The idol girl group dream I never knew I had.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X on PS Vita
If you told me one year ago that I was going to play a Hatsune Miku game and end up loving it, I would’ve laughed in your face and went back to whatever cool, edgy game I was playing at the time. Hatsune Miku looks and sounds silly, doesn’t she? As the humanoid persona of a Japanese vocaloid created by Crypton, she’s essentially a virtual idol with no voice of her own, no ‘real’ personality to speak of. And yet, she and her fellow droid friends have absolutely captivated me in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X.
Project DIVA X is one of the most precise rhythm games you’ll find in the market right now; the game has almost zero tolerance for button mashing and panicked presses. Start mashing buttons and you’ll risk failing the song requirements, or worse, miss out on unlocking a really neat outfit for your vocaloids. While the notes never travel particularly fast (unless you’re playing on extreme difficulties), you’re still required to give the game your full attention. Notes dance around the screen in a seemingly haphazard manner, but once you stop following the colorful notes and start looking at the static technical timers on the screen, you’ll be performing a lot better.
New to Project DIVA X are the rush notes, and the implementation of the Home menu where you interact with your favorite vocaloids. Rush notes require you to rapidly tap notes as they appear on your screen to gain points, but be careful, tapping one button too enthusiastically might lead you to miss the next note that shows up right after the timer counts down. Precision is key. Being a virtually perfect vocaloid idol isn’t easy, you know?
The Home menu replaces the Diva room that was present in past Hatsune Miku titles, and this is where you get to spend time and build your relations with Miku and her friends. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X features a very light story with visual novel elements and scenes that occur in between songs, and the idols will constantly acknowledge the player’s presence and interact with you. Sometimes, you’ll get dialogue options which allow you to offer your input or opinion on what they should wear. These are inconsequential, of course, but still a nice touch.
As you complete event requests and receive item prizes, you’ll also be able to gift these items to your favorite vocaloids, thus building up your friendship meter with them. This is also where you get to access the various Cloud Prisms that make up Miku’s world.
Each Cloud Prism takes on a different trait: Cool, Cute, Elegant, Quirky, and Classic. Each Prism contains different songs that fit this theme, and if you want to earn the highest possible Voltage score for each Prism, you have to dress for the occasion too. For instance, I get a multiplier bonus if I perform a Quirky song by having Miku dress up in weird clothing and put on accessories like a bib and a wind-up key on her back. Your goal in Project DIVA X is to charge up each of these Cloud Prisms by doing really well with the rhythm gameplay so that you can access other Prisms with different traits.
Each song also features a neat ‘Chance Time’ segment, and this is where the game truly shines. By hitting enough notes during this segment, you’ll be able to trigger ‘Chance Time,’ which allows Miku (or whichever vocaloid you have as the lead singer) to change outfits right in the middle of the song. This feature is even neater when you trigger it during a main event or a festival, where you get to perform a medley of three songs in front of a crowd onstage.
Picture this: your three selected vocaloids are absolutely killing it onstage, the crowd is getting hyped, and it’s time for the final song in your medley. Right before the chorus, your ‘Chance Time’ segment triggers. You hit every note with perfect idol levels of accuracy, and boom, your lead singer stands still as all eyes fall on her. She does a beautiful twirl, and in the blink of an eye, she’s in a completely new and equally stunning and eye-catching outfit. The crowd goes wild.
Admittedly, the songs in Project DIVA X aren’t exactly my cup of tea, and a few of them grated on my nerves a little. But the overall presentation of Miku and her vocaloids is just so earnest and well-done, that it’s hard not to crack a smile each time you nail the ‘Chance Time’ segment and unlock a brand new, cutesy outfit for Miku. Oh, and I should mention, Miku’s not the only vocaloid who gets unlockable outfits. All of your vocaloids can get some too, if you’re willing to spend time with them as your leads.
The game gets harder as you progress further, and before long, you’ll have to really start planning and coordinating your outfits and accessories to get the best possible multiplier bonus. It’s all worth it, though; the main draw of Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X is the ability to dress these virtual idols up in the loveliest outfits you’ll ever set your eyes on, and then watch them dance in-sync onstage, and nail every rhythm note that comes their way. Or, your way, I should say.
Japanese and Korean rhythm games are a very niche genre in the western market, and it’s obvious that Project DIVA X won’t be for everyone. Still, if you can find simple joy in assembling a three-piece idol girl group (you can include the boys too, but magical girl groups are just fabulous), and perfecting their outfit coordination so they look absolutely gorgeous onstage, you’re going to get a lot of enjoyment out of this game. The ‘story’ segments end up feeling a little lackluster and unnecessary in Project DIVA X, but the outfit collection elements, the core rhythm gameplay, and the sheer precision required to pull it off makes this one of the best music games you’ll find around these parts.
Score: 4/5 – Great