Despite being a Japanese phenomenon, Hatsune Miku, the entirely synthetic vocaloid pop sensation, has only recently set her sights on conquering Western shores. Landing first on PlayStation 3 and Vita, and later hopping over the Atlantic for a performance on Letterman, she appears to be enjoying a surprising amount of mainstream success. With her colourful aesthetic, bouncy synthpop and blue hair rivaled in length only by Marge Simpson, one can only wonder why it took so long to bring Miku’s delights to the rest of the world. Project Mirai DX is only the third Miku game to be released in Europe, following up from the Project Diva F games on Playstation 3 and Vita, but it brings some strikingly adorable changes to the series and is sure to cement its popularity outside of Japan.
This time around Miku and her pals have been squeezed and shrunken down in size like Miniature bobbleheads. But turning up the cuteness-factor, something I never believed possible in a Miku game, isn’t enough. Project Mirai DX also features an overhaul of the “chance circle system” meaning that all players, no matter their skill level, will be able to join in on the fun.
As with earlier games in the series, you’re given a generous choice of vocaloid tracks, 48 to be precise, to tap and press in time with the beat. You don’t have to be familiar with Miku or her pals previous work to appreciate just how wonderfully cheerful and colourful it is.
While the Project Diva games were, perhaps, a little more “adult”, for lack of a better word, Project Mirai DX tones things down a smidgen to make the game more accessible for children. Where Project Diva had button prompts slide in from all corners of the screen, Mirai DX places them on a rail. As your cursor moves along the rail, kind of like a rollercoaster, you’ll press in time with the beat. Pressing at precisely the right time awards more points than mis-timing the prompt altogether. The game offers easy, normal and hard difficulties, the last of which can only be unlocked after completing each track on normal, and you can play with either the face buttons or the touch screen.
Rhythm-game newbies can opt to tap along to the beat using the touch screen, whilst a steeper challenge awaits those who want to play with the face buttons. If you’ve previously played the Project Diva games, Project Mirai DX may initially seem a little easy at first. Within minutes of picking the game up, bearing in mind I haven’t played a Miku game in months, I was quite happily completing songs with 85%+ scores.
While Project Mirai DX may lure players in with its accessible gameplay and chibi appearance, it will bear its teeth if you so desire. Pushing the difficulty up to hard, especially on high tempo tracks, brings a much steeper challenge, forcing you to move your fingers quicker than before and in combination with other buttons you didn’t have to use previously. Completing a song on hard can sometimes be an achievement – even with a poor score.
Practice really does make perfect in the Hatsune Miku games.
There’s an air of exciting unpredictability with each new song. Tempos can quickly change, vocal solos can unexpectedly become duets, and complex button combinations can quickly come out of nowhere, sending you into slump of repeatedly missed notes. But that’s all part of the fun.
Project Mirai DX is an altogether different game from the Project Diva series, and there’s enough changes between the two to keep veterans from becoming bored.
The life simulation aspect, also seen in Project Diva, makes a return and is much more in-depth this time around. A half-dozen fan-favourite characters are available to choose from, and you can play dress up,or buy them gifts and clothes with points you’ve collected. You’ll also get visits from the game’s cast to give you presents and tips. You can even play an addictive game of Puyo Puyo against them, adding even more value to the package. Truth be told, though, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying this, I am all about the rhythm game. While I appreciate the various extras that have been included, I cannot even pretend to understand them. I’ll leave that to you…you sick, sick puppy.
Creepy life sim stuff aside, Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX is a real treat for rhythm game and vocaloid fans alike, and serves as an approachable point of entry for the uninitiated. Wonderful.