Also On: PS Vita
Developer: Sega, Crypton Future Media
If there’s one thing I know about rhythm games, it’s that I hardly play them enough. They’re not always great, and it’s a niche genre, but when they’re good, it’s a delight. I know the Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA series from afar, along with a few hours of play in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F back in September, of which I found a game that I would never master, but was enough to keep me attentive to the songs and patterns within.
Not too far beyond that initial exposure to the series do we find a direct sequel hitting on PS3 and Vita. We were able to get our hands on a copy to find out just what the follow-up had in store.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd follows directly in its predecessor’s shoes, as a rhythm game based on executing button presses to a set of patterns between two face buttons — sometimes accompanied by a corresponding directional button — and the joysticks (or touch screen for Vita) as they fly in from offscreen to land in sequence on their marks. It’s not an entirely complicated concept — and very basic in execution — but in the variety of ways that Mario can jump, or Elite Beat Agents can arrange its tapping and holding, it’s a concept which has a high ceiling for skilled play. The versatility of using essentially three types of buttons in conjunction with the glitzy pop music is a little remarkable, considering how quickly it could wear itself thin.
Rather than relying on any overcomplications, or reinventing its own wheel, Project DIVA F 2nd is a more wholly realized version of Project DIVA F. Certainly, there is some fine tuning at hand, along with some experimentation in note types (timed presses along an illustrated pattern, and notes requiring both joysticks) but with Project DIVA F 2nd’s incorporation of music from the first game, it’s clear that the developers have staked their claim in the sequel as a definitive version.
Here’s another title that plays well with its sister platform, as the game supports PS3-Vita cross-saves, not to mention a consistent set of visuals between the two consoles. It also supports import data from the first game, where users can bring any costumes into DIVA F 2nd without having to unlock them a second time.
While I don’t listen to J-pop on my own time, I really enjoy the song selection present in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd. The songs are also available for listening through various modes, including a live stage viewing or play on the jukebox, which allow for enthusiasts to enjoy the tracks on their own. While I wouldn’t call myself a part of that crowd, the variety of extras in Project DIVA F 2nd add a nice layer of substance to what would otherwise be a core rhythm game. The ability to customize the performers’ appearance is constantly supplemented by gaining unlockables through the main game, and creates a little distraction of setting new goals to buy the right top or snag the perfect piece to add to the idol’s room.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd won’t ever draw a large western audience, but for anyone in the mood for a tightly wound rhythm game, there’s a lot to like in this entry. I primarily spent time with the core rhythm game, but the aspects of lifestyle simulation, interactivity with the characters, and ability to enjoy just the music give a significant boost to what is already a solid rhythm game. What’s important is that the base game is never really interrupted by these modes, and the freedom to explore is up to the player. The only downside for me is that this is a universe wholly dedicated to the spirit of J-pop and idol lifestyle, where I would hope to see a little more variety in the tracklist, or more imaginative minigames in a future iteration. That said if you’re interested in any aspect of J-pop or rhythm games, The Project DIVA universe is a great little corner to spend some time in.