Cute girls in cute outfits, doing cute dances to cute songs. Deep plot lines optional, character archetypes and cash-cow milking downloadable content, required. As such is the anime idol game genre. Front Wing’s “Time Leap Paradise SUPER LIVE!” is no different.
Time Leap in a Nutshell
First, a background on the Time Leap series itself. Time Leap and its sequel, Time Leap Paradise, are eroge visual novels that involve working at a local shrine, some time travel, and some more… suggestive moments between the characters. First released in Japan for PC, a more safe-for-work version of the first title was released for PS3 and Xbox 360. SUPER LIVE is a spin-off of the sequel.
It should be noted that the Time Leap franchise is Front Wing’s first foray into using 3D models in their lineup of titles. The teaser trailers showed off crisp lines and smooth curves as the girls danced on a small pink stage in various times of day with various particles falling from the sky.
Showing Off in a SUPER LIVE
There is no story, period. Before the game loads, an options window allows you to choose graphical settings. Upon first arrival at the main menu, the only options allow for a solo or group performance. Starting off, players only have access to three out of five girls: Yuu, Ayumu, and Young Ayumu. (Remember the time travel mentioned earlier?) In terms of gameplay, action and choices are limited to song, character, stage, and costume choice. Unlike others within the genre, the performance features zero rhythm mechanics or character interaction. Instead, subtitle lyrics are offered in Japanese with English translations. If anything, the captions may be useful for someone learning the language. For those unfamiliar with Japanese text, worry not, the lyrics are romanized for anyone to sing along. For those familiar with Japanese text, you’ll have to squint to see the kanji placed above the romaji. It’s a baffling choice, given how Japanese text is usually formatted, but it appears to have been a conscious decision to appeal to a wider audience.
The songs are catchy enough and tend to grow on you after a while, especially since there are only two prepackaged songs for players to choose from: “It’s show time” and “Happy Leap,” with enough space in the menu for the six unlockable songs. Longtime anime fans will be pleasantly surprised at some of the extra songs, with themes from other franchises like, Figu@mate’s “Gacha Gacha Cute,” the Little Busters theme, and Air’s “Tori no Uta.” The professional quality of the voice actresses make one forget that the songs are covers.
When it comes to the Time Leap original songs, the new masterings and mixes of the songs are leaps and bounds higher than the versions used in previous installments. While Time Leap Paradise featured songs that sound like a vocal track layered over MIDI instruments, the SUPER LIVE versions sound like the girls have a live backing band up on stage with them. As for the background music, instrumental versions of the original two songs play through the menus. While nice enough, the music restarts from the beginning when going between solo and group performances. It’s only slightly jarring, almost a non-issue to begin with.
For performance extras, players can pick between three times of day: daytime, twilight/sunset, and nighttime, with the option to choose between five different effects from rain and snow to cherry blossom petals and confetti. The two featured costumes are the girls’ everyday wear and a skimpy stage outfit consisting of half a corset, and a three-inch long miniskirt/striped stockings combo for those into zettai ryouiki. Other options included swimwear and school uniforms, as is traditional wear for anime girls. In a saturated market of moe, the costume selection was more or less run-of-the-mill. It’s hard to tell how many costume spots there were since there was no scroll bar along the bottom, oddly enough.
With group performance, players can assign main and backup dancers between the original three girls. There were spaces for two more girls, bringing the total number of available performers to five. Costumes can also be individually assigned, so players can mix and match however they’d like. An added bonus to switching between the girls is being able to hear other girls sing, allowing players to choose and hear their favorite versions of songs.
The Nitpicky Technicalities
During the actual performance, a frame rate counter and a score count is kept. Players can switch between several camera angles with the number keys. Other than that, players can sit back and enjoy the show without having to do much else. At the end of the performance, your score is displayed and your computer performance is ranked from Poor to Excellent before bringing you back to the performance options selection screen. For those with weaker systems, it can be frustrating to constantly receive Fair or Poor ratings with low score without being able to do much to improve your graphic output and subsequent score.
The results screen is what SUPER LIVE essentially boils down to: a graphics benchmarking tool. For those who are both focused on technical details and a fan of the series, it makes sense, being that the Time Leap series is Front Wing’s first to utilize 3D models. Before SUPER LIVE actually loads, a graphical options screen pops up, allowing the player to toggle depth of field, shadows, etc., along with choosing the degree of anti-aliasing to use.
As a disclaimer, I have to say that using an older computer, the most involved I’ve ever gotten with manipulating graphical options is setting everything to “Low” so I can get a decent frame rate. That being said, if you’re running a newer computer with decent specs, the appeal increases that much from the visual quality of the performances.
One Last Paywall
Now comes the part that everyone’s been waiting for: the DLC. Not to sound like a promotional message, but if you enjoyed the two songs and two costumes, and want to experience more, purchasing the DLC pack might sound like a good idea. The appeal (and replay value) of it all goes up even more when you pay the $10 to unlock all of the extra songs, costumes, girls, and stages.
Is it worth it? It all depends on how much you can appreciate singing and dancing girls in different outfits. Without any way for me to connect and invest time with the girls themselves, I wasn’t motivated enough to pay into all of the extras. If you are familiar with the series, or otherwise want to get a more in-depth introduction without having to go through all of the text of the original games, the extras might be bang for your buck. Perhaps it’s my stinginess, but I personally find that $10 is a tall price to pay for a fancy anime benchmark program.
Not so much a game as it is an anime-moe graphics benchmarking tool, Time Leap Paradise SUPER LIVE is sure to kill some time through cute songs and dances. Unless you shell out for the extra DLC, SUPER LIVE by itself is not unlike a barebones freemium app.