Published on July 21st, 2014 | by Christian0
Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai 2 – Stubby Diva
Every time I say I’m going to get back to updating the site regularly, it’s basically a lie. What’s not a lie, is that you can expect roughly half the posts on this site to have something to do with a Hatsune Miku game. That’s a promise I’m pretty sure I can keep between this post, and still needing to write about Dreamy Theater Extend and Diva f 2nd. To be honest most of the Diva games appearing on Sony platforms are pretty similar in gameplay, style, and progression, so much so that there isn’t a whole lot new to say about each one I play except “I loved it more than that other one” or “Star Notes are the fucking worst!” That isn’t the case with Project Mirai 2 for the 3DS. This game looks, plays, and unfortunately sounds a bit different than its predecessors, and although it wound up feeling like one step forward and two steps back, overall I’m glad to have imported and spent some time with it.
One of my favorite tracks from Project Mirai 2
To start, let’s get the most obvious difference out of the way: the visuals in Project Mirai games are wildly different than what they’ve been in Project Diva. Miku and friends are all present and recognizable, but they appear in a chibi style that has proportions similar to the Nendoroid line of collectible figures. They look super cute for sure, but an unfortunate downside is that all of the characters have basically the exact same body shape for their gender. Miku has the exact same body as Rin, Luka, and Meiko, and Len and Kaito are identical as well. This allows for the ladies (and gents) to share outfits, which is an awesome addition, but it also kind of homogenizes them and ruins a lot of the videos for me.
There’s a reason why dancers in real life are not all short, squat, pudgy and generally slow moving, and it’s because those characteristics do not lend themselves naturally to provocative dance moves. I’m not saying it’s impossible for people of chibi proportions to dance well, but compared to previous Miku games the dance routines in this one are terrible. Mostly it’s like watching sea anemones sway and undulate for 4 minutes at a time. Overall it’s a cute visual style, and some songs like Piano Forte Scandal and On The Rocks have great videos, but overall I much prefer the few videos in the game that feature partly animated 2D art over those that rely on the game’s 3D models.
Badass Rin is the best Rin. Gumi is okay too.
It doesn’t help that the 3D visuals look rather poor. The 3DS is not known for being a graphical powerhouse, but I expect it to at least perform better than the nearly decade old PSP. Sadly that’s not the case, and I found myself longing for the slightly less horrible visuals of Project Diva 2nd and Extend on Sony’s portable. In addition, the platforms namesake 3D does little to add tot he game’s visual appeal, which at this point in the system’s life is no big surprise.
I could have forgiven poor visual fidelity in a music game if the sound was great, but this is also sadly not the case. I’m not sure if it’s a size limitation for 3DS carts or a shortcoming of the 3DS hardware, but the music in this game sounds kind of muffled and tinny compared to the loud, crisp, bassy sounds of the PSP and Vita. Comparing the same song between both platforms on a mid-range set of headphones was like night and day, and it really sapped some of the enjoyment out of my time with Project Mirai 2. That said, the actual song list is quite nice, and has some of my favorite songs from the entire series, even if they are unforgivably lo-fi.
One of the few songs where I don’t mind Kaito at all
It’s not all bad though, and this cloud has a sliver lining. One surprising difference between this and other Miku games was the inclusion of multiple vocal tracks for a few songs. This is absolutely huge, and I can’t adequately express how exciting it would be if this were a standard feature for all tracks in Miku games. It’s not every song, which makes sense as there is some additional complexity in getting Miku and friends to sound right beyond the initial software programming, so it would require complete a lot of work. Still, it was nice to be able to listen to different renditions of a couple of songs including Piano Forte Scandal, Double Rainbow, and even an old favorite of mine, Romeo and Cinderella.
Speaking of Romeo and Cinderella, it’s one of the few songs in this game that features an extended cut that differs from previous games, along with World is Mine and Melancholic. It’s a nice change for a few songs that have appeared in previous games, but I found the longer track length a little tiresome on the game’s harder difficulties; a problem that was further exacerbated by the game’s reliance on sometimes monotonous note patterns.
Chibi Miku and Rin are cute as hell, but I would rather this just be in Diva f or Dreamy Theater.
The aforementioned note patterns actually are one of my biggest problems with Project Mirai 2. Having recently spent a lot of time playing the Dreamy Theater games on the PS3, which in general have had great memorable note patterns, I find the note patterns in Project Mirai 2 somewhat boring. The patterns mostly consist of on-beat button presses of the same button over and over with occasional mix-ups. Part of the problem is that there are no “arrow notes” like in Project Diva that are played by hitting both a button and the corresponding d-pad direction at the same time. The d-pad is instead reserved for held notes, which occasionally lead to fun and often challenging segments where you’re alternating held notes between the d-pad and the buttons, but these are the exception rather than the rule. It’s still fun to play, but I wish more was done with the note patterns given the changes in how the notes appear (i.e. on a track), and the extra possibilities that opens up beyond Project Diva games.
One note-related improvement is the absence of technical zones (and also any bullshit star-notes or anything like that). Instead there are SP notes which appear at specific points in the song, assuming you have successfully tapped out a number of the preceding standard notes. Getting these SP notes on each track provides a compelling reason to play through songs multiple times even if you can’t get a SS rank on the song. I should mention while I’m talking about notes, that there are no mandatory touch controls whatsoever unless you for some reason want to tap away with your stylus in the game’s touch mode, which is in my mind inferior to the button mode in every way possible. There are rainbow held notes which reward you with extra diva points for swirling the analog stick, but these don’t effect your score on the track in any way so you can skip the swirling without penalty if you think it’s lame.
Even with shit note patterns I still played this song a dozen times at least.
The last thing I want to mention is a major difference to how outfits are unlocked. In previous Diva games, you earned points that allowed you to unlock outfits from songs you had completed. Only then could you use the song appropriate outfits while playing. Here you can always use the intended outfit for any particular track, which for me kind of limited my desire to obsessively play the game for every outfit. It’s nice that you can swap outfits between different characters of the same gender, but again it’s not really that exciting when they all have the same boring chibi proportions.
Overall, Project Mirai 2 is a solid Hatsune Miku game with a good track selection and decent gameplay for the series. It’s my least favorite Hatsune Miku game, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot considering how much I fucking love these games. I wouldn’t recommend it as someone’s entry point to Miku games, but in terms of fun, accessible imports, it’s a pretty damn fine choice. There isn’t much point to importing it now, however, as it was recently announced that a mashup of this and the original Project Mirai would be making its way stateside in the future. I’d hold out for that one unless you are starved for additional vocaloid goodness.