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Review: Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA f (PS Vita)

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Developer: Sega/Crypton Future Media
Publisher: Sega
Platform: PS Vita
Release Date: March 4, 2014
ESRB: T for Teen


"Have you heard of Hatsune Miku?"- a wise man once said while advertising pizza. If you didn't get that reference, Hatsune Miku is a "Vocaloid" (a glorified synthesized voice program software) that is incredibly popular in Japan. So popular, in fact, that she has become personified as a green-haired Idol that sings a wide-array of original songs as well as covers, and has become an internet sensation because of it.

In an attempt to continue to merchandise on her ever-strangely popular name, Sega brings us the newest iteration of "Project Diva" to Vita, a series which initially debuted on the PSP. With the unorthodox release schedule overseas actually following the enhanced PS3 version , does the original Vita version of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f have reason to shine in the spotlight?

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For the rhythm game genre, Project Diva f is rather standard fare in terms of the actual gameplay. Musical notes are displayed based on the Vita's corresponding face buttons until they overlap with their timed input marker, and generally vary based on pressed and held button-presses. Opposed to, let's say, Rock Band or Guitar Hero, notes are not visually presented in an obvious way, like on a track, and can appear from pretty much any angle from the sides of the screen depending on the song. Even if they are displayed in a rather confusing way at times, due to the busy presentation, the core gameplay is easy enough to learn in addition to having very responsive controls for the most part.

Unfortunately, in a gimmicky fashion, the Vita release incorporates touch-based controls for the newly added star-shaped special notes. In the PS3 version these special note inputs were relegated to a simple "flick" of the analog stick, which was easy enough to do. Normally, I would not even mind the touch-based controls if it was a simple tap-based input using the Vita's touchscreen or rear-pad, like how DJ Max Technika Tune made it work quite well, but in Project Diva f these inputs are swipe based.

To illustrate, the swiping gesture requires a much more deliberate motion, which is harder to do with consistency, especially in a rhythm game that is bombarding you with other notes very quickly on higher difficulties. It is not game-breaking, but it is a tough compromise to make in a genre that requires consistency and creates an unnecessary extra layer of difficulty when trying to master each song.

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A good majority of the soundtrack is actually conceived of original tracks made specifically for the vocaloid characters. So, if you don't recognize the music in the slightest, it's probably safe to assume you aren't an extreme devout to their music. That said, the soundtrack does spice it up some surprising remixes and variations of songs you aren't likely to expect. Would you expect an arrangement Amazing Grace, Leven Polkka, or even the original version of Nyan Cat (which apparently came before the Nyan cat video)? Well, they are all songs, among many others, that are in this game. Still, even if you aren't familiar with this hit-and-miss soundtrack, Project Diva f presents each track with such energy that it is very easy to not care and just go with the flow of the engaging gameplay.

Now, I don't know if you picked up on this or not, but Project Diva games are relatively bizarre. Not just the musical selection of them either, but especially with how they are presented. Honestly, it's kind of shocking how high the budget is for this entry in particular considering its very polished and fluid visuals which are full of zany personality. It has no problem using an entirely new visual motif with each individual song and complementing them with many crazy dances and stages. In addition, there are plenty of one-off stages like a Phantasy Star Online 2-themed song that goes all the way in humoring it with its aesthetic to even a song that uses 2D animation almost entirely, just for the heck of it. Needless to say, the presentation is just plain weird in Project Diva f and it somehow really works in its favor.

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To add to a sense of progression, many cosmetic options are available in the game to unlock various costumes and accessories through the use of in-game currency. Multiple outfits, hats, glasses, masks, backpacks, bow ties, tails, animal ears, you name it, are there to obtain through the in-game shop. But that's not all, as there are even more items to unlock as bizarre gifts or room decorations in the "Diva Mode".... which I won't even pretend to understand how it works since I only care about the rhythm game portion of this title.

For those who are also super meticulous, they can get much out of the fairly in-depth "Edit" mode which allows the player to incorporate their own MP3s and personalize both the music video and gameplay notes during it. So, if you were ever worried about the game holding you over beyond trying to master the many songs on higher difficulty, there is a lot to unlock for those who enjoy tailoring the vocaloid cast or creating their own music videos.

Overall though, the Vita release is pretty comparable to the PS3 version, even down to the lengthy load times between each song. The load times are a bit faster, most likely due to it being a digital Vita release, and the visuals are less distractingly glossy than the PS3 title, but vary in minor ways for the most part. Aside from that, there is an AR mode which is exclusive to the Vita version which is not too worthy of note. At the end of the day, however, it really comes down to how much you enjoy the main rhythm game, which is quite well-made and captivating when it counts the most.

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Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f manages to be a rather engaging rhythm game title, almost in spite of itself. Aspects like the busy presentation and awkward touch-based controls do unfortunately hinder the very well-made rhythm game underneath. This leads to the Vita release in particular not being the definite version, if only due to the awkwardly implemented touch-based controls, but for those who would prefer a portable experience, like myself, can find it to be a very worthy alternative. It's weird and crazy, yet Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f proves to more deviously engaging than it should be on the portable system.

 

Pros:

+ Fluid, vibrant, and very polished presentation that oozes crazy personality
+ A lot of customization and cosmetic options in the game's various mode
+ Tight, responsive controls
+ Easy to learn gameplay


Cons:

- The busy presentation can be more than distracting at times
- Lengthy load times between different songs
- Special "star" notes requiring the touch-screen and/or rear-pad are awkwardly implemented

 

Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)

Great


It doesn't make for the definite release, but Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f on Vita serves as a welcome portable alternative to this very well-made rhythm game.


Disclosure: PS Vita downloadable code was provided by the publisher for this review



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Awesome review barrel! I have only played the demo on PS3 and it is pretty fun, but damn the rhythmn is fast that my eyes freakin see things after staring for straight minutes. Never played Hatsune Miku before so it's a good fun experience. Were there any barrels at all like in the background as a random object and such? xD

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Awesome review barrel! I have only played the demo on PS3 and it is pretty fun, but damn the rhythmn is fast that my eyes freakin see things after staring for straight minutes. Never played Hatsune Miku before so it's a good fun experience. Were there any barrels at all like in the background as a random object and such? xD

I honestly could not tell you, but from what I could tell... I don't think so? I know there was in earlier games, but I don't know about this one in particular. But I dunno, kind of hard to tell (especially on higher difficulties). Maybe I should lower the score because they weren't clearly displayed...

 

But yeah, in the demo they don't exactly give you starter songs (except 1). Like I think two of those are relatively late in the song list in terms of difficulty. Also, I don't think the demo has the tutorial, so that probably didn't help either.

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I honestly could not tell you, but from what I could tell... I don't think so? I know there was in earlier games, but I don't know about this one in particular. But I dunno, kind of hard to tell (especially on higher difficulties). Maybe I should lower the score because they weren't clearly displayed...

 

But yeah, in the demo they don't exactly give you starter songs (except 1). Like I think two of those are relatively late in the song list in terms of difficulty. Also, I don't think the demo has the tutorial, so that probably didn't help either.

 

Yeah I was confused playing the demo and went in crazy trying to keep up. Embarrassingly I failed some of the easy songs lol. It was very fast and keeps you starting for a while. It caused me to see things moving by itself. It is a pretty fun rythmn game. I think my bro has played one of the games on PSP in Japanese. Pretty sure he knows a lot more Hatsune Miku more than me lol.

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