Hatsune Miku: VR Future Live PS4 Review
There is a certain irony in having a Hatsune Miku game ready for the launch of the Playstation VR: originally a virtual idol herself, Hatsune Miku was a technologically impressive concept as a fully inhuman creation that sang using simulated software, rather than just be a CG character with a human’s singing voice. What would have sufficed as a neat novelty instead exploded into an actual chart-topping performer, where droves of Japanese fans attend honest-to-god concerts to wave their glow sticks along to a CG projection of the fake Miku delivering fake songs to a real audience. As a fun fact, Miku once made an appearance on The David Letterman show, with David giving off an appropriately bewildered expression during the entire segment.
Whether the concept of Hatsune Miku excites or terrifies you, it cannot be denied that basing a VR game around her concerts is an appropriate concept. Hatsune Miku: VR Future Live perfectly describes what to expect in this PSVR launch title (minus the “live” part), where players can attend one of Miku’s concerts in the comfort of their own home, either from lack of money or self dignity.
As a concert game built around a microtransaction model, Hatsune Miku: VR Future Live features purchasable packs, called “stages”; each stage contains a selection of songs, and selecting a stage will let players sit (or stand) during a concert while Miku performs three of the included songs (as well as a bonus encore song where she performs exclusively for the player in an isolated white room straight out of The Matrix Reloaded: the experience may excite or terrify, depending on the person).
Right from the start, there’s a certain surrealism to being surrounded by silhouettes of a faceless crowd cheering and raving to the beat of their beloved idol: once Miku appears on stage, the virtual crowd lights up in every direction, their glow sticks twinkling about wildly in the dark. Speaking of which, players will have access to their own fan wand, with the Move controller serving as a perfect facsimile. From here on, the game encourages that you get really, really pumped about seeing Miku perform…it even demands that players shout Miku’s name as loud as possible, though this is not a requirement to progress in the game.
In fact, none of the in-game prompts presented to player are required, as the concert will continue regardless of the player’s input (or interest): rather, the reward for successfully matching the on-screen beats result in some Rez-like evolutions for the player’s glow stick, turning into various concert-based objects like a tambourine, maraca, lightsaber and other items. Miku herself will also transform her outfit after successfully accomplishing the rhythm games, which in itself is a neat visual sequence that adds to the numerous 3D effects normally impossible in a live human performance.
Ironically, while the game starts every concert with a disclaimer not to excessively move about, the rhythm games still prompt players to shake their arms about wildly, matching the motions that the faceless crowd is doing during each sequence. Such motions are limited to a handful of simple thrusts and beats, and are borderline elementary to anyone with even the slightest amount of rhythmic timing. It becomes quickly apparent that Hatsune Miku: VR Future Live is a casual experience where the real gameplay goal is to gawk at Miku at every available angle. This includes the ability to witness her performance from several corners of the arena, including a bird’s eye view from the very top.
Even if the overly cutesy and unmistakably synthetic music isn’t to the player’s liking, there’s still an appreciable appeal to the upbeat and innocent imagery of Miku happily dancing away, tossing virtual hearts and fireworks in every direction. It’s just too bad that the star of the show suffers from a bit of the PSVR’s occasionally blurry resolution, her body oftentimes becoming obscure by the low resolution of the headset. It’s also unfortunate just how little interactivity actually takes place in this idol-worshiping simulator: not only are players unable to select the songs they want to see Miku perform (each concert run only allows the choice of one of two randomly selected songs during each transition), the sparse and simplistic rhythm games lack so little interactivity they might as well not exist.
Like many of the other VR experiences in this launch, Hatsune Miku: VR Future Live is an impressive technical showcase that opens the imagination for future VR games, but is currently bereft of meaningful content or replay value. The pricing structure for additional songs, to be added later as Stage 2 and 3, is also an expensive investment that even the most hardcore Miku fans may balk over the overpriced value. VR concerts in a person’s living room is a very cool concept, and Miku’s J-pop imagery is entertaining to watch, but the asking price and brief interactions make this a far cry from the real thing.