Review: Hatsune Miku Project DIVA 2nd
By: Sean Mitchell
The Singing Passion of Hatsune Miku
For those who do not know who/what Hatsune Miku is, the explanation can get a bit long and confusing. To simplify things, imagine advanced vocal software that is able to turn your computer into an instrument for producing vocal tracks. Next, imagine that a character was designed to advertise this software and give a face to the voice that the software uses. Now, imagine that the character has reached the popularity of an idol (pop star), has countless songs, and has actually performed live in front of thousands of people. That last part isn’t a lie. Years before Tupac showed up as a Hologram, Hatsune Miku was ‘performing’ in front of sold-out crowds in excess of 10,000 people-- as a 3D hologram.
That story’s real, the software is called Vocaloid, and Hatsune Miku’s popularity, even outside Japan, is immense. With that kind of appeal, why wouldn’t she have her own video game series? Hatsune Miku Project DIVA 2nd is the second game in the Project DIVA series of rhythm games for the PSP, and it delivers on levels that most music games wouldn’t even consider. Unfortunately, those interested will have to import the game, as it is not available in the US.
Gameplay for Project DIVA 2nd is really easy to grasp, and should be intuitive to anyone who has ever played a music game. In what would best be described as a cross between Gitaroo Man and Elite Beat Agents. Hollow ‘notes’ appear to the rhythm of the music (typically the Vocaloid voice track) in the shape of one of the PSP’s buttons or directional arrows. The symbol for these inputs floats in from off-screen, and the player presses the corresponding button when it lines up with the hollow ‘note’. Held extended notes, as well as double notes (requiring a directional and face button press at the same time) are also present, and help add some more depth to the gameplay. Depending on the player’s accuracy, different scores and combos are achieved. Pretty standard music game stuff, and it’s just as responsive as one would expect from a quality rhythm title.
Project DIVA 2nd sports a fairly extensive soundtrack of 46 songs (unheard of for a handheld title) of varying tempo, tone, and style, however, most tend to have a JPOP feel. A majority of the songs are ‘performed’ by Hatsune Miku, but there are a handful starring some of the other Japanese Vocaloids, and even a few duets. The songs themselves fit quite well and make for a very fun rhythm game experience. Due to the large selection of tracks, even those who don’t like JPOP should be able to find some songs that they can legitimately enjoy. Regardless on personal opinions on the musical styling, a lot of the songs are incredibly catchy (as any good pop song should be, really), and players will be going back to their favorites.
Nearly all rhythm games have multiple difficulty levels, and Project DIVA 2nd is no exception. Ranging from Easy to Extreme, newcomers and veterans alike will be able to find almost endless challenge as they play as Miku and Friends. In addition to Hatsune Miku, the other Japanese Vocaloids and even a handful of fan-made designed Vocaloids are unlockable within the game. Every character has multiple costumes to unlock and equip, with Hatsune Miku having an absolutely staggering amount to unlock. Her costumes specifically range from color variations of her default look all the way through various fashion styles. They don’t modify the gameplay in any way, but they show up in the unique music videos that accompany each song.
Most music games would be satisfied with offering this amount of content, and they would be great games for it, but Hatsune Miku Project DIVA 2nd isn’t content to stick with the status quo. Loads more of optional content is present for those willing to dig through the Japanese menus (sorry, not much English text to be found here). There’s an option called the DIVA Room, where players can visit the various Vocaloids and give them presents that can be purchased from the shop. Players or the Vocaloids themselves can decorate the room, and these interactions can alter the Vocaloid’s mood, which doesn’t have any noticeable effect on gameplay.
If players dig even deeper, they’ll find options to watch the various songs’ music videos without the gameplay cluttering up the visuals. Screenshots can be taken at this time and saved to the PSP’s memory stick, and the music videos can even be altered via an edit mode. Custom playlists can be created where users can create videos to go with songs present on their PSP-- these can be played in the game. The amount of content that’s there to be unlocked and/or tinkered with is absurd considering this is a PSP title.
For fans of Hatsune Miku, Hatsune Miku Project DIVA 2nd is a no brainer purchase. For fans of the rhythm game genre, Project DIVA 2nd stand with the best of them. For those who have never heard of Hatsune Miku or Vocaloid, this has the potential to make you a fan. Hatsune Miku Project DIVA 2nd is an amazing rhythm game that has content and charm at every turn, thanks to the fact that a lot of the content is fan-made-- from the loading screens to some of the songs. Project DIVA 2nd is an excellently crafted game that won’t appeal to those who don’t like the concept, but it will captivate Vocaloid fans and reel-in rhythm game fans with its catchy variety and solid gameplay.
5 Stars out of 5