I feel like the token amnesiac hero of a JRPG when I play Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f. I wake up inside a beautiful world, at a loss for exactly why I’m there. Who are these people? Why does everyone already know each other? And what exact language are they speaking?
But that’s all part of PDf‘s charm. Longtime fans can take the time to spit on me now, but every aspect of this series is new to me. Not that it cares, it makes no effort to explain its universe. Instead I’m forced to go with the flow, accept the fact that this Hatsune Miku…person…lady…thing is a pretty big deal, and get on with the button tapping.
For those as clueless as I was, Hatsune Miku is the female avatar of a popular piece of Japanese vocaloid software. This software allows users to write and perform songs without a singer, as the software is able to provide a voice to the lyrics (which is possible because the Japanese language isn’t as complex as far as pronunciation is concerned, there aren’t 15 different ways to pronounce different letter-couplings for example). As for the Project Diva series, it mixes Hatsune Miku (and some friends that bum along), the best tunes made for her, and a quick paced take on rhythm genre.
While I may be lacking in knowledge of the larger “plot” surrounding its world and characters (the loading screens and intro movie imply everyone is super best friends), I’d argue it adds to the game’s surreality. For many, PDf is a game you have to decide to take the plunge with. With nary a vocaloid album in my collection, or a Miku body pillow atop my bed, I made the call to buy this bad boy, and I’m very happy I did. Project Diva f is one hell of a game.
With a tailor made video playing in the background, players press the corresponding face button when two matching icons meet on the screen. Failure to hit the notes correctly takes a toll on your health bar, ending the song should it empty. This is hardly surprising or unique as a mechanic, but the pace at which you’re tapping to the beat is flawless. You feel so in tune with the music, and there’s rarely a moment where it feels you’re hitting buttons at inappropriate times. It just shows an expertise with the genre, one that makes sense when you consider SEGA is one of the few companies that bother with rhythm games (and have produced some of its classic). The game mixes things up with touch screen notes, a feature that I have a distaste for. But fear not, Project Diva f is overflowing with customization!
The aforementioned touch screen notes can be relaxed by a button press if you’re willing to pay the price. Nothing steep mind you, so long as you don’t value rankings. The game provides a bevy of items to use in the songs, some to aid and others to make the games even harder. The beneficial items will affect your score, but if it means I don’t have to smear my fingers along the screen I’m down for anything.
The customization doesn’t end there, though. There’s a lot of doll room kind of stuff, letting you play around with Miku’s appearance. I’m always happiest with a character’s final design that I rarely dive into this kind of content. But if you want to use the touch screen to poke at Miku’s head, you’re more than welcome to!
But what good is all this if the songs aren’t up to snuff? The music in PDf brings me back to that fairy tale analogy. All the tunes on display here are new to me, and I have no idea what the subject matter is. But with that said, this is some catchy shit. While I may not have heard these songs before, I feel that’s a perfect fit for a rhythm game. It’s neat not knowing what’s coming up, getting caught off guard by a sudden change in tempo.
It all just seems a little insane, me sitting there mashing away, listening to my Vita as it speaks in tongues. It’s a very different experience, and one that I can appreciate. Taking today’s latest North American hits and implanting them within the game wouldn’t win me over as strongly as Project Diva f has. Plenty of games try to make me feel as if I’ve beamed off to another world, but PDf is one of the few that pull it off.