Review: Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd

Review: Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd
Screenshot of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd, a game for Playstation 3 and Vita.

Back in 2011, Hatsune Miku - a virtual character created to market a Japanese speech-synthesis software targeted at songwriters - held a solo concert here in Singapore, belting out a bevy of songs composed mostly by indie musicians from Japan.

Some 3,000 fans here roared and cheered as their idol, projected on a glass screen, performed cult-classic hits featured in the PSP iterations of the Project Diva rhythm game series.

Now, 20 of these "oldies" from earlier games are returning in Project Diva F 2nd, joining 20 brand new songs from professional and indie musicians hand-picked by the game's developers from popular Japanese video-sharing sites.

The 20 returning songs are not regurgitated content. The developers have created new music videos for these tracks, using the latest animation techniques and a new graphical engine that is said to feature improved facial animation.

To make up for the shortfall in new songs, Sega has partnered with the Japanese consumer-generated media portal Piapro to let players download additional songs to play from within the game - free of charge.

You can also download user-created stages for the tracks included with the game, or for other songs from popular culture - but you will need to import your own copy of the MP3 song to play them.

A rankings leaderboard makes it easy to sieve out the gold from the mountain of user submissions.

Currently, only the Japanese version of the game is available. Localised Chinese-language and English-language versions of Project Diva F 2nd should be available later this year.

Project Diva F 2nd packs a bevy of gameplay improvements. New gameplay adjustments now make the game's hardest stages more accessible. One grants greater leniency to the mistiming of button presses; another tops up your health meter the first time it is depleted.

Such improvements do make for a better game but the gameplay here still feels dated: there are no note patterns that require you to hold down a button with one hand, while simultaneously hitting other buttons with your other.

This is a play mechanic only available in the arcade iterations of Project Diva - as if the developers are deliberately holding back to differentiate one from the other.

The day that its console iteration includes that play mechanic - and runs at 60 frames per second stead of 30, on top of all the improvements so far - is the day this series will earn full marks.

Until then, F 2nd is the closest the series has ever been to a homerun.

If you enjoy discovering tracks you have never heard of, especially those veering towards the electronic music genres, then this game is a no-brainer, in spite of its dated gameplay.

Sim Cheng Kai is a freelance writer.

Rating: 8/10

Price: $79.90 (PS Vita), $79.90 (PS3, version tested)

Genre: Rhythm

This article was published on April 16 in Digital Life, The Straits Times.

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