I’ve decided I want to start this new series of posts where I try and convince you guys to get into things that I like – outside of books. I’m always talking about books on here, so this is my opportunity to spread some love for some of my other interests. I’m starting with the mobile game Ensemble Stars!! Music which comes out in the UK, US, Canada and Australia (possibly NZ as well, but I’m unsure there) on June 16th. This is a game I’ve been playing on and off on the Japanese server for years now, and I think it deserves more love! I already have my second post like this planned for a later date on something you can watch or listen to rather than play, but let’s get started with this one!
What is Ensemble Stars?
Ensemble Stars is an idol franchise from Japan. It started with the game Ensemble Stars!, which was an idol raising game set during a year at Yumenosaki Academy. You played as the first student on a production course, and you would collect cards of all the idols and level them up. You could also romance the idols to an extent. That’s something that’s since been removed in the current iteration. It was a simple game but very popular. From that, we’ve gotten audio dramas, stage plays, manga and even anime.
Back in 2020, it was announced that the game would be changing, and a rhythm game was released. This was Ensemble Stars!! Music. For those who had accounts in the original game, their game was transformed into Ensemble Stars!! Basic. This allowed users to keep all the cards and things they had collected in the original game, as well as continue to read those stories whilst updating the game so it would be following the same story as Music. Music is set a year after the original game, so there are comments on things that happened in the past, but they are explained to new players.
If you love looking at pretty anime boys and listening to fun music, then this will be a game for you. But that’s not the only thing to expect. Though you don’t need to read the in-game story if you choose not to after the tutorial if you do you’ll find the characters are pretty complex, and you may find your heart being broken or elated at various points.
What’s the story about?
Music once again follows a group of mostly male idols as they work to become the best idols around. All of these groups live together at Ensemble Square, a recently built island in Tokyo where four different idol agencies have their offices. Many of these idols are students at Yumenosaki academy. However, there are students from another school and people who have graduated from school within these units.
Within the main story, you’re mostly following a group called Alkaloid. This group was formed by the manager of one of the agencies as a last chance for four idols who should have been kicked out. They move into the square and meet all the other idols whilst having to face off against another new group of troublemakers; Crazy:B. Within the main story, you will meet all the other groups, so you can focus on the events and stories of whichever groups interest you. I’m personally a fan of Knights. Not only do I adore their music, but their stories interest me as well as the characters.
Ensemble Stars is a game that should probably come with trigger warnings for some of the stories. Fortunately, there is a wiki with all the events listed as they’re played in Japan. The stories are no longer available to read on the Wiki, they do still have warnings for content that may upset you. So you can check each story on there before reading.
Admittedly, the stories in EnStars can be wild. They are soap opera dramatic at times, and it may make you laugh. But they do also cover some serious topics. We have a trans character, characters with mental health issues, and so much more. It’s not always the cutesy, cheesy game that it looks to be. But that’s why I have to shout it out, as it’s often very well done.
I’ll finish this off by talking about characters a little in this game. I did a whole post on it a few months back, and now I’m able to read the full story in English, I’m getting even more details.
There are a lot of characters in Enstars – 51 main characters in total – and they could always add more. With so many characters, you don’t expect that much detail for each character. And yet…you get it. Now, admittedly a lot of this will have been built up in the original game. Something we English fans won’t have access to as we’re only getting Music, not Basic. There is the anime adaptation, but that only gives you detail on a few of the characters. But the number of characters and the variety of them will mean there will be at least one character that you love.
I’m not going to pretend this game is perfect, and there are definitely problematic characters. Reading the main story, I’ve seen that racism from Aira that people had spoken about before, and that makes me not like him, for example. Both of my favourite characters are also problematic in their own ways, and I acknowledge that. But knowing the back story as to why they are that way just makes them more interesting. I love seeing these characters grow and that, yeah, some of them are horrible. But the writing is so good that they’re interesting, even when they aren’t likeable.
If you’re on this blog, you likely enjoy character-driven books, and this is very much a character-driven game. Yes, you spend your time on it tapping along to various songs, but if you weren’t interested in the characters and the cards you could get of them, it wouldn’t have lasted anywhere near as long as it has.
These characters will make you laugh, cry, and some of them you may even want to throw things at. No matter who you feel these things about, it’s the characters that will have you addicted to this game.
How do I play this game?
If I’ve intrigued you then the game will be available to download in both the iOS and GooglePlay stores from the 16th of June.
If you’re interested in preregistering and getting some extra goodies, then you can follow this link and use my code.