Monday, 3 April 2017

Game REVIEW: Weiss Schwarz Love Live! Sunshine!! Range


RRP: £18.99 per deck, £4.95 per booster (8 cards) 
Where to buy?: Available from your friendly local game shop! www.findyourgamestore.co.uk 

Move over µ's, there’s a new idol group in town. Last year we saw the girls of Love Live! School Idol Project hand over the torch, a new generation of idols in Love Live! Sunshine!!, who will be returning to screens later this year for a second season. In the meantime Weiss Schwarz developers Bushiroad are continuing the success of their multi-anime franchise card game with a brand new range of Love Live! Sunshine!! cards starring Chika, You, Riko, Kanan, Dia, Mari, Yoshiko, Hanamaru and Ruby – aka Aqours

Once again thanks to the wonderful team at Esdevium Games (the UK distributor for Weiss Schwarz, the Pokemon Trading Card Game, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Cardfight Vanguard and a whole host of other card and board games) we’re taking a look at the Love Live! Sunshine!! trial deck, along with four packets of booster cards to help bolster your deck.

The Packaging


Summer is rapidly approaching and as the title of the series suggests, the Love Live! Sunshine!! packaging is here to help you get in the mood. The trial deck's packaging bears a similar colourscheme to that of the original Love Live! trial deck, but with a lighter blue background of glistening water complimented by some bright yellow flowers. On display in the transparent front window is the deck's guaranteed foil card, which unsurprisingly is Chika since she's the main character after all. A different image of Chika is featured just under that window, with another shot of that art on its respective card on the back alongside some product information and the trial deck's contents. 

Inside the box everything is kept neatly inside a custom-moulded plastic tray, with a plastic band also kept around the card to keep them nice and orderly. The deck features a total of 50 cards (that's 50 cards, not 50 different cards by the way), as well as a rules sheet, playbook, playmat and deck manual.


Meanwhile the boosters come in a rather fetching foil blue packet, which again matches quite nicely with the colourscheme of the previous Love Live! range. The front features a nice big image of Chika in her "Aozora Jumping Heart" outfit, along with the Love Live! Sunshine!! and Weiss Schwarz logos.  The packets also note that there are a total of 100 cards in this set, with an additional 27 "parallel type" cards.



Each booster pack contains a total of eight cards, most of which are likely to be character cards as they take up the bulk of the range. With four successes out of four it seems that each booster will contain a holo-foil card, which is news I'm sure all the collectors among us will breathe a sigh of relief at.


As briefly mentioned earlier the Love Live! Sunshine!! range includes a number of “parallel types”, which are variant cards which have the same functions as the standard ones but depict slightly different artwork. Pictured above is two versions of a Dia Kurosawa (aka best Sunshine!! girl) card, which as you can see comes with both full-body and close-up artwork. The trial deck guide sheet also notes that they can too include variant cards, particularly special versions featuring gold foil autographs of the girls’ voice actors. Sadly my sample trial decks included no such cards (and thus I have no pictures for them), so one can only assume they are fairly hard to come by.

The Cards

Just to reiterate from the previous review, Weiss Schwarz cards come in three different varieties - character, event and climax. The cards themselves are made high quality materials, making them both sturdy and easy to shuffle. In terms of presentation they definitely favour aesthetics over ergonomics, as the picture takes up the majority of the space and that all-important play text is relegated to a tiny space at the very bottom. The text itself is perfectly readable, but those with poorer eyesight mind themselves needing a magnifying glass just in case.




First up are the character cards, which make up both the bulk of a playable deck and the Sunshine range as a whole. Each one features a different member of Aqours in a different scenario, ranging from scenes lifted from the anime itself to additional promotional art of the girls in all manner of extravagant costumes. A nice little touch is that the trial deck features all nine of the "Kimino Kokorowa Kagayaiterukai? (a translation would be really handy for some of these titles) cards, which look great when all laid out next to each other. However it doesn't take a look at many cards to notice the big flaw with the Sunshine range as a whole - the art used isn't of particularly great quality. In my previous Weiss Schwarz review I brought up the issue of the cards using scenes from the shows themselves, commenting how the image was often blurry or using a surprisingly low resolution for a professional product like this. In that case it was only a case of a couple of cards suffering, but here it seems to be a problem with quite a lot of them. It's a real pity, because the quality of the cards themselves is excellent and all the ones that use promotional art are of really high quality, so I'd be curious to know if this was a conscientious decision or whether what are is used on these cards is something that's out of Bushiroad's hands.


As seemed to be the case in my previous review Event cards still come in relatively short supply, with only one included in the trial deck (a deck can only hold a maximum of three and usually they’re all the same type) and none turning up in any of the boosters. These are supplementary cards that can provide you with an extra boost during your turn, and despite coming in short supply can be pretty potent if used correctly. Players can use multiple event cards in turn, providing that they’re currently in their hand and that the player has enough stock to pay their required usage cost. 

The above Event card is particularly important in the Love Live! Sunshine!! trial deck’s basic gameplay strategy, which will be covered in more detail further down in the review.




Last but by no means least we have the unique horizontal climax cards, which are one-turn cards whose special effects can often turn the tide of a game. Only eight of these can be included in a deck, with three different varieties appearing in the trial deck. One minor visual nitpick is that while all three cards depict the same scene (breaking the girls off into their respective school year groups of three), only two of the cards match in style. Of course this’ll mean very little to players, but visual uniformity among the three cards definitely would have made them stand out all the more. The “Aozora Jumping Heart You” card is rather nice as the image is lifted directly from the series opening, and it seems safe to assume there are probably corresponding cards for the other eight girls as well.

Using the Deck
 

I've already covered in lengthy detail that this isn't the easiest game to pick up for beginners. The aim of the game is damage your opponent enough to get them up to level 4, which will win you the game. However when a player goes up a level, they also have access to the stronger cards in their deck (at level 0 you can only use level 0 cards, then at level 1 you can use level 1 cards etc.) so they're suddenly in a much better position to fight back. As well as their general type cards are also divided according to colour - yellow is speed, green is power, red is technique and blue is advantage (aka defence). a card cannot be played unless a card of the same colour is in the Level Area or the Clock Area (unless it is a Level 0 Character or Event card).

Each turn is made up of multiple steps, and even though the playmat does its best to try and explain things, but sadly it isn't quite enough. Hopefully one day Bushiroad might consider producing some sort of starter pack like other trading card games do just to ease players in a bit more, but for now it's very much a case of jumping in at the deep end!



So rather than lament at the difficulties of the game as a whole, let's take a look at how to use the Love Live! Sunshine!! deck specifically. Thankfully, it feels like it might just be a step in the right direction.

Printed on the back of the playmat is a handy guide to using the deck, which not only outlines what are the main cards of the deck but also how to bolster the deck by swapping out some of the weaker cards in favour of those available from the booster packs. More important though its the play guide included, which outlines the main strategy to use when it comes to this deck. Once you're able to get your head around the game itself, using this deck comes very naturally. 



The cards have also been cleverly lined up by their respective years, with the first year students (Hanamaru, Ruby and Yoshiko) kicking things off as yellow level 1 cards. Once you're in a position to play level 2 cards it's all about technique with Chika, You and Riko. You and Riko are designed for attack, with Chika providing support. When you hit level 3 it's an all or nothing play, so out come Dia, Mari and Kanan as the big guns. Dia and Mari are designed to overpower your opponent, while Kanan's ability allows you to place the top card of your clock in your waiting room. If all goes well victory should be yours, but there's still a few other tricks this deck has just in case. Remember that one event card the deck has? That allows you to return two cards from your waiting room into your hand, which is extremely useful for getting your hands on the cards you need either now or for your next turn. 

Of course following a strategy laid out in the instructions probably won't get you very far against experienced Weiss Schwarz players or those with custom-built decks, but it's a great start until you're confident enough to start playing around with different cards and strategies. I still wouldn't quite call this deck "beginner-friendly", but certainly a bit more accessible. 

Verdict

The Weiss Schwarz Love Live! Sunshine!! range is a bit of mixed bag. While the trial deck is undoubtedly a far more beginner-friendly way to get immersed in this fairly complicated card game and should definitely be recommended over the standard Love Live! trial deck, the quality of the cards themselves leave much to be desired. The over-reliance on blurred screen-grabs from the anime just doesn’t match up the high quality artwork most Weiss Schwarz cards tend to utilise, making the Sunshine range pretty unappealing from a visual standpoint. Love Live! Sunshine!! is still a relatively new series (and as such doesn’t have anywhere near as much artwork as the original show) so while I can understand Bushiroad’s need to strike while the iron is hot, the range would have definitely benefitted from being held off a bit until more resources were at their disposal. The upside is there’s little chance of Love Live! Sunshine!! going away any time soon, so when the series inevitably gets a second set/expansion hopefully they’ll get a much-needed quality boost to go with it.


These cards were kindly provided by Esdevium Games for review purposes. However, all reviews reflect the writer's own personal views and are not influenced in any way.

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