I don't have a lot to say to introduce this article, because I'm pretty sure I wrote it for no one just to get the thoughts out of my head. Hopefully someone in the world finds it useful.
A few quick words:
I consider Arcaea a pretty fair game. With the exception of stamina refills, which aren't actually required to continue playing and earning rewards, pricing is fair and you know what you're getting. No gacha, no hidden walls; it is not financially stupid or ethically bankrupt to spend here. If you're 100% stuck free-to-play, but okay with answering surveys for gigantic megaconglomerate corporations, Google Opinion Rewards pays out enough for you to afford some favorite songs (with patience).
What can I get for free?
Every song in the Arcaea pack is accessible for free, either from a World Mode unlock or just by spending Fragments. Spending money can help get these faster, but there's not really much point.
Songs from other packs require you to spend—there is no free way to unlock them, period. Memory Archive songs are $1 singles. Other packs cost $5 and contain at least 5 songs plus at least one partner, some of which may need to be unlocked after purchase. This makes song packs equal to or better than Memory Archive songs, at least in terms of raw numerical efficiency, but since you're buying in bulk you may not like everything you get. All songs can be previewed freely within the client. The wiki lists them in more detail.
How do I unlock stuff?
If a song's title is blanked out on Song Select, you either don't own the pack that it's in, or you need to unlock it through World Mode: check the wiki for the relevant chapter and map, then get playing.
If a song's title is dark and has unlock requirements listed on it, like "180 Fragments" or "Clear Party Vinyl", you've already unlocked the song itself, but you need to pay Fragments and/or clear a different song to play it on a higher difficulty.
If the song is listed as ? Difficulty, it's an anomaly, and its unlock requirements are hidden...
How do I get Fragments fast?
Get a partner with a high FRAG stat and play the hardest stuff you can consistently clear. Also make sure that you've cleared every available song at least once, for the First Clear bonus. There are additional bonuses for clearing with a Full Recall or a Pure Memory. Failing heavily reduces rewards.
In World Mode, plays reward partner EXP instead of fragments, though it's still a good idea to use your World Mode stamina when you have it. If you have nothing left to unlock, there's an infinitely repeatable map in Chapter 0 that rewards a modest amount of fragments.
Hikari and Tairitsu have roughly the same FRAG stat, but Tairitsu has better STEP, so you're better off focusing on her unless you can't clear anything without Hikari's Easy Gauge. They're the only two partners you have access to, outside of the occasional F2P event, so keep an eye on the Arcaea Twitter for advance notice of events.
Purchasing the Crimson Solace pack instantly unlocks 5 songs and the partner Kou, who starts at 60 FRAG and reaches 90 at maximum level. Her output is very slightly lower than some other limited partners, but it's unconditional and doesn't rely on RNG, so she's a safe bet.
As an alternative, the Binary Enfold pack contains Eto, who makes up for her lower FRAG stat with a fragment-boosting skill that applies to Light Side songs. Eto is also required to unlock Luna, who has Kou's STEP, slightly worse FRAG, and a visual gimmick skill. Kou is a better partner than either Eto or Luna, but if you like Binary Enfold's songs way more than Crimson Solace, it's not the worst idea.
How do I progress in World Mode fast?
Get a partner with a high STEP stat and play the hardest stuff you can score well on, preferably EX rank (above 9.8 million). Avoid songs that you haven't cleared yet, because you'll waste their First Clear bonus—World Mode plays reward partner EXP instead of Fragments.
Stamina regeneration allows for 1 play per hour, capping at 6 stamina for 3 plays. If your stamina is capped but you can't play right away, you can log in and fail a song to make a small amount of progress. You can also pay 1000 FRAG to reset your stamina once per day—with dedication, it's plausible to farm this daily—or 50 cents to reset your stamina at will. It's generally better to save stamina resets for events, but if you're impatient or really love the game, go for it.
Tairitsu has higher STEP ratings than Hikari. They're the only two partners you have access to, outside of the occasional F2P event, so it's best to focus on Tairitsu while starting out. Keep an eye on the Arcaea Twitter for advance notice of events.
If you want something to farm consistently, Shades of Light in a Transcendent Realm is an 8 with tons of free arc score and generally low density, plus the song is pretty cool. Try not to burn out grinding the same thing every day, though.
For the impatient, Lethe is available immediately after purchasing the Ambivalent Vision pack. She starts at an impressive 60 STEP and maxes out at 90. She also unlocks the MIRROR skill at level 8, which is useful if you get stuck or mindblocked on a particular chart. This is the approach I took.
Tairitsu (Axium Crisis) is available from the Vicious Labyrinth pack. She has the same stats as Lethe, but no MIRROR skill, and you have to clear Chapter 1-6 in World Mode to unlock her. However, the Vicious Labyrinth pack also contains Tairitsu (Grievous Lady), a Hard Gauge partner that starts at 70 STEP and maxes out at 102, giving her the highest STEP of any non-limited partner in the game. If you're confident in your ability, she'll give you more bang for your buck, though the unlock process can be time-consuming.
If you want something to farm consistently, Lumia is an 8 from Eternal Core with tons of free arc score and a very simple rhythm, plus the song's neat. Try not to burn out grinding the same thing every day, though.
How do I gain Potential?
It's stupid. Don't worry about it, it affects nothing except a single secret unlock.
Yes, the way it's calculated is at least partially insane. Ignore the random gains and losses—focus on improving as a player and setting cool scores.
full combo ↩︎
full combo with all PUREs ↩︎
Also she's mad cute ↩︎
White background ↩︎
World Mode progress is based entirely on partner stats, the difficulty of the song, and your score. Failing with 9.8mil points is worth the same amount as clearing with 9.8mil points, if you can manage to do that somehow. With that said, progress is HEAVILY reduced if you score poorly, so stick to stuff you can consistently perform well on. ↩︎
0 score on a Future chart will earn you a 2.5 play result, roughly 1/4th of the value of a decent score on that same chart. This is really fucking stupid. Use a Hard Gauge partner if you can, since Hard Gauge failures are faster and don't affect Potential; if you don't have one, disable your screen timeout and pick a short song like Anokumene. ↩︎
Events have a habit of ramping up in difficulty towards the end, though they're still incredibly forgiving by most mobile game standards. If you think you'll be under time pressure, do your research first and pace yourself. ↩︎
A much more demanding lifebar system that can fail you midway through the song. ↩︎
Potential uses a combination of your best all-time scores and your best recent scores, which means that your moment-to-moment gains and losses are usually temporary, and not actually connected to anything you're doing when they happen. You will never lose Potential for an EX rank (above 9.8 mil score), if that helps. ↩︎