2016 offered some intense, heart-stopping gaming experiences which gave us plenty to think about. 2017, on the other hand, is starting off a bit differently.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone – Miku from here on out – is an absolute palette cleanser. It’s a total reset from all the augmentations, steam-punking, and other-earthly summoning that’s been going on the last twelve months, instead giving us dancing sunflowers and gingerbread houses. It’s also the first time this huge Japanese franchise is getting the treatment it deserves in the West. Pretty exciting.
You play as Miku Hatsune, a humanoid essence with synthesized vocals, depicted as a fresh-faced teenage girl with a mass-market musical appeal. Naturally. She appears in various music videos, along with other actors and actresses, and it’s your job to interact with the song using various button presses and directional gestures.
Akin to the likes of Guitar Hero and Dance, Dance Revolution, players add to the rhythm and background noise of the tracks by tapping the button at the right moment as symbols cross over the screen. You need to press the corresponding button at the exact right time for the highest points to build up your life bar. Miss them, however, and you’ll lose points. If you miss large amounts of notes – depending on your difficulty – you’ll fail the song completely.
And yep, it’s really that simple, but also as addictive as you might expect. Rather than in a Guitar Hero where all the action happens at the center of the screen, in Miku symbols appear from all sides, meaning you’ll need to be paying full attention to every angle. This keeps you on your toes much more, but also makes for a fiendish challenge, no matter what difficulty set you find yourself on.
By beating songs, you earn ranking points which can then be spent on the customization of your characters, and also to unlock further features and characters to use in the game. And to keep the action fresh, you can customize your characters in various different costume styles, giving them a slew of hairstyles, makeovers, and even go as far as dressing up Miku as Ulala from Space Channel 5. Really!
Oh, and this has the largest collection of songs in any Project DIVA game to date. If you purchase both the Colorful Tone and Future Sound packs, you’ll have around 220 songs which is absolutely ridiculous. And they all offer something quite different, mixing up dance and hard rock, with cheerful, chirpy little numbers. There are even a few melodies.
Familiar favorites return to the series, but there’s also loads of new songs which will soon become the best – and the worst – earworms. Whether it’s catchy, entertaining little numbers like Po Pi Po, or something moving and emotional like Sweet Magic and Tell Your World. The beauty is that the songs, while they have a similar tech, synthesized vibe to them, all have a distinct, stand out, and lasting quality, which means they haven’t just been thrown together to make up the numbers.
The problem is that, occasionally, the music videos can be so compelling and spellbinding – seriously, watch Time Machine – that you get caught up with them, and sometimes the action in the video will actually affect the transparent symbol spot and that split second reaction can affect your own contributions. Still, it’s all part of the challenge and does make for a rocky ride. And on the higher difficulties, the game is not afraid to absolutely batter you with slides and multi-button holds.
Also, because there are so many songs, a search function would really have been ideal. Though you can favorite ones you like, there doesn’t seem to be a clear way to categorize the songs by favourites making them easy to find. And if you do buy both packs, that list can become pretty daunting.
Graphically, though, it’s just as stunning as the audio output. The game runs silky smooth, the aesthetic is equal measures refreshing and calming, but can also be mystical and mysterious. The effects are constantly dazzling and amazing the player and really make it difficult to put down.
On the whole, I’ve had so much fun getting to grips with Miku and its quirkiness. Great in short blasts, this is so much more fun than I was expecting, and it will consume you if you allow it with content to keep you busy for days, weeks, even months at a time.
+ So many songs across the two packs
+ Lovely tune range and beautifully designed graphics and videos
+ Simple, but dangerously addictive
+ Lots of customization options
– Transparent symbol presses hard to read sometimes
– Better menu organisation with huge song selection
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone
8.5 out of 10
Platform review on: – Playstation 4