Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone PS4 Review
I remember after sampling my first Hatsune Miku experience from an imported copy of Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Extend that I would find YouTube videos of the arcade release, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Arcade, and be amazed at how much slicker its presentation was. The arcade game was drenched in visuals that have never been met by the console releases, while also having one mega sized soundtrack, as new songs were added in updates to the arcade build. With all the individually releases of the console games it was seemingly unlikely that we would ever see the arcade version in all its glory, or a game that had visuals like it, hit the consoles. Well it has finally happened, as Sega, who obviously must have been listening to my desire to play the Arcade release, announced that the arcade game would be coming to the PS4 in Japan last year. But better yet, it has managed to get a UK release with everything intact for a ridiculous amount of Miku fun.
The package around Project DIVA Future Tone is much different than previous titles. This is a port of an arcade game, so a lot of the added extras that come with Project Diva games on console, such as Event Quests in Project Diva X or the Diva Rooms – a feature where players can visit their favourite singers and decorate their rooms or join in activities and head pats – is no longer part of the package. This game is the bare essentials of the Miku experience, but its the best and most vital parts – the music, the hyperactive colourful presentation and the fun taking part in playing a well made rhythm game. Hatsune Miku is the most famous vocaloid in the world, and boy has she built up a massive list of songs in her lifetime, so much so that this ends up being one of the biggest surprises about Project DIVA Future Tone; the fact that it includes 224 songs (and even an Outrun song!), all unlocked, is rather mind blowing, especially when previous games had between 40-60 songs.
Good news is that Sega hasn’t decided to increase the price by a multiple of four because of all the songs available. Purchasing the game with all 224 songs costs £44.99, which fans will know is incredible value for money when matching it against previous entries. However, Sega has smartly offered other ways to experience Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone. On the PlayStation Store, a prelude download, which is essentially a demo that features two songs, allows people to play the game for free, and if they decide to purchase the game, they can either buy all songs or buy one of the two bundles that make up the total song count. Future Sound includes over 120 songs that are based on the console releases of Project Diva and Project Diva F games, while Colorful Tone includes over 100 songs based on arcade exclusive songs and songs featured in the Project Mirai Games. The packs are individually priced at £24.99, with another pack coming soon for downloadable content. Project DIVA Future Tone supplies a remarkable amount of songs that will supply hours of entertainment through its five difficulty settings.
Having all songs unlocked from the beginning allows players to approach the game however they want. Most fans will opt to find their favourite songs and begin making their way through the list, while new players can click on random and enjoy the surprising pick. Easy and normal difficulties do not feature all the songs, as these are split into 149 for the former and 216 for the latter, while hard comes in with all songs. Beating any song on hard will unlock their extreme difficulty, and beating that, if the song features it, will unlock extra extreme, a setting that will give even the greatest rhythm players a decent challenge.
Playing through easy and normal will be familiar for existing fans, as the core gameplay remains similar. As the song plays, buttons will appear on the screen and the player must tap the correct button – X, Circle, Up Arrow (triangle), Left Arrow (square) – as close as possible to the beat of the song to get the best score. The arcade game has slight differences in notes over the exclusive console games. Gone are the flicks of the sticks (or touch screen) and are replaced by sliders that require R1 or L1 (or the hold of the direction on the right stick) to be held for a period of time. In fact, holding is a key component of the later difficulties of Project DIVA Future Tone, with bonus points awarded for being able to keep the button held down while pressing other buttons on screen. It becomes tricky to balance between pressing new notes that appear on screen and the ones currently being held, especially so when it’s the same button that appears, which the use of the d-pad can the pressed to substitute the currently held button (the four directions represent the same positions of the buttons). Holding is purely for bonus point purposes, so every millisecond held builds score, but their appearance can cause a panic. On the higher end of the spectrum, expect to be holding up to four buttons at once, which will make butter fingers out of your fleshy knobbly digits, but if you want to be the best, you’ll need to take advantage of them to climb up the leaderboard.
There is a glaring issue with being an arcade port and keeping to the authenticity – the failure at higher difficulties isn’t exactly always your fault. The charts are extremely unforgiving for a controller, because unlike the console games that are made with the idea that a PlayStation controller is to be used, the arcade charts are set to use the wonderfully sized Hatsune Miku device attached to the arcade machines. This translates into being a rather hard rhythm game to finish with the original DualShock 4, so unless you plan to import an expensive arcade peripheral for the PS4 to play with the game, players will have to circumvent the problem by setting up macros on the controller that allow a button to count as a multiple button press, e.g. circle + X. While this isn’t the best solution, it does at least help a little and I am thankful it is there for my poor fingers to make use of.
As players progress passing through songs, VP points are earned to spend on modules – the game’s only unlockable content. These are essentially customisable clothing and costume sets for each of the singers in the game. This includes various clothes sets that are the official module for certain songs. Using those modules will add bonus points. There are over 300 to unlock, with Hatsune Miku having over a 100 just for herself (well she is the star of the game). Other additions include being able to create a playlist and watch the music videos that play behind the musical charts, challenge your ability on a survival course to see how many notes can be pressed before your life ends, and there are also modifiers in the game to speed up notes or even hide them, you know, for the pure rhythm game masochists.
In the end, while we in the Western world have been blessed with a few Hatsune Miku games in the past, nothing comes close to what Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone offers. Its arcade roots might mean the highest difficulties are some of the hardest songs the series has introduced on console due to not having an identical controller to the arcade, but there is no denying that this is the Hatsune Miku game to own above all other titles available, while at the same time being an amazing value proposition. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone contains the biggest and best track list, its streamlined and straight to the point, removing all fluff and focusing on the pure bliss of music, the charm of the vocaloid craze and the heart and soul of a rhythm game, which Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone has gallons of, making it an easy recommendation for rhythm game lovers and a must have for fans of the turquoise haired singer.