Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X Review – Vocaloids Just Want to Have Fun (PS4)
I should preface this review by stating that I don’t really get the whole Hatsune Miku thing. The digital diva has performed in front of David Letterman, has sold out shows across the world, and I’m largely left scratching my head. It’s not that I don’t see the appeal of J-pop and J-rock (I adore Tommy february6), it’s just that the whole vocaloid thing throws me off.
That said, I love rhythm games (Ouendan is my favorite series) so I was excited to play Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X. It’s the latest installment in SEGA’s long running series, and it’s mostly more of the same. The gameplay still revolves around pressing buttons prompts that quickly scroll on-screen, and the most complicated the game ever gets is requiring the player to press a direction on the d-pad and a face button at the same time. Mechanically Project DIVA X is simple, but it makes up for it due to the velocity and frequency of the button presses.
Depending on what difficulty the game is on, the amount of inputs changes. On easy, the game only ever has the player using one button for the prompts. That got boring after I played half a song, so I quickly changed it to normal which switches to using two different buttons. Maybe it’s because I’ve played a lot of rhythm games in the past (including one previous Miku game), but even this felt overly simple. Sadly, that’s the highest difficulty I could use during my initial playthrough of the game’s campaign mode, so I was stuck with it for a few hours.
Project DIVA X attempts to tell a story, but it’s not a very good one. While the narrative revolves around needing to fill up several song clouds by dancing (if this doesn’t make any sense, don’t worry as I’m just as lost having played it), it’s really just an excuse to feature a bunch of fluff dialogue. That didn’t really do much for me since I don’t know the characters well, and they weren’t really fleshed out here. A few lines did make me laugh, as Miku turns into an overly preachy character from an after school special at times, so I can’t say it was a complete waste.
The story does provide some extra structure to the game beyond just a tracklist, and that’s a good thing. Players work their way through the five different clouds (each has a theme like cute or quirky), and have to hit a high score on each song in order to move on. This process is made a lot easier by playing dress up with the vocaloid characters, as I got a points bonus for dressing Miku as quirky as possible when playing a song in that category. It doesn’t add a ton to the game, but it was fun to constantly unlock new outfits for characters to wear and to have a reason to actually use them beyond aesthetics.
Even a Kunoichi Needs Love
Once I looped through the songs once, the game has an anti-climatic non-ending that basically tells the player to replay all of the songs. That was a bit of a bummer as I feel like the high score grind should be all a good rhythm game needs to bolster replayability. Elite Beat Agents didn’t build to an epic alien battle only to tell me to replay each song again. On the bright side, the additional difficulties (which use all of the button combinations) were unlocked after this short scene, so it was fun replaying songs.
There are around 30 different songs in Project DIVA X, including some medleys that mash together a few different songs (but in a good way). While a few songs definitely stood out (I really like the track “Satisfaction“), I wasn’t too crazy over the song selection. It’s not that I found myself actively disliking any of the soundtrack, I just wasn’t ever captivated to replay the same song repeatedly.
That said, there is a lot of variety to the music. From slow songs to club bangers, the selection covers a lot of what the vocaloid has to offer. Songs never ended up blending together for me, and each track felt different enough from its predecessors to feel unique. That’s impressive, and I feel like that’s worth celebrating even if I’m not going to buy the soundtrack any time soon.
One nice thing about Project DIVA X is that I was constantly unlocking something. From new costumes to small gifts, I was always being rewarded for playing the game. One of the stranger aspects of the game is that I was able to give gifts to any of the six playable characters (although, as a faithful husbando, I only ever treated Miku to a luxurious life). Each character likes different stuff, and gifts raised my friendship level with the vocaloid.
It may seem like a throwaway mechanic, and honestly it is, but I ended up getting into it. The gifts I was able able to give are so ridiculous, and often have an accompanying cutscene that shows Miku interacting with the object. It’s dumb fun to watch Miku trying to play a knockoff PlayStation Vita, or seeing her celebrate after I gave her a birthday cake (despite it not being her actual birthday).
Holy Lance Explosion Boy
Rounding out the package is a photo mode that I didn’t find very engaging (although it is a good way to play around with the different costumes), and a concert editor. I really enjoyed the latter mode since it allows the player to create their own music videos, or just watch the default animations for the regular songs. That’s really nice since the screen is so busy while playing that I never got to appreciate the choreographed dances that the characters perform.
It’s also worth pointing out that Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X is launching with a lot of DLC. There’s over $40 worth of add-ons, and while some of it is in-game unlocks, it’s disappointing to see yet another niche title launching with an overabundant amount of $1.99 purchases. Nothing is necessary (it’s mostly costumes aside from two songs), but it certainly left a bad taste in my mouth.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X may start off too simple for returning players, but it opens up into a fun, yet familiar, rhythm game. The action is highly enjoyable, even if I was just frantically pressing butons, and I even found myself getting into some of the periphery features. It may not reinvent the series, but it’s yet another solid entry.
Review code for Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.