Inside Pulse 12

Review: Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone (Sony PlayStation 4)

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Genre: Rhythm
Release Date: 01/10/2017

It has only been a handful of months since the last Miku game was released stateside, so it might seem odd, then, for Future Tone to be hitting the PlayStation Store already. However, this is not your typical Miku game; if anything, it’s more akin to a compilation or a remaster, as the songs included are pulled from several prior Miku games. The cool part is that much of them predate the series being released in the West which basically means that what was old is new again. When all is said and done, buying this game will net you a whopping two-hundred and twenty-four songs, all presented at 60fps. This might be the single greatest rhythm game offering of all time.

Future Tone is actually split into two massive collections of song; Future Sound and Colorful Tone. Future Sound has about one-hundred twenty tracks from previous games in the Project Diva F series of games, while Colorful Tone features songs from the Mirai titles and the Arcade games. You can purchase either pack separately, or grab them both at a discounted price; the latter is recommended, as the price of about fifty-four bucks is less than your typical retail release. Future Sound will contain the bulk of songs most familiar to Western audiences, while Colorful Tone will seem almost completely new by comparison. Keep that in mind when considering what to pick up.

Future Tone does away with much of the extra modes players might be used to, meaning there is no Diva Room to visit, no track editor to play around with, and no story mode to go through. Instead, the focus here is entirely on the massive number of tracks. You can play each song from the get go without having to unlock them, though you won’t be able to play the extreme difficulty of a song until you beat it on hard. You can also watch any of the music videos and take pictures that will be saved to your hard drive and used as loading screens. Beyond that, there’s a practice mode that lets you replay tricky sections and online leader boards to see where you rank against the world. It’s not a comprehensive package in terms of variety, but it makes up for that in sheer content. There are more songs in this game then all of the previous western releases combined, and that stands even if you bought all of the DLC.

Because of the sheer volume of songs, the game includes a pretty decent set of options to sort through them. You can sort by singer, difficulty, name, and your highest score. This allows you to see, for example, all of the songs you’ve yet to play listed in one area. You can mark a song as a favorite and have it appear in a special list separate from the rest as well, so if you just want to go back to your favorites, you can do so easily. These options are quite convenient for when you’re trying to beef up your high scores and/or completion percentage.

Let’s talk about the visuals. If you’ve played previous Miku games, you’ll know that songs are accompanied by various music videos. These are typically acted out by 3D models of the various Vocaloids, but can also include recreations of concert performances or special artwork. The models here are clearer than ever before, but it comes at a price, as instead of the more anime-inspired look that fans might be used to, the models this time around look like dolls. This includes glassy eyes and plastic looking skin, giving the characters an Uncanny Valley effect, which can come off as downright creepy when you play. That said, the costumes, animations, and camera movement keeps this to a minimum. More importantly, the game runs at 60fps, which is a first for most of the previously released songs. It’s a good looking game overall.

As for the soundtrack, the massive list contains primarily J-Pop, with smatterings of other musical genres throughout. You’ll find slow ballads, fast paced dance tunes, hard rock, pop tracks, and even some dubstep, so chances are good that you’ll find dozens of songs you like. The vast majority of the songs are in Japanese, but a couple are in English, but this time around you don’t get English subtitles, which is kind of a downer, as reading the lyrics was a highlight previously, though it’s not unacceptable by any means. The tracks are crisp and clear, although if you don’t enjoy Vocaloid singing, this won’t change your mind. Beyond the tunes, there are various sound effects for when you press buttons, such as the typical percussion noises you’ve heard before. They can be turned down, changed, or even turned off, depending on your personal tastes, but in an interesting twist, the game defaults to a different suite of sounds for each song. They tend to fit in with the music more, and therefore aren’t as jarring as they have been in the past, making them ideal for those who use the effects to feel out the beat of each song.

Future Tone stays mostly in line with the previous Miku games. Icons that represent buttons your controller will fly around on the screen toward note indicators. When the prompt crosses over the note, you need to hit the corresponding button. There’s also a clock hand on the note that spins, and when it reaches the twelve-o’clock position, you need to hit the button. Typically, you’ll need to match the vocal performances in terms of beat, but at other times you’ll match the music in general. Depending on your timing, you’ll receive a word grade on your presses, which can be terms such as “miss”, “bad”, “safe”, and “cool”. A rating of good or cool will help you build up a combo and earn extra points, as well as refill your life bar on the top of the screen. If you reach a score threshold by the end of the song, you clear it with a ranking based on your overall performance. If you fail to reach the threshold or miss enough notes to drain your life completely, however, you fail the song.

There are some changes here for returning fans, however, so you won’t find it to be a repetitive experience. First of all, the star icons from prior games no long appear; instead, there are directional prompts that must be hit using the shoulder buttons or the analog sticks. You either press the correct button or flick either stick in the correct direction to trigger these, and you may need to hold the button or stick for a bit to get a slide bonus. Speaking of holding buttons down, that has also changed. You no longer have to hold face buttons down and release them at the right time; instead, you’ll see a note with the word “hold” written above it. If you hold down the button at this time, you’ll rack up bonus points for as long as you hold it or until you’ve reached a maximum threshold. You can even end up holding down multiple buttons during this. Doing so is important to boosting your score, but not essential for hitting every note. Finally, the way double notes work has changed. Previously, you’d get a special icon that indicated you needed to hit a face button and its corresponding directional button at the same time. That’s gone, and instead, you need to hit two, three, or four different buttons at the same time. You can still alternate between face buttons and the d-pad. So if you need to hit square and circle, you could hit left and circle or right and square if need be. This allows the game to make use of triple and quadruple notes. It raises the complexity of the game without breaking it.

One of the great things the game does is naturally introduce the concept of alternating button presses and the use of the d-pad. On the default setting, the buttons that flash by will be left, up, circle, and cross. This trains you to switch between the two side of the controller. When you get the hang of it, it will allow you to hit long strings of fast repetitive notes without smashing your thumb on the controller as fast as possible. This is a skill needed to play the game on the hardest settings and do well. If you want, however, you can edit this so the icons are all face button prompts. So players less interested in competing on the leader boards can have what they’re used to.

For those interested in customization, the game has hundreds of different modules and dozens of accessories to choose from. Even better, you can swap out hair styles from different modules to create an even more unique look. You can save a different look for each song as well as make a couple of presets that can be called upon instantly if you need them. The only downside is you have to manually scroll through all the modules in order to find what you want. There’s no way to sort through them all. For most of the characters, this isn’t a big deal. Miku, however, has by far the most modules and getting from one end to the other is slow going.

For those looking for even more of a challenge, the game offers some other options. You can speed up the notes, have them hide right before you’re supposed to hit the, or have them show up late. There are also special survival playlists that keep your combo as well as your life from one song to the next. There are several different challenges and your high score is posted online to compare with others.

Short Attention Span Summary
Future Tone is a massive love letter to fans of the Miku games. While it may lack some of the extra modes we’re used to, it makes up for that with an absolutely massive track list. There are over two hundred songs in this game! The game is somehow more accessible and challenging at the same time thanks to tweaked mechanics and smart UI decisions. Really, any complaints about this game are tiny compared to the sheer value it offers. If you’re a fan of the series, this is the best game yet. If you’re a fan of rhythm games, this is the most bang you’ve ever gotten for your buck. After the relative disappointment that was Project Diva X, the series is most definitely back on track.

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