Fans of the Hatsune Miku: Project Diva series of Vocaloid rhythm games will be right at home with the latest installment of the the virtual songstress and her friends, as gameplay hasn’t changed all that much since the first game debuted on the PSP. Originally released in lowercase f for the PSVita, it’s now in Blu-ray format for the PS3, along with additional songs and character modules (clothing). Perfectly playable even without knowledge of the Japanese language.
EDIT: Rejoice! The game has been localized for the English audience finally, and this hopefully marks the first of many more localizations of the series of the games to come. The review has been updated to reflect the localization.
The game’s main menu screen tells most of what is available. Apart from its main rhythm game mode, you’ve got the Diva Room that allows you to communicate and present gifts to the Vocaloids, a shop where you spend DP you earn in the game to purchase said gifts or additional modules and a studio mode that allows you to view a “live” performance of selected songs, in which you are given control of different camera angles.
Gameplay is largely similar, in which players press keys corresponding to the different ones that appear during the song in time to the music. They comprise of single notes, double notes, hold notes, and the new scratch note, which was a touch note for the PSVita, now replaced with moving the L3/R3 analog sticks in any direction.
The new ‘chance time’ challenges players to hit enough notes to fill a star at the bottom for a bonus boost to the score gauge upon success, and ‘technical zones’ do the same if you manage to hit every note during that segment. However, there’s over-emphasis on the segments, meaning that players could quite easily manage a ‘Great’ rating by simply completing all of these zones, while doing poorly on the rest of the songs, but would likely only scrape a ‘Standard’ if they happen to miss during these moments but do well elsewhere.
If all these seem overwhelming, don’t fret. The tutorial available does more than adequate to allow new players to practice on the different notes and segments, while the animations presented is sufficient even without being able to read their descriptions.
The videos have all been made HD for the PS3, and each song has its own unique style, so players will enjoy the vibrancy of Senbonzakura, or a House of the Dead-ish environment in Sadistic.Music∞Factory. There’s a flip-side to having so much detail in the videos of course. It could be distracting to some who are struggling to see the notes, as the background tends to obscure them, which becomes apparent the larger the screen.
One thing I appreciated about this game is the ability to take screenshots while in the game, by hitting the ps button to return to the XMB menu and navigating to the pictures tab where a ‘save screenshot’ button will be available, creating images in png format for easy viewing on any other medium.
There are plenty of helpful guides for those concerned about not being able to read Japanese, and if you’ve got the money to spend, you could even get yourself one of the Project Diva controllers (original or mini) for the closest thing to the Arcade version without actually buying the cabinet.
Now that it’s finally in English, players that want to try everything the game has to offer should have no problem digging deep. So lets outline a few differences found in the localization. I only had 24 hours with the English copy though, so you could probably discover more.
The tutorials have all been translated, and are detailed enough for anyone to quickly get a grasp of Project Diva F. The Japanese characters found in the lyrics to all the songs have been transliterated into Romaji (or romanized Japanese) for easy reading, although those looking for accompanying English lyrics would be out of luck.
Some rather strange liberties have also been taken with the translation of the song titles which left me scratching my head. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, refer to the gif below containing the entire tracklist of Project Diva F.
There is no consistency with what was chosen to be translated to English or transliterated to Romaji. On one hand you had songs like Glasses (Megane) and What do you mean!? (Dou iu koto nano?) being given the English translation, and on the other end you have Senbonzakura (which I admit would be rather lengthy had it been renamed Thousand Cherry Blossoms) and Tengaku left in its Romanized form.
Given vocaloid’s popularity really exploded on video sharing sites such as YouTube and NND, I actually feel it would make more sense choosing a name that would most easily get the greatest number of correct hits (as well as all their derivative videos) on those sites. It’s where the fans are ‘born’, figuratively speaking. To give you an example, try searching for “Urbandonment“, followed by the name more people are familiar with, “Torinoko City“. Heck, even the ones that already have an English reference were oddly renamed, such as “The MMORPG Addict’s Anthem” versus the original “Online Game Addicts Sprechchor“. A minor gripe to some, more pronounced to others.
With everything translated, you might also be tempted to try out the game’s comprehensive edit mode, that gives you the freedom to create songs and the accompanying video and button combinations that you can share with the world, or enjoy yourself in the game’s edit play mode. It’s not something typical players would ever touch, but it’s a nice thing to have nonetheless for those looking to get the most out of the game.
There are numerous ways to further challenge yourself aside from the difficulty modes by using challenge items you can purchase before songs, or help yourself clear the harder songs with help items that can do things like remove all “double” notes from the song. Do note however that certain items help you in exchange for a lousy grade, which forces you to fail the song upon its completion.
The videos are all untouched from the Japanese release, so don’t expect Japanese signs and text used in the videos to be redone in English. Subtitles will accompany the titles of songs or artists whose names are not in English (such as seen above).
This is a game I’d recommend to rhythm game lovers and fans of Vocaloid songs, as the tracklist of 39 is quite inclusive, its diversity assuring you’d definitely find a song or two to your liking, and the 4 different difficulty levels (Easy, Normal, Hard, Extreme) gives the game its replay value. There aren’t many rhythm games for the PS3, so this breathes life into a stalled genre comprising of few games outside of Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Those looking to ‘Perfect’ the harder difficulties will find this title tougher than all its predecessors. For rhythm game fans on the PS3, this entry is long overdue.