A couple weeks ago, I received my copy of Hatsune Miku Project Diva 7 for the Playstation Vita. For the most part, I've been supremely happy with my Vita experience and likewise, I do enjoy me some rhythm gaming. I have to explain this because, with a hefty import price tag, the assumption I've heard has been that I am either attempting to validate my Vita purchase or I'm a crazy weirdo. I deny the first assumption and lack the proper perspective to deny the second. Regardless, these are my impressions on Hatsune Miku Project Diva 7.
Oh Japan, so polite in your loading screens...
With 7 in the title and my craze for rhythm games, you would think I have crossed paths with the franchise in the past. Nothing could be further from the truth. You see, the early craze of Vocaloids were too synthetic and felt "off" to my sound lobes. So while the rest of the world was going apeshit over Miku, I remained detached. My curiousity was piqued only when I started seeing the videos online of this version so I took a plunge.
One of the first reactions to this game was "Geez, was this made in South Korea?" Keep in mind, this is a compliment. You see, while Konami made DDR, it had a small selection of seemingly random backgrounds and felt lazy. Andamira had Pump It Up which had fully animated backgrounds and a better feeling dance pad. Beatmania had a small vertical space of usually random animations and loops. DJ Max had fully engaging backgrounds that were often humorous or fun for other people to watch. That South Korean Polish to many rhythm games and other genres feels really good when you benefit from it and this game feels like it has that extra step of polish.
Sega reenforces Virtual Japanese Pop Diva Stereotypes.... the racist fucks...
The game features 36 songs (I've only unlocked 32) each with their own unique "music" videos and even alternative endings. While that roster may sound small by other rhythm game standards, keep in mind that this is content that's been made exclusively for this game (except for 2 old songs). That's 34 exclusive "music videos" and "extended cut" variations. That's a tremendous amount of content, if that was all.
I do good?
On top of this, you have custom stepchart creation and play. In other words, think you can choreograph the song better? Give it a try. You also get AR functionality, which is limited but still kinda cool. Miku also has a dollhouse in which you buy new outfits, furniture, toys, etc, and she wanders around doing various tasks. This mode, of all of them, feels slightly creepy if for no other reason than the game constantly switches between "she's a feel girl" to "she's a digital diva" moods throughout. If there is a complaint, it's that whatever they are wanting to do with the vocaloids clashes from one use to the next.
There is also, believe it or not, a fully interactive video director. You pick the Vocaloid, the song, the moves, the backgrounds, the camera angles and pans, and you seriously get to make your own custom video with the impressive array of tools. Whether or not you can make something as elaborate as the ones packed in... highly doubtful. But for those will to fumble around with the tools, having this feature in there is great.
The game itself is the usual assortment of tapping. Somewhere on the screen, a prompt appears with a timer as it's matching symbol flies towards it. Pressing the command in sync awards a "Cool" prompt with rankings below going from Fine, Safe, Sad, and finally, Worst. Learning to disconnect the flying symbols from the ultimate destination is a skill needed to survive later stages as Sega becomes quite the prick of "flying" these symbols through other destinations. There are also technical zones which, when completed, grant bonus points but grey out should you falter. Finally, there is the Style sections where the symbols are trailed by raindows. Fill a meter in these sections and you'll unlock the alternative/extended cut to a song. These extra ~30 seconds are often just the chance you need to boost your ranking on the song.
I do bad....
In layman's terms, Japan totally gets fucked on the pricing of media so if they could access our movie service, why would they ever buy from the Japanese PSN? This is why P4 Arena is the only region locked PS3 game and why Nintendo region locked DSi and 3DS. The price gulf to us spoiled Americans vs the world is MASSIVE as any Australian can tell you. Because of this, the online portions of Project Diva are locked unless you have a Japanese Account. In fact, you'll be prompted that Network Features are Disabled when you launch the game. The other bummer is just how much menu experimentation there is on this game if you're not a native Japanese reader. Unlike DJ Max, Project Diva is a tad Import Unfriendly with how many of their menus are in Japanese. After about an hour, you'll know how to get around the game but it's just that initial frustration of being lost.
Hatsune Miku Project Diva 7 is the kind of game you want domestically. It's fun, exceedingly well produced, a great conversation piece (Why the hell are two girls dancing on your video game?), and ultimately shows off the Vita where playing Final Fantasy VII on a portable just can't. Why Sega hasn't announced it for US release is beyond me but after about 10 Hatsune Miku games, why am I to believe they'll suddenly wisen up on this one? Whether or not it's worth the import price is up to others to decide but I can tell you it's made it's way as the chief obsession for me over the past couple weeks. Whether or not it can stand up to the upcoming DJ Max Touch Tune in a couple weeks will be a whole other story.