As the South Korean boy group conquers the globe with chart-topping albums and sold-out stadium shows, BTS lives up to their title as next-generation leaders, coming out with, quite literally, a game-changer.
BTS World whisks you into the international phenomenon’s universe, as an uncanny twist of fate places you in charge of the band’s debut.
Launched last month, the cinematic mobile game is produced by South Korea’s largest mobile gaming company, NetMarble, in partnership with BTS’ Big Hit Entertainment.
The game centers on the beginnings of the sensational group. After landing a seemingly innocuous ticket to a BTS concert, you’re suddenly brought back to 2012, a year before the band came into existence. One by one the members start to fade off and disappear from your ticket, and thus, it starts.
It then sets you on the journey as their sole manager, tasked with the critical mission of finding all seven members and bringing them all together to create the legendary group that BTS is today.
All throughout, players are tasked to collect cards corresponding to each member. Cards are used to complete and clear missions, as well as level up your affinity with the members.
The game takes on a storytelling approach, much like an interactive visual novel, and divides the game into two: BTS Story and Another Story.
The main gameplay, BTS Story, tackles the hardships of their nascent stages. Each chapter is one step closer to their debut, as you guide the septet to inevitable success. Entwined with phone calls from members, video chats and heart-warming reenactments of how BTS’ brotherhood came to be, the interactive nature accounts for the niche storyline, which arguably harkens to the usual fan fiction tropes.
The dialogue between the player and the members is, at times, awkward. Initially, the English version of the game only used female pronouns, but clamor from the fandom led to significant changes.
Conversations embedded in the play, albeit loosely based on some real events, seem based on how others think new fans would perceive BTS amid the mountain of content available. It’s a detail that many who grew up with the boys themselves may feel uneasy about, especially since the cherry-picked characteristics seem so outdated.
Understandably, BTS World places itself within the 2012 timeline, coupled with a disclaimer that the game has no intended connections to actual individuals (Uh, okay, sure).
Another Story, on the other hand, takes you to an alternate universe where the members, Kim Nam-joon (RM), Kim Seok-jin (Jin), Min Yoon-gi (Suga), Jung Ho-seok (J-Hope), Park Ji-min, Kim Tae-hyung (V) and Jeon Jung-kook never became musical icons, but lead their own separate lives.
It’s exciting to see the boys take on acting for these side stories, with the game placing them in police stations, universities, farms and even taekwondo competitions. Jin is handsome as ever as he looks after a kid running around his hotel, and seeing Yoongi blush while he plays the piano is downright amusing.
What makes BTS World all the more interesting is how specific details only fans would know are scattered all over the game—for example, earning manggaetteoks to boost Jimin’s energy, a Korean rice snack he was fondly nicknamed after.
Overall, BTS World aims to please the band’s massive global fanbase, but the whole gameplay needs to iron out some of its kinks. Essentially, it revolves on a tightly fan-tailored narrative, where the player gets to build virtual relationships with the bands’ avatars. What developers need to learn is that fans aren’t always keen on the idea of inserting themselves into history, especially one that’s already worked out.
Still, two years in the making, BTS World is a treasure trove of never-before-seen content. The game comes with over a thousand exclusive photos and videos, along with a record-breaking original soundtrack. The official soundtrack debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard Top Soundtracks Charts, making it the only K-pop record to breach Top 10—expected, but still.
The seven members divided into units, collaborating with Western artists to produce singles that matched the ethereal vibe of the game. “Dream Glow” with Jimin, Jin and Jungkook is a collaboration with pop star Charli XCX, “A Brand New Day” with V and J-Hope features Zara Larsson and highly acclaimed producer Mura Masa. RM and Suga bring on rapper Juice World on the R&B wonder that is “All Night.”
The standout eventually is “Heartbeat,” a track with all seven members you unlock within the game. It’s an atmospheric ode to soulmates, where in every universe, as the game shows, the seven would always find each other. In essence, it showcases what makes BTS World even worth playing in the first place—its core itself, BTS.