By Angelina Hu.
Ensemble Stars: it’s idol hell, rhythm game hell, and gacha hell all rolled into one. Is it good for one’s health to gamble their soul away on JPGs while desperately tapping circles on a screen? Probably not. But it sure is addictive.
Hello one, hello all! Welcome to a trusty guide for all things Enstars coming up in February. This article is intended to be beginner-friendly and will explain the basic features of the game, as well as detailing the February special campaign schedule. Feel free to stay if anime, pretty idols, and rhythm games interest you. It would be lovely to drag more friends into our little cult circle of mobage.
Ensemble Stars (or Enstars, as fans call it) is a Japanese series developed by the company Happy Elements. It features a predominantly male cast of idols, and you, the protagonist, must act as their “producer” and guide them to success. There are two games under the Enstars series: Basic and Music. First and foremost, both have a gacha system where you can “scout” for cards of the characters by throwing money at the game and hoping RNG treats you well. Card rarities in normal gachas range from 3* to 5*, with 5* having a 3% drop rate and being the most sought-after.
As for the game version differences: Basic is an idol-production game, where you raise the stats of your characters’ cards through endlessly grinding “production work” and farming items. Music is a rhythm game, where you play beatmaps of songs sung by the idols. Some of them are ridiculously difficult. Both have regular updates to the gacha card pool and hold two events a month, where you can play to earn materials and even an event 5* card if you grind hard enough. Both apps are Japanese only, and can only be installed (for free) from the Japanese App Store. Fortunately, it’s very easy nowadays to find a guide on making a Japanese Apple ID or downloading a VPN for Google Play. I myself used a combination of several guides to make mine and don’t remember which ones they were after one and a half years, but here’s a straightforward Wikihow guide I found.
Back to Enstars. I only play the Music version of the game; however, the two apps run concurrently and major updates are released to both at the same exact time, so there’s no need to worry about versions being behind. Now, it’s time to get into a rundown of events coming up in the next few months.
Part 1: February Announcements
A Valentine’s Tsukasa card from 2017. It’s pretty and fits the theme here.
February. Valentine’s Day. The two go hand in hand, and Enstars clearly isn’t missing out, considering the fact that lovestruck fans going crazy over their favorite character is the selling point of the franchise.
On Twitter, it has already been announced that the Valentine’s Campaign will run from February 10th to February 28th. All of the characters will be receiving special Valentine’s voice-lines for the holiday. They can be obtained by giving chocolates to the idols; said chocolates can be obtained by playing lives or doing production work (depending on the game version). More details have yet to come out, but the voice lines will be quite fun to receive. Call it fanservice. Yours truly will be looking forward to new Mika and Natsume voice lines.
In other news unrelated to the holiday, the units Trickstar and 2wink will be receiving their MV outfits in Music. These outfits can be worn by the characters in the 3D music videos accompanying all of the songs in the game. Trickstar will be getting their Halloween costumes (a little ironic for February) and 2wink their Setsubun Festival costumes. Clearly, there are two types of people in this world: those who love catboys, and those who love angst.
An edit by yours truly of the two outfit sets. Left: Trickstar. Catboys. Right: 2wink’s outfit announcement. Setsubun Festival was an event from 2017, and the event story featuring the Aoi twins was quite sad.
As with the outfits already released, these costumes can be bought for 300 paid dia per unit, which translates to $25 USD. It’s expensive, but some people would do anything for their favorites, you know?
Finally, Trickstar’s song “BREAKTHROUGH” is going to be added to Music on February 9th, with the Expert mode difficulty being level 30– the highest possible level in the game. Fantastic. The MV is already up on the official Ensemble Stars Youtube channel.
Aside from that, the most notable announcement to come out of the last week of January is the touring event starting on January 31st featuring Mika and Kohaku 5*! Touring events are a type of event that feature two units and two 5*s, and going through the list of units in the past touring events, the only two units left to be in one were Valkyrie and Double Face.
As such, the entire fandom had been eagerly awaiting the Valkyrie-Double Face touring event ever since November, when the last touring event was held and it was revealed which two units got the very end of the rotation. Valkyrie’s Shu and Double Face’s Madara already got their event 5*s in other events last year, so Valkyrie’s touring 5* was locked to be Mika and Double Face’s was locked to be Kohaku. And at last, here we have it! Mika and Kohaku’s touring event! And, bless Happy Elements, these cards are absolutely gorgeous.
They’re beautiful, aren’t they?
Mika producers, Kohaku producers, happy event grinding. They really got the quality art they deserved.
Shu and Madara are the event 4*s, and at the time of this article’s writing, the 3*s have yet to be revealed, which leads one to curiosity. The event story revolves around an antique festival, which gives little to go off of in terms of character themes, so we can only wait and see.
The event gacha has also been revealed to feature a Hiiro 5* and Hokuto 4*. Hiiro producers, good luck. He looks stunning. Of course, Nazuna’s feature scout is running as well, all the way to February 10th, so to those scouting I hope you either got him already or will get him!
The flowers on Hiiro’s card are white lilies. They symbolize purity and rebirth. Nazuna’s card is adorable, too! His backstory is very interesting in my humble opinion, although most of the fandom would agree.
That finishes the last of the pre-announced February events. And, of course, looking past February, March is fast approaching, which leads into the next subject of eager discussion…
Part 2: The Anniversary
Part 1 out of 4 of the 5th Anniversary art, featuring the units Trickstar, Ryuseitai, Alkaloid, and fine.
To be clear, Ensemble Stars has been around long before the Basic and Music servers went live on March 15th, 2020. Enstars first launched in 2015, and the old game was centered around idol-raising, just like Basic. In fast, Basic is just a rebranded version of the old game with a shiny, upgraded server; you could even keep the cards you received during your time playing the old one. Music, on the other hand, is a completely separate app, and everyone started from scratch on it last March.
As such, spring of 2020 marked the 5th anniversary of Ensemble Stars. A four-part campaign was held in commemoration for this, and it somehow stretched all the way to NOVEMBER, which is insane. While Enstars wouldn’t do this again in 2021 for the less important 6th anniversary, it’s clear they don’t cut corners when it comes to special goods.
What’s more, for the half-year anniversary of the Basic and Music servers in September, players were spoiled with a series of missions to complete for a free 5* and a few hundred dia, as well as login campaigns for a whopping 80 free scouts (one scout means one card, and there’s a guaranteed 4* or 5* per ten scouts). On top of all that was another 370 free dia, the ingame currency used to scout in normal gachas. It was probably way too much for a mere half-year anniversary. In addition, 20 more free scouts plus some dia were handed out for Christmas and 20 more for New Year’s.
For the one year anniversary of the Music and Basic servers (aka 6th anniversary overall) this March 15, the only treat that has been announced so far is the fact that the main story of the game –a visual novel featuring the characters– will finally be fully voiced! Now, reading the story is more immersive. Of course, if you can’t read or understand Japanese, it’s pointless either way, but getting to hear your favorite characters talking is still a very pleasant experience.
We can assume the anniversary season will bring more free scouts, along with free dia, and items like crystals for raising card stats. Anything beyond that is speculation; the five-year and four-year anniversaries gave every single character in the game a limited-edition 4* that could be scouted in a gacha, so it’s unknown if something of that scale will make a repeat performance. There isn’t much else to go off of, so we can only get excited and wait for more announcements in February.
Part 2 out of 4 of the 5th Anniversary art, featuring the units Eden, Valkyrie, Crazy:B, and 2wink.
There’s lots to look forward to as winter draws to a close in Ensemble Stars! To fellow players of the game, have fun with the Valentine’s campaign and pray for dia from the anniversary! To those of you who don’t play the game, it’s highly recommended! Despite being a little daunting at first, the wide cast of unique characters provide something for everyone, and the fandom wiki is filled with translations of event stories to acquaint yourself with them. If you dislike reading, a 24-episode anime adaptation of some of the stories is fully released for you to stream online. The game itself is quite fun, and even more translations of the game mechanics exist all over the English fanbase.
Have fun, and have a happy (early) Valentine’s, producers! Let’s look forward to March 15th.