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Card Critic #9 - Weiss Schwarz Hatsune Miku

14. 09. 14
posted by: Noodles
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What is Hatsune Miku?

Hatsune Miku is the first model of what is called a vocaloid. These android robots are designed to resemble young people and are used as personas of voice synthesis software. Originating in Japan from the company Crypton Future Media. Hatsune Miku is a young girl from the age of 16-18 years old, based on which of her different versions of her that would exist. She is a digital diva only existing on the Internet and her persona is well known among otaku fans everywhere. Her concerts are performed with projection technology being used to broadcast her persona to her fans as a live band actually plays the individual songs. She made her debut on August 31, 2007 as part of the Vocaloid 2 series and her very characteristic voice is derived from sound recordings from the Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita. Hatsune Miku is known for her two large turquoise colored pig tails which makes her stand out over her several counterparts.

She also has several companions that sing their own songs or alongside with her. Miku may very well be the most popular of all the vocaloids and she has entered the markets beyond her home country of Japan. The beauty of her work is that she allows anyone to be a musician. In fact, most of her music portfolio is comprised of songs made by her fans. She has recently entered the video game market and this is where we talk about the card game that is the subject of this review. Her video game series is known as Hatsune Miku Project Diva and this was the latest intellectual property chosen by Bushiroad and their anime based Weiss Schwarz trading card game. This game that will now be the target of one of the biggest card game nerds on the internet, the Card Critic.

What is Weiss Schwarz?

Weiss Schwarz is Japanese collective card game (CCG) that utilizes different anime franchises to have to players fight for victory. The game advertises itself for you to be able to use your favorite characters and scenes from your favorite shows to duke it out with your friends. The game is very similar to another card game made by its parent company Bushiroad called Cardfight Vanguard and the mechanics/visuals. The cards all have the various main characters from the anime franchise and the various important scenes as non-character cards. The game has only recently entered the English market while the game has several sets already available within the Japanese market. The card name Weiss Schwarz is German for the two colors black and white. This is also a source of frustration to me as I cannot seem to pronounce the name properly along with some of the anime that are included in the game.

Similar to another game reviewed on this show, the ARC System, Weiss Schwarz aims to the casual gamer. The game does not really advertise the way cool effects and power of the cards, but rather they advertise the fact that you can either make a deck based on your favorite character, a deck based from the trial (starter) deck, or create one of your very own based on a popular scene from the anime or game. Each set has a very silly headline that appears to advertise the set such as the Hatsune Miku’s “Reach a new level of COOL with Miku!” With the cool written in all caps and in a different font type. It is rather silly some of the franchises they use for the sets, but it is surprisingly affective to get players to buy the cards. Again, this is something that other games such as the ARC System and VS tried to use and were only semi-successful.

Left: Schwarz Side and Right: Weiβ

The game has two factions within it, the Weiβ side which focuses on more powerful effects and the Schwarz side which has less powerful effects, but based on my experience with the game focus on swarming with stronger base attacks. There are currently only five sets in the Weiss Schwarz English version of the game. The first set being Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which is a dark magical girl anime starring five main characters. Fate/Zero, a prequel to the popular visual novel Fate Stay Night where Masters summon powerful Servant characters to battle one another. Third, Sword Art Online which stars two characters Asuna and Kirito which get trapped in an online world and have to battle the evils within. Fourth, Hatsune Miku Project Diva F which stars everyone’s favorite digital diva fighting (singing to death?) those who oppose her and her companions. The newest release is Bakemonogatari which stars several “strange” girls and is quite possibly the funniest character type in the game next to “Japanese Clothes.”

Amazon.com's Trial Deck Photo

I do not want to go into too much detail with many of these sets as the focus of this review is the Hatsune Miku Project Diva F set for the game. However, based on the games I have play thus far for the game I must admit the Hatsune Miku cards are quite powerful. I have a very regular win rate with event trial deck against two of the other sets in the game including the new Bakemonogatari set. I believe where the cards focus much of their strength from is the fact that several of the very important climax card and character cards the designers were very generous with how many copies they gave you in the starter. This is one very big merit for this game; the trial decks for the game feel like real decks. In them, you have several copies of cards that you would need to feel competitive in the game. I believe, with some work, a player can make some really good decks for the other sets in the game. The Hatsune Miku set feels very, should I say, Noob friendly leading to easy strategies without holding your hand too much.

How do you play?

As stated prior, each player would need a deck of exactly 50 cards in order to play the game. The cards are divided into four factions all of which do not have much of a difference except for which characters or stories they represent from the selected intellectual property the set is based. The colors are Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow and each trial deck that you buy for the game have a basis of one color with an additional color spliced in to give the player a different strategy or approach. The players can play up to all four of the factions, however as we explain how to play game you will see how this may not be the best of ideas. Within each player’s 50 card deck, they would need to include exactly eight climax cards which are used as defense when attacked and as offense when pulled at the right time when attacking. The game consists of three different card types, and you will need to play all three of these cards types properly in order to achieve victory. These three cards types are as follows: The Character Card, Event Card, and Climax Card.

Left: Character Card -- Center: Climax Card -- Right: Event Card

The layout of the cards are about 90% illustration with the overlay of the card’s abilities spread as needed on the card. In the top left there is the cost level and cost for the card. This cost and level is apparent on all types of cards, except the climax card.

Each player starts off at level zero and can rank up if they deal seven damage to their Clock. The Clock is the area where cards are placed as a result of damage or discarding cards during the "Clock phase" to draw two additional cards to your hand. This process can be quite confusing to new players and we will discuss this more as this review proceeds. As stated, there is a cost and level in the top left of the card. The cost is used by removing cards of the appropriate color of the card being played into the players discard pile, otherwise known as the waiting room. Cards are placed in the stock by either card abilities or by revealing them when characters declare attacks.

In the top right of the card layout is the trigger symbol for the card. There are several types of triggers in the game and the most common being the fleur-de-lis flower icon which grants an additional point of damage when revealed during an attack to the attacking character. Some other effects that appear in the trigger are a flame, symbol which deals one point of damage to the opponent when revealed, and a door symbol, which returns a character is your discard pile (waiting room) back to your hand. In the center of the card are the abilities of the card and I do really like how each card has the type of ability listed on the card. This makes the card very easy to read (unlike several Yu-Gi-Oh! Cards) which literally say the word “Also, this card does this…” This is one of the few pluses of the card design I will give.

The first and main card type within the game is the character card type represented with a CH in the corner of the card. Character cards similar to many of the cards in the game can have a trigger in the top right hand corner of the card and the cost/level in the left corner. Unlike the other card types, character cards have a Power stat in the bottom left of the card. This stat is used when the character enters combat with another character. Regardless if the character enters combat with another character, the Soul stat listed (if you have a microscope right next to the Power stat) is used to determine the character’s damage. As characters get stronger they could deal two damage, however, given the several hundred cards we have not seen one deal three damage yet as it's base Soul stat. Lastly, below the card name, are the characters types which are literal interpretations of what the character is within the picture. So if the character wears a ribbon, the character would have ribbon as their character type along with the base character type that is associated with the card set. Every character in the Hatsune Miku is listed as a Music character and thus cards that would support Music characters would support all characters in the set.

The next type of card is the Event card, these cards are so rare in the game. I believe with all the Hatsune Miku cards I was able to obtain there were about five event cards in the entire set. The game is very character based and the designers of the game definitely show it. There is little difference with the Event card and the Character card except the fact that an event card would immediately resolve its effect and then go to the waiting room. Event cards have the cost listed in the top left of the card and can have trigger icons in the top right. Unlike Character cards, Event cards do not have a Power stat or a type. The event card is represented with an EV listed next to the card’s number in the bottom left of the card frame.

The last and most interesting of the three card types is what is called a Climax card. This card is represented with a CX listed in the center of the card near the card’s serial number. These cards are different from the other two types of cards as they are created in the landscape format. There can only be eight of these particular cards in each player’s deck. These cards can be played during a player’s climax step and can drastically change the game. My favorite one in the game is the Sadistic Music Factory as it allows me to get it to my hand and then allow me to play it next turn. Cards such as this can be used during your turn, or in the case of Sadistic Music Factory, be triggered when one of your characters attack. Each time a character attacks, they have what is called a "trigger check". A trigger check is where the attacking player takes the top card of their deck and checks for a trigger icon in the top right of the card. If there is no icon, the card immediately goes face down to the player’s stock to be used to pay the cost of other cards. Otherwise if the card has a trigger icon, such as the bricks listed at the top of the Sadistic Music Factory, it will put the top card the deck into the stock instead and then return itself to the player’s hand. These cards are extremely powerful and are known as critical triggers when revealed during an attack.

Now that all of the cards have been described, let’s go into how a turn will flow in Weiss Schwarz. The turn has the following phases:

  1. Stand Up Phase – Cards are removed from a resting or tapped position back into ready positions to be used during your turn.
  2. Draw Phase – The player draws a card from the top of their deck.
  3. Clock Phase – The player can take a card in their hand and deal one damage to themselves by placing a card in their clock to draw an additional two cards. (This can only be done once per turn.)
  4. Main Phase – During this phase, players can play Event Cards, use abilities of character cards, or play other character cards.
  5. Climax Phase – This is the only phase where only one Climax Card can be played from the hand to resolve its effect until end of turn.
  6. Battle Phase – Characters declare attacks one at a time against their opponent. The trigger step happens immediately after this then the opposing player can use a backup card from their hand which is listed under the card’s cost. Immediately after the Battle Phase for that character, defeated players can have an Encore which will allow the player to use them again if a cost is paid.

The overall flow of a turn will go as follows, the player will draw five cards at the beginning of the game. To get quicker advantage a card is discarded to the clock such as a level 3 card that is not needed yet and then you would draw two more cards. Characters can be placed in five zones known as the Stage. The Stage has three Center Stage areas where the characters can fight and two Back Stage areas where characters with the ability assist can be used to support their allies and be protected from attacks. At the beginning of the game only cards of level 0 can be played. Players level up by having seven cards in their Clock area where they would select one of the cards in their Clock zone and place it in the Level zone. Cards of the proper level and color in the Level zone can be played from the player’s hand. Players can get cards in the Clock by discarding during the Clock phase or during an attack which we will describe next.

Once characters are played, the player going first can only attack with one character card on the first turn of the game and with the top card of their deck is revealed. If a card, such as a climax is revealed, it will resolve it's effects (which most of the time is to deal an additional two damage to the opponent with the attack). Since the character is unblocked first turn it would do an additional +1 damage since this is known as a direct attack. If there was a character in front of the attacking character is performing a frontal attack and does not get the damage bonus. The last attack is a side attack where the attacker gets a damage penalty equal to the opposition’s level, but can attack other characters in Center Stage zones. The defending player would take cards equal to the amount of damage and place them face up in their Clock where the attacking player would place their revealed card face down into their Stock. If at any time the defending player reveals a Climax card of their own, the attack’s damage is reduced to zero and the revealed cards in the Clock zone are placed in the Waiting Room. The first player to reach level four loses the game.

Fast and Fun

This game is quite fun, the combat is fast, and the game does not tend to drag on like several games in the market. The level system is something that I have not seen so far in a card game on this show, and it works surprisingly well to keep the playing field even. The aggressive player will tend to run out of cards in their hand really fast which will force them to slow down, giving the other player a chance to recover. In addition to this, the decks are not the standard "play-all-of-the-best-cards-in-the-set", but rather you need to play a theme. It does offer much to the players to allow them to make decks based on their favorite character or just a strategy in general.

The trigger mechanic is one of the best I have seen. The cards with many abilities tend to not have triggers, but weaker cards do. This is awesome because players that like to play cards that have too many abilities (such as myself) get shot in the foot and must rely on other cards to deal damage, such as the Climax cards. These cards give you the chance to catch up in the game or either prevent a devastating blow that would level you to your defeat. That is the thing that is great about card games they are about skill, but also there is that one factor offered that many games cannot give: and that is chance. Chance is the fact you drew what you needed to win the game or your opponent failed to draw what they needed to keep you from winning the game. By building a diverse deck with cards with the trigger abilities and the written abilities you can literally make the game about the skill of playing the game, rather than the standard “I drew what I needed” scenario with Solitaire based decks.

The game is great in the fact the Clock keeps players from dropping characters they have no business having out so quickly, which is in stark contrast with popular games, such as Magic the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! The game really does a great job differentiating itself from its competition and I feel a new flame in my card game passion when playing it. I feel that the game is just about the cards in my hand and on the playing field. If I lose the game, I feel it was because I played my cards wrong or I have the wrong cards in my deck. The game does not cheat you out of your victories with pre-built strategies and offers much to both the players in terms of attack and defense. This is the game we play in the break room at work and we can play two or three matches within 7 minutes a game. This is something that works out great when you just want to pass time.

Cards Have the Same Backing and Foils!

If any of you have watched or read my review of Wizards of the Coast’s ARC System, you should know right off the bat why this is a point to be made about this game. While each set is marketed separately to the fans of each of the anime/game franchises, the game also makes it very clear that the sets are from Weiss Schwarz. The tag slogans often involve “Explore the world of WS with these strange girls!” and others that tell you the game is Weiss Schwarz and if you like this anime/game you should play it! Where many of the cards are similar, I am not going to make this a negative point. If someone likes to play cards from say Sword Art Online and they want a basic level one card to hold off their opponents with, they do not want to play Hatsune Miku’s level 1 cards as they could care less about her.

This is the beauty of having the same back on the cards as well, the players can mix the cards sets as they need and allow the cards to be used in conjunction with one another to make a powerful deck. In addition, if the player wants to play several level 1 5500 attack vanilla cards, they can use the similar cards from other sets to help fill out their deck. If you play an opponent that has a card that has a basic effect that you want to incorporate into your deck’s play style, you simply need to find the version of that card associated in your favorite set and add it to your deck! Having the same card backing is good for it lets the players know that it is okay to play what they want in the game, and also mix up the cards from the entire game to make a deck. Having different backs would alienate the players and the fans of each of the shows/games that do not know about the game would get confused about playing with players that use cards from the other sets.

If there are any Foil Fiends out there (such as myself), you will be very pleased to know that there are special Parallel versions of the cards which feature alternate artwork and of course, foil paper! These cards look beautiful and several of them have autographs imprinted on the cards to add an additional spark. These cards definitely stick out of the other cards in the sets and often have less background noise to keep the focus on the character in the card artwork. The signature cards also have a texture on them similar to Yu-Gi-Oh! Ultimate rares that really give the cards that devilish style you need when going for victory! I have two of them myself, however they are quite hard to get as we will discuss later in this review.

Marketing is Surprisingly Effective

The marketing is surprisingly effective, where Weiss Schwarz is a game the characters are balanced amongst themselves. While it may make no sense that characters that sing and dance are killing online powerful avatars, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Hatsune Miku is very popular and to make a set of cards based around her is a good investment. The cards for the Hatsune Miku set are very powerful as well. I have a very high win rate against the Sword Art Online and Bakemonogatari sets. Personally, as a Hatsune Miku fan boy myself, I deeply enjoy having cards with the cute pig tailed girl destroying anything that stands before her with the power of music.

While there are not that many sets of cards available here in the United States and other English speaking countries, in Japan there are much more sets available. It would make sense for the company to consider reprinting some of the cards here in the English version as anime such Neon Genesis Evangelion are very popular and still hold much interests with otakus today. There are also several video game sets in the game that are rather small that I think would make more sense to release as a box set rather than in a starter deck. This game would benefit from having smaller sets of cards to avoid too many cards that are duplicates and it could definitely help the third party mark up on the cards. Either way, having Hatsune Miku play mats, cards, or deck tat is the best thing ever and personally enjoy it greatly.

Bad and Cheap Artwork

Now we get into the bad aspects of Weiss Schwarz. These cards have to be some of the cheapest looking things I have ever seen. They literally look like they hire some Otaku kid to sit at their computer with the print screen button ready to go to snapshot parts of the anime/games to make the cards. There are several cards where they appear to have got the snapshot and had no idea what they wanted the card to do so they just wrote a card that fit the picture. So you get stupid crap like Japanese Clothes as one of the character types because “OH MAN SHE HAS A KIMONO ON!” It upsets me greatly when people obviously have a good game they are creating and run out of ideas. So instead of making good cards they create this obvious filler crap and give it random abilities they think would be cool instead of making a well-designed card.

Screenshots are cheap and I absolutely hate how they always use them on intellectual property base games such as the ARC System and Weiss Schwarz. This low quality artwork could have something to do with all the licensing that goes into trying to get access to use the intellectual property, however there are these things called fans for the games/anime. Why not try to hire a fan of the game/anime to work on the card artworks for the sets and this would give the game a much needed flavor needed for the game? Way too many times are some of the cards, especially from the Sword Art Online set, are the cards literally big faces that have abilities slapped upon them. Even the Hatsune Miku cards are super guilty of this and these cards even with their horrible artwork often have very awesome abilities. So on certain turns you will drop a boat load of giant faces on your field after leveling up.

Do not get me wrong, I do enjoy playing this game I have started to pick it up along with Yu-Gi-Oh! However, the artwork on these things are just terrible. There are special versions of the cards that I would like to get just because the artwork is not a giant face looking me in the eyes. Why is it if there is a game that is based on an intellectual property all the artwork has to be giant faces? It greatly upsets me is that it is not that hard given just a small bit more budget to get some artwork either from the community for the franchise or just hire out your own artwork. The cards seriously could make more use out of the promotional artwork for the games and quit wasting it on cards that do NOT do anything. The promo cards for each set are always a 3000 vanilla card that does not do anything. The sad thing about this is if you want to play about 20 level zero cards in your deck you need this said promo card to keep them all the same color.

Card Design is Very Limited and Foils!

I almost believe that Bushiroad read the book on how to make money off of trading card gamers. They have the special signature cards that are available in the sets and these cards are insanely expensive. The original Hatsune Miku Electron Diva is about 10-12 dollars depending on the vendor. However, the signature foil card is about 30 dollars to get the card that looks significantly cooler than the regular one. Hell, the regular one is just the regular Miku standing there with her arm on her side. The foil one has the cool promotional artwork that has her leaning over all spunky looking at you. Why the heck is the regular Electron Diva Hatsune Miku not the promotional artwork, but just not foil!? Guh. This is not the only that suffers this issue as well, there are several more that are like this and this is just beginning.

Seller's Logo Removed from the Image

The card that I have been playing that absolutely burns my veins to a boil is the Factory Tyrant Hatsune Miku card. This is one of the cards I pulled from my original booster box without having to get additional singles for my deck. The foil version of this card along with the Sadistic Music Factory to make this card’s secondary ability resolve is absolute ridiculous. I kid you not, I got a play set of four of the Sadistic Music Factories for about a dollar a piece. How much do you think a FOIL Sadistic Music Factory will run you? Let’s use Yu-Gi-Oh! Logic, a paper Fiendish Chain which is a trap card costs about two dollars to get a regular one that is paper and lame. The foil one has a 1000% cost increase so it costs about twenty dollars. This is reasonable because this card is good in any deck. Now how much do you think the markup of the Sadistic Music Factory will run you? SEVENTY DOLLARS! My little mind can’t even think of a good number of how much a cost increase this is, but it blows Yu-Gi-Oh! out of the water!

Shipping info removed from the image.

The other issue I have with these foil cards is that many of them strip the background out of the card and just make it some mosaic looking texture that just has the character standing there. I get that they want to focus on the character on the card, but seriously, if you kept all the background the texturing on, the card could have been awesome! The Factory Tyrant Miku similar to the Electron Diva can run you 10-15 dollars, but the foil one has a triple rarity! What does Triple Rarity mean? One Hundred dollars that is all we ask for it. That again is insane for the foil version of this card, they have way too high of a markup value associated with them and this will alienate players that do not have a lot of money from playing the game. They will play games such as Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! which go out of their way to make structure decks and retail copies of their cards that are easier to obtain!

Also, the card design for anything that is not a rare is so lazy! There are so many cards in the game that do not even do anything such a level zero 3000, a level one 5500 to name a few. These cards are so predictable to have the player drop each time they level up it makes the game very easy to manipulate such as something like chess. You already know what you are going to see the next few turns and it takes away from the strategy that make a card game what it is, the beauty of drawing different cards from your opponent and surprising them with a different strategy! It is downright shameful that you deck needs to be full of rare cards for them to even be different from the regular cards. And with the markup that the cards have with foils in this game just shoots players in the foot trying to get the said rare cards.

Additionally, yes I am still going on about this, there are hardly ANY event cards in the game. A friend of mine asked me what the heck one of the event cards were when he got one in a pack because each of his starter decks did not even have the event cards in the deck so we never had a chance to explain how they work in the game. Also, the Climax cards are amazingly lazy. I think the only reason why there are not twenty cards in a set because they make a Climax card for each color and that does one of these two abilities: “All your characters get +2 Soul” or “Choose a character you control, draw a card, and that character gets +2000 Power and One Soul.” It is downright shameful they make one or two characters that use a specific Climax card to give them an excuse to make another card that does one of these two abilities. The card design in this game is really lazy and does make it feel like a board game with specific pieces always present in the game and makes it a drag trying to find cards that do anything without spending ten dollars apiece to get them.

The Price, Oh My Goodness the Price

The price of this game is absolutely one reason why I really did not want to get into this game along with Cardfight Vanguard. The cards do not get reprinted in Weiss Schwarz, so the cards only go up in value over time. Similar to my Magic the Gathering Modern Masters review, this does not help the game company make any additional money. If there is a demand for cards, then darn it print more cards and make more money! There is no money to be made from cards that are sold third party. Sometimes, based on prediction, the cards can go up in value for no reason. The way this game is marketed, it is designed to make you buy a ton of packs as there are alternate artworks and foils as mentioned prior that are rare as hell for anyone to get. Rare as hell for anyone to get, but the third party vendors that will only rack up the price to absurd amounts to get them sold.

Prices for Trial Decks on Amazon.com

Additionally, the cards are just expensive in general! A trial deck, as they are called online, costs around fifteen to eighteen dollars to obtain and only have a small amount of copies of cards needed to play the game within them. A great example is getting level three cards, you need at least two Trial Decks to get the play set of a basic level three card for the game. Third party vendors such as brick and mortar stores sell these trial decks for about twenty five dollars making the game a huge turn off for many players! The booster packs are no better with only about twenty packs in each box which is a stark contrast for more popular games such as Magic the Gathering and Pokémon with around 32-36 a box! These boxes go for 90 dollars easy for less cards than the other games, and some vendors online can sell each pack for as much as ten dollars apiece! These games should be cheaper as they are focused at young anime/game fans and for them to duke out their characters against one another. As of right now only older players such as myself can afford and enjoy this game efficiently.

Conclusion

In conclusion I do enjoy Weiss Schwarz, it has a great deal of strategy that I have never seen in other card games. The trigger mechanics add a new mechanic that adds a bit of statistics to your attacks and make you think before offloading your hand of cards. The clock phase where you can hurt yourself to gain additional cards is great for when you start to lose you can get more cards to play against the opposing player. The lack of spell cards is something that is a bit upsetting to me as adding some removal to the game would greatly help out players struggling to be high level characters near the end of the game. The fact that you need to be near death in the game to play your strongest characters is fascinating to me as it forces you to use cards of less rarity and strength to achieve victory rather than blowing your wallet on the strongest cards and playing solitaire style decks.

The cost is definitely a turn off, but the alternate foil versions of the cards are very neat to look and do look much better than the regular versions of the cards. The cards lack variety and a card frame, but the focus of the game is the characters and scenes and the marketing does this very well. Having a Hatsune Miku based card game makes me very happy and I am sure many of the fans of the other sets are happy as well. Getting to play characters you are familiar with in a good strategy card game is something that many people can enjoy. Let’s just hope they have some reprint sets and offer more card variety in the future. This is going to be a first on the card critic, but I am going to give this game a good review even with all the bad I stated. I talk about the good and the bad and if you can get over the price and card design, you are in for a great card game!

Overall: 8/10