Review: Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X (PS4/PSVR)

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Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Optional
  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
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Title: Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (7.95 GB)
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Original MSRP: $49.99
ESRB Rating: T
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
It has been almost exactly three years since Hatsune Miku made her video game debut in America. In that time she certainly has become more well known here. Her “live” concerts now often hit the States, she appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, and her software even saw an English release.

That’s right her software. Miku isn’t a real person but instead a Vocaloid, part of a program designed to synthesize music and vocals. Given an image by her parent company, and a personality mostly built up by her fan base, Miku and her friends now routinely star in video games of which Hatsune Miku Project Diva X is the latest.

From a base level, not much has changed in Project Diva X from the previous Project Diva F games. This is a rhythm game where targets will appear anywhere on the screen shaped like one of the PlayStation controller’s face buttons and the player must hit the appropriate button in time with the note that slides into the target.

A few special notes will occasionally show up too. These can be scratch notes which are a star and are hit by flicking the analog sticks or rubbing the touch pad, and double notes which are an arrow and are hit by pressing both a button on the D-pad and one of the face buttons.

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X_20160822205957Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X_20160822212554

This method of rhythm gaming certainly takes some getting used to, but it’s a blast once you do. Performing well in Hatsune Miku games feels more impressive than doing well in some of the games where the notes all scroll in the same way but it’s actually not much harder. Especially now since, as will be discussed more later, this game has less distracting backgrounds than previous entries.

My only real complaint about the system is that it’s occasionally used for gimmicks, like hiding one target under another, but fortunately they are pretty few and far between. They’re also generally only on the harder difficulties so newcomers need not worry while they’re playing on the lower ones.

… the song can’t be failed in the middle from poor play …
What is different for this one is the structure that surrounds the rhythm game portion. In previous games, players could play songs and interact with the Vocaloids but the two were pretty separate. In an attempt to remove that gap the main mode of the game has been entirely revamped. Songs are now ‘requests’ from the Vocaloids and feature short interactions with them after each one.

The main section of the game includes the “cloud requests”. The songs are split up into five clouds based roughly on their ‘style’ of music: classic, cute, cool, elegant, and quirky. This section lets the player pick their song and then the request they want to play. Requests start out simple, just playing the song on the easy or normal difficulty, but later add the harder difficulties and then modifiers.

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X_20160824222307Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X_20160825212327

The other section has “event requests”. These are a little more specific, usually having a set singer and either having the player play a specific song or pick a song from a single style. These tend to have a set reward while cloud requests give random rewards.

The request system, though it uses the same basic gameplay as the older games, is scored differently. Rather than each note being a set amount, this mode gives ‘voltage’ from specific glowing notes in the song and has a single voltage cutoff that represents passing the song. Note, in these two modes, only failing to get the required voltage fails the song, the song can’t be failed in the middle from poor play.

… the track list is a little light …
Interestingly, this mode also tries to make the game’s myriad costumes and accessories matter more. Costumes have added effects that can increase the voltage gained or make the song easier. Both costumes and accessories give a passive percentage increase if they match the style of the song, such as using a cool style hat on a cool song.

The normal manner of playing Project Diva is still in the game as the “Free mode”. This mode doesn’t use the voltage and doesn’t get bonuses from costumes. Instead, it scores the player based on their performance. Plus the player can freely pick their character, song, and modifiers. Though the tradeoff is that the player also doesn’t unlock anything playing in this mode.

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X_20160822211811Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X_20160824220829

In some ways, I like this change. The added interaction with the Vocaloids makes this game feel more cohesive. Even if 90% of the conversations amount to one of the Vocaloids talking about how much they love singing. There’s a slight “story” told through the conversations the first time through, but I use story in quotes because it might be a stretch to say it actually has a plot.

On the other side though, in past games I enjoyed challenging myself to get better and better scores on each song and the request modes don’t really facilitate that. The game does track each song’s top voltage score, but it’s somewhat hidden. Plus, there’s only a single bar to pass whereas the Free mode has several, thanks to the multiple possible judgements.

Optional PlayStation VR Content
Since most of the interaction with the Vocaloids is now part of the rest of the game, there isn’t a ‘Room Mode’ like in previous games. The room is now just part of the main menu and the few relevant options it had, such as giving gifts to the Vocaloids to raise their friend meters, are now there.

I’ll get into this a little more in the audio section, but unfortunately the track list is a little light. With only thirty songs this game is at the bottom of those released in English. To make up for it the game is padded out, a lot, with unlockables. Modules (costumes) are unlocked by doing well on ‘Chance Time’ sections of songs, and accessories and gifts are given out at the end of a request.

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X_20160823211150Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X_20160822231809

The way you receive things can lead to a bit of frustration though. Since they are given at random in the Cloud Request mode, it’s possible to not even get a new module when playing a song. Accessories don’t seem to double up but the pool that gives them out also includes gifts which can.

Though I’m not completely sold on the way Project Diva X is laid out, the real question is whether or not I was enjoying myself. And I was. Even if the song list is a little short, there’s a lot of niku to Miku in the form of the unlockables to keep me wanting to play more. (Note: Niku (肉) means ‘meat’ in Japanese)

… backgrounds are less distracting during gameplay …
A few extra modes give some other silly gameplay. One is a photo mode to pose Miku and friends and can be used in conjunction with the PS4 Camera or on top of photos from a USB drive. A concert editor lets the player edit the lighting, camera, and stage effects of the in-game songs. Sadly the song and dance editing as well as sharing created concerts online which was all in previous games seems to be gone.

Visuals:
Project Diva X is the first PS4 Miku title, so it does see some improvements to the visuals. The game is also on the Vita though, so the improvements are mostly limited to things like smoother rendering of models and better lighting effects. Previous games had a good cel shaded style though, so this one does look good even by its own merits.

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X_20160824223659Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X_20160825213154

Stylistically, the game makes a change to the way it visualizes the songs. In the Project Diva F games, song backgrounds were more akin to music videos but here they’re more like concert videos. In general the background videos are just the vocaloid dancing to the music, but with some cuts and effects to add feeling.

The upside is that the backgrounds are less distracting during gameplay. Every once in awhile one might lose a red note on a red part of the screen for example, but with generally static backgrounds it’s less likely. On the downside, I loved the music videos that accompanied songs in past games and their inclusion is sorely missed even if the dances are enjoyable to watch on their own.

… players should know what they’re getting into …
Audio:
As stated before, the game includes thirty songs by Miku and her friends. Or at least thirty selectable items in the game’s song list. Six of the songs in the game are medleys of other Miku songs, usually containing sections of three or four songs that aren’t in the game, some of which were in previous ones.

It’s not a huge selection of songs but will be assuredly expanded with DLC, at least two, given that my review code came with a DLC code for two extra songs. The medley songs do provide an interesting rhythm game challenge given the necessity of changing BPM multiple times mid song. But I’m not sure if I would have rather had the consistency of having six extra normal songs in their places.

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X_20160824223322Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X_20160824232224

Being a virtual Japanese pop idol, most of the songs in the game are Japanese pop songs. The different styles in the game, the cool, elegant, etc., do showcase some different styles of songs but in general I’d probably still classify most as J-pop.

Miku herself can be divisive. Being synthesized, Miku can sound anywhere from a passable autotuned song to Microsoft Sam with pitch depending on how well the composer uses the software. Most of the songs included manage to avoid those pitfalls but I know some people still can’t stand vocaloid music. Basically, prospective players should know what they’re getting into when they buy the game.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

… a good game worth picking up …
Conclusion:
I have my issues with Project Diva X. The way it can feel like it’s trying to pad out the amount of game play with the grindy nature of unlocks is probably the largest one but not the only one. I would have loved to have seen a few more songs and I’m pretty split on whether the medleys are good and if the new background animation styles are better or worse than previous games.

But ultimately I was having fun while playing it. I can easily succumb to the “one more song” syndrome while playing and more than a few times had the “oh shoot, it’s already that late” moment. There’s definitely enough good to offset my issues and to call Miku’s latest a good game worth picking up for both Miku fans and rhythm game aficionados.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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