Digital diva, vocaloid extraordinaire and worldwide phenomenon, Hatsune Miku, is back once again to test the mettle of gamers with Project DIVA X, the latest in her quirky rhythm game series.
Whilst it’s obvious that the visuals have been given some love and that there’s been a few tweaks to the gameplay here and there however, anyone that’s played a previous entry in the series will possibly find that the gameplay feels all too familiar to be overwhelmingly impressed.
It doesn’t really matter though – for any ardent fan of Hatsune Miku the prospect of working their way through 30 (nearly) all new songs as the titular star or any of her five friends will be nothing less than glorious, irrespective of the fact that not much has actually changed gameplay-wise. You’re still watching for icons appearing on screen from every angle and then trying to press the corresponding command with expert timing. The truth is that there’s no doubt in my mind that any Hatsune Miku fan will thoroughly enjoy Project DIVA X despite the feeling of overfamiliarity. Why? Because it’s just so much goofy good fun to play, and the constant stream of unlockables you’re rewarded with add a great hook as well as visual variety.
Perhaps the biggest change introduced in Project DIVA X is how the game is actually structured. Presented as a light-hearted adventure rather than just a procession of musical numbers for you to work through, songs are grouped into five clouds which need to be completed in the order of your choosing. With each song you complete in a cloud, “Volt” energy is generated by your performance which incrementally lights up its dormant crystal, and once all five standard songs are completed ‘the main event’ is unlocked – a satisfying medley which when completed fully illuminates the crystal, ending the work to be done in that specific cloud.
Quite nicely, beating all five clouds (which takes around three hours) doesn’t just result in the game ending, but rather Project DIVA X stepping it up a notch, altering how its Volts performance system works somewhat and dangling the carrot of a bonus song and yet more unlockables in front of you to motivate working through all of the songs again. Thankfully, it works, and so even once you’ve completed all of the clouds you’ll be eager to do it once again, or maybe even a few times, all in the pursuit of improving your high scores or just obtaining snazzy new items and outfits for your characters to wear.
The new gameplay structure also allows for the introduction of a new feature – requests, where characters may ask you to play certain combinations of songs, settings and outfits with or without gameplay modifiers for rewards. It’s not revolutionary but it at least mixes up the gameplay a little, and with the addition of more typical features for the series such as a freeplay mode, relationship management and the obligatory concert mode, it all adds up to a fairly well-rounded package that certainly gives you your money’s worth.
The true strength of any rhythm game such as Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X is its music, and thankfully, it doesn’t falter. There’s a wide range of musical genres on offer and even though all the songs are in Japanese only they still manage to suck you in and get your feet tapping in no time. Backing up each song is some stellar presentation, with detailed character models and sets working in conjunction with the strong choreography to really bring each performance to life. Never before has a Project DIVA game looked so alive and full of colour – it really is a treat for the eyes. Well, when you can afford to take them away from looking for icons anyway!
With few changes being made, it’s just a tad disappointing that little has been done to solve the minor issues that plague the series however. The jump from easy to normal difficulty is still vast, for example, and sometimes the button prompts don’t really seem to correlate with the music. Additionally, the beautiful visuals are mostly wasted while playing as you’re that engrossed in watching for icons that appear all over the screen that you don’t really get the chance to take anything in. Again, all fairly minor issues, but they do detract from the game a little nonetheless, especially for series newcomers.
Overall then, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X is more of the same but better, and for most that’s all it needed to be. It’s got new songs, a new and improved structure, and so many customisation options that it’s hard to imagine you could ever tire of it all. And so with its beautiful graphics, great animations and classic Project DIVA gameplay, Project DIVA X is undoubtedly the definitive Hatsune Miku experience.