Release Date: May 15, 2020
ESRB: T for Teen
The virtual vocaloid popstar Hatsune Miku continues unchallenged in her overwhelming popularity even a decade past her original inception. Be it live or digital concerts, absurd cross-promotions, or extending her influence into other mediums (such as surprisingly solid rhythm game releases) means there is no shortage of ways to stumble upon her enigmatic green-haired existence. Her newest debut in the video game space, however, comes in the form Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix for the Nintendo Switch.
Serving as a first appearance not only for the Project Diva series on non-Sony hardware, it also makes for the first Hatsune Miku game on the Nintendo Switch outright. Thus, it begs the immediate question of whether or not Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix makes for a proper star studded debut on new gaming hardware as well as meet the expectations for existing Project Diva fans.
Much of this newest Switch title bears a striking resemblance to the localized 2017 release of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone. Future Tone was not only noteworthy for being a well-crafted PS4 port of a former Japanese arcade game release, but also because it was dang near close to the definitive Project Diva game in terms of the massive amount of playable tracks that went well over two-hundred total songs. The Super Smash Bros. Ultimate of Hatsune Miku games, if you will. Now, before getting one's hopes up on the prospect of having over two hundred playable songs in a portable fashion, Mega Mix is unfortunately not quite exactly that same release on Switch, for better or for worse.
"...there are several new features exclusive to the release of Mega Mix that are pleasant surprises."
Before airing out grievances on what it lacks compared to its PS4 incarnation, there are several new features exclusive to the release of Mega Mix that are pleasant surprises. Some are straightforward enough, such as great new musical additions like 'Ooedo Julia-Night', which plays with Genroku-era inspired 2D animation yet injects it with a strong hip-hop flair to the track '39 Music' that more so showcases the 3D side of the hyperactive presentation (and also for some reason has Miku dab multiple times). To further expound on visual flourishes, there are of course many costumes/accessories for all the characters as well, and to go one step further for the Switch release, it allows creative types to outright make custom T-shirts in a way that is very similar to the Able Sisters in Animal Crossing.
More understated additions, yet equally welcome, to Mega Mix are actually buried in the various controller and display options, however. One specific example is a pretty significant quality of life feature for former Sony players that allows them to straight up replace the Switch's displayed melody inputs to a potentially far more familiar layout of the Sony controller symbols instead (for people like me who has been playing these games for years on Sony systems). Beyond that, there are a surprising amount of different controller options in general such as docked, handheld mode, arcade controller, Pro controller, to even the joy-con motion controls that sports its own unique "Mix Mode" spin on songs too. Although, I will be honest and say that I could not get the joy-con motion controls to work anywhere close to consistently on my end. So, uh, mileage is likely to vary wildly with that last one.
Yet, despite its generally nice new features, Mega Mix makes quite a few questionable compromises. The biggest elephant in the room is no doubt that there are nearly one hundred songs less total than the PS4 release of Future Tone. And while it still having roughly a hundred songs total is still no doubt a lot for a rhythm game, it is because Mega Mix is generally a port overall that it is difficult to not feel short changed to some degree when Future Tone set the bar so high already. Plus, to add some insult to injury, the returning songs that exist in Mega Mix are significantly less consistent in not only visual fidelity but frame rate as well. Though it is not surprising by any means that the visuals made some sacrifices compared to the PS4 release, what I found far more jarring is the significant video compression that makes several songs somehow look just plain worse than their Project Diva iterations on the Playstation Vita.
"...significant video compression makes several songs somehow look just plain worse than their Project Diva iterations on the Playstation Vita."
Of course, it is hard to hold too much of a grudge as the rhythm gameplay is still as enjoyable as ever. It proudly features an often eye-catching aesthetic that meshes well the satisfying timing of button presses. The main criticisms that one could level against its raw gameplay are pretty much the same ones as Future Tone; the primary offender being that the "Challenge Mode" portions at the end of songs can come off as rather clumsy at times. While thankfully one can not fail the song when reaching challenge mode parts, there is a certain degree of gameplay discordance to the rest of the song when it randomly decides to pretzel the player's hand all at once when the rest of the song gave no indication to that sort of playstyle and makes it feel a little less polished rhythmically compared to prior Project Diva F titles.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix is somewhat an odd duck for the series. Those expecting it to one hundred percent replace the PS4 release of Future Tone due to pure portable factor may want to think twice before essentially double dipping due to the significant scale back on total songs. Still, for those without that prior frame of reference, it is hard to imagine that they will find nearly as much fault to its still impressive amount of total songs and delightful gameplay. This makes Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix somewhat difficult recommend to seasoned series dance partners, and at the same time a wholehearted one for curious Switch onlookers looking to just have a good time and play what is easily amongst the best rhythm games in its library.
+ Huge song selection with several of the new ones in particular being much welcome additions
+ Multitude of cosmetic options for characters including the ability to draw custom t-shirts for more creative types
+ Rhythm gameplay is as entertaining as ever alongside the vibrant presentation
+ Surprisingly flexible controller and rhythm display options
- While still featuring an absurd amount of songs, Mega Mix cuts nearly half of the total songs that the PS4's Future Tone featured, which is rather disappointing
- Aside from the few new songs, which look great, many older/returning tracks have rather noticeable video compression
- Certain challenge mode held button inputs seemingly want you to pretzel your fingers even on the normal difficulty
- Mileage will likely vary wildly for practical usage of joycon motion controls in "Mix Mode"
Overall Score: 7 (out of 10)
While Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix makes for somewhat of a complicated recommendation for those that played Future Tone on PS4 and are expecting it to be comparable, it is difficult to imagine that curious Switch onlookers who just want to enjoy a fun rhythm game will leave Mega Mix anywhere close to disappointed.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Switch code provided by the publisher.