You can try as hard as you like when it comes to explaining the Vocaloid phenomenon, people are either going to get it, or they’re going to dismiss it as Japan just being Japan. The vocal synthesizer program developed by Yamaha has given birth to a mascot who seems to know no cultural boundaries. Hatsune Miku expanded in to the realm of video games in Japan long before making her debut here in the west last year on the PS3 and Vita, but rather than just be a flash in the pan release, the surprising success of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f has lead to an encore, dubbed Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f 2nd. Offering what would be considered ‘new’ content to everyone in the west, this time around we’re treated more Miku goodness, even if some of it is rehashed.
Like last year’s release, Project Diva f 2nd is more of what gamers got used to in the first game with a few new additions. The new ‘star’ notes that made their debut now have a ‘W’ variation that requires players to swipe with two fingers on the screen now. This puts them in line with the ‘double’ notes that can be found throughout the rest of the game. The ‘star’ notes have also been included in all of the previously unreleased songs, so songs like ‘Packaged,’ ‘The World is Mine,’ and ‘Luka Luka ★ Night Fever’ have been given some proper tending. The ‘Technical Zones’ and ‘Chance Time’ sections remain mostly unchanged and are placed at particularly challenging points that seem to be a lot more thought out than before.
The songlist is comprised of forty different tracks, twenty of them are new to the series while the other twenty are from past Project Diva games that were on the PSP in Japan. This means I get to play some of my favorite songs like ‘Packaged,’ and ‘Two Sided Lovers’ with new note charts, while enjoying some of the new tracks like ‘2D Dream Fever,’ and ‘Glory 3usi9,’ pronounced as 'music.' Overall the mix of tracks is surprisingly excellent, and while I’ve got a few that I don’t care to play much, that number is surprisingly sparse, with about maybe five or six tracks I could do without. The genre selection varies between the typical J-pop stuff to more classical sounding tracks, and a lot of rock tracks, with stuff by Ryo and Deco*27 as some of the standouts. There’s a DLC plan in place for more songs in the future, which will run an extra thirty dollars on top of the initial cost of entry. But for the base price, you’re getting a pretty good deal for the package.
This release has also seen a bit more effort placed on the localization aspect of the game, which is no small feat for a game that is almost entirely Japanese. SEGA has reached out to each artist in an effort to get the translations for each song just right, which means that in addition to the standard romaji translation that was present in the last game, we get a full English translation of each song (with one exception). While the effort isn’t unprecedented, it shows a strong commitment by SEGA to back this franchise which seems like a refreshing change of pace given their current stance on other series that seem to be languishing. But getting back on point, this also gives us a bit more context to the visuals behind each song and to how Hatsune Miku and the other Vocaloid characters can mean a number of things to each of the artists who have contributed to the song list.
The visuals of Project Diva f 2nd are impressive, and the art direction that varies wildly between songs shows that this isn’t your typical music game, with each song feeling like it has an accompanying music video. The lightning strikes and flames of ‘Break It, Break It,’ to the lighting of ‘2D Dream Fever,’ give each song a distinct feel. In addition to the coordination of each character for the song, it’s something to sit back and watch at times which is possible thanks to the video player option that’s been a series staple. You can even set up playlists of your favorite songs and insert your favorite characters in whichever costume you choose, provided you’ve unlocked them, and thankfully this time around a lot of unlock mechanics are actually revealed, giving you something to strive for.
This already robust package has even more to offer thanks to the game’s edit mode which allows you to make your own tracks with any mp3 files you like. The amount of work you’ll put in to just one song can be immense, and you’ll be able to share it with the world as well. Then there’s the ‘Diva Room’ mode where you can interact with each of the characters, giving them gifts and raising their affinity to unlock more items. There’s also an augmented reality option that allows you to project the dance routines of some of the songs on to surfaces within your home. You can even purchase an item using the in-game Diva Points that will allow you to play the credits game which is a weird clone of Galaga, using the names of everyone who worked on the game. The amount of little touches here really flesh out the overall experience and it’s nice to see the extra effort. Also amazingly there is an option to transfer a cross-saved save file from the Japanese release of Project Diva f 2nd to this release, which made me incredibly happy.
This isn’t just a great game for fans of the series, it’s a great game for anyone who enjoys music games. The style of music may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’ve enjoyed stuff like Dance Dance Revolution at the arcades, or have even played Project Diva in a few select arcades in the states, you’re going to enjoy Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f 2nd. This is one of those few games that makes me feel like my Vita purchase is totally justified, even if it seems like its nothing but a wasteland for some gamers. If you want something unique for your handheld, then look no further, and if you’ve got a PS3 and are curious, I think you will find what SEGA has to offer to be very entertaining, if not at the very least, intriguing.
An enjoyable game from start to finish, it's impressive how much more fleshed out this release feels compared to last year's title. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f 2nd is the encore that I had hoped it would be and is as fun as it is technically impressive.
In a past life I worked with Interplay, EA, Harmonix, Konami, and a number of other developers. Now I'm working for a record label, a small arm of casual games in a media company along with Gaming Nexus, and anywhere else that sees fit to employ me.