Release Date: 10/01/2017
Played On: Playstation 4
Available On: PS4
Time Played: 34m
Progress: Played available songs a few times each.
Developer: Sega / Crypton Future Media
Hatsune Miku is a pretty big deal when it comes to virtual Japanese pop stars. I've heard and seen the name mentioned here and there in various forms, but have never known what her deal was. There's that Hatsune Miku VR experience thing that was marketed as a big deal for Playstation VR, and I remember seeing some sort of DDR-like arcade cabinet somewhere on the internet branded with her name. After seeing that there was a free Hatsune Miku game on the PSN store, I figured it was time to find out what's going on.
Oh my. I am not the target audience for this at all.
Don't get me wrong, as with many other types of games, the fact that I didn't get into it doesn't make it a bad game. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Sound certainly has its problems, but it's a decent enough rhythm game that fans of the Hatsune Miku 'universe' will probably love.
Rhythm games are like racing games to me: I'm terrible at them and usually play on easy, but I find them so enjoyable that I play a lot of them. As a general fan of music, I love combining games with audio driven gameplay that transforms sound into an engaging visual landscape. It's why the Audiosurf games are some of my favourite all-time games, but that's where the caveat raises its head: the music.
I'm not saying Hatsune Miku's music is bad, but it's definitely dictated by taste, and the two tracks available in Project DIVA Future Sound are not ones that I'm scouring the internet to buy and add to my collection. In fact, they're not even the kind of J-Pop that I enjoy, so unfortunately I was lost right from the beginning. Ultimately a rhythm game lives or dies by its soundtrack, so even with decent presentation and gameplay, if you're not into the soundtrack then it's not going to grab you.
Then again, it's hard for any music-based game to go up against something like Audiosurf, which uses your own music library as its soundtrack. I mean, how am I not going to enjoy listening to my own music collection that I have spent years accumulating and enjoying?!
So let's forget about the music for a second and assume that you really like Hatsune Miku's musical stylings and can't wait to hear the catchy monotones of the auto-tuned tracks served up as a taste in Project DIVA Future Sound.
The 'rhythm' aspect of the game is fine and uses the typical press the button when the symbols line up. Instead of a linear 'track' like you'd find in Rock Band or even Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit!, the 'notes' appear in patterns all over the screen. I like this interpretation as it makes the gameplay a bit more challenging while enhancing the feel of the notes as they can be configured in patterns or positions that make sense to the section of music they represent.
This is probably the part of Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Sound that I found the most promising, as the note placements combined with the elaborate animated performances happening in the background really demanded a lot of concentration. The presentation gave me the tunnel vision vibe of something like BIT.TRIP Runner where the background is busy enough to force you to really concentrate on what's happening in the foreground. It's a simple tactic to raise the gameplay challenge, but an effective one.
Speaking of presentation, there's a lot of effort put into the animations and choreography for the performances that play along with each song. The game itself has a number of girls you can choose from (who I am assuming are part of the Hatsune Miku universe meta) and costumes you can dress them up in.
There's a lot of them.
I suspect that this is where a lot of the game's appeal could be for fans of Hatsune Miku, and I can dig it, at least conceptually. There's even an option for simply playing the music video of a song, using the avatar you've specified with the costume you chose. The downside is that every performance is the same, no matter what girl you choose, which is a little disappointing as it would be nice to see different dancing and expressions that reflect each character's personality. Instead they end up being puppets in a scene that has been planned out well before they got there, leaving it cold and lifeless.
Maybe the game isn't about rhythm at all. Maybe it's about dressing up cute anime girls and making them perform for you over and over, the same dictated moves and facial expressions every time. There's something a bit Buffalo Bill about the whole thing that unsettles me…
Again I find myself thankful that a franchise deemed it okay to offer up a sample of what they're selling, because without this free taste, I would have never had a clue about Hatsune Miku.
Now I can use my informed opinion to say that "it's just not for me" and move on.