Vocaloids are, put simply, a series of voice synthesizers complete with avatars that have captured the attention of many across the world, whether it be composers, artists, or animators. They are also the stars of Hatsune Miku Project Diva F, a PS3 rhythm game that continues the series tradition of bringing together a handful of strong songs while incorporating stunning visuals.
Included in the game are Hatsune Miku, Kagamine Rin and Len, Megurine Luka, MEIKO, and KAITO. If you managed to get your hands on the Sept. 27th DLC, you can also unlock the Yowane Haku, Akita Neru, and Kasane Teto modules.
The roster of music artists for Project Diva F is a strong one—not only does it bring back composers from previous iterations of the series such as kz(livetune), wowoka, and Chouchou-P, it also introduces other popular artists such as AV!Techno, Nem, sasakure.UK, and halyosy. In addition, the songs included are rather popular, have a strong beat and/or melody, and incorporate a wide range of Vocaloids. More songs are given to the non-Miku vocaloids, which was a welcome change for me.
There are also a wider variety of genres as well as “Black Rock Shooter,” which was made into an anime in 2012, and the infamous “Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya” song.
I won’t lie and say knew all the songs or composers before going into the game, but I still greatly enjoyed the pieces I hadn’t heard of before, such as Tennen’s “Ashes to Ashes” and Moja-P’s “Kagamine’s HachiHachi Flower Fight”.
Part of the reason I like the game is because of the smoother, richer animation as compared to the older Project Diva games on the PSP. While you don’t have much of an opportunity to sightsee during the hectic chaos of the rhythm game, you can view the videos separately after you’ve completed the game once (and unlike in previous games, these videos are accessible directly from the song menu). Multiple Vocaloids simultaneously appear onscreen, either as background dancers, band members, or in a duet (whiteflame’s “Thousand Cherry Blossoms” has all 5 characters appear at once!). Their movements are all much more fluid than before, with a richer variety of expressions, and the dances or skits match up with the songs well, making watching the videos much more enjoyable. There is minimal standing-and-singing.
The basic gameplay is the same as in the PSP games. Four symbols corresponding to the four main buttons on the Playstation controller fly all over the screen, and you press the buttons in time with the melody (and sometimes the bass) of the song. For the most part, the buttons are one-at-a-time, but occasionally you have to press both the button and the corresponding D-pad direction at the same time. (You can also use the D-pad instead of the buttons at any time, so the game is rather kind to left-handed people.)
However, there are a couple added features. The first is the Technical Zone. A sequence appears during the song where, if you get every single beat right, you get extra points. While the points are very, very helpful for getting top scores, they aren’t necessary for completing a stage.
Also, Chance Time makes a reappearance. This time, you earn bonus points depending on how well you perform a sequence during the song. The more points you earn, the quicker a gauge in the bottom left fills up. Complete the whole sequence, and you get an enormous boost in points. This feature also appeared in older games, though this time Project Diva F decides to let you end Chance Times with a flourishing flick.
Flicks are a feature completely introduced to Project Diva F. This time, instead of using the buttons, you flick either analog stick in any direction. While this is easy to do, the timing detection is strange. Luckily, the game is more likely to count you as always hitting on-beat than off, so flick away. I find these flick sequences to be great point boosters.
Interestingly enough, I don’t find that these new features to the rhythm game added any difficulty to the game; however, I do feel that Project Diva F is more difficult than its predecessor Project Diva 2nd. Barring the near-impossible “Hatsune Miku’s Singing Passion” [unofficial translation] in Project Diva 2nd, there seem to be more punishing slews of button-pressing in Project Diva F, either in terms of how much thumb-agility is required to move back and forth or in the sheer speed at which the buttons appear. In addition, because the game is on a TV and not a small handheld, it may take some time to get used to where symbols appear.
Project Diva always has been a fan of helping players develop extreme tunnel vision.
In addition to the rhythm game portion, Edit Mode and Diva Room make a reappearance. I did not have a chance to try out the Edit Mode, but in essence the game allows you to create your own videos and rhythm sequences to the games and then post them online store for other players. On the other hand, I did visit the Diva Room a couple times. While its functionality has decreased since Project Diva 2nd (it was where you would go to view the gallery and videos), you can still visit the rooms to interact with your favorite Vocaloids.
In the game, you score points based on how well you do in the song, and these can be used to directly purchase costumes as well as many, many items. Some of these items can be used in the rhythm game itself, such as items that give you a 1up should you fail, and others add to the costumes, like cat ear headbands or bows. You can also purchase gifts and furniture for the Diva Rooms.
In addition, you can interact directly with the Vocaloids in Touch Communication mode, where you move your cursor and poke or pet them. Their reactions are kind of funny and, depending on what you do, you can make them happier, which unlocks new items for you to purchase for your Vocaloid of choice. You can also play a minigame with them. (Hint: Poking them in the eye won’t win you any points.)
Finally, you can also set up a pseudo-photo shoot where a Vocaloid poses over one of the images in your gallery. You can save this image and use it for your PS3 background, among other things.
Overall, I really enjoyed Project Diva F’s selection of songs as well as the videos that accompany them, and I really liked the attention put into the Touch Communication, such as taking into account how fast you move the cursor, and their reactions are really cute. I’m also hoping to try the Edit Mode at some point in time, but it looks like it’ll take a while…
Food for Thought:
1. What are your favorite songs? Aside from the ones mentioned by name above, I like Neru’s “Tokyo Teddy Bear,” Nem’s “Dream-Eating Monochrome Baku,” BuriruP’s “Secret Police,” and both of wowoka’s songs. In addition, I like the animation and button placement in cosMo’s “Sadistic.Music∞Factory,” which plays more like QTEs than a rhythm game, though the song itself isn’t my style. Mmmm, so many good songs!
2. When the going gets tough, you can always alternate between left and right hands to hit long sequences of single-button presses. This way, you don’t get thumb cramps trying to press the faster than is humanly possible.
3. All the DLC songs from the Japan-only Vita version are included in the PS3 game. However, the way you unlock them is different. Usually, you complete one stage and it unlocks the next song down in your list of songs. However, the extra songs are themselves a separate list at the very bottom of the list. This means you can play the extra songs without finishing all the main songs first.
4. I think the most punishing moment for me was listening to Nyax7 – an almost 4-minute “song” (in reality, it can go on… forever…) 4 times in a row to get all the difficulty levels. And then some more, because Hard and Extreme took some work. Nya nya nya…
5. Lyrics are romaji-only. However, because these songs are all very popular, translations can easily be found by Google or YouTube.