Where sick beats and waifus collide
MEIKO is my waifu.
There, I said it. No, I’m not ashamed: if I’m willing to play Love Plus in public spaces with minimal embarrassment, and tell a flesh-and-blood Gamestop Employee that I want to pre-order one of the Dead or Alive: Xtreme games, I can’t even pretend that I know the meaning of the word.
Like any good husbando (a lady husbando, but husbando nonetheless), I dressed her up, gave her adorable accessories, put her in meticulously decorated dioramas, and even showed her off to my friends. Okay, so I got some weird looks afterwards, but all I needed to do was show off the rhythm game that my mini-waifu-simulator was attached to, and all was forgiven. With such unforgettably catchy songs, cool music videos, and a gameplay style that made even my skeptical partner into a Vocaloid believer–
Wait, what was that? I’m not talking about Project Diva: F 2nd? I’m supposed to talk about Project Diva X?
…Well, it’s all right, I guess.
If you haven’t already guessed, Project Diva: X is the newest entry in Sega’s Project Diva series of rhythm games, starring Hatsune Miku. After starting on the PSP, moving to the Vita and PS3, and finally being dropped on the PS4, Miku’s been doing pretty well for herself. It’s just unfortunate that it’s a far more lackluster game than others in the series. Still good, just not as good.
I think a lot of this has to do with the game’s approach. Project Diva X moves away from the more arcadey stylings of the previous games and even has itself a proper story mode, with a plot so thin that you can see through it under the right light. It goes like this: Miku and her friends have a bit of a problem: they can’t sing. They need a third party (you) in order to help them, and by helping them perform and gathering all the Rhythmia–I mean, “Voltage”, you can go to five “clouds” (because their world’s virtual, geddit), gather crystals, and bring music back to their world.
It’s not exactly riveting material. Unfortunately, you can’t just ignore the story mode and unlock the songs in free play; you can only play songs that you’ve already beaten by going through the story. The annoyance is curbed somewhat due to the fact that Miku and friends have charming dialogue, even if the forced talky scenes you have to go through during the first hour or two of the game go on far too long.
Oh, and Project Diva X wants to let you know how charming Miku and pals are. Were you a fan who was in it for the music, in love with Miku’s catchy tunes and Crypton’s snappy gameplay? Then you’re going to be a bit left in the cold here. Project Diva X puts the more pandering aspects of the previous games — the chatting it up with Miku and her pals, the modules, the accessories, and the Diva Room (Think of it as a special room where you can play with Miku when you’re not playing the main game) — front and center, with the main rhythm game almost feeling like an afterthought in its wake. The main hub area is the Diva Room, and you can use different costumes and accessories to give you a boost during the rhythm game, depending on what type of aura the song has (Classic, Cute, Cool, Elegant, and Quirky).
Don’t get me wrong: the Project Diva series has always been about oohing and aahing over how cute Miku is, but it’s never been as blatant about it as it is in this game. Miku and friends go on about how you are the most awesome thing since sliced bread, you have to play forced “Guess what I’m thinking!” games with them at random intervals where you have to give them gifts (which usually ends in your messing up since getting gifts is random), and everyone’s cuteness is just a bit more over-the-top than they were in previous games.
It’s a strange balance, though. For all I’ve gone on about how this game shoves Miku in your face and forces you to interact with her and spend time in the Diva Room, a lot of the aspects that made Project Diva F 2nd a damn fine waifu simulator attached to an even better rhythm game were gutted in this release.
Okay, half-gutted, half-repurposed. The models are obviously upscaled hand-me-downs from Project Diva F 2nd, and there are re-used animations, items, costumes, and the like from that game. Unlike Project Diva F 2nd, though, there is only one Diva Room (instead of one for each of the five Vocaloids), the customization of said Diva Room is extremely watered down, and the characters wear the same clothes in the Diva Room that they do when playing the main story / mission mode. You can make them wear anything they want in Free Play, but Free Play in Project Diva X is rendered superfluous when you find that in order to unlock everything in the game (such as modules and accessories), you have to play story mode.
Unlocking things is one step forward, three steps back and off a bridge. On one hand, one of the ways you can unlock modules is by completing Chance Time on any given song. Considering that Project Diva F 2nd‘s unlocking requirements were borderline impossible, this is a step up. On the other hand, they did this by sacrificing the story PVs that were in the other games (with one or two exceptions), focusing on a more “Live-Centric” approach where the characters do appropriate dances on themed stages, changing costumes in a Magical Girl-esque transformation sequence. These transformations are flashy and pretty cool, but are unfortunately extremely distracting when you’re trying to beat a particularly hard mission, and you need the points earned from Chance Time in order to give you just that extra nudge ahead. Also, the outfits they change into are mostly random, so if you wanted to, say, have the characters look like power rangers for a certain song, you have to sacrifice that for points (because if you skip the star needed to transform, you lose your combo), which takes away from the whole “make your own perfect live” gimmick.
The other way you unlock modules…well.
After you finish the ‘story’, the main mode becomes a sort of mission mode, where you have to grind out voltage by beating the songs under various requirements. After getting enough Voltage, you can unlock a special event mission, which can earn you a new module or other swag. So it creates this cycle: You need modules and accessories to play through the missions / story to get enough oltage to get the events to get more modules that help you get more voltage. It’s, in a word, grind-tastic.
Project Diva X‘s set list is a bit bland, too. None of the old favorites are here: Crypton decided to do away with the usual Project Diva song list (though I’m sure they’ll bring it back with the inevitable song DLC) and make a new one, with a few medleys thrown in. There are a few good standout songs, like The Lost one is Weeping, Urotander: Underhanded Rangers, LOL -Lots of Laugh-, Holy Lance Explosion Boy, and the rock medley (which ranks as one of my favorite tracks in any Project Diva game), but it would have been nice to have these options on top of our old favorites.
It would have made the music festival mode a lot more fun. Music festivals are a special event mode where you can play three songs in a row without a break. The Voltage requirements pretty much make you deck your characters to the nines in accessories in order to win (or just be perfect), but it’s probably the most fun I’ve had while playing it, since I can just marathon my favorite songs (other than the medleys) and not worry about the other aspects of the game that disappointed me so much.
And that’s just it. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X is still a Project Diva game, and it has the gameplay to back up just about negative thing that I say about it. It’s fun, snappy, and a great game to relax with after a long day at work. It’s held back by its legacy, and the fact that there are other games in the same franchise that are far, far better.
If you really need to have Hatsune Miku on your PS4, go ahead and pick this up. Otherwise, you’re far better off grabbing Project Diva F 2nd for the PS3 if you haven’t already.
Final Verdict: 3.5 / 5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed), PS Vita; Publisher: Sega ; Developer: Crypton Future Media ; Players: 1 ; Released: August 30, 2016 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: 49.99
Full Disclosure: This game was made possible by a review copy provided by the publisher.