Like with many idol rhythm games for mobile, the game has you arranging a deck of cards into a band, with each card showing unique art of one of the game's 25 main characters and having its own power rating and skill. The band's total power rating influences the maximum score that the player can earn on a song, while skills activate upon hitting yellow-colored notes and have different gameplay-related effects such as temporarily raising the amount of points per note, converting off-beat hits into Perfect hits, and restoring the player's health.
Unique to this game is Multi Live mode, a Co-Op Multiplayer mode where the player gathers in a team of up to five players, each of which only uses the center member of their current band, to play one song together. When any player triggers their card's skill, the skill applies to all players, allowing players to help boost each other to a high score or save each other from failing out. All players' scores are combined into a single total team score, with more emphasis on playing well as a group over who gets the most points.
The game also expands on the series' lore, having a main story campaign where you, along with the rest of the staff of Live House CiRCLE, try to get five bands together for a big multi-band event.
Additionally, four more bands are introduced alongside Poppin'Party, each with their own stories to unlock and read:
- Afterglow — An alternative punk rock band formed by Childhood Friends.
- Roselia — A highly-acclaimed and exceptionally-talented gothic rock band with a serious approach to music, aiming to be the best band in the world.
- Pastel*Palettes — An idol-inspired band formed by a talent agency, initially marred by a lip-sync concert disaster before reforming and becoming a legitimate and successful band while maintaining their Idol Singer ideals.
- Hello, Happy World! — A cheery, poppy band with some very eccentric personalities.
- Anti-Frustration Features:
- If you have Live Boosts remaining, you have to use them to play songs. But if you are at zero Live Boosts, you can still play. While you obviously won't get reward multipliers, this is extremely useful if you are focused on practicing or going for the one-time score and combo rewards (which are not affected by Live Boosts).
- The game has an "Auto Set" feature for area items and each of your five teams; it will set items and members for you based on your attribute and band preferences. This is very useful in events, which heavily encourage using the correct characters and attributes in order to earn Event Point multipliers.
- You cannot use a card for Skill Practice or exchanging for Michelle Stickers if you only have one of it, preventing the issue of using up a valuable card by accident.
- In many other games with similar mobage structure, there's a gacha for low-rarity cards that are paid for with "friend points". Friend points and low-rarity gacha don't exist in this game; instead, all of the 1* cards in this game are obtained simply by reading chapter 1 of each Band Story.
- Anti Poop-Socking: Downplayed. Live Boost, this game's rough equivalent of stamina in other mobile "free-to-play" games, only influences rewards. You can continue to play songs even after you've run out of Live Boosts.
- Anti-Rage Quitting:
- In multi-lives, a Fever gauge appears in the measures leading up to the refrain for all players and each player fills their gauge up by hitting notes. If all five players fill their Fever gauges up in time, all players will earn double points from notes hit during the refrain. This is partially to discourage players from just force-exiting in mid-song just because they ran out of health early (the x0.1 score penalty for draining out doesn't affect filling the gauge).
- If you constantly disconnect in mid-song, or even in the pre-song menus after the party is locked in, you'll be tempoprarily banned from Multi-Lives for a while. So, no ragequitting just because you have to play "Guren no Yumiya" for the ten millionth time!
- During a "VS Live" Event, stamina is spent once you get to the song selection menu, meaning you already lost your stamina before getting to pick your song. You also don't get to see the songs others picked until you pick your song. This discourages people from rage quitting because they have to play a song they hate. Also, should anyone disconnect in spite of that, or because of a bad internet connection, it won't force the other players to go back to the first VS Live menu, meaning they won't get punished because someone else decided to rage quit.
- Artistic License Medicine: In the "Don't Leave Me, Lisa!!!!" event, the members of Roselia have ice cream during their practice break. While the others can do this with no ill effects, vocalists are advised to stay away from dairy products while they're singing or in the time leading up to it, since it messes with your vocal cords. The fact that Yukina, who is so serious about music that she renounced fun for years and had to re-learn how to make friends only after she finally realized that she was being a hypocrite about everyone else's emotions in their band story, eats her ice cream without protest and goes right back to singing seems a little out of character.
- Bribing Your Way to Victory: Stars are used to refill your Live Boosts, continue after failing a song in single-player, and most importantly, drawing from the gacha, and can be obtained through various means such as login bonuses, mission and event rewards, reading stories, and purchasing them with real-world cash.
- Cap: Cards are level-capped based on rarity. For 1* cards, the cap is fixed at 20. For 2* cards, the maximum level is fixed at 30. For 3* cards, it is initially 40, but can be raised to 50 after using up resources for Training the card. For 4* cards, the initial cap is 50 and can be raised to 60.
- Co-Op Multiplayer: How multiplayer works. Everyone's score is combined into a single team-wide score. Each member uses only the lead member of their current main band, but when anyone activates a skill, it applies to all players. Notably, while other idol games often have this mode as a time-limited event, Multi-Live in this game is always available, and playing it regularly is highly encouraged due to giving out more rewards than playing solo.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: An optional toggle lets you color notes depending on whether they fall on an eighth-beat or not.
- Commonality Connection: Misaki tries this with Arisa in the event "Sakura Blooming Party," perceiving that Arisa is likewise boggled and infuriated by Kokoro's dumb rich antics. Arisa responds by shutting her out because she's trying to hide her negative reactions and put on an unflappable Yamato Nadeshiko persona instead to be polite.
- Cover Version: The mobile game has the bands performing songs from various popular anime series such as Lyrical Nanoha, K-On!, and Attack on Titan.
- Damager, Healer, Tank: This is how the three types of card Boosts are framed:
- Score Boost is Damage, focusing on maximizing score, the rhythm game analogue to damage in other game genres).
- Life Boost is Healer, restoring the band's health.
- Note Boost is Tank, converting off-beat hits (up to a degree, depending on card rarity) into Perfects; Note Boost on a 3* or 4* card can "block" note judgements that break the player's combo and damage the lifebar (3* can block Goods and 4* can block Bads). This is similar to how tanks in other game genres soak up hits that would've otherwise injured teammates.
- Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: In multiplayer, if your own lifebar empties out, instead of the song ending for you, you can continue to play, only with a 90% reduction to points earned.
- Diminishing Returns for Balance: You can use up to three Live Boosts at a time; using two and three Live Boosts changes your Event Point multiplier to x10 and x15, respectively, as opposed to x5 for using one Boost. However, whereas using one Boost applies a x5 multiplier to EXP and item drops, two Boosts at a time applies only a x6 multiplier to those, and three Boosts makes it x7, meaning that using more than one Boost on a song actually penalizes your EXP and item gains.
- Early Game Hell: Like with other mobile idol-based Rhythm Games, don't expect a rank higher than a C until you get higher-rarity cards and level them up.
- Featureless Protagonist: The player is occasionally addressed by characters, sometimes by name, although you're never depicted.
- Flawless Victory:
- Achieving a Full Combo (no Goods, Bads or Misses) will be acknowledged with a "FULL COMBO!" banner after the chart ends, and, if it's your first time getting an FC for the chart, a reward such as Coins or Stars along with a pink star for the chart (as opposed to a yellow one for merely clearing it)
- Getting all Perfects on a chart won't get you any unique rewards, but it will be recognized with a rainbow star.
- Genre-Busting: The game goes this route with each band's origin story. Roselia's begins with a shonen manga-like storyline, Afterglow's has a dramatic flair, Hello Happy World's starts off with a Widget Series vibe, Pasupare with a "traditional studio-created idol" storyline, and Popipa as a slice-of-life story. Three of these stories are origins (though Roselia's actually takes place both before and after the main storyline, with a Time Skip to when they're more established), but Afterglow's Origin Story is saved for a Flashback Episode event and Poppin' Party's is left out of the game entirely, likely because most works so far in the franchise have tackled it.
- Harder Than Hard: Expert difficulty, above Hard. Notably, unlike in many other games of its ilk, Expert is available immediately from your first song, instead of having to be unlocked or requiring more resources than what you have at the start.
- Hello, [Insert Name Here]: Characters refers to you by the name you give in the first prologue chapter, which can be changed any time afterwards.
- Hitbox Dissonance: The Note Boost skill will temporarily expand the Perfect timing window to overwrite those of lesser timing judgements. A Note Boost from a 2-star card will override Greats, 3-star Note Boosts will override Greats and Goods, and 4-star Note Boosts will override Greats, Goods, and Bads (i.e. hitting the note at all will get you a Perfect).
- An Interior Designer Is You: You can purchase items to place in the cafe and inside CiRCLE. Placing an item will apply stat boosts to characters of a specific type or band, depending on the item placed, and will also unlock side conversations that award player and band EXP. Note that you cannot place all of the items you have, so you need to decide which item boosts will be of most benefit to you.
- Lampshade Hanging: Poppin'Party's band story in the game involves them "fighting" against the realistically minded town officials who are scrapping the town's annual festival for budget reasons. They're told multiple times by the adults that that they're just kids who don't understand how the world works. The dialogue references how stereotypical the scenario is, and how it's basically exactly the sort of thing you'd see in an anime. Chapter 8, where the city official first puts Poppin'Party down for being idealistic kids, is also called "Typical Villain".
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In Poppin'Party's band story, they're fighting against the stereotypical cynical adults that are making the tough-but-realistic decision to scrap the city festival, and believe that their idealism is childish. Poppin'Party make reference to how the city officials are like the stereotypical bad guys in an anime.
- Non-Indicative Name:
- Even though the game has several shops for purchasing area items and songs, the Shopping Mall area does not contain any shops that the player can use.
- Like in many other mobile idol rhythm games, the judgement rank of Good is harmful, as it will break your combo, although it will not deplete the lifebar.
- Off-Model: Sometimes the characters' models during cutscenes will clip through one another, usually at the elbows.
- Origins Episode:
- Pastel*Palettes', Roselia's, and Hello, Happy World!'s Band Stories show how they were formed.
- The "As Evening Clears" event is this for Afterglow.
- Poppin'Party has a Season 0 band story, which covers the events of the anime and their formation.
- Overshadowed by Controversy: The "Unwavering Will, Blazing Bushido" event story provides an in-universe example. A fight breaks out during an event for Pastel*Palettes between two fans. This isn't just a one-off thing either, as the fight erupts into a Flame War. Eve tries to intervene and stop the fighting by getting involved in the argument online, but only makes things worse, and gets reprimanded by the agency for getting too directly involved with the fans. Despite her initial failure, the girls decide to stand by Eve and let her speak to the fans about the fighting during their next event. While the agency is against this, the girls respond by pointing out that if the band's fandom has a reputation for toxic behavior like this, it will reflect poorly on the band.
- Play Every Day: You get a reward for every day that you log in. There is also the Premium Happy Box special, which gives you 1,000 Stars right off the bat and then gives you 80 Stars for every day that you log in. You'll continue to get Stars every day until you've collected them 25 times or 30 days from the time you purchased the deal, whichever comes first (up to 3,000 Stars in total).
- Power Equals Rarity: The higher a card's rarity (1-4 stars), the better stat tables it will have and the more powerful its skills will be (for example, Score Boost gives you a higher multiplier at higher rarities, while Note Boost will further expand the Perfect window).
- Regional Bonus: "Legendary" from Roselia, and "Excellent (Hey, Let's Go!)" from Poppin' Party got English version exclusives to the global version. These charts are even unavailable in the Japanese version of the game.
- And there are miscellaneous stamps exclusive to each regional version of the game, mostly tied with respective holidays.
- Remixed Level: Special Difficulty gives a song an entirely new Expert beatmap. Some Special maps ramp up the difficulty, such as Tear Drops whose Special map is rated 27* compared to its Expert map's rating of 25*. Meanwhile other Special maps, such as Sugar Song and Bitter Step, significantly tone down the difficulty (with the aforementioned song's Special map being rated 25* compared to the original's 28*).
- Ship Tease: Many, many gacha or event cards are rife with this, but in-story Kaoru all but blatantly ships Misaki and Kanon in the Hello Happy Phantom Thief event.
- Any event story featuring Kaoru in any serious capacity will contain relentless ship tease with her and another girl, no joke.
- Show Within a Show: Or rather, game within a game with Neo Fantasy Online, an MMORPG that Ako and Rinko play and talk about from time to time. It is focused on during the Neo Fantasy Online-Journey event, where Ako and Rinko ask the other Roselia members to play the game with them so they obtain a reward that requires new players.
- Silent Bob: Even though you don't get any proper lines in this game, some characters will ask you questions and it's implied that you do give an answer.
- Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Poppin'Party's band story in the game involves them "fighting" against the realistically minded town officials who are scrapping the town's annual festival for budget reasons. They're told multiple times by the adults that that they're just kids who don't understand how the world works.
- This is also the source of Chisato and Aya's conflict in Pastel*Palettes' story. When Aya expresses thankfulness that their hard work paid off and got them a gig, Chisato, The Cynic of the group who knows how show business works, bursts her bubble and her view of the world by telling her that Hard Work Hardly Works and her dedication had nothing to do with their fortunes.
- Socialization Bonus: Multiplayer allows you to earn more rewards, both through special lobbies that award more of a particular type of item than usual and the co-op mechanic allowing you to be carried by other players to ranks that you currently cannot achieve in single-player with the members you have.
- Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: The sound upon hitting a note will differ depending on the judgement rank you got for it.
- Temporary Online Content: Each event has two cards (one 2* and one 3*), event story chapters, and a Rare Stamp that you can earn with Event Points. Missed cards can be earned later from the gacha, missed event story chapters can be unlocked later after a period of time if all bands are at rank 5 or higher, but stamps are a once-in-a-lifetime (per region, anyway) deal.
25k stars no aya: Full Combo is easy!
Moca Latte: Happy! Lucky!
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