Author: Seb Reid
Seb has been an anime fan since the late 90s and is particularly fond of anything post-apocalyptic, amusing, catgirly, ecchi or containing exquisite aerial battles. Living in Leeds with his cats and living up the bachelor life, Seb enjoys whiling the nights away deep in a book, game or a damn good series.
What is Uta Macross?
The Macross franchise has been with us for 35 years in various forms, from TV, OAV, film and even in-universe games with original stories, it's one of the cultural pillars of animation in Japan. To celebrate the occasion, the kind folks in Japan have released a musical rhythm game which uses the entirety of the 35 years of musical history, as well as characters, variable fighters and scenes from all of the series.
It’s rather hard to see how a fan of both rhythm games and Macross could resist this game for very long...
What is it?
To begin with, what it isn’t is what I would call a game. A game tends to have a point, be it an ending, a trophy, a story or a target. Uta Macross is a time sink and if you play it more than it lets you, it’s also a money sink. It is one of the new breed of micro transactional games which have been born from the flames of the Japanese game market when the companies realised that the power of cute girls would make people part with their money to attain nigh-on-impossible collectable digital items.
The aim of the game is to enjoy the musical performances, and during each performance, defeat an enemy using a Valkyrie. To do this, you must hit all the correct notes in time to the music - victory results in some pleasing video and praise from one of the Macross idols.
Having Sheryl Nome, the Galactic Fairy, praise your graces is one heck of a reward.
Of course, you can have any of the divas from the series sing and dance for you once they are unlocked. From Ranka Lee, to Lyn Minmay and even Fire Bomber's Nekki Basara himself. Each is available with accompanying costumes and Valkyries.
How does it work?
Uta Macross is a gatcha game.
For those not in the know, a gatcha game, named after the collectable gatchapons which you can buy in Japanese arcades, is a type of game whereby powerups and additional characters are collected through the use of time / money / event limited lotteries. To get additional rolls to get what you want you either need to wait (in Uta Macross the free gatchas are granted every 8 hours) or pay for a roll using an in-game currency (and Uta Macross allows this to be done at the cost of 50 episode points per card).
So what's an episode? This is what Uta Macross calls its collectable cards. Episodes are scenes from any of the movies or TV series and each card has its own rating, rarity and can be upgraded using collectable gems in the game to enable more costumes and Valkyries to be unlocked. Each episode card can be given to any of the divas who are performing and this unlocks new powerup abilities and in theory, more abilities means more gems, which means more unlocking of powerups, higher scores and more praising from Sheryl (You're obsessed! - Ed)
These episodes work using a series of diva units. Each diva has three cards that they can use, and each unit consists of three divas. Every diva contributes, and the greater their level, cumulative episode card level and abilities, the better you can do on songs.
How does it play?
The aim of the game is to score as highly as possible on the songs. Each song has a cost, and you need to have the prerequisite “energy” to play a song. Each song has five difficulty levels, which are unlocked by completing the earlier difficulties, ranging from easy to hard, very hard and “extreme” which deserves its name. There are daily songs which are special and give you special colours of gems and these songs are only playable on certain days of the week. There are also regular events where you can compete with others, while playing themed songs, to win more prizes and get your hands on those delicious high rated rare episode cards, new characters or costumes.
For example, we recently had a Sheryl themed event where, if you were really lucky and got in the top 10,000 players, you got yourself a new Sheryl costume! Needless to say, I didn’t manage to get this costume as there are many people in this world who have too much time, or money, or both.
I consider myself to be a reasonable player of the rhythm games. I have years of playing Dance Dance Revolution, I have managed to score reasonably on DJ Max, Project Diva and Jubeat. But, damn, Uta Macross is hard! I normally play on Normal / Hard mode as they offer the best bang for the buck on gems, but Very Hard and the Extreme difficulties are physically impossible, at least for me. Whilst the game allows for customisations in terms of the speed of the symbols to tap, and the placement of the interface, the only way to manage these beats is to either be a robot, have four hands, or use a tablet. Alas, I don’t have any of these.
The aim of each song is to get the blessed SuperDiva mode. This occurs when you hit every single note within the fighting scene on each song. If you don’t, you have essentially failed and you have missed the chance of getting a rating above B. The ratings continue up to SS at which point the true glories of high scores become available.
What else can you do?
While the focus of the game is the music, you can do more. The game has story items whereby at each level more stories become unlocked and you can read chat conversations between each of the characters. The game also takes good screenshots, and does allow you to pose characters, in costumes with the episode cards as a background.
Other than that, Uta Macross is a bit limited.
Anything wrong with it?
Now, this is where the fanboy is put away for a moment. The game has some flaws and the number one flaw is this. Loading times. The game takes forever to load. From the moment it is booted, to moving between the various scenes, the game has a loading screen for each one. While I understand that it is a 100% remotely run game, communicating with the servers between each screen, is truly glacial at times. This could be my 3 year old phone, or the game being hosted entirely in Japan, but wow, it hurts.
Another problem is the language barrier of course. The game is not available to US or EU players and it is rather, troublesome to install, run and play if you have no knowledge of the language. However, on the next page, we have some helpful tips for you to get acquainted with the game and enjoy your first play.
Lastly, and this is a big problem, the game is highly motivated to separate you from your hard earned cash. Now, this is quite important, but you can’t do this without a Japanese credit card, and a registered address. So, I have some pointers, also on the following page, to help you make the most of your game time without shelling out any of your hard earned cash.
Is it worth playing?
Yes. Some of my favourite songs of all time are in this game, and it is a great way to pass the time. You will need to play the game daily to make the most of it, but it is actually rather cathartic and enjoyable and the more I play, the more I realise that this game is addictive and fun - loading times aside, it has become quite an integral part of my daily routine.