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Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: SEGA
Release Date: Aug. 30, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PS4 Review - 'Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X'

by Brian Dumlao on Sept. 20, 2016 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Digital singer Hatsune Miku is back, and she's ready to tear up the stage in her upcoming rhythm game: Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X.

Buy Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X

Since 2013, the Western releases of a Hatsune Miku title have been an annual affair. The mainstream face of the vocaloid scene has been the star of two PS3 games (with similar Vita counterparts) and one title on the 3DS outside of Japan, all of which have been warmly received by fans of Miku and rhythm gamers alike. The release of the latest entry in the series, Project Diva X, is notable for a few reasons. The first is that it marks the series debut on the PS4, with the expected Vita version releasing alongside it. The second is that while the main formula has only seen tweaks, the rest of the game has changed up significantly, making this a very different experience for those who have played the older entries.

Project Diva X is pretty similar to most rhythm games, but the execution is different. The basic goal is to get a high score by hitting the face button or corresponding direction once the flying symbol and the target area overlap. Your timing in relation to button presses is graded on a typical scale from Cool to Awful and Miss, but there is a timer on each of the target areas to help you out. The game mostly depends on the four cardinal directions or PS symbols (circle, square, triangle, X) with a solid directional arrow signifying that you need to hit both the indicated direction and corresponding controller symbol to score. Standard taps and sustained button presses are here for notes, along with the new Rush addition, which has you hitting the right note and then furiously tapping on that same note until the timer expires.

In addition, there are star notes that follow the same principle as other notes but are only hit when the player either flicks an analog stick in any direction or makes a swiping motion using the controller's touchpad. There are also two different sections of a song that give you large point bonuses if executed correctly. Chance Time has you filling up a star meter that grants you big bonuses if you hit the star that signifies the end of the sequence. There's also the Technical Zone, which gives you bonus points for completing all the notes in the given section — but not if you hit a note with a ranking of Safe or below, breaking the combo in the process.

This sounds like pretty standard for rhythm game fans, but what will throw them off initially is the location of the notes and target areas. Unlike other rhythm titles, there isn't a dedicated section where the target areas are located, as the whole screen is utilized. Notes also fly in from all directions, and while this may be manageable in the easier difficulty levels, bumping things up will see those notes fly in at a faster speed. If you're coming in from Project Mirai DX on the 3DS, then you'll also notice that there isn't a guiding line to make sense of where to focus. As a bystander unfamiliar with how the Project Diva series works, the whole thing can be overwhelming, especially when you realize that this all overlays an extremely bright and colorful performance, giving you the impression that there's a large learning curve to overcome. Give it a few rounds, though, and everything will suddenly click as you begin to see an otherwise invisible guide to lead you from one fast incoming note to the next.

When you compare Project Diva X to the older series entries, the most notable change is the inclusion of a full-on story mode, dubbed Live Quest mode. The power of the world's prisms has been drained, and the absence means that the vocaloids are robbed of their ability to sing. With your help, you guide them to each of the prisms and have them sing until the power has been restored.

Despite some of the previews billing this as a deeper tale about music, what you get is fluff. Depending on the prism you're at, you'll get a little side story about how a few of the girls want to form a rock band or how being quirky is doing your own thing. This isn't bad, but there are enough visual novel scenes that it can feel a little tiresome if you simply want to move on to the next song in the lineup.

Aside from giving the vocaloids a narrative, the mode modifies some of the series mechanics. A successful run at Chance Time lets you earn a new costume in the middle of the song. Those costumes and accessories aren't just for looks, as they can affect different parts of the song. The main costumes provide point bonuses for completing combos or a small amount of points in case you get a bad rating on a note. Accessories can boost your point multiplier or provide secret boosts.

The song unlock process has also changed. Instead of unlocking one song at a time, you'll unlock groups as you gain access to each prism. You'll still be relegated to the normal difficulty until those songs are played, but the faster unlocks are a nice alternative to the older, slower method. Aesthetically, the game also forgoes the music video approach in favor of a stage performance, a good trade-off that makes it feel different from the other titles.

While all of this sounds fine, what some fans will lament is the song list. Not counting the two DLC tracks available, there are a total of 30 tracks, with the breakdown being six medleys of older tracks mashed together and the rest being brand-new songs. That doesn't sound so bad for a rhythm game, but for the series thus far, it falls well below the average of 40+ in the other offerings. No one was expecting it to come close to the massive 220 song catalog of the currently Japanese-only Hatsune Miku: Future Tone, but it certainly feels like you'll explore every song sooner than before. Also, the game plays a mean trick on the player by forcing them to go through the same song library multiple times to unlock the final medley. Most players will only attempt this if they pace themselves while repeating tracks.

The rest of the modes have changed quite drastically, mostly because you need to play through significant portions of Live Quest mode to gain access to them. You need to play through a song in Live Quest mode before you can gain access to it in Free Play mode. Luckily, its appearance here unlocks all of the difficulty levels, so you won't have to play through that a song a second time to get to a beefier challenge.

Elsewhere, Edit mode is gone, so there's no chance for you to create your own note patterns for the unlocked songs. The Vocaloid Room is relegated to the main menu theme, and you can't decorate the place unless you give your character the item as a gift; if you give the right one, it increases their friendship level with you, so your point bonuses for each song increase. Those gifts are only available after completing a song, so you can't just bank points and go shopping for whatever you want. There is a Photo mode if you want to have up to two of your vocaloids set up against a static background, but it isn't as exciting as the Vita's AR mode.

The new Concert mode sounds exciting at first, but the execution isn't that great. You start by choosing up to three different songs to play and three vocaloids who will perform them. You choose the background, what outfits they'll wear, and then have them perform in standard rhythm game fashion. There's nothing more to this, as the whole thing feels no different from any other way to play the songs. In fact, the transitions between songs have a pause that has the performers warp in and out of each song. You'll have to go through this a few times during the story, but it isn't a mode you'll likely come back to otherwise.

As far as presentation goes, Project Diva X certainly benefits from moving on to a stronger system. The move to a constant 60 frames per second does wonders for the appearance, and even though it isn't as extravagant as the music videos from the older games, the increased frame rate is still wonderful to see. The only drawback doesn't come from the visuals but from the audio, specifically the lack of speech used during the cut scenes. Hearing the vocaloids express little blurbs is fine, but the silence for longer strings of text is disappointing when you know that all of the speech is synthesized anyway.

Your enjoyment of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X depends on a few things. If you're looking for a great rhythm game for the PS4, this is it. It has been a while since we've seen a rhythm game that doesn't need peripherals, and this title is loads of fun, especially if you're into the music. If you're a Miku fan, this is still fine if you can live with the absence of modes from prior games. For those players, they might want to look into importing Future Tone instead if they can't wait any longer to see whether Sega releases that one stateside.

Score: 8.0/10

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