Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Series Post-Impressions
As I recently just got Project Diva F 2nd on my PS3 (downloaded it like 5 friggin’ GB off the PSN), there are a few things I would like to talk about it. Realizing I never once talk about the older games in the series though, at least, in detail; I figure this is a good chance, and thus, made a compilation of impressions on all games in the series thus far.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva
I’m not sure where I saw this already, but I read somewhere that the developers of Project Diva, at this point, were just creating a Vocaloid-based game for fun, and they never knew that the series would grow as big as they are now. With that mindset, the “cheap” quality of the game really shows. Project Diva is not a particularly bad game of cause, and because most Vocaloid songs are very rhythmic in nature, it’s pretty fun to play. However, while some games have the advantage that people are willing to overlook flaws just because they thrive on being simple and fun, Project Diva here may be a bit different in a way that the frustrations stemmed from poor development and design seem to overwhelm the “fun” part. I could name a dozen of flaws-frame rate, distracting sound effects (particularly when hitting on the notes in songs), recycled animations and backdrops, grinding and so on. The cheap quality is also very blatantly exposed, when the last few unlocked songs are filled with nothing more but still illustrations, yes, not video, but basically just a slideshow of Vocaloid anime-style illustrations. It also suffer from a lack of other options, the other games in the series has a shop to browse, Diva room, and much more (which I will go in detail later). While Project Diva has one of the most classic hits of Vocaloid, I would still recommend not to start with this if anyone wants to have a go with the series, there are just too many problems to actually feel any sorts of entertainment. For anyone who haven’t start on the Project Diva series, but is planning to, I would instead recommend…
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva 2nd
Project Diva 2nd made a lot of improvements and added A LOT of features, which become a standard for future Project Diva titles, and like I said, I pretty much recommend this for those looking to start with the series (unless getting Project Diva F is easier for you). A lot of the flaws were fixed, or at the very least improved – frame rate issues, for example, are still sadly present, but is definitely still leaps and bounds better than Project Diva. Visual designs seem more professional too, there are still signs of reused animations and backdrops, but mostly songs from previous games. There are also duets with other Vocaloids, which give the song selections a sense of more variety rather than just only having Miku alone. The presence of a shop also helps avoid grinding issues- unlocked modules and items from playing the songs, can be bought in the shop. You can even buy furniture and room themes for the Diva rooms, which is a feature where you can visit their rooms and have fun with them (no dirty thoughts!). Although at Project Diva 2nd, this is still an introductory concept, and as far as I’m concerned, there’s not much to do here besides, well, looking at the Vocaloids and also watching your music videos here, which is an odd place to do so, as it would be most conveniently to place this function at the music game section. Sometimes, it can get very frustrating wanting to just watch the music videos (not play them), yet, you can’t do it in the music game section, but had to go through a number of menus and screens just to watch them. I believe that is the only one flaw that seem pretty discernible to me, but other than that, a great game, and also great introductory title for the game, especially since there are also songs and modules from the previous game, it just seems unnecessary to play the rather inferior prequel, anyway. Gameplay-wise, the difficulty isn’t too bad, I assume casual rhythm players can pretty much play all Easy to Hard modes pretty easily, and perhaps some of the easier Extreme modes (a difficulty which for the record, also wasn’t available in the prequel), which can be just a tad disappointing to those wanting a challenge. I would also would like to point out that while it wasn’t mentioned anywhere in-game, 2nd is the first title in the series to implement the D-pads into the gameplay, allowing the players to interchange between the D-pads and face buttons respectively (for example, instead of Triangle, Triangle, Triangle, Square, Square, Square I can go with Triangle, Up, Triangle, Square, Left, Square), this is especially useful in Extreme modes when notes move too rapidly. Although I find it slightly cheap how the developers had to rely on cosMo’s songs for difficulty, who, as per wiki: “known for creating incredibly high-speed songs with the tempo that exceed 200 beats per minute”. Try to listen to tracks like Disappearance of Hatsune Miku and Hatsune Miku no Gekishou-The difficulty isn’t really the speed though, its Miku’s “rap” (which sounds like fast-forwarded broken radio, a courtesy of cosMo’s style). The difficult part here is that it feels as if the game is trying to include each of the lyric’s syllabus as notes, which, seems absurd to play, let alone to perfect, at least to me. Last but not least, 2nd also features duets, which can be pretty fun.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Extend
There is not a lot I can say about Extend, other than that it is pretty much an improved 2nd. Features like Shop, Diva room and stuffs are present of cause, and you can import the modules you obtained from 2nd, and even if you didn’t play 2nd, most of the modules from there can be bought in Extend’s shop anyway, just like how in 2nd, you can buy the modules from Diva 1. I find it great how in Extend, they finally allow players to watch the music videos right directly in the music game menu screen, so that is definitely pretty convenient. It also feels like in Extend, the difficulty has improved somewhat, and there are a few songs I genuinely couldn’t clear in Extreme mode. I didn’t mess around with the Diva rooms much, but from what I can see, other Vocaloids can visit your current on-screen Vocaloid in Extend (not sure if you can do that in 2nd), though it’s still limited to both of them doing some fixed animations thing (for me, I had Miku and Len doing shadow boxing… don’t ask me why they are boxing though) and seems like a random thing. Also, I notice that some songs in the selection list are actually live versions, with audio clips seem to have taken from real live concerts. At this point, it can gets a bit awkward having a mixture of music videos and live music videos in the selection list, but the latter definitely introduced an interesting concept to later games.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F
Finally stepping away from the PSP and onto a next-gen consoles (from the PSP’s perspective at least), we get to Project Diva F, my gateway title into the series, and I would believe for most of you as well as it’s just more easily accessible since it’s localized and all. The improved graphics is definitely a huge plus, and there are no longer reused animations and backdrops, each songs seem to have their own colorful, vibrant and unique backgrounds. Being on a newer gen consoles, there are obviously no frame rate issues of the such, and playing it is pretty smooth. Gameplay-wise, a new type of note is added, which is the star icon, which at the time, seems like an unnecessary addition. Difficulty scale is noticeably improved, and you can also use “challenge items” which makes your gameplay harder by using a set of limitations (for example, perfectionist which makes perfect every note), an interesting addition to previous games where the items only serve as a way to help makes your gameplay easier, which, considering the difficulty of past games, the necessity of introducing such items is a bit questionable. Project Diva F introduced an interesting concept too – a Photo Studio and Live Concert mode. The photo studio is a mode where you can take photos of your Vocaloid while controlling them in different poses and expressions. I didn’t mess around with it that much but what I really want to pin-point is the Live Concert mode, it’s an interesting mode where you can see Miku perform “live”. Do you remember when I mentioned about Extend having a few “live” songs”? This stemmed from that particular concept. Audio clips are used from real live it seems (you can easily notice it by how Miku sounds on the mic), and while Miku perform on stage, and you can shift around camera angles, by doing so, you can see piles of glowsticks in the dark-it feels like you’re really watching Miku live, perfect for people like me who may never get the chance *inserts pessimism* Although, the camera at this time feels wonky and stiff, and shifting through the fixed camera angles can get pretty frustrating. Other than that though, Project Diva F is an excellent game that was built upon the foundations of the PSP games and made respective improvements on those aspects. Project Diva F will always have a special place in my heart as being the first Project Diva game I played, and my gateway entry into the series which turned me into a Vocaloid fan.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd
The term “post-impression” may not be too accurate here I admit, since this is the latest entry of the series, and admittedly, I haven’t play much of Project Diva F 2nd as I only just gotten the game recently, but it’s really looking great! It’s pretty much an improved Project Diva F. The star notes for one, had multiple varieties. Of cause, the first one is simply just the most basic star notes, the second where you need to flick both left and right analog sticks at the same time, similar to how for some notes you need to press the face and respective D-pad buttons at the same time, and also last but not least the “stars on the line” thing (forgot if there’s a proper way to call this). For the latter however, getting the timing right can be a bit tricky since without actually knowing the rhythm beforehand, it seems to move at a speed you wouldn’t be able to keep up with (unlike like normal notes where you can ascertain the timing from how fast/slow the notes flow around the screen). But nonetheless, unlike before in Project Diva F where the star notes seemed like a lazy addition, they become much more relevant now. Project Diva F 2nd also have a lot of old PSP songs too. But unlike the Dreamy Theatre which is basically just a HD expansion version of songs, the PSP songs in Project Diva F 2nd are literally remade. It is actually pretty fun to replay the old PSP songs with the addition of the new star notes. The music video themselves are also revamped – other than being improved visually due to the HD capability of PS3/Vita, there are changed/added scenes (especially those added scenes after you nailed a Technical Zone), and also different angles and new animations. Some songs like Sakura Rain, really benefit from the remade. All in all, while they are the same songs from the PSP games, they are different enough that playing them again is pretty much justified. So far, the difficulty scale in Project Diva F 2nd seems to be the highest, I’m already having problems in Normal mode-which I could had sworn are pretty much equivalent to the PSP’s Hard/Extreme modes, but nonetheless, great for veterans of the franchise or for those pretty much those looking for a challenge. It’s also interesting to note that the feature to use the D-pad button to play has actually been *properly* explained in the tutorial this time, unlike before when it was pretty much a hidden function, at least, I personally did not see it explained anywhere in-game until now. I also had the time to mess around with the Live Studio, and they look much, much better than Project Diva F, the stage looks larger and better, and camera feels less stiff. Interestingly, it seems you have some level of control over the cheering and waving of glowsticks here but other than initiating said cheering, I’m not sure just how much control you have here. Similarly, the flexibility of camera angles are also brought over to the Diva room. Speaking of Diva room, there seem to be some changes too, for one, you don’t need to be in communication mode to initiate a game with the Vocaloids. Although I still haven’t mess around in the Diva rooms long enough to make further comments. But overall, Project Diva F 2nd is excellent so far. Last but not least, the ability to switch between “romaji” and “English” subtitles is great, since one of the best thing about Vocaloid music is their lyrics.
Note: You might had noticed I had never once mention about the “Edit Mode”, since I never try it myself. If there’s anyone who had tried the Edit Mode all over the games, I would love to hear if there are any improvements made over subsequent sequels.