I’ve always had fun with rhythm games. Even though I’m terrible at DDR which still has given me some fun times, hanging with friends trying to beat each other’s terrible scores is always a blast. I’ve played a lot of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, which to me are the ultimate rhythm games. Going into Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone however, I wasn’t sure what to expect. For those unfamiliar Hatsune Miku is an animated blue haired teenage girl with a synthesized voice. She has a huge following in Japan and her concerts feature her via holographic projection. It is quite the phenomenon, spawning quite a few previous titles across multiple platforms.
Most notably, arcades are where it receives most of its attention and is the primary source of content for this particular Hatsune Miku game. The whole thing going in is a bit surreal. I’ll be honest in saying I was a bit skeptical in whether or not I would enjoy it. Very little at first glance appealed to me. There have been many Hatsune Miku games released so far and our Senior Editor, Andrew stills plays them every now and again on his PS Vita.
Game play revolves around timed button presses, which is pretty standard fare for rhythm games. An icon outline will pop up somewhere on the screen with a timer. Throw in a few joystick “slide” prompts and you’ve got pretty much everything you can expect. I was a bit surprised that it didn’t utilize the touch pad functions on the PS4 controller at all, feels like this would have been a perfect game for that sort of thing. The full icon will then fly in across the outline. When the two intersect is when you press the button. Compared to most other games where you have a track and the button presses flow towards a line, this can sometimes be a bit confusing. Having my button presses coming from all directions on top of some of the craziest music videos I’ve ever seen makes it easy to lose track of what I’m supposed to do next, but this only happens occasionally.
Each button prompt has a sister button you can choose to press instead; if you were to see the ‘up’ arrow icon, you can also press ‘triangle’ to fulfill the beat. This will be crucial on harder songs where you’ll need to be able to switch techniques according to the demands of the game. Holding ‘X’ and need to press ‘O’ then press the right arrow instead and continue to rack up those hold points. I really like this aspect and I can see it being the separation point for advanced players and novices. The margin for error is slim, making this one of the most difficult rhythm games I’ve ever played. Every beat has to be perfect or you get docked potential points. This is both a good and bad thing. Good because music games require precision, bad because even on easier songs you can fail to clear it at all. Be sure to go in and adjust the controls and test the delay of your controller if you pick this game up, it will do wonders for how well you do. The difficulty rating of a song determines how high of a percentage you need to complete in order to “clear” the song. The star rating tells you how intense the song is going to be.
The various character models in Hatsune Miku Project Diva look great! A lot of attention was given to them, making them look like 3D versions of high quality anime drawings. Other than that nothing really stands out visually. Each song has it’s own unique music video and there’s no consistency to them. Not necessarily bad, it feels like just popping on a music video playlist on YouTube (or classic MTV for those who remember better days). The result is, one video will have lots of stuff happening and it will look great with solid animation and interesting visuals, the next one however will be just a character model kinda dancing on a boring 3D environment. To spice things up you can buy different costumes and accessories and I had a pretty good time making the most ridiculous looking characters I could with various things I had unlocked. As you play songs, various costumes and accessories become available to be purchased in the customization store. This can be done for a set of songs, across the board, or for specific songs. I personally think every game is improved when you can have ridiculous character options, I’m looking forward to seeing what other ridiculous looks I’ll unlock.
Now for music, there are two sound packs, Future Sound and Colorful Tone. Colorful Tone is happy bouncy JPop, and Future Sound is more rock JPop. As someone who doesn’t listen to very much JPop I could only barely tell the difference. Though looking through the songs I preferred most of the ones that came from Future Sound. Between the two there are over 200 songs. There were in fact two songs I recognized, this gem http://leekspin.com/ and the Nyan Cat song. Technically speaking the songs sounded good, but just not overall my cup of tea.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone is pretty disjointed, which could be the result of its arcade origins. After a short tutorial you are just given the whole game. You pick a song and play it. There’s no real starting place, no sense of progression, and no reference points. This is a bummer for me. With guitar hero you feel like a rock star on their way to fame. There is none of that in this. No emotional connection. I also found myself being thrown into the fray a few times frantically trying to play the song I had selected. Without a starting point, it can be overwhelming. The closest you can get to a song order is arrange songs by star rating, otherwise it is just straight up alphabetical. I’m really glad I decided to actually mark songs as favorites, this made it easier to return to songs I liked or songs I wasn’t able to beat and wanted to do better. Once you do find songs you like to play, you do want to play them again to see if you can do better. The replayability of Project DIVA Future Tone is through the roof. The sheer number of songs, wanting to set a personal best, attempting to destroy your buddy’s high score, or tackling a new difficulty will have you returning time and time again.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone and its two sound packs Future Sound and Colorful Tone are a solid rhythm game. It requires precision and there are a few different layers of depth to the gameplay that you’d have to perfect to complete the harder difficulties. However, the presentation and music included in the game just don’t appeal to me much. JPop and Hatsune Miku fans will love this game. If there was a game like this with more classic rock I’d probably play it quite a bit. If they released another song pack of JPop covers of songs I was more familiar with I’d probably be pretty excited to tackle this game anew. For now, this will be something I’ll pop on quick when I just want to scratch my rhythm game itch.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone has a specific target audience and I’m just not in it. Recognizing that, this game has merit. For fans of JPop and the Vocaloids, Project DIVA Future Tone is definitely worth buying!