The term “Vocaloid” meant nothing to me prior to Hatsune Miku Project Diva X. I barely knew who or what Hatsune Miku was before playing the latest game – but now? Not only have I downloaded numerous songs from the artificial J-Pop idol onto my iPhone but from this point on, Hatsune Miku games will always have a spot on my gaming radar.
Personally, I don’t get a chance to enjoy rhythm games as often as I should. Prior to Project Diva X, Persona: Dancing All Night and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call were my recent excursions into the rhythm world and those were a year apart. Rhythm games are my jam (pun intended) but I never find the opportunity or gaming backlog space to pursue them. Hopefully, Project Diva X will change my foolish behavior.
Rhythm titles are short, sweet and catchy to boot; Project Diva X is no exception. Games nowadays can take 60+ hours to complete and with a busy schedule like mine, these long-winded titles usually sit incomplete within my backlog. My soiree with Hatsune Miku took about 13 hours to finish, though some of those hours were simply spent revisiting songs for my own benefit. For those who just want to blaze through and see the credits roll, I’d have to guess it would take about 7-8 hours to complete.
The general plot sees the player being summoned to Miku’s world. Why have we been summoned to this digital plane? Why, it’s to help out our dear friend Miku of course! Her world is broken up into five separate “Clouds”. They are Classic, Cute, Quirky, Elegant and Cool. For some mysterious reason, the energy that is required to sustain these clouds has disappeared, leaving the once shiny clouds looking rather dull. And that’s were we, the player, come in to say the day. See, the player is summoned to Miku’s world to help gather energy called “Voltage” back to the individual clouds. And voltage is produced by singing.
Miku isn’t the only program who will help generate voltage either. Four other members help make up the Vocaloid group and they are: Kagamine Rin, Kagamine Len, Megurine Luka, KAITO V3 and MEIKO V3. Each member of Vocaloid possesses their own personality; Miku is energetic and head-strong, while Luka is calm and collected. Story-wise, Project Diva X is as generic as they come. In fact, players could essentially skip every line of dialogue and not miss a beat as what to do next. Thankfully, the story is not what players should come for.
The gameplay and music shine far brighter than the plot. The members of Vocaloid must recharge five clouds with voltage to get their world back to normal. Recharging clouds with electricity sounds just plain weird but the weirdness is all part of this game’s charm. Within each of the clouds resides four songs, which must be completed in order to generate the proper amount of voltage. Gathering the required amount of voltage comes down to how well players do during the song.
Like previous Project Diva installments, different images float across the screen in tune with the song and it’s the player’s job to tap, flick or swipe the images. These images are the inputs for which the player must respond to. Face buttons are the standard inputs players will see during songs depending on the current difficulty. For example, I didn’t come across the square symbol until I decided to play through songs on the hard setting. Besides face buttons, other images float across the screen and players will have to act fast in order to keep up with the rhythm. Some of these inputs required players to mash on whatever face buttons is presented, while star shaped icons symbolize the necessity to flick a analog stick.
I would like to address how fluid and intriguing the dance choreography is. I’m not a dance expert but I did like what I witnessed during each song and dance routine. There were plenty of moments where I would screw up because I paid more attention to Miku than the inputs. Definitely enjoyed watching the Vocaloid members get into the groove so passionately.
The tutorial does a tremendous job of explaining the ins and outs of Project Diva X. Going through this tutorial once was all I needed thanks to how clear and descriptive instructions were. I did wind up doing the tutorial more than once simply because the song used is so catchy.
Now, before players even take part in a song, customizing who will be the lead vocalist and what the singer(s) are wearing is possible; customizing singers plays a role in generating voltage. While the game’s primary goal is to fully recharge the clouds, players may find themselves hunting down the various “Modules” and “Accessories”. Think of modules as different forms of cosplay the singers can wear. Each module differs not only in looks but also the effect they have on gameplay itself.
Throughout each song, special moments occur for which players need to pay extra attention to. Modules are gained through what is called “Chance Time”. During chance time, players have to build up enough power within the star gauge by pulling off successful timed inputs. Near the end of chance time, if the star gauge is completely filled, a giant star will appear on-screen. By interacting with it, the lead singer will transform into one of the randomly generated modules. A lot of the modules are interesting to look at, which helped push me towards wanting to unlock even more modules.
It’s also worth noting the other special moment called a “Technical Zone.” These zones offer bonus points if all inputs within the zone are pressed correctly. Screw up on even one and the technical zone fails. Nothing bad happens, players just won’t get the extra bonus points that could be helpful towards clearing the song.
Project Diva X does feature a cross-save system, so if I had the game on my Vita, I would be able to use my PS4 save data and continue where I left off. Sadly, cross-buy doesn’t come with this particular title. Since previous Hatsune Miku games have launched on the Vita, I wanted to know what the experience would be like on a handheld device. So out of curiosity, I went ahead and tried to play a song utilizing Remote Play. Wouldn’t recommend using Remote Play as the main way to play because during my multiple test runs, I experience delayed inputs, slowdowns and even got disconnected from the feature a few times.
Everyone’s connection varies, so another person may have a better time with Remote Play than myself. That being said, even when I went through songs with crystal clear clarity, thoughts about playing on a bigger screen kept creeping into my head. For an honest experience though, I would need to try the actual Vita version to be sure.
Project Diva X contains around 24 songs, not including the medleys, which contain four or five shortened songs synced together. Two of the songs were previously used in other Project Diva and Project Mirai titles. Even with a total of 30 songs by including medleys, Project Diva X has the lowest count of songs for players to enjoy. For a game that relies mostly on its content alone, this installment has little for players to explore.
Besides grinding to find every single module and accessory, the cloud requests (main quests) won’t take long to finish–even when the game forces players to re-recharge clouds in order to reach the real end. Event requests (side quests) boils down to the player performing songs with prerequisites. Requests are unlocked when something specific happens (i.e. gifting Miku with a particular item). Some requests require that only Kaito be used to do a preset song. Others only allow the player to use a classic Miku module for a classic cloud song. Each request rewards players for completing a task, be it a particular module, random drops or some sort of accessory.
Aside from requests, free play brings back the traditional scoring system found in previous Project Diva titles as players try to rank at standard, great, excellent or perfect. Unfortunately, modules and accessories cannot be obtained through free play. For the self-proclaimed concert director, Concert Editor mode is used to customize the look of songs. Changing camera angles and adding/removing special effects can give songs a completely different vibe from its regular look. Finally, Photo Studio just allows players to take pictures of the Vocaloid members using different poses and facial expressions.
I dabbled with concert editor and photo studio for awhile but the idea of these two features wasn’t for me. I’m sure some will get a kick out of customizing Miku’s stages but I am perfectly find with playing the songs how they come.
The game also grants me the ability to gift members of Vocaloid but my problem is not knowing exactly -how- to gift. Gift items unlock after songs and the general idea is to give items to members based on their likes and personality.
The problem begins with the game not giving enough hints as to what each singer likes. Dialogue outside of the cutscenes doesn’t occur to often and when it does, it seems to be pretty useless knowledge. Only a few times would Miku actually say to me “Hey! I’m hungry!” and that’s when I knew to gift her food. Honestly, gifting has no real purpose worth me investing my time into.
Gifts increase friendship levels, which in turns increases the chance of glowing inputs to show up during songs. These glowers are worth more than the average input but not by a whole lot. In short, I skipped the gifting until Miku or one of the other singers harassed me for one.
So while I really enjoyed my time with Project Diva X, it does has some clear content issues. If I didn’t like the selection of songs as much as I do, this game would quickly see the abyss of my PS4 hard drive. Luckily, for what the game lacks in story and content, it counterbalances with substance. It only took a few days for me to get hooked onto the digital J-Pop idol and it’s all thanks to Hatsune Miku Project Diva X.