Review – Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA-f

A rhythm game was certainly not high on my list for ideas of Vita games to get, yet here I am with a copy of one based entirely on vocaloid music. If you aren’t familiar with vocaloids, they are basically synthetic voices programmed to sing. For an example, check out the below video – it might also work well as background music for this post (and it’s also the opening theme for the game).



Every time I start a Vita game, I immediately reach for my headphones. In all my time with a Game Boy/DS/3DS, I never used them, as most of the audio in those types of games was very straightforward and could be heard fine via the speakers. But as soon as I started Persona 4 Golden, I knew I needed to use headphones for the proper experience – mainly because of the sexy sexy bass lines. Being a game based entirely around music, Project Diva-f renders headphones as a necessity to truly take in everything and get in the groove.

While the game focuses mainly on Hatsune Miku songs, there are also several with vocaloids Kagamine Rin and Len, Megurine Luka, Meiko, and Kaito, along with combinations of the six.

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So, on to the main attraction  – the music and the general gameplay. Going into this, I knew three of the songs in the game (ODDS&ENDS, Black Rock Shooter, and World is Mine), and the only rhythm games I had ever played were Guitar Hero and Rock Band. So, as you can probably imagine, it was a bit strange to mash four buttons and the touch screen to the tempo of Miku and co.’s singing.

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Unlike many other rhythm games (I did my research), rather than the ‘notes’ coming down a linear path at a fixed tempo, the button prompts will fly in from all directions, and when they line up with the corresponding shape on screen (also signaled by the clockwise-spinning arrow going vertical), you need to hit the corresponding button – the closer you are, the more points you get. Notes are ‘played’ in one of three ways – pressing a shape button (Circle, square, triangle, or X), quickly swiping the touch screen*, or simultaneously pressing a shape button and its respective arrow key (Square and left, triangle and up, etc).

* On the PS3 version of the game, this is replaced by flicking an analog stick.

During a song, a little video will play in the background, unique to that specific track and with whichever vocaloid characters have singing parts. While the background video can add a nice backdrop to the plethora of notes on screen, it can also be distracting, as color clashes with the button prompts will leave them difficult to distinguish. After completing a song, you will have the option to simply watch the little music video if you want to.

My main issues with the general gameplay are that I wish there were more songs available (there are only ~32) and there is no playlist option – being able to string together a bunch of songs to play one right after the other.

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One nice thing about the games is the customization of the characters’ outfits and rooms. While I didn’t fiddle with the room updates much, the outfit changes are very nice – while ultimately completely superficial, you have the option to change full sets or individual accessories (cat ears, hat, jetpack, etc).

In each character’s room, you can interact with them very similarly to the Pokemon Amie feature in X and Y, or simply watch them do miscellaneous things such as lay in bed, go on their laptop, or air-conduct music.

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Since the North American release of the Vita version won’t be for a while, I just bought a used copy of the game from Japan. Fortunately, everything is pretty straightforward, and for the more complicated menu tasks, I’m able to work my way through without too much of an issue. Of course, since I had to click around for a while to find the options menu, I noticed two things.

1.  The overall organization of menus is a bit clunky. Navigating to any given task can take a while, and certain options, such as changing the “module,” or character appearance in the background video, can’t be set to a default or changed once you’ve already selected a song.

2.  There are a lot of loading screens. I don’t know if this is an issue on the PS3 version of the game, but it can be annoying, especially when compounded with menus that don’t seem to always have a logical layout.

To expand on one example of my problems with the menus and loads; if you are prepared to play a song, but want to change your character’s appearance, you will be brought to the customization menu after waiting for the game to load. If, at that point, you choose to shop rather than choose something you already have, you will need to wait for it to load again. After selecting everything and backing all the way out (two load screens), the game will need to load once again, bringing you to the start screen before you begin playing. Once you’ve reached this point, the only options you can change are items to assist or increase the challenge, or the sound effects for the button and touch screen commands – you cannot change outfits, volume levels, or anything else.

Fortunately, although the loading screens are mostly static, there is plenty of variety with what you’ll see. So while a plethora of loads is irritating, you will not be staring at the same thing each time.

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Some of the features feel pointless to me, such as the room customization and interaction, Augmented Reality Live – which is watching Miku sing and dance over wherever you have the Vita’s camera pointed, and the Photo/videoshoot – which are just what they sound like. Unfortunately, the songs available for the AR Live are not available for regular gameplay – which is very disappointing.

So, on to the pros/cons list!

+ Challenging
+ Gameplay is very straightforward
+ Song variety
+ Customizing characters’ attire and rooms

~ Number of songs available
~ Active background videos can be very distracting and/or clash with the button prompts on screen
~ No option to default to a certain outfit

– Loading screens are far too frequent
– No playlist option
– Some songs aren’t playable in the regular mode
– Menus/options are not organized very well
– Limited appeal to those who like/tolerate vocaloid music

Play time – I cleared all the songs (~32) on normal difficulty in about 4-5 hours, and I expect to spend a lot more time on higher difficulties in the future.

Overall – 8/10
Recommendation – Buy it (maybe)

If you aren’t familiar with or tend to dislike vocaloid music, this game isn’t for you. Also, since releases in the US and Europe should be later this year at some point, wait for those rather than trying to import a copy – unless you can read Japanese, in which case it shouldn’t really matter.

At its core, the gameplay is very easy to jump into and never feels monotonous, Along with this, songs are challenging enough at higher difficulties that it never feels like a cakewalk. Overall, a very fun game with nice customization options, although it is slightly hindered by a few design quirks.


Coming Soon™ – Zigaexperientia review, Final Fantasy X Remaster thoughts (this one should come a few days after I finish Persona 4 Golden, which is probably a week or so away), Shinsekai Yori review, Persona 4 Golden review, other stuff, miscellaneous thoughts, etc.

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