Review: Hatsune Miku: Future Tone brings the Arcade experience home
With an impressively huge song list to boot
MSRP: Colorful Tone pack - $29.99, Future Sound pack - $29.99, both as a bundle: $53.99
During my high school days in the early 2000s, I had a pretty huge obsession with Bemani games, in particular, I was a pretty avid fan of Dance Dance Revolution. The one arcade in my city actually had two back to back DDR machines, that I'd frequent on a weekly basis and show off my moves.
My constant need of upbeat songs and stellar rhythm gameplay has led me to find Stepmania, an unofficial PC title which emulated DDR, and was completely customizable. Within a few short weeks, my Stepmania library was full of nearly every single DDR release, both US and Japanese. Despite my songs being organized by the games in which they appeared in, it still took quite some time to scroll through all of them. To me, Hatsune Miku: Future Tone is kind of like that. I feel as though I have stumbled upon a new version of Stepmania, though this time completely official (and not free), filled with hundreds of songs to fulfill my rhythm game needs.
What stayed the same?
Before I get into what's new, I wanted to first shed light on what's the same, especially for those coming from past entries. For the most part, the standard gameplay loop is the same. You'll pick a song, choose your Vocaloid, dress them up in a slew of crazy outfits, and then press the right buttons that fly on-screen in time to the beat of the song.
So what's new?
Based on the short summary on what stayed the same, you can rest assured that Future Tone is bringing a lot of "new" to the table.
For starters, apart from the standard directional and button inputs, there are a few new prompts to learn, such as the slides and multi-button hits. These actually caught me off-guard at first, since I braved the game without playing the tutorial. And even after understanding how they work, they add a nice new layer of challenge on top of the already addicting gameplay. What I'm saying is, even if you're a master Miku player, there's some new challenges to be found here.
The game itself, the way its structured, and actually purchased is quite different. Future Tone is split up into two distinct song packs; Colorful Tone and Future Sound. Colorful Tone is comprised or more upbeat J-Pop songs while Future Sound has more J-Rock inspired songs. But don't let that distinction fool you, as there is certainly some overlap. Future Sound has more than enough cute sounding Pop songs as well.
The song list itself is probably the most distinct feature of Future Sound, featuring over 220 songs! If you recall from my review of Project Diva X, the one complaint I had was that the song list was too short. Even Project Mirai on the 3DS had more to choose from. Future Sound has them all beat, with a song list so long, you'll probably have a hard time deciding which songs to play (hint: play them all!).
Since the core of the experience comes straight from purchasing either or both of those song packs, they all come unlocked right from the beginning, which means there's no grinding involved to unlock your favorite song, though that does slightly take away from the feeling of progression.
As you play, you'll gain currency to buy an insane amount of outfits, basically anything and everything Miku and her friends wore from game's past, as well as some awesome collaboration outfits, such as the Ulala costume from Space Channel 5, or her outfit from Persona 4 Dancing All Night. These costumes can also be mixed up, meaning you can put on a different top and bottom for some extra variety.
These costumes would be pointless if it wasn't for the game's ability to take screenshots during performances. What's even cooler about this feature is that these pictures you save will then be used as screensavers and loading screens for the game, adding a more personal touch to the game.
As much as I love each entry of Hatsune Miku games, I will admit that had I known Future Tone was coming, I would have probably recommended that non-die hard fans pass on Project Diva X. It was a great game regardless, but pales in comparison to this console port of a fantastic arcade title, especially when it comes to song selection.
Sure, some fantastic songs that I've grown to love, especially from Project Diva X like Satisfaction and Ai-Dee aren't here, and it's a bummer that having both games installed doesn't let me transfer those songs over to Future Tone, but given its 220+ song selection, I'm willing to let that slide.
Future Tone will last fans a long time, despite the game not having true progression in terms of unlocking songs. Mastering songs and attaining that Perfect status on a song is a goal in and of itself, and is worth pursuing for rhythm game aficionados. And if unlocking new things entices you, then you can at least still unlock new costume modules for Miku and friends through gaining currency by simply playing the game. It is an Arcade experience after all, so the whole point is to pick up and play, and try to set high scores.
We can rejoice that SEGA took the plunge and actually brought this game to the US, despite many thinking it wouldn't happen. Die hard fans might have already purchased the game on their Japanese accounts, but for those that held on to hope that one day, Future Tone would grace their US console, your patience has been rewarded with what is easily one of the best Miku games, and rhythm games on the PS4.