Update: The game is dead. Long live the game. It's not even one year.
I found a game from one of the seiyuus I follow. A familiar premise lures me in to try.
No longer novelty?
BATON=RELAY is a (声優, seiyuu) raising simulation game. Sounds familiar? It's one reason I decided to try the game, it has a genre similar to one I have covered before. However, I will try not comparing to the other game in this post, focusing instead on the aspects this game has.
The promotional videos doesn't have much in the way of gameplay, so I'll be posting the anime-style game opening here.
The title screen gives us a glimpse into BATON=RELAY's graphic design. My first thought on this, though, is "I think I saw this design style before". The design system is partially reminiscent of Love Live! School idol festival ALL STARS (SIFAS), however it's still unique enough.
I haven't actually touched SIFAS for now, only downloaded the data, but the similarity in design can be felt.
The tutorial is not interactive, however it has video tutorials, which one of my friend pointed out is also similar to SIFAS' tutorial system. Due to the design similarities I noticed already, it did not surprise me.
In the tutorial, I also tried out the gacha. I got really, really, really, lucky, because I instantly got the character I wanted, first try.
After the simple tutorial video is completed, you will now go to the home screen of the game.
This home screen is also your room, where you can customize it to your heart's content. The home screen shows your current resources, and, conveniently, the current date, time, battery status, and connectivity.
The main story menu is where we can watch the stories of BATON=RELAY. I myself cannot read much Japanese, unfortunately, so I cannot comment much on the story. However, the interface for story selection is decent.
BATON=RELAY's cast management is card-based, with one type of team. This screen is where you can manage your team, improve your voice actors, and also remove them (this game uses the tern "graduation" for this).
This screen is where teams can be set. My usual setup in this case is one mixed attribute team, and one team per attribute. I will explain the reason for this arrangement later, when we discuss the main gameplay.
Leveling up your voice actors can be accomplished by either tickets, or other voice actors you have. The experience tickets in this game is divided per attribute, of which there are four (Vital, Mental, Chance, and Talent).
The game features assignable skills, with each voice actor having a default skill and various skill slots. Each assignment costs a certain amount of materials. This allows more flexibility in your team composition, however this comes with a bit more complexity.
The "graduation" menu allows you to essentially fire your voice actors, getting money and meeting points in return.
The gacha mechanic in BATON=RELAY is also called scouting. The currency for gacha is apparently called Word (ワード). A 10x roll costs 500 of them. The SSR rate in this game is 5%, which is pretty good.
The meeting system allows you to know more about the voice actors you manage. You spend your "meeting points" to get keys that will unlock more information about the voice actor. The level corresponds to the amount of information you have unlocked, so it's not tied to any type of experience system.
There are two core gameplay mechanics in BATON=RELAY, Lesson and Work. However, you are prompted to select an anime first. Each anime has three difficulty levels, Normal, Hard, and Expert.
Lesson is where you train your voice actors, obtaining primarily lesson tickets, but also can give you work stamina (hearts). Each lesson chapter has a partner, and attribute which decide the dominant lesson and drop attribute type.
For lesson casting, it is recommended to bring voice actors with the same attribute as the lesson's attribute, to maximize bonuses. Lessons costs "Power", and each lesson cost one Power minimum. You can bring higher drops if you use more than one Power, for a maximum of 5.
Before the lesson stars, a schedule for the lesson will be generated, and the voice actors you allocated can be arranged to fit the schedule. There are three phases in a lesson, which corresponds to one batch of training for each of the voice actors.
The main lesson mechanic has some degree of interactivity. A lesson run have their own stamina, pertaining to that lesson run only. Each activity your voice actors do deplete the stamina slowly, and fills up the "Tension" bar. If the stamina ran out, all activities from that point will not yield items, so it is important to manage your stamina!
When the tension bar is filled, you can choose to double the drop, restore your stamina, or have a talk. This adds interactivity to the otherwise grindy lesson. Of course, you can set this to automatically choose an action, but manually choosing actions can give you better yields.
The Work gameplay consists of two parts. First, you need to pass an Audition first. After you passed Audition, you will be able to participate in Recording sessions.
In Auditions, you have to fill the score bar to win. Each phase requires a certain threshold to continue, so if you failed to reach the threshold within that phase, you have to redo the audition.
You can choose do a regular Appeal, or a maximum Appeal. Then, you have to tap the screen when the approach circle is inside the inner appeal circle. For maximum appeals, this inner circle will be smaller, so you have to be more accurate in your taps.
For Recording teams, each team slot will require a specific attribute to be will be counted in the session. If you have the voice actor which is the original cast of the anime, it will be better.
I didn't have a full grasp on how the teams in Recordings work, but I am slowly learning this.
The main Recording session gameplay is just idle watching the voice actors do their job, and it's basically scoring. Recording is the main source of money in this game, and the better score you achieve, the higher amount of money you get.
Each anime also has an additional information screen, including to watch the entire anime. You can also watch the audition tapes, where the cast is customizable.
Still a novelty
BATON=RELAY for me has its own charms, with a design that is modern, the level of interactivity in its gameplay, and a character that looks like a bookworm. The design stunned me. It managed to impart a professional feeling to the game, but is still fun to interact with as a game. The added interactivity will keep you occupied for longer.
However, this level of interactivity will become a hindrance when you're grinding for materials. There are also several minor issues with the interface, however for me it is not that big of a deal.
If you are in for another seiyuu raising game, you will appreciate the gameplay of BATON=RELAY. You will find a beautiful experience inside.