Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F Review: The rhythm game idol finally comes to North America
Hatsune Miku is one of Japan's most famous pop singers/idols. What makes this more curious is the fact that she's not a real person, and instead a virtual representation of a piece of software called a vocaloid. Miku has been winning over hearts with her pop performances in Japan for quite some time now. Is it time for us to embrace her with open arms, or is the game just a bit too quirky for its own good?
At its core, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F is a rhythm game, which, much like other rhythm games, requires the player to press a button corresponding to on-screen prompt. Unlike Rock Band or Guitar Hero where the musical highway of buttons is in one place, the button prompts here fly in from every corner of the screen. For the uninitiated, this could be a tough element to swallow.
Thankfully, Project Diva gives players multiple options of difficulty, letting beginners ease into the game and learn the ropes. You'll eventually be grasping the game's hectic button prompts and graduating to higher difficulties. However, even on the Normal difficulty, don't expect a cakewalk. Often times, the speed of the prompts is so quick that you'll need some great hand-eye coordination to get them right.
Each of the songs plays out with a music video in the background. While these videos are often funny -- and definitely well- produced -- there is so much happening that it can sometime divert your attention from the flurry of buttons flying on the screen. It's something you get used to over time, but my first few hours had me adjusting by trying to ignore what was going on in the background, instead just pinpointing the buttons. I eventually learned to do it pretty effectively, but it can certainly feel like too much is happening on the screen.
It's important to note that Project Diva is mostly for rabid fans who have previously imported past games from the franchise. The soundtrack is comprised of mostly Anime/Japanese music, which might not appeal to those coming from games like Rock Band or Guitar Hero. That said, I absolutely loved the music here, which had me tapping my foot and bobbing my head to almost every song. And hey, it even has the Nyan Cat song that changes musical styles throughout.
Aside from the rhythm game portion, there is a hefty amount of customization for each of the various characters in the game. Completing any of the songs will net you in-game currency, which you can spend on various items like gifts for characters, new costumes, and even new furniture for their rooms. You can also buy various items, which can either help make the game easier by ignoring a certain amount of "bad" button prompt ratings, or harder by making the notes appear at the last second. Who'd want that? I honestly don't know.
You can also choose to spend some time getting to know each of the idols in their own rooms. No, not in a dirty sort of way. By conversing with them, giving them presents and redecorating their rooms for them, their affection will grow stronger, unlocking little minigames that you can play. For example, I was able to play a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with Miku after filling up her affection meter up a decent amount. Sure, it's a strange diversion from the main game, but it does give your fingers a chance to rest.
Lastly, the game offers an overly extensive, and rather difficult, Edit mode for those that want to produce their own music video masterpieces. Even with a tutorial system, the mechanics are really time-consuming, and this will most likely only appeal to the die-hard Miku fans. However, seeing your masterpiece that you yourself produced is a rather rewarding experience, even if mine was rather lackluster.
It's been a long time coming, but Japan's most famous virtual idol has finally made it to the US. While the Project Diva franchise absolutely kills it in Japan, after finally seeing what the craze is about, I'm not entirely sure that the US crowd is ready for its quirky nature and extremely Japanese soundtrack. But those familiar with the series, who previously didn't mind spending upward of a $100 on importing them from Japan, will find this cheaper alternative, filled with bonus songs no less, a worthy investment.