New year, new games. As we enter 2021, one release in January that caught my attention is ARGONAVIS from BanG Dream! AAside. As a rhythm game from a franchise I'm curious about, I want to check it out for some time before release, so I tried it out on release day.

Boys in bands

ARGONAVIS itself is a multimedia franchise part of the BanG Dream! franchise, however, it does not interact directly with the main franchise. As a multimedia project, it also has several other media such as anime. In this post, though, I will mostly focus on the rhythm game.

Interestingly, AAside is developed by DeNA. Yes, that DeNA. This makes it all more interesting to check the game out.  

Opening the game, I'm greeted with the title screen, which has some animated bits in it, which is pretty nice.

Title screen
The title screen

The tutorial itself is a bit lengthy, guiding you through the prologue, the rhythm gameplay, and the "daily life" system, which I think is one of the unique parts of the game.

Tutorial story
The tutorial story.
Tutorial 3D MV
The in game MV displyaed at the tutorial. 

The home screen itself is reminiscent of BanG Dream itself, where you can explore different areas on the map, and interact with the characters. You can also tap

Home screen
The boys in the room
Home screen map
The map of AAside

A very interesting addition in AAside, and unlike other games with similar features, is that you can make your band members do activities and complete quests. This feature is only available where you are in a band's room.

Quest options
Starting a quest

To start a quest, select one of the members, then press the Quest option. There are various quests that you can do.

Quest list
Usually, quests are band-specific

Each quest usually consists of several mini-quests and one Live quest. After the completion of the Live quest, there will be an MV performance from the members, which is nice.

Mini quest list.
Selecting a quest 

Each mini and live quest has requirements of minutes of activity from the band members, sometimes specific.

Quest start
The quest has started.

After starting a quest, you can select which activities you want your members to do, which are conveniently color-coded for requirements. There is one last activity listed, and that is a simple rest, to make sure your members are fit.

Activity selection
Activities to complete the quests

Finishing an activity gives you rewards and contributes towards quest completion.

Activity finish
Activity has finished

Clearing a quest will mark that quest as completed and give you rewards.

Quest clear
Quest has been completed.

The story interface is pretty typical of games like this, having a main story, and band stories corresponding to each bands, but the curious button here is the character stories, which are, like their name, are about the members themselves.

Story menu
Main story, band story, event story, character story

The story interface itself is pretty similar to other games of the type, so nothing new in here.

There are currently 5 bands in the game, the namesake Argonavis, GYROAXIA, Fantome Iris, FUJIN Rizing, and Epsilon Phi. You can access the stories of those bands in the Band Story menu.

Band story menu
While GYROAXIA is pictured, sound-wise I like Epsilon Phi, even though their backstory is a bit uhhhhh

The Member menu is where you can manage your members. While there are similarities to its sister game, there are notable differences. The most notable one when you first enter the Member menu is that you can see there are two menus for setting up your deck, one for activities and one for Sessions. While this can be surprising for some, well, not me. CUE! also had two different decks for different purposes (well, formerly).

Member menu
Diferent decks for activities and session,

It is possible to upgrade cards with materials to increase its stats and level cap.

Member upgrade
Card upgrading

One thing that might irritate some is the fact that AAside has a dupe system, where you need duplicates of a card for a specific level up mechanism, in this case the Grade Up mechanism. The upgrades cost currency and it also increases stats and level cap too.

Member grade up
A dupe system for Grade Up

The gacha system is pretty standard fare for a game of its type. Rate is slightly lower than standard at 2.5%, and it costs 2000 gems to do a 10-roll.

Gacha menu
The first gacha banner of this game
Gacha result
Not bad of a result

One important thing to note is that there is an explicit differentiation between free gems (Navistone) and paid gems (Diamond), and what's more the free gems are limited in time and can expire. So much for saving for a character you like.

Navistone expiration
Saving is not an option

The rhythm game part is called session, and here, unlike previous Bushiroad games, multiplayer is not implemented at release date, which is a bit unfortunate.

Session menu
Multiplayer isn't available on release

Like similar games, there are boosts that allows you to earn more items and EXP.

The music select interface is reminiscent of something like VOEZ, while having influences from similar Bushiroad rhythm games. Fittingly enough, VOEZ is also about a band, so nice coincidence there. There are four difficulty levels in this game, with EXPERT being the hardest. There are also sort and filter options available too.

Music select menu
I'll call this, the band music select menu, from now on.

There is a graph interface similar to what I've saw in D4DJ Groovy Mix. Unfortunately, this is for accumulative score grade, not an indicator of chart difficulty at all.

Score graph
A graph for scores of each band's music

The setup before starting a session is pretty standard fare, with the ability to do an autoplay.

Session deck settings
Setting up your band

Another unfortunate aspect of the game is that the live settings are pretty minimal. There are literally only offset and speed settings, and that's it. No adjustment of note sizes, not even different note appearances. This is a pretty sad state compared to its sister game, and even can make the game unplayable for some. However, there are 3D and 2D background options, which is nice.

Session settings
The only options I have are those? That's a bit barebones.

The rhythm gameplay itself is how I expected with a BanG Dream!-type game, with your usual tap notes, hold notes, and slide notes. However, there are two stand-out details from the rhythm gameplay.

A demonstration of 3D mode for AAside's rhythm gameplay, featuring an Epsilon Phi song.

First, the long notes, when they change direction, they sometimes embed a slide note in it too. This makes playing some charts more tricky, as I now have to make sure I move my finger a bit farther than what's enough, since I can miss those if I don't move far enough. The second, and a bit unfortunate detail is that because note sizes are not adjustable, more accuracy and precision is required in playing charts, and if you're playing on the phone, it can get a bit uncomfortable at times.

Growing pains

There is definitely backlash regarding some of the decisions and details of the game itself, from the lack of note sizes to the unique gems situation, and sometimes it does feel a bit incomplete. Fortunately, the dev team is aware of those feedbacks and are working towards resolving some of them, like the note size issue.

My take on it? Give it some time. AAside is actually quite aesthetically polished, it has stand-out features, and the rhythm gameplay is okay. However, there are definitely valid concerns and missing features that I understand can be a game-breaker for some.



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