Developer: Crypton Future Media
Having never imported a Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA title before, I decided to jump on the chance to review the first western release, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F for PS3 that was recently released. While I’m not super familiar with the series, I’ve always enjoyed rhythm games, long before Guitar Hero and Rock Band were a thing. Project DIVA F definitely shares some core concepts with classic rhythm titles like PaRappa the Rapper, but that Japanese anime vibe has been cranked up to 11, for better or worse.
The Project DIVA series is known for incorporating the use of Vocaloids, real-world tech developed and funded by the Yamaha Corporation in 2000. Essentially computerized singing, created by users inputting lyrics and melody which in turn produces synthesized vocals that differ in pitch and quality, just like the real thing. Of course everything has a sort of auto-tune quality to it, but it certainly sounds unique in comparison to standard music production.
That said, having played through the 40 plus tracks that make up Project DIVA F’s playlist, I can safely say that the music isn’t for me. Japanese vocals along with non-English subtitles aren’t entirely off-putting. After all I knew what I was getting into here. But outside of tapping my foot to the rhythm of the music, I can’t really get into any of the tracks offered, making me feel more disconnected with the music than I’d like to be. I will say that a few tracks were fun to listen to, in particular one of the early tracks, Secret Police, stood out as something I’d remember down the road. But there are a lot of songs here that I had absolutely no connection with, which didn’t foster much desire to retry tracks or improve my scores.
I will give Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F credit in a couple of other areas though. For one, this is a pretty tough game despite the cutesy appearance of everything. It’s been a while since I’ve played a really challenging rhythm game, and if you’re into that, you’ll find the difficulty here pretty satisfying. The tempo of each song varies, with helpful star ratings to give you a pretty good idea of what to expect. But the button prompts are often speedy on anything past normal, and the difficulty is amplified by the unique way notes stream into view on screen in a non-static fashion. The background video can get a little distracting at times, and it would have been really nice to have a dimming option for some of the brighter, neon-infused videos. But I really enjoyed the actual gameplay here, and would love to see these dynamic button prompts used in more rhythm titles.
Another unique element found in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F comes from the song and video editing you can do. The game allows you to edit and rearrange a variety of things, from character model animations to background stages, including the button prompts that show up screen in conjunction with the song. I can’t overstate how much stuff there is to do here, and how diverse the tools are to manipulate just about everything you see on screen. You can also upload and download edits online, and for personal use can include .mp3’s for music directly off of the PS3. The only drawback to the edit mode is that it’s somewhat overwhelming and takes a while to wrap your head around it. The in-game tutorial is woefully lacking, opting to only tell you how to do things instead of walking your through an initial creation to test out.
Other aspects of Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F are a little less appealing to me, even though they’re expected features for the fans of the series. There are some dress-up options for the Vocaloid characters in the game, allowing you to purchase items with currency earned from songs completed. There’s a lot of options here as well, including full blown outfits that alter the Vocaloid’s appearances quite a bit.
Outside of the character customization you can also customize individual rooms for each Vocaloid. The rooms can be altered with new furniture items across different categories, like beds, shelves, chairs and so on. Furniture is often divided up into themes, but you can mix and match whatever you buy. There are additional interactive items for floors and shelves, which can lead to little event scenes with the Vocaloid in that room, sometimes bring other Vocaloid characters in to participate. I didn’t find a lot of interesting things to do with this, with furniture placement limited to set locations there’s not a lot of actual customization to do. You can interact with the room Vocaloid to a limited degree, and can buy gifts to up your affinity with that character, but I never fully understood the point of it.
While I can safely say that Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F isn’t my thing, I’m still glad that I gave it a shot. There are definitely elements to the game that I enjoyed, but it’s really tough for me to get enjoyment out of a soundtrack that does absolutely nothing for me. If you’re interested in what the series has to offer, I’d highly urge you to check out some of the music featured before diving all in. The other mechanics outside of the actual rhythm game aren’t that interesting overall, unless you’re willing to sit down and figure out the in-depth editing feature. I certainly can’t knock the game for its gameplay though; it’s one of the more challenging and unique button-prompt rhythm games I’ve ever played. I imagine the hardcore fans have already picked this up, but if you’re on the fence or curious, I’d strongly suggest the demo before diving in.