Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f Review

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So here we have it folks, finally, a Hatsune Miku game actually arriving here in the states! This is the second time that we’ve gotten a Miku game in the west. The first being the PS3 version of the same game. Sure, the game digital-download only and yeah only the menus have been translated much like its PS3 brother but still, it’s a Hatsune Miku game in the west. That alone is a rarity and worthy of getting excited about. A quick primer on Hatsune Miku for the uninitiated. Miku is a robot singer often referred to as “vocaloid”. (For a bit of clarification – Vocaloid is just the software to create the synthetic voices that sing) Think of her as an electronic version of your favorite pop singer. You go through the game taking on songs and performing them with Miku and other performers.

The main rhythm game consists of the player matching button presses as the button symbol flies into place on the screen. Unlike Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and other rhythm games though – Project Diva’s notes can come from anywhere in any direction. Sometimes you’ll be completely caught off guard not because the notes are actually difficult to press but rather that the timing can be hard to get when the notes are flying in from every corner. It certainly takes some practice and getting used to if you haven’t played a Miku game before. The difficulty also increases when there is a fast or really bright cinematic playing in the background (which is often) as this can sometimes obscure your view of the notes. However, Project Diva f is fair. The game isn’t too difficult nor too easy and there are plenty of difficulty levels to play at if you find the main game too hard.

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Project Diva f takes advantage of the Vita’s hardware. During the rhythm game, special star notes appear that incorporate the touchscreen on the Vita, forcing you to swipe to activate them. You can choose to use either the front or the back touch panels (or both) and this can all be changed via the settings. The touch feature is actually quite nice as it’s normally used during a guitar solo or emotional piano notes that make you feel like your actually playing the instrument. The touch notes are also a bit more forgiving in terms of timing thankfully, which keep them from being frustrating.

Along with the main game comes the “Diva Room” feature in which you can interact with the various pop stars in their rooms. I know it sounds a bit odd but it’s actually a surprisingly deep system of customization. You can buy and change the various furniture pieces in their home, build stronger relationships with the Vocaloids, and even dress them up. Project Diva isn’t exactly an interior design game but making each room different has an animal crossing like satisfaction to it that is a fun distraction if your tired of timing your button presses to the rhythm. The light “relationship” aspect, is just that, light. You can interact with the performer via petting them which reminds me of Pokemon Aime or by giving them gifts and food, which increases their happiness and connection to you. I honestly didn’t too much time in this mode but if your into pet sims, you might find enjoyment here.

But the Diva Room doesn’t end there. There is also a full-fledged shop that lets you use Diva Points, earned by doing well during performances, to buy new clothes, accessories, or completely new “modules” that change the appearance of your performer dramatically. All of these changes can be saved to specific profiles which you can load up into the rhythm game. Want Miku to look like a Punk Rocker during a heavy guitar solo? You got it. Want her to don a school blazer during a more cheerful song? No problem, it can be done.

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On the negative side, something must be said about the load times. They aren’t long but there are many. There are a lot of loading screens, even sometimes between menus, but luckily they are accompanied by some fantastic art that changes the further you get into the game. The nice art does help mask the sometimes annoying loading between menus and songs but part of me wishes there was just less loading and more getting into the game.

While there are only 32 playable songs, Project Diva isn’t just limited to the songs in-game. The “Edit” feature allows you to create new custom songs/videos from the game or from music on your Vita’s memory. For example, I made a quick edit of Kendrick Lamar’s M.A.A.D. City and I could set the notes with positions, BPM, and even set the characters movements and facial expressions during the song. The editing can be a bit clumsy at times as there is just so much here to work with but seeing Miku perform your favorite songs to your own choreography is truly enjoyable. You can also share your creations with other Diva players so there’s plenty of room for custom levels.

But what is a rhythm game without good music? The music in Project Diva f is not for everyone. To the game’s credit it certainly tries to mix it up. The sonic landscape here is filled with guitars, piano, electronic synths and all kinds of different musical genres such as jazz, funk, techno, pop and many more. However, the songs all have a very “Hatsune Miku-y vibe” to them, mostly due to the vocaloid software being used. In some cases, the vocaloid voices may not be to your liking and certainly some songs are a bit cacophonous but I was hard pressed to find a song on the soundtrack that I truly hated. And even the songs that were a bit harsh on the ears could still grow on you if you play them enough. I’d say the soundtrack is a little hit or miss. Some songs are fantastic and make you want to replay the level just to hear it while others make you never want to play that level again.

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At the end of the day, is Project Diva for you? Well, it depends. If you like rhythm games in general, I would say get it. You won’t be disappointed. If you’re not a fan of rhythm games, your enjoyment of the game might depend on how familiar you are with Japanese culture or how much you like the type of songs on display here – but even someone who knows nothing about this series can still find something really great if their open-minded enough. Project Diva f has had many boundaries to its release. Everything from language to culture. They say that music has the ability to cross boundaries and Project Diva f is certainly the type of the game that can do the same.