It sounds extremely simple... and it is, but as you take on harder songs, the patterns become trickier and you'll sometimes have to tap/slide very quickly to get a Rainbow (perfect) rating on the notes.
For veteran rhythm gamers, the game will present absolutely 0 challenge and probably 0 fun, but any average rhythm gamer should find it a fun (if easy) experience. It should also be noted that I described Normal mode. Easy mode is just tapping the rectangles that light up (the most basic kind of note). If only there was a hard mode...
Also, since its a dance COMPETITION, you're dancing AGAINST someone, so the AI's performance can also effect whether you succeed or fail. If you do very poor, but so does the AI, you may pass the song. If you do extremely well, but so does the AI, you may still lose. This particular mechanic is what will cause most of your losses, rather than your own inability to complete a song.
When you win (and even when you lose, though your rewards are much lower when losing) you will receive some money and possibly a new clothing item or a P Coin (which can be used in vending machines to get random items).
Now... about that shopping and dress-up part...
You never HAVE to do it, you can wear the default clothes for the entire game and never touch ANYTHING but the dancing sections, so if it makes you feel "unmanly" or whatever, to dress up a virtual girl, then you simply do not have to do it. Though I personally liked having the ability to customize my character any way I wanted, so whatever >_>
One major problem with the shopping mechanic is that everything costs TONS of money, pretty much the cheapest stuff you can get is 5,000 and at the start of the game you get about 100-200 per song you play (even if you fail it), and by the end you're basically only getting about 500 a song, so you can basically only afford one or two outfits for the whole game. Of course, when you complete songs, you oftentimes get clothing items as rewards, but you don't get to choose what you get. Plus selling is almost useless since the most you'll ever get for anything is 500. Also, you only get one face for the ENTIRE game, but after you beat the game and save your clear data, you gain access to tons of new faces (as well as voices for your character). But yeah, for a game where one of its major gimmicks is the shopping system, shopping sure is a pain in the ass to work with.
There's also this little thing where you can take pictures of your character doing various poses and save them to an album, but its pretty much a tacked-on feature.
All in all, the gameplay is simple (and did I mention really easy?) but fun, and for those of you who don't want to do the whole shopping thing, you don't have to... and for those of you who do, don't expect to have an ideal character for a LONG time.
Sound/Music - 8/10
Whats a rhythm game without music? ...Not a rhythm game...
Anyway, the music in Kira Kira Pop Princess is all Midi, but the songs are pretty good for the most part. There's 36 of them (6 categories have 5 songs, 1 has 2 songs and 1 has 4 songs), but only about 10 of them pose any sort of challenge, though that doesn't change the fact that the game is still really fun to play.
Overall, no complaints with the music in the game, its all pretty good stuff. There's lots of genres covered too: Pop, Rock, Hip-Hop, Classical, Video Game, Parapara, J-Ballad and "Rival", which are songs against your rival, obviously.
As you progress through the game, it'll seem like once you've beat a song, you can't play it again, since returning to a club will just give you the next song to play, but within the main menu at your own club, you can access the "Live" option, which lets you replay any song you've completed thus far.
As for the sound, it can be a major problem...
Apparently, the voice acting in the European version of the game is absolutely terrible, but since I've used methods which I cannot discuss on GameFAQs to allow my game to have Japanese voices, I don't really know how terrible the voice acting is in the European version >_>
But what I can say, as someone who watches a lot of Anime and listens to a whole lot of Japanese music, that the Japanese voices are pretty terrible themselves, so if people who have played the Japanese version said that the European version sounded WORSE... oh god... >_>
But thats not specifically why the sound is so bad, its because it can sometimes overpower the sound of the music as you play, which makes it difficult to concentrate, since your characters will be talking A LOT. Usually its just a short outburst when you perform a long combo chain or something, but its louder than it has any reason to be...
The sound effects themselves are fine, nothing wrong with them at all. Also, when you're actually playing the dancing sections, each "note" plays part of the song, so if you hit the notes wrong, the song sounds offbeat, which I think is a nice touch and gives you more incentive to do well.
Graphics - 9/10
This game is actually freaking fantastic looking. It uses a VERY smooth and well animated Cel Shading style. The characters make all kinds of motions when they dance and during the cutscenes and none of it ever looks stiff, they really did a fantastic job animating these characters.
Lets not forget about the clothes now. There's a whole lot of them, I've probably not even come close to collecting all of them, but there's a pretty wide variety of stuff here, with all sorts of different styles and yes, they're all drawn and animated fantastically. You can change your hairstyle, shirts, pants (which also change your shoes to match), accessories and after you've beat the game, your face and voice as well.
The menus are also pretty sleek, and while its almost entirely pink and white, the way its designed is very nice.
There's really no problems in the graphical area, the game looks great, simple as that.
Kira Kira Pop Princess is a really fun rhythm game that unfortunately is a bit too easy for most players, but IMO should still be enjoyable despite that... as long as you look beyond the super-girly presentation (if that bothers you for whatever reason, it doesn't bother me, but I know some grown men are still afraid of pink so...) you should be able to enjoy this game for what it really is - a rhythm game.
Despite a few minor flaws, its a pretty solid game that could really have used a Hard mode.
+ Overall, a very fun rhythm game
+ Good music, lots of variety
+ Fantastic graphics
+ Fair length, plus lots of replay value (like most rhythm games)
+ Character customization
+ Cutscenes are usually pretty funny, thanks to a quirky cast of characters.
- Too easy, really could have used a hard mode.
- The fact that the game is in Midi may turn some players away (Its fine with me, though)
- Clearly aimed at young girls, some male gamers may be afraid to play it because they think their wang will invert if they spend too much time doing girly things.
- Clothes get sold for 1/10th of what you paid for them.
- Extremely hard to get enough money to design an ideal character.
- After you beat the game and save clear data, it sends you back to the start of the game (though you still have all your songs/money/clothes/etc), but this means that certain areas are locked and you can't go to certain shops for a while.
- Camera mode feels tacked on.
- Poor voice acting (in both versions of the game).
- You can't pause during dance mode, which also means you can't quit or restart.
Would I recommend it? Yeah, as long as you aren't a master of IIDX or something, in which case you'll not have any enjoyment at all.
Just remember, you aren't any less manly for playing a "girl's game"... or are you? Tee-hee.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 11/13/08
Game Release: Kira Kira Pop Princess (EU, 03/07/08)
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