Last year, I became a full blown Hatsune Miku fan. Project Diva F for the PS3 easily made my top ten last year, and even took home our award for rhythm game of the year. I loved the game so much that I immediately purchased the Vita version when it became available earlier this year. When they announced the sequel was coming stateside as well, I was ecstatic.
Project Diva F 2nd has some pretty big shoes to fill. Is it up to the task?
Just like last year, PDF2 is chock full of content. Play Mode lets you tackle the tutorial, four different difficulties of forty different songs, and also play any music you’ve created/downloaded. You also have the Edit Mode, which lets you create your own videos and photographs. If you so desire, you can crate music videos for viewing pleasure, or create rhythm games yourself. The only catch is that you need to download this mode from the PSN store. It’s free, but it’s not technically on the cartridge. You also have the AR mode, which lets you use the Vita to project the Divas onto real life surfaces. You can’t play these songs, but you can view them. Most of them are from the last game anyway. You can also visit the vocaloids in their rooms. You can give them presents, decorate to your heart’s content, or even use the touch screen to interact with them. There are in-game rewards for doing so, but it’s completely optional. Finally, there’s the shop, where you can spend hard earned points to buy costumes, customization items, or gifts. There’s a lot to see and do here, and it will take you many hours to work through it all.
Visually, the game is just as charming as its predecessor. The various music videos that make up the visual package are a delight thanks to the use of various art styles, expressive models, and creative situations. The downside is that you might end up distracted from the gameplay as you try to keep tabs on what’s going on. The main menu is a bit cleaner, but the game looks the same for the most part. It’d be hard to tell the two games apart if it weren’t for other clues. If there is any real problem, it’s that sometimes you’ll come across compression artifacts from when the game was squeezed down to fit on the Vita. It’s not too common, but there are times when the game becomes blurry because of it.
I’ll start off the audio section by saying that the song list for this game is probably a bit weaker that last year. There are still plenty of great songs in various styles, but it’s really hard to top a game that had Black Rock Shooter, Tell Your World, and Tokyo Teddy Bear. That being said, there are only a couple of songs that I found to particularly grating, which isn’t a bad number when you consider the game has forty total tracks. If you’re not a fan of J-Pop, you probably shouldn’t bother though. While there are ballads, techno tracks, and cute love songs, it kind of all fits that same J-Pop mold. There isn’t much more in the way of effects unless you want a snare or bell to sound off whenever you hit a note. This is a feature that can help you figure out the rhythm, but the sounds get in the way of the music after a while. It’s a decent package with a lesser, rather than more varied, soundtrack.
The gameplay is mostly carried over from the previous title. When you play a song, various melody icons will appear on screen. You need to tap the corresponding buttons as they pass over these icons. This will be done in time to the rhythm of the song. More often than not, you’ll need to follow the vocals, which makes things a bit easier. You use the face buttons, the d-pad, and the touch screen during play. The touch screen is used for special star icons. You need to rub your finger in a scratching motion instead of tapping the screen though. If that’s not your thing, you can switch this mechanic over to the analog sticks if you want.
A couple of new melody icons are in this game, and both relate to the stars. First up, you have filled in stars that require you to either flick with two fingers or use both sticks. These are a bit tricky at first, but become second nature rather quickly. Secondly, there are new connected stars. When these show up, the star icon will move from star to star rather than have a new star show up for each note. These are really tricky, as the usual tricks don’t work. You see, for the regular notes, you can get a broad idea of how fast the beat is going by how spaced apart the notes are. If two icons are close together, you’re going to be jamming the button quickly. However, with the connected stars, this rule doesn’t apply. It’s pretty much a crap shoot unless you’ve memorized the beat of the song. I’m not particularly fond of this mechanic, but it does mix things up visually.
Where the games shines is in its challenge. Simply hitting a note isn’t good enough. You need to get the timing right. This builds up your score and allows you to get top ranks on a song instead of merely clearing it. Also important are the chance time and technical zones. Technical zones require you to get a “good” or “cool” rating on every note in a section. During chance time, you build up a star meter by hitting notes. Hit enough, and you can hit the big star note when it appears. Completing these sections of the song grant a lot of bonus points, and are the key to getting top marks.
There are a few issues, however. For example, there’s a mechanic in the Diva Room area where you can pet the vocaloid’s head in order to get them to like you. If you have a finger touching the rear touch pad, this will interfere greatly with the controls. The game won’t register your movements properly, and it can feel like the game is broken. This is made even worse by the fact that the rear touch pad functionality doesn’t help you in any sort of way. In fact, it penalizes you. If you tap the rear touch in this mode, the game kind of reads it like you’re trying to grab some android butt. This lowers their affection rating and may even lock you out being able to pet them for a while. I have no idea why this mechanic even exists.
Oh, and before I forget, I should mention a few more of the game’s features. It has English subtitles for all of the songs. This is pretty cool, but some of the songs end up quite disturbing. One songs involves Miku cutting off her finger in order to prove her love. Also, the game features cross save with the PS3, and allows players to carry over saves from imported versions of the game. These are nice little touches that show an appreciation for Miku’s dedicated fanbase.
Short Attention Span Summary
Miku’s second outing in the US is just as fun as her first. While the song selection might not be quite as spectacular, it still showcases many great tracks. The challenge is still as exhilarating as ever, there’s still a ton of content to go through, and the whole package is delightful. If you loved the first game, or rhythm games in general, this is one that you’re not going to want to miss.