Review: Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F (PS3)

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Title: Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (5.6 GB)
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Original MSRP: $49.95
ESRB Rating: T
Extras: 3D Compatible
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F is also available on PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation Network download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 343 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
Hatsune Miku Project Diva F is a Japanese rhythm game with a fascinating backstory. The main character is already a star in Japan having been created back in 2007 using Yamaha’s Vocaloid technology. A Vocaloid is essentially created and sold as a “singer in a box”. Sophisticated software allows users to create a song from scratch by laying out lyrics and music with full control over the range, pitch, vibrato and pretty much everything else a real singer can do.

The Vocaloids are typically created with a persona to help market them and Hatsune Miku has really taken off. She’s been used for advertising ranging from Domino’s to Toyota and even Google Chrome and featured in magazines, on race cars, her own manga and now, of course, video games. Well over 100,000 songs have been created in her name using the Vocaloid software making a huge impact across pop culture in Japan. This is the first in the Project Diva series to be released in the West.

How does this all translate to a video game? Quite well in fact. The main gameplay has you matching beats on screen in a wilder version of a Rock Band. Instead of the simple note highway, your cues will come flying in from all directions and curving across the screen. Laid on top of very busy visuals at times, it can be quite a challenge to keep up with all the different beats you have to hit.

In addition to the Circle, Square, Triangle, and Cross flying around the screen you’ll see a star every now and then which requires you to flick either of the analog sticks. Fortunately, there are four levels of difficulty for every song which allows you to ease into things on a song by song basis so you’re not completely overwhelmed.

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You’ll also have opportunities for big points with the Technical Zone if you hit every note during this period of the song. There’s also Chance Time, which has been changed in this new version of the game allowing you to fill a star in the corner of the screen. By hitting all the star notes during the song and filling the meter, you’ll be given a big star to hit at the end of the song which can change the visual ending.

Rhythm games are nothing new, but adding in a well established persona with a backstory and huge library of songs makes a huge difference. Taking a cue from the popular Japanese [email protected] series, you’ll be doing more than just matching beats. There’s a “Diva Room” where your singers hang out with each other, allowing you to interact with them and give them gifts and even… touch them?

I have to admit, I’m a bit thrown off by this and most of the time the girls just get upset with me touching them (just like in real life! ba-dum bum) but if you get it right they’ll be happy. You can also purchase gifts for them with an in-game shop that include food or things to help decorate their apartment.

Another interesting diversion is the Studio. Here you have a choice between a Live Studio and a Photo Studio where you can place your Diva and then pose them any way you want, controlling eye tracking, their expression, shape of the mouth, shadows, animations and backgrounds. The interface can be frustrating here, especially with the backgrounds. It’s several button presses to get to a different background and you’re not given any kind of preview.

So if you don’t like the new one, it’s several button presses again to change it to something else. You can use pictures you have on the PS3 already as backgrounds but they’re limited to being a JPG or PNG file that are 256x256px or 1920x1080px. If you can get through all of it, you can then save your perfect image directly to the XMB.

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Things really get crazy in the very complex and daunting Editing Suite. In here, you can take any song you’ve unlocked and create your own video to then play in the game or upload for others to try out. You’ll set up the background, characters and button patterns for the song.

It feels an awful lot like a video editing suite and while there are plenty of help screens, it’s still rather complex. You need to create a timeline with markers, camera placements, the stage and effects. Each character can be placed on screen and you’ll control their line of sight, hand positions, lip movements etc., it’s just crazy.

Once finished, you can save it locally to play on your own or upload it to the PSN for anyone around the world to remix it or have a go. This is one area where I had problems. I figured I could download a few to try out but every single one I checked had a password attached to it.

Unfortunately, there’s no indication on the screen (that I could find) of a required password. I had to download the song and try to open it before I was told I needed a password. The interface for all of this is just terrible only allowing you to view 10 at a time with over 280 screens to scroll through.

The last major section is comprised of your records. From here, you’ll get a comprehensive look at everything you’ve done in the game; how many times you’ve used each character, total play time, Diva points, percent of collectibles obtained, average grade points for every mode, it’s great. There’s just a ton of detail to pore over and it’s an easy way to see what you’ve been able to accomplish throughout the game.

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Visuals:
The game has a fantastic look overall, like you’re playing a beautiful anime. Things tends to get a bit too chaotic on screen at times though. With so many colors and effects popping off, trying to keep track of where the notes are flying in and when to hit them can be more challenging than it really needs to be.

The interface in each area of the game can be a bit confusing but there’s plenty of help available and visual cues to help you through everything. Diva apartments can be completely changed once you unlock or purchase new places and they’re another interesting diversion from the rhythm section of the game.

3D is available as well, but oddly, only in two places and not really in the main game itself. It’s just a strange choice to limit it the way they have.

Audio:
One of the most important parts of a rhythm game is obviously the audio and doesn’t disappoint. With six different Vocaloids (characters) available and more than forty songs, there’s enough variety to keep you interested for a long time.

If you’re even considering this game, you probably have at least a passing interest in the J-pop style of music and the soundtrack is pretty much exclusively that. It’s a great change from every other rhythm game available in North America, definitely unique.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
It’s exciting to see such a thoroughly Japanese series make its way to the rest of the world and as a rhythm game, it mostly works. The utter chaos on screen can be a bit much at times, feeling like it’s there just to make the game more difficult when it doesn’t need to be.

There also tend to be a number of little interface issues that drag the experience down a bit. If, however, you’re not interested in anything but the rhythm game portion itself, you’ll find a challenging and fun time.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Elgato Game Capture HD Pro screen capture feature.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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