It didn’t seem likely, but enough fan interest has been generated that a Hatsune Miku game is actually getting released stateside. Dubbed Project Diva F, this Japanese rhythm game might seem like a fish out of water. However, I think the demo proved this game has some potential merit, even to people who don’t get what all the fuss is about.
1. The demo comes loaded with three songs. These would be Weekender Girl, Tengaku, and World’s End Dance Hall. All three are pure J-pop. If you like that kind of music, you’ll likely like these. The voices of the Vocaloids might put off some. After all, all of the voices in the game are created using a piece of software, and it sounds like it. I found the tunes catchy and kind of energizing. If I had any idea what was being said (they’re all in Japanese), I might even start singing along.
2. Before you even get started with the songs, you have the option for some light customization. It amounts to playing dress up with the characters for the most part, but you can also switch out which Vocaloid appears in the accompanying video. It looks like up to three of them will be in a video at once, so that offers a decent amount to tool around with. All the demo had to mess around with was some accessories to dress them up like cats. Not my thing, really. You can also adjust the sounds that are made when you tap buttons during gameplay. You can even turn those sounds off, which is really nice.
3. The game looks nice enough, but amounts to a series of button prompts being laid over a music video. Given the precision the game requires, you won’t really have time to look at the video. In fact, it can often be distracting. However, I rarely found that the prompts were hard to see, which is incredibly important.
4. This isn’t a terribly complicated game. During songs, you’ll see prompts appear on screen, and then a shape corresponding with a button the controller will fly towards that prompt. Your goal is to tap that button as it passes over the prompt. To help you with your timing, the prompt has a clock hand that spins. When it’s pointing up, you’re supposed to hit the button. This is helpful if you’re not used to the song, but you’ll want to trust the rhythm once you’ve learned it.
5. The most complicated the game gets is when you need to hit the correct directional button at the same time as the correct face button. It took me a little while to figure out this was what the game wanted me to do, as the incredibly brief explanation that showed during loading screens was often gone before I could finish reading it. Still, once I got the hang of this, I had a lot fewer problems.
6. There are a couple of interesting things to add. There are special star prompts that show up. Instead of hitting a button for these, you need to flick the analog stick. To be fair, the game doesn’t appear to mix these in with the normal button prompts, as moving your hand back and forth could be a daunting task. Also, there is a part of each song called “chance time”. If you can rack up a high enough score to fill up a star meter during chance time, then you’ll earn a heck of score boost. You have to be right on though.
7. This game is hard. It demands precision at all times. Missing a few beats is all it takes to fail out of a song. However, just getting through a song isn’t enough to clear it. You need to reach a certain score, and that can be pretty tough until you get the hang of things. I played each of the songs several times, and still can’t consistently pass them. That kind of thing could be very off putting to newcomers.
8. After saying that, let me add that I kind of dig the challenge. My favorite rhythm game is Elite Beat Agents, which also required extreme precision to master. If this demo is any indication, Project Diva F is going to offer a similar level of challenge. That makes me quite interested to dig into the main game.
9. One thing that is going to help this game stand out is that the rhythm genre has been all but dead on PS3 since the era of Guitar Hero/Rock Band died out. I’m happy to see a new game come out, even if it is a bit out there. It’s also nice to see that fans of the series and/or character will finally have a game they won’t have to import.
10. Project Diva F won’t reach us until August, but I can honestly say I can’t wait. While I’m not sure it should be a fifty dollar game, it is still shaping up to be something fun and challenging. With any luck, I’ll be spending a good part of my later summer trying to master every song in this sucker.