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Published on June 5th, 2013 | by Christian

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Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f – Fascinating

I‘ve been on a rhythm game bender for the past 2 months. It started with a copy of DJMAX Technika Tune ordered on a whim, being slightly perplexed by it at first, and then playing so much that I had to banish it from my Vita  so that I could move on to other games. My original plan was to sink my teeth into Soul Sacrifice, or maybe finish up Etrian Odyssey IV, but instead I put Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f into my Vita, and now I think I may be in worse shape than I was before.

It should be noted that before Project Diva f, I had no prior experience or opinion about Hatsune Miku. In fact, I had only the vaguest idea about who the character even was. If you’re in the same boat, it should suffice to know that Hatsune Miku is a virtual pop idol created by Crypton Future Media. Miku’s voice is synthesized via Yamaha’s Vocaloid software, an apparently versatile program that can create a wide range of sounds based on samples taken of a real person’s voice. For Miku, this person was voice actress Saki Fujita.  The end result is a universally programmable singer available for anyone to write songs for

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Miku and the other vocaloids from Project Diva f

This kind upside down cyberpunk futurism is extremely fascinating to me. Instead of a pinnacle of dystopian corporate cynicism, which is what I would expect from any pop idol, virtual or not, Miku has a overwhelmingly positive, energetic, quizzical and at times thoughtful persona.   The extent to which fans anthropomorphize Miku, who appears as a projection during live concerts, was initially puzzling to me, but being a hologram has a lot of perks.  Miku will never disappoint by breaking down under the enormous pressure to maintain some record label’s carefully manufactured image in spite of her own personal desires.  Society has wanted its idols to be inhumanly perfect for decades, so it only makes sense that now it has created an idol that is perfectly inhuman.  There’s a lot of really cerebral science fiction irrealism buried under the surface of this character, and it continues to fascinate me.

This brings us to this game, developed by Sega and Crypton Future Meida, and featuring tons of great music, video, and fun. As a little warm up for the tone of Project Diva f, please enjoy this video sans gameplay of the song Weekender Girl.  This is from the PS3 version of the game, but it looks pretty similar to the Vita.

 

I had my ‘aha’ moment with Miku while playing through this song on normal difficulty.  If you want to see some video with gameplay and a bit more of a narrative theme, check out this link.  There is a bit of normal difficulty gameplay before it cuts to just straight video of the songs.

Project Diva f is a rhythm game where you tap the correct inputs when their corresponding symbols line up with silhouettes that appear on-screen. There are 13 possible inputs, comprised of tapping or holding each of the four face buttons on the Vita, each face button plus the corresponding direction on the d-pad (e.g. up + triangle), and a swiping motion on the front touch screen. You have to tap an increasingly varied and rapid assortment of inputs in depending on the difficulty you’re playing: easy, normal, hard or the aptly named extreme.  Hit enough correct notes and you’ll clear the stage with a rating of standard, great, excellent, or the incredibly difficult to obtain perfect rating.  Clearing with at least a standard rating unlocks more songs, costumes, and items for the Diva Room side game.  Miss enough notes in a row and you’ll fail a stage immediately.

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Just hit the correct input when it flies into its silhouette, and do it a few hundred times per song.

There’s no story or campaign to play through, and I felt a bit of sadness after completing the collection of 33 songs on normal but Project Diva f keeps giving me a ton of reasons to go back for more.  At first I thought the main draw to go back would be the ton of unlockable items to purchase with diva points earned via stage clears,  but  going back and replaying songs to get better ratings  was a strong motivator as well.  It helps that the difficulty is very well balanced, and most of the songs on the hard setting provide a stiff but fair challenge if you want an excellent rating.

The challenge isn’t everything though.  Any game can be difficult enough to make you grind away at it until you succeed, but a good game has to manage to be fun at the same time.  Project Diva f is just  fun to play, and that’s what keeps me going back to some of these songs again and again.  The imaginative videos, surprisingly compelling vocals, and catchy beats don’t hurt either.  Messing around with the customization settings  is a lot of fun too, and while the vocals don’t change, swapping in some of the other vocaloid characters, and changing and accessorizing their costumes was more fun than I expected.

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That one ‘safe’ note cost me a perfect rating. SO CLOSE!

It should be noted that this game is not available to purchase at retail in the west, and while Sega did hint that they might bring the PS3 verision to other regions, there have been no official announcements.  Don’t fret, because it is incredibly import friendly, and while having a very basic grasp of the kana is helpful for navigating menus, I think most people should be able to figure the game out without it.  The only area I ran into trouble with was in the  robust level editing mode, but from what I’ve seen  it would be daunting in ANY language.

I highly recommend picking this game up for either the Vita or the PS3 if you’re at all interested in Miku or rhythm games.  The games appear nearly identical across platforms, though I’d probably give the PS3 version a slight edge for having a few more songs. In the end, I prefer the convenience of having the game on a handheld platform, but if you’re a console gamer then the PS3 version is the obvious choice.

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