Once again, Hatsune Miku is singing and dancing her way onto the PSP, but this time she’s not the only star. Well, she is the main attraction, but the other Vocaloids are so prominently features that Hatsune Miku and Friends may have been a better title than Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2nd.
The shift is prominent. On the start screen, it isn’t just Miku dancing. Miku and Luka are both dancing, while they’re waiting for you to press start. Sometimes, it’ll even just be a single character like Len. If you wait and watch the opening movie, it almost seems like Rin is the star, with Miku, Luka and Len supporting her. All the Vocaloids get additional costumes, not just Miku, and many have their own songs that they star in. Even the loading screens follow this trend – some only focus on one of the other Vocaloid characters.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2nd could also have been called Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 1.1, as lots of the content from the first game reappears. Songs, many outfits, and even a few room accessories may seem familiar. Custom songs created with the first game can be loaded too. Loading up the save file from Project Diva will get you all the costumes you earned, including the swimsuits for Rin, Len, Luka, Kaito and Meiko which now appear in their "closets". The 16 returning songs have new patterns and sometimes rearranged music videos. So, Project Diva 2nd takes the best of the old.
There are 30 new songs, along with lots of new costumes, and decorations to get. Also, you now buy clothing, home spaces, accessories and such for Miku and company in a shop. You unlock these items by playing songs and meeting certain requirements. Then you can buy them using points from playing and replaying songs. There are even "Help" bonuses that you can buy, which can help you do better when playing songs by refilling your gauge if it gets too low or by nullifying a certain number of worse or sad notes. You can also buy gifts for the Vocaloids and make them happy.
I’m somewhat torn on the fact you now have to buy upgrades and extras. Especially since you have to unlock them first to buy them. It’s as though Sega was going overboard trying to give people a reason to keep playing and master songs. Outfits can be quite expensive and cost around 10,000 points. I feel like Sega should have chosen one or the other. Either give people outfits/accessories/items by reaching milestones in songs or have almost all items immediately available in the shop with players saving up for the things they want.
There are also two new types of notes, which are introduced in the tutorial stage set to "Ievan Polkka" with Miku Hachune swinging a leek in the background. You can now use the directional pad buttons or triangle, circle, square or X for standard notes. (Up can be pressed instead of triangle, right instead of circle and so on.) The new albums are an arrow and an extended note. The arrow doesn’t work how you’d think – it doesn’t just mean press that way on the directional pad. You have to press that way on the directional pad AND press the action button that corresponds to it at the same time when it pops up. So if you see a right arrow, you need to press right and circle.
The extended note is also new, and trickier than it looks. Pressing it to start holding it is simple. But, you have to let go at just the right time to get a Cool or Fine. I found that sometimes waiting for the indicator to reach the end of the extended note would result in a Sad or Worst result. It’s almost better to release earlier, if you’re in doubt, than waiting.
Aside from those arrows, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2nd pretty much plays just like Hatsune Miku: Project Diva. Note indicators will appear on screen, and the notes themselves will float towards them. When a note is on top of an indicator, you press it in time. Go for perfect or nearly perfect timing to net Cools and Fines, to build combos. Try to avoid near misses or misses so you don’t get Sads or Worsts. A gauge on the bottom left tells you how you’re doing, and if it empties the song ends and you fail. Near the end of each song, Chance Mode comes up where the gauge disappears and you try to chain together as long a combo as you can for points.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2nd seems far more import friendly than the original. I mean, the original was import friendly, being a music game with very little text. Project Diva 2nd goes above and beyond. There are icons next to each menu option, in addition to the text, so you can easily see what each option is for, even if you can’t read Japanese. There’s English text when you start a song and begin a song. Also, there are a number of songs with the Vocaloids singing in English this time around – for example "Just Be Friends," "PoPiPo" and "Clover Club." Even the epilogue for Rin’s song "Kokoro" features English text on the screen.
The Diva room in-room decorating and interactions have also changed. When you decorate, you decide what goes where. This means that, despite the smaller living space for each Vocaloid, you have more choice about what objects appear, where and how they’re laid out. Vocaloids also may give you points when you visit based on their moods, which lets you go shopping for more outfits and stuff. Finally, you don’t just manage one Vocaloid home. You manage ones for each character, and characters often go visiting.
You can also give the Vocaloids gifts in their little homes. Yes, gifts. You unlock types by playing through songs well, then buy them from the store and give them to the characters to boost their mood. As you can guess, different characters like different things, and you have to check and see what each will like best. If their moods are bad, it won’t really effect gameplay. They’ll just look annoyed at you when you’re selecting their Module or changing their clothes.
The song edit mode for creating custom music videos and songs has also been revamped. Aside from being able to have two Vocaloids in the shot, positioned however you’d like, the means of inputing notes to hit has been improved and of course there are new dance steps to pick from, props characters can hold and new surroundings. Most of the dance steps did come from the original Project Diva though. Many of the new steps seem more masculine, and like they were added with Kaito and Len in mind.
It’s also much easier to create note patterns for Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2nd, as the live input method, where you press the button to create a pattern while the song is playing in the background and you’re watching your preliminary video, has been improved. Everything is less complicated, and a little less cluttered. It’s still a bit challenging for people who can’t read Japanese characters to work with, but it’s better than the system in Hatsune Miku: Project Diva.
And you have so much more control when actually putting together the video that will run in the background. You can adjust positions, add in overlays like snow/rain/flower petals/fireworks, add a hand-held prop, adjust eye position and facial expressions and pretty much go through and adjust every single thing to make your video look perfect. I especially think the camera angles were much easier to work with. Of course, this does mean that custom songs and videos will take much longer to create.
To put it frankly, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2nd is the version of Project Diva you should own. It makes the previous game obsolete. It can do everything the first Project Diva could do, better than the original could do it, and then added more content and extras. Plus it still manages to be just as user friendly as the original, with multiple difficult levels to accommodate players of all skill levels and a nice variety of Vocaloid music. It’s definitely a must-buy for PSP owners who enjoy expanding their libraries with imported games.