Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F
Developer: Sega / Crypton Future Media
Release Date: 08/27/2013
Somehow, someway, this became my most anticipated game of the year. I played the ever loving crap out of the demo, even going so far as to redownload when I couldn’t wait for the full game anymore. I was almost bummed when I got Madden 25 for review, as it meant I’d have to dedicate time to it instead of Hatsune Miku. Considering I’m someone who listened to almost no J-Pop just a few months ago, that’s saying something.
So, could this game possibly live up to my hopes?
Project Diva F is loaded with different options. They really went all out. For starters, you have the normal play mode. This is the real meat of the game, and features around forty vocaloid tracks. There are four different difficulty settings, each getting progressively harder. You can play the rhythm game, buy single use items to give you a boost, customize the performers in the videos, or simply watch the video if you don’t feel like actually playing a song. So if you really want to put Kaito in bunny ears and have him dance along to “Weekender Girl”, you can totally do that. You can start any song on normal or easy from the start, but the harder difficulties are locked for each song until you’ve beaten them on the previous setting. Still, I can’t imagine anyone being able to jump right into expert and have success. A handy tutorial teaches you the ropes and gets you started. This mode alone would be worth the price of admission.
Where the game really starts to earn brownie points is in the edit studio. Here you can use any song from the game, or even your own mp3s, to create a rhythm game and music video. The tools are extensive and almost daunting at first. The tutorial isn’t the best at truly explaining the ropes, but you can dig in deeper through a menu option. Not only can you pick specific models, animations, lighting cues, etc, but you personally create the note track that you’ll actually play. This involves selecting what inputs need to be pressed, and well as where they’ll show up on the screen. If you get into this mode, you can create some really neat stuff. I’ve seen a number of impressive creations. The only downside is that you can only upload three songs, and you can’t actually upload a custom mp3. The person who downloads your creation will have to get it themselves elsewhere. Still, this mode was a pleasant surprise.
Completing songs earns you diva points, and these are meant to be spent in a number of ways. Firstly, there’s a shop where you can buy costumes and parts for the various characters. Then there are the diva rooms. You can visit each of the six characters in their rooms and interact with them in various ways. The goal is to build up their affinity with you by giving them various gifts. You can also decorate the room to your heart’s content. Gifts, furniture, and gadgets cost diva points though. This mode could have ended up being creepy, but it’s actually kind of cute. When you give someone maracas, they perform a little dance. They start out slow and keeping rhythm before giving into temptation and shaking the suckers like mad. The various gadgets offer some more value, allowing you to create playlists of the songs or videos to listen to or watch at your leisure.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s also studio mode. The first part of this is a live event viewer, where you can watch Miku perform a few of her songs the same way she does in a concert. The other half of the mode is a picture creator where you can use various backgrounds and models to create a unique picture that can be saved to your system.
Not every mode is going to tickle your fancy, but there’s more than enough content here to justify the asking price. PDF has more offerings than most full priced games.
Visually, the game works. While the technical aspects might not be mind blowing, the game oozes charm thanks to brilliant animations and a variety of visual styles. Each of the songs is accompanied by an appropriate music video. While they vary in artistic merit, they all feature animations that AAA game should strive for. The vocaloids animate very well and sell each song with unbridled enthusiasm. It’s impressive, especially given the different range of song themes. Each video is full of color as well, making them a joy to watch. The downside is that the videos can be distracting during play, and sometimes you’ll lose track of the notes on screen because of all the flashing lights.
Whether or not you enjoy this game is ultimately going to come down to how much you end up liking the game’s soundtrack. As someone who had a single Japanese song on his mp3 player before this game came out, I can say fairly well that there’s a good chance you’ll end up addicted. There are a few duds to be sure, but there are a number of songs that will get stuck in your head regardless of the language barrier. Only one song is in English, but I just didn’t care. You can usually pick up what the song is about based on the video anyway. While the songs are playing, you’ll be hitting prompts as part of the actual game. This creates a noise which can be customized or turned off before each song. I’d recommend keeping it on. While it does taint the tune a bit, it helps you keep on beat.
Basically, the presentation as a whole is spot on for what it needs to be. It showcases the characters and a decent range of music. While it isn’t perfect (The lack of playable “World is Mine” hurts me), I’d still put it on the upper end of the genre.
The gameplay itself is pretty simple. You’ll primarily just tap the face buttons in time to the rhythm. More often than not, you’ll tap to the vocal performances, with the guitar or piano part taking over during quieter sections. It’s an easy system to figure out, but it does have a few tricks up its sleeves to keep things interesting for those looking for a challenge.
When you need to tap a button, you’ll see the corresponding icon on the screen. There are two visual ways to gauge the timing. For starters, a note will fly on screen towards the icon. You need to tap when it crosses over. Of course, that kind of timing can be iffy, especially when the video is distracting. You also can watch the icon itself, as there is a timer that spins on each of them. When the hand points a the twelve-o-clock position, that’s when you need to hit the button. Once you’re used to the song though, you’ll rely less on these visual stimuli and focus more on matching the aural beat.
Besides simply tapping the face button, there are two other types of inputs. An arrow icon requires you to hit the correct face button and directional input at the same time. Star icons actually require a flick of the analog stick. Usually these icons are at least a little set apart from the normal inputs, so you have a chance to prepare for them.
Timing the button presses is important. The closer you are to the beat, the better your rating will be. There are five different ratings. “Awful” means you missed the note entirely, “bad” means you were too late, “safe” means you did enough to not get penalized, “good” means you were close, and “cool” means you were spot on. Scores of awful and bad drain your life meter, while the higher ratings can restore you health. If you run out of health, you fail out of the song. However, it’s also possible to finish the song and still fail if your score wasn’t high enough.
Each song in the game has at least one technical section. In these sections, you’re asked to not only hit all of the notes, but to hit them with a good rating or better. If you can do that, you’ll be given a sizable point boost. Completing a technical zone means you’re almost guaranteed to clear the song.
There is also a “chance time” moment in each song. Here, you want to hit notes and rack up combos to fill up a star meter in the bottom left corner. If the meter gets full, you can hit an extra large star icon when it pops up to not only get a huge point boost, but unlock a little extra bit of fluff for each video. If you hit all of the technical zones and complete chance time, you’re probably going to earn the highest ranking and a whole bunch of diva points.
It’s not easy to get across while explaining the technical aspects of the game, but PDF is a blast to play. The songs are often fast paced affairs with plenty of notes for you to hit. The harder difficulties are especially awesome, as the patterns get more complex and interesting. The game can also be quite addicting, as there are just so many fun songs and trying to get top rankings on them is a heck of a challenge. Still, you can even have some fun on the lower settings if you just want to tap along a bit to the music. I’m really bummed that the rest of the series hasn’t made its way over the states yet.
Short Attention Span Summary
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F is an infectious rhythm game that manages to smash language barriers. With a varied soundtrack, earnest presentation, and a ton of extra content, this is one of the best dollar for dollar purchases of the year, and something a real fan of the genre should pick up immediately. Let’s hope that Sega doesn’t decide to make this game’s release a one time affair.