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While the option has been present in the main menu since the game launched on April 23rd, 2013, no further details about it were released until the Fall 2017 KanColle Naval Review. During the Naval Review event, it was announced that the Friend Fleet system would be fully implemented once Phase 2 of KanColle was rolled out in 2018. It has since been announced that Phase 2 will be implemented via a three-step process, during the period between the 2018 Spring mini-event and the 2018 Summer event (plus possible delays).
As of early 2018, the Friend Fleet system has been temporarily implemented once in-game for testing purposes, in the form of NPC Friend Fleets during the Winter 2018 Event. In the April 2018 Issue of Comptiq, Tanaka revealed that this version of the mechanic was created for testing purposes, and that the final version will be fully implemented by the time Phase 2 begins.
Prior to Fall 2017, no details about the Friend Fleet system had been announced.
During one particular segment of the KanColle Naval Review, a large number of Seiyuu gathered on the stage, holding scripts in hand. The lights dimmed on the stage as a screen came down and played a recording of a group of girls cosplaying as Kanmusu.
During this skit, the Seiyuus provided the voices of the Kanmusu as the film played. The plot focused on a fleet of shipgirls fighting against the Abyssal Fleet in Tokyo (in the Tokyo Big Sight area). However, they were facing off against a fleet of powerful Abyssal Fleet Himes that they were having difficulty defeating. All seemed hopeless until they decided to enter the night battle phase. The screen then faded to black and the following option appeared on screen:
Do you wish to send in a Friend Fleet Support into Battle?
Dispatch / Hold Back
The Yes option was selected, and several foreign Kanmusu then appeared on screen to aid the other Kanmusu, until the Abyssal Fleet retreated from the battle.
The Kanmusu then celebrated their victory. At the end of the play segment, the following words appeared on the screen:
"Friend Fleet System" will be coming soon in 2018.
NPC Friend Fleets
In the Winter 2018 Event, NPC Friend Fleets were introduced as a new mechanic. In certain event maps, an additional NPC Friend Fleet would arrive at the beginning of the night battle phase. This fleet would then take turns attacking the enemy fleet (as well as vice versa, as per standard night battle rules) until all combat-capable ships had finished engaging in combat. After this phase was complete, the NPC Friend Fleet would exit the battle, and the player's fleet would then begin attacking the enemy fleet.
NPC Friend Fleets were influenced by certain factors, including the following:
- NPC Friend Fleets appeared at random, selected from a pool of preset fleets.
- However, it was possible control which NPC Friend Fleets appeared by including certain ships in the player's fleet. In most cases, having a ship in the player's sortied fleet that was also a member of a preset NPC Friend Fleet(s) would prevent that/those preset NPC Friend Fleet(s) from appearing.
- Nevertheless, some NPC Friend Fleets could not be removed, even with the workaround described above. It was speculated that these might have been set as default fleets in order to ensure that at least one NPC Friend Fleet would appear, regardless of the composition of the player's fleet. (See 19th Destroyer Division in the Winter 2018 Event Friend Fleet's Section)
By using the above factors to help remove certain friend fleets, it was possible to improve the chances of strong NPC Friend Fleets appearing to aid players. Of course, it was also necessary to balance this against needlessly crippling the player's fleet's composition for the sake of influencing the appearance of the NPC Friend Fleet alone.
The NPC Friend Fleet system was introduced and has showcased how this mechanic might work in terms of combat. However, since Tanaka confirmed that this was more of a "beta test" of the mechanic, the details of this system are subject to further changes. It is also unclear if the NPC Friend Fleet system will appear again prior to the implementation of the full Friend Fleet system and Phase 2. More details will follow as more information about this mechanic is revealed over time.