I have a confession: I never really "got" Miku. She's a robot thing, she sings, and she likes vegetables? I never understood you, Japan.
Anyways, the PSP game seems to be getting a bit of attention recently, and now that I'm back at my summer job, I've been getting a nasty case of the "Twitchy Rhythm Fingers". So I gave the game a shot in hopes of curing my hyperactive hands and maybe figure out why everyone loves this stupid anime chick so damn much.
I've been playing for a few days now, and I still don't get it. But I think I hopped on the bandwagon anyways. And by that, I mean "I've downloaded three albums and purchased her Figma."
It's clear from the beginning that this game is a love letter to its rabid fans; loading screens are populated by fan art (which can be viewed and saved on the memory stick in the gallery), Miku has over fifty costumes to unlock, and the tracklist features some of her more notable songs (though Black Rock Shooter is MIA. But that's what Edit Mode is for I guess).
Actually, I want to mention the quality of the music. Judging by the videos I've seen and the songs posted on Youtube, I had braced myself for some of the most boring, lame, overly cute J-Pop garbage. I was surprised, then, to see the first track available was World is Mine, which was as awesome to listen to as it was to play along with. The stage, a gothic church-like setting, was the opposite of what I was expecting, and Miku commanded the performance with all sorts of moves, poses, and winks. I started to like this Miku chick.
World is Mine is easily the best song in the game. This outfit seems to be channeling Etna from Disgaea, complete with wings, tail, and short pigtails.
The list of songs are pretty varied, from rock to techno, swing to polka, and the usual J-Pop. All of the tracks are sorted by artist, so if you like one kind of song, there are a few others nearby that you can try out. Personally, I'd say ryo's stuff is the best, though Oster Project brings some fun tunes as well.
There's a lot of variety in this game. Which is good, because you'll have to put those 50+ costumes to good use.
The gameplay reminds me a little of Gitaroo Man: your standard X, O, Square, and Triangle buttons fly around on screen, and it's your job to press them at the right time. You can choose to follow the moving symbols, or you can watch the little timers that they fly to, which tell you exactly when it's time to hit the right button. Easy Mode is a little too easy (it only uses O) but Normal and Hard provide a nice challenge. I'm a little peeved that the D-Pad got neglected; Taiko Drum Master lets you alternate which hand you use to hit notes, which makes it easier to keep with the rhythm and makes it easier on your thumbs. Here, your right thumb is going to be doing a lot of work.
If you get a good enough ranking, (good luck; Miku is a fickle bitch when it comes to grading) you can opt to watch the music videos for each song without having to play. This allows you to take snapshots of Miku in different outfits you unlock while she moves around on stage. If you're someone who's inter dress-up, you'll love this feature, and with outfits like Pirate Miku, Alicia from Valkyria Chronicles, Ulala from Space Channel 5, you'll find yourself taking lots of snapshots, if that's your thing. Luckily the character models look great, have believable movement and rhythm, and populate some very pretty stages.
Probably my favorite setting. Miku walks around a stage populated by cardboard cut-outs of people, dogs, puddles, and other clever props. It's worth watching over and over just to spot all of the clever details they added.
Probably the biggest feature in the whole game, however, is Edit Mode. Using MP3s in your Music folder, you can build custom levels from the ground up, using any stage and costume you have. Once you pick a track, it's all a matter of finding out the Beats Per Minute (the game has a handy tool to let you figure that out) and setting the button prompts, which is as easy as hitting the face buttons in tune to the music. You can also adjust her dance and expressions, though you'll need to know a lot of Japanese to figure all of this stuff out. Expect an online tutorial to show up in the near future.
When you finish your level, you can save it right on your memory stick, so I'm sure the internet will have a lot of fun exchanging files.
Miku goes for a "balloon" ride
Overall, Project Diva feels like something that's a little more than a rhythm game; the "game" part eventually becomes a means to unlock costumes and decorations for Miku's bedroom, and the edit mode has enough potential to gain a strong internet following with all sorts of crazy custom performances. It's a love letter to all of Miku's obsessed fans, and in that respect it's pretty successful. There are a few nitpicks here and there (I'd like to chose my costume after I chose a song instead of going back to the main menu and changing it there. Also, three or four songs are just still images. Not seeing Miku dance to Ievan Polkka is criminal.) but if you're a fan of the character, you can't complain about what's crammed into the disc.
That's pretty much all I can say about the game, but I have some more screenshots I want to share. Enjoy.
You can decorate Miku's bedroom using a variety of...M-Miku! What are you doing?!
Miku looks classy as she dances to "Miracle Paint".
It's hard to find a song that this outfit works with, which sucks, because it's so awesome.
Obligatory cat outfit
The camera loves Miku's ass, and she's not afraid to shake it. Do NOT play this in public.
Miku's quite expressive.
I never really understood the whole leek thing. Looks like Miku doesn't either.
Maybe I'm just being a snobby art student, but 80% of the fanart loading screens look kinda crummy. Luckily, the good ones are really, really good. This is one of my favorites.
Well, that's it for some of my better screenshots. I still want to watch a few more of the performances, so maybe I'll upload some more another day.
(All screenshots were taken by myself, with the exception of the shot of the gameplay, which is from IGN)