There have been a lot of rhythm games in recent years, and despite the plastic instruments taking a back seat over the past couple of years the genre remains strong through games such as Rocksmith and Rockband Blitz, both featuring well known collections of songs, and both entirely awesome. You could argue that the success of these games was partly down to the songs on offer, with gamers wanting a chance to play along to some of the better music from the past 30 years or so. But what happens if you release a music game with tracks fresh from Japan that very few people will have heard before? It turns out rhythm games can still be pretty great even with an unheard score.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f (catchy…) is based entirely on vocaloid music, a fairly recent craze which uses synthesised vocals over computer generated music to create songs which are attributed to fictional artists. It’s a pretty unusual and a reasonably bizarre concept, but certainly makes for tunes that suit a game like this. Like others that have gone before your level of success is built around how accurately you can hit the right buttons in the right place, using the timing and rhythm of the songs to guide you to a perfect score. In Project Diva the commands needed fly into the screen in various places, forcing you to not only keep your fingers in time but keep your eyes open at all times. Songs are quick, instructions come thick and fast and the timing requires some brutal accuracy to reach the higher grades, something which will be frustratingly out of your grasp for the first few tries.
The unusual choice of songs does mean that learning them takes longer than those which you might have heard playing on the radio before, but they’re pretty catchy tunes and through a pair of headphones will sound great despite being so unknown. You start off with a small handful of tunes to pick from, but each successful run unlocks another new song, up to the point when you actually have a decent collection to pick from This isn’t all about the music though – Project Diva f also gives you several things to be doing around the button tapping.
Doing well in the songs will allow you the chance to buy stuff to kit out your artist’s apartment, all of which is rendered in the very stereotypical Japanese Manga-style visuals which you’ll be familiar with if you’ve played any JRPG in the past 20 years. You can add furniture, change the design or layout of the living space, even (weirdly) stroke your lead singer and buy her presents to make her happy. Yes, really. You can also use the Vita’s built in camera to take photos with your leading lady superimposed over the top, and add these to the photo frames you can put up in the apartment. It’s almost a social experience, and keeping your singer happy between songs becomes almost as addictive as the music challenges themselves.
And then there’s the edit mode. This bewilderingly flexible option allows you to take one of the in-game songs or one of your own MP3s and set up your own button combinations and music videos, effectively allowing you to create your own content for the game. The video creator is nothing short of remarkable for what is essentially a rhythm game, allowing you to position the camera and characters, change facial expressions and try your hand at lip synching to the music too, something that looks very cool when paired up with your own song collection. It takes quite a bit of learning, and might surprise you with just how much you can do, but give it some time and you can end up with some very impressive results. It could almost be a game by itself, so being an added extra in among an enjoyable music title is very welcome.
So Project Diva f goes from being a simple rhythm game with strange electronic music that you’ve never heard before, and soon becomes something far more than a simple one directional title. It’s definitely most suited to fans of vocaloid music and the visual stylings that goes with it, and it’s not out of the question you’ll tire of the long loading screens before you get chance to see everything the game has to offer, but there’s no denying this is one of the better games in the genre, and well worth taking a look at if you’re the musical type.
Reviewed on PS Vita