Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd PS3 Review
Hatsune Miku has a huge following in Japan, but it took a long time for Sega to give the queen of the Vocaloids a show for us UK people, as the green haired singer finally had her first English release on PlayStation 3 – with a Vita version releasing later – last year. It seems Miss Miku has been busy over the year, opening up for Lady Gaga and even appearing on American TV. I guess this meant Sega was happy with the outcome of the game and her growing popularity, so has decided to unleash the sequel to Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F, dubbed unsurprisingly Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd. After Hatsune Miku won me over with her charming music, wonderful graphics and addictive gameplay, I wondered if the Japanese superstar had another hit on the rocks, or had her digital influence drained like a flat battery?
Project Diva F 2nd follows very closely to Project Diva F, so Rhythm Game is once again the area where you will spend most of your time, offering a mixture of 40 new and returning – from older Japanese only released Hatsune Miku games – songs to press buttons and wiggle the analogue sticks at. The structure is identical too, with a few songs available and more unlocked as you beat them on normal, which also unlocks the next difficulty up, hard, and then beating hard will unlock extreme, the sadistic difficulty that will challenge even the finest rhythm game players.
The song selection feels more varied and harder this time around, including catchy J-pop tunes, rock, techno, classical, jazz and even that Initial D favourite, eurobeat. It’s arguable that the collection is better overall than Project Diva F‘s song list. Although, I feel there isn’t a song that quite tops “Secret Police”, but hey, that’s just my favourite Hatsune Miku tune. Downloadable content is coming in the future, with Sega promising over ten songs available over the next few months. Maybe these will dethrone the might of the Secret Police?
Playing a song in Project Diva F 2nd will be second nature for fans of last year’s game, as its mechanics are the same. Button presses and stick flicks are awarded grades depending on how close to the beat it was activated. Grades come in five ratings, cool, good, safe, bad and awful, with cool and good keeping the combo chain flowing. Unlike traditional rhythm games, Project Diva F 2nd doesn’t keep the notes within a lane or a straight line for easy coordination, instead, the game is a little wild with its note placement, coming in from all corners of the screen and placing them anywhere there is room. In some bizarre way, playing on the bigger TV made it easier to hit notes compared to my experience with playing the first game on the Vita’s much smaller screen.
Two additional combinations have been added for the gameplay in this sequel to spice up the harder difficulties. These are the star links and the double star flick. The latter means that when a solid star appears over the target beat, the player needs to flick both sticks at the same time to clear it, similar to how the coloured in W symbols require the correct coloured button and the representing d-pad direction to register a press.
Linked stars are stars built into a shape, with the player challenged to flick the stick once it overlaps the beats. It’s not that much different from flicking the stick on stars that appear in a single manner, but more often than not, these linked stars appear to require presses that don’t quite fit within the rhythm of the song. For example, there is one song I experienced where I went to flick for the first star in a linked line of two. As soon as the star passed the first one it shot off at lightning speed to the next, with me having no idea that was going to happen. Sometimes you need to experience the linked stars to be able to master them in the songs. Mastering songs is something that everyone has to do, it’s part of a rhythm game, but some of the linked stars sit outside of the realms of fairness if a person hasn’t played that song on whatever difficulty setting.
New players to the genre shouldn’t be put off by the challenging higher difficulties, as Project Diva F 2nd does a wonderful job in letting fresh faced rookies enjoy the Miku fun. There is an understandable tutorial mode that demonstrates how to play the game to the franchise’s trademark tutorial song, the Finnish tune, Ievan Polkka. Once you know how to play, Easy mode welcomes people by stripping the game down to the basics, letting the player deal with only the circle button and the occasional stars. Everyone should be able get through all the songs on easy without getting stuck. Things do begin to pick up on normal, which makes it less friendly for people who might not have played Project Diva F. I do have a tip for those people though, buy that game, and then buy this one once you are done with it. You can thank me later.
Away from the main game, people can indulge in Edit mode (or download other people’s edits) and make their own song inputs for any of the songs in the game or for any MP3s you have loaded on the PS3. If you download someone else’s edit that isn’t using the game’s soundtrack, then you have to own the MP3 yourself. This is done for obvious copyright reasons, but if you do own that song, then you can have fun in playing tunes like “Live & Learn” from the Sonic Adventure 2 soundtrack to a dancing Hatsune Miku in the background. It’s a time sink to create something good, so it’s not an area I personally spent time in. I’m a bit lazy and would rather have other people do the editing for me.
Project Diva F 2nd does fall into the same trap as the other titles; the background can be a little too intrusive on the visual notes. There is this one stage where the background flashes red, and this can cause some issues in finding the circle notes that appear during this phase. It’s a beautiful looking title though, with some fantastic use of colour and character models to bring some well-produced music videos, but you can only truly appreciate them when you are on the watching side, as you have zero time to pay attention when notes are flying all over the screen. Apart from the constant saving, the overall loading times are improved over the previous title, making transitions from songs to menus and back to songs less of a waiting game.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd is a great follow up that brings a better and more varied selection of 40 charming songs packed to challenge your fingertips. It might not stray from its established formula, but the Vocaloid idol supplies more wonderful visuals, catchy tunes and addictive gameplay that should get rhythm fans in the mood for some Miku Miku (for reals) action, while brainwashing them to embrace the world’s new video game pop goddess.