The Magic of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva

By Jenni . August 18, 2009 . 1:45pm

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Sega faced a challenge when the company decided to make a Hatsune Miku game. They had to transform an Internet phenomenon into a video game sensation that would appeal to Vocaloid fans and the general PSP gamer. They succeeded with Hatsune Miku: Project Diva. It is the kind of game that I think will achieve the same status among importers as the DJ Max series.

 

The star of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva is Crypton’s Vocaloid character Hatsune Miku. She’s an imaginary figure that’s used as the mascot for her vocaloid program who’s become an iconic figure in Japan and on the Internet. While she’s had cameos in games before, like 13-sai no Hello Work DS, she’s never starred in a game before. Sega set out to change all that and, it is my belief that Hatsune Miku: Project Diva is as phenomenal as it is due to the fact that Sega was the company handling everything.

 

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva is a rhythm game like DJ Max, Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The twist is that there isn’t a set grid on the game screen to watch. Instead, the indicators for the X, square, O and triangle buttons can appear anywhere on the screen in time with the music, and the trails indicating when to press glide across the screen. The goal is to try and get a perfect score on the song by maintaining a combo with only cool and fine hits. If you get a safe, sad or worst hit, you break the combo and lower your score. If you accidentally press the wrong button, though in perfect time with the melody, you won’t receive a safe, sad or worst rating on that hit, but you will break the combo. An indicator in the bottom left corner shows your status, and the lyrics appear on the bottom of the screen.

 

There’s also a chance mode that takes place in each song. During this point you can’t see your score, your status indicator or whether the notes you hit are cool/fine/safe/sad/worst. This is your chance to score loads of points. As your combo grows during this portion, so do the points you earn for each perfectly timed hit. You start out earning 100 points, but if you manage to get 34 hits in a row, you can get 3400 points for the 34th Chance mode hit.

 

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It’s a game that can be challenging, especially if you play the songs with a difficulty level of four stars or higher. But overall, it’s a rhythm game based on enjoyment and fun, not unspeakable difficulty levels. The easy modes of most songs are downright leisurely, making it the perfect rhythm game for those new to the genre or frustrated by more difficult titles. Since gorgeous videos play in the background of almost every song, this allows you to pay more attention to them.

 

I’ve found it’s a wonderful game to leave in your PSP and play at any time. There are 39 initial songs included in the game, 32 are official Hatsune Miku songs from people like Ryo, OSTER project and Octomania, and 7 are entirely new songs created for the collection. There are over 100 images to unlock, over 30 costumes (including skins of the Vocaloids Meiko, Kaito, Rin, Len and Luka) and all kinds of furniture for Miku’s home. Usually, you unlock new stuff by reaching certain milestones in songs. Getting “Great” or a “Perfect” rank, maintaining a combo of over 100, playing a song 5 times — things like that. Something I found incredibly handy was the information displayed in the costume section. The game will actually tell you what you need to do to unlock certain costumes.

 

Most of the songs also have to be unlocked, though it’s fairly easy. You typically only have to clear available songs on easy to unlock additional ones. The only exceptions are the Len and Rin versions of songs. In order to unlock those, you have to get perfect scores on the Miku version of said songs.

 

I want to pause at this point and say everything in Hatsune Miku: Project Diva is perfectly executed. I’ve noticed no lag, even when there are tons of icons on screen. The PVs look gorgeous, like real music videos, and are a joy to watch. Motion capture was used for all the dance moves, so everything looks realistic, and the character models are absolutely wonderful. There’s a striking amount of detail, and you can tell Sega made the game with the Vocaloid fans in mind. There’s also a bit of humor, as Hachune Miku shows up, Miku often wields leeks and fun songs like Ievan Polkka.

 

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Where the game truly shines though, is in the edit mode. You can import practically any MP3 into your game and make it into a playable song in the game. You design every aspect of the video playing in the background, using the various models, backgrounds, costumes and dance moves seen throughout the PVs in the game. You can even modify Miku’s face to make it appear as if she’s singing the song. Then you decide what the pattern should be like and how difficult the song should be. There’s even an in-game metronome to help you figure out the correct BPM for the song you’re using. Best of all, it’s fairly user friendly. Time consuming, true. But still, it is very easy to use.

 

You can then trade your custom songs with friends over Ad-Hoc wireless. Or, you can upload your saved custom song to the Internet to share with others. The custom songs are saved separately from your save data, so it’s easy to connect your PSP to your computer, zip up the file and share it with people around the world.

 

Sega has hit a home run with Hatsune Miku: Project Diva. It’s a fantastic rhythm game that I feel even outshines the DJ Max games, due to the ability to create custom tracks. It looks beautiful, has a track list of incredibly addicting songs, has tons of extras and is a great game for people of any skill level. It’s also incredibly import friendly, despite the fact that there isn’t too much English in it.

 

Food for Thought:

 

  • For some reason, I tend to have problems with the Normal and Hard difficulty levels of OSTER Project songs. Anyone else having the same problem?
  • If Sony and Sega decided to release Hatsune Miku: Project Diva as a digital download worldwide, I think it would definitely be a top seller.
  • I was disappointed to see Gakupo, and the song “Dancing Samurai” weren’t part of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva
  • I’m considering trying to create a full custom song for a forthcoming article explaining the edit mode and how to make your own custom song. Any suggestions for songs to use? I’m considering “Last Samba” from the Katamari Damacy soundtrack (since it’s only 1:01 min long) or “Sasasan Katamari” (1:21), but want to go with something widely accessible. Other possibilities include Smile.dk’s “Butterfly”, “Mexican Flyer” from Space Channel 5 or “Real Emotion” from FFX-2.

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  • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

    Awesome impressions. I’m jealous you got to take care of Hatsune Miku now. The song edit mode sounds awesome.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      It’s quite possibly the best PSP game I think this year. It’s absolutely amazing.

      The only problem with the song edit mode is it can get kind of tedious once you start creating. You can copy and paste song portions so you don’t have to recreate parts or you can have a set pattern for the chorus, but you still have to constantly be checking the preview function to make sure things match up.

      I can see so much potential with the edit function, and I’m glad Sega made the original song save files separate so you can share them even if you can’t use ad-hoc mode.

  • superdry

    I’m quite enjoying these articles you’re writing on the game (considering I’ve also been playing the game non-stop for a month trying to 100% everything). I think your description of the game in this article perfectly describes the game and give an idea to people who don’t know about it and thus go track down game play of it.

    The one thing describing the gameplay that you forgot to leave out, the indicators have this clock arm thing that spins in time with the music. It’s a nice visual cue if one does not follow the rhythm.

    Some people have complained about the difficulty as in it’s not crazy hard. But, I think that is the beauty of it…it’s a game that anyone can jump right into and not worry about a flurry of notes flying down at them. I think games like Dj Max or Beatmania when you hit the hard songs essentially become a hand/eye coordination game instead of feeling the rhythm of the song to pass it. Of course, the edit mode is where one would want to play crazy hard song.

    Food for thought –
    -I too have problems with the OSTER Projects songs. For some reason, the notes that glide across the screen towards the indicator are extremely choppy (same with some of the Supercell songs like Melt)
    -SEGA did a great job with creating the music videos for each song that Miku becomes a distraction as you play because you want to watch the video while trying to hit the notes (luckily, you can unlock the PV and then watch them at your leisure). Especially when the camera zooms in on her butt (which totally had to be intentional on SEGA’s part…hehe).
    -This is also one of the few rhythm games I have played that penalize you more for an early hit instead of a late hit.
    -I think the game could become a sleeper hit if released as a digital download.
    -I think you should create a custom song for “Butterfly.” Speaking of which, a Japanese player created a custom song for Caramelldansen, and did an amazing job. I always use that custom song to show people how powerful the edit mode is when you know how to use it. Too bad the note chart for that custom song isn’t that great.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      I had problems with “Melt” initially, until I played it so often that I started hearing it in my sleep. Then it’s like I became one with the song and managed a Perfect on Normal.

      I love so many of the PVs. They all are adorable and have a sense of humor. And I agree, Sega was doing fan-service in some. (Even the Edit Mode has options where you can use those same camera angles! XD)

      I’ve been thinking “Butterfly” would be an easy one to work with. It’s short, I’m familiar with it from DDR and its well-known.

      I haven’t seen the Caramelldansen custom song. Is it for the fast mix or standard mix?

      • superdry

        You can search for the video on youtube. Search for “caramelldansen project diva.” It should be the first video.

        Yea, the game does have a good amount of fanservice…and, in some of the PVs, the camera does a close up that would make more sense with the swimsuit costume. Also, in the edit mode, SEGA put in the moves so one can recreate Hare Hare Yukai and I think the Lucky Star opening. It’s little thing like that that make the game fun.

        Not to sound like a fanboy or anything, but I find it hard to find at least one glaring con with the game.

        • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

          Oh wow! That video was absolutely awesome. Two thumbs up, would watch again kind of awesome.

          I have to agree with you. It’s quite possibly a perfect game.

        • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

          Hi again!

          I’m almost finished with the custom song. Due to the fact that I record most of my music into my computer at low bit rates (to make them smaller files), “Butterfly” and all my Katamari Damacy tracks are out of the question as possibilities. So I went with Ayumi Hamasaki’s “Ladies Night – another night -” as the song. I’m just putting on finishing touches (editing the appearance of indicators on the screen) and should be finished soon. :D

  • http://twitter.com/matty_125 matty

    Oh, I’d be totally interested in seeing edit mode in action. I think it’s amazing that you could do that. I wish more games tried to do more with players adding their own mix and the game really letting you cut lose on the features.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      YouTube has quite a few user created songs, and I’ll hopefully be writing an article soon discussing basics of making your own Edit Mode songs.

      The Hatsune Miku: Project Diva wiki is also a phenomenal resource for help and fan created songs.
      http://www19.atwiki.jp/mikudiva/pages/1.html

      Someone there even created a custom song for the Patapon theme.

  • http://twitter.com/ravenschwann Tim Nguyen

    Guess I’m going to have to import this too x3
    The Tales of games are already eating at my credit cards.

  • http://iron2000.blogspot.com/ iron2000

    Intially bought the game for the exclusive figure but it turned out to be a fun game.

    To do well in Normal and Hard you need to know the song well, better if you can sing it. For Hard mode you need to know the positions of the 4 buttons but that should be no problem :P

  • http://www.younganimal.com/berserk Mr_Qoo

    I’m still waiting for mine. Could anyone compare the hard difficulty to Master’s Play on Gitaroo Man? It wasn’t too hard but fun and definitely doable for me. Is this going to be more of a challenge or easier? Not that I’d mind either way, but it’d be nice to have something tough come my way again as far as rhythm games go.

  • http://ofurotaimu.dreamwidth.org shirokiryuu

    I’ve tried making custom songs, but I keep on messing up, so it would be nice if you did make a post on how to use it! Also I like downloading the save files for precreated songs, but sometimes I accidentally download the wrong edit version of the song, thus making the notes completely off.

    I love Gakupo, but eventhough he’s a vocaloid, he’s not part of the “Character Vocal series” which is the only reason i can think of why he’s always left out. He’s in the same series as GUMI i believe…

    Also I totally don’t recognize where the 3rd screenshot is from.. o__O am I missing something really cool???

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      I’m in the middle of writing one up now, which will hopefully help. There are also a lot of guides already online if you check Google or GameFaqs. Apparently a lot of people are psyched about the custom song feature. :D (I’m hoping that eventually there’ll be an English language website with custom song save files eventually.)

      It was a Japanese screenshot I’d saved a while ago. I think it’s actually from a early build, the more that I look at it. Whoops.

  • Anon

    After staring at the Project Diva logo I noticed the eyes were asymmetric, then realized it spells PJD with the eyes and the nose (PJD=Project Diva).

    If this game can have nice stages then why not Idolmaster SP too? Maybe it would take too long too load, or maybe they were planning up to 3 characters on stage at once but cut it late in development?

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