I love rhythm games. Few things give me as much of a thrill as nailing a section of particularly tough notes. That moment when a song hits the chorus and the note patterns pick up always sends shivers down my spine. I can’t get enough of this genre. Like most people, I fell in love with the Rock Band series, spending hours strumming a plastic guitar to a variety of tunes. However, I always wished that I didn’t need to pull out a giant extra controller just to play them. I wanted something that let me use a normal controller, similar to how I had played Dance Dance Revolution for hours with one. Finally, my dreams have been answered. Even better, they’ve been answered on the portable Vita. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f is a fantastic rhythm game that I can play on my Vita with no extra hardware required.
Gameplay in Project Diva f is typical for the genre. You choose a song from the 38 available (six of which are bonus songs, purchasable in a $10 DLC pack), pick a difficulty, and try to hit as many of the notes as you can before the song is over. There are standard notes and held notes, as well as dark notes that require you to hit both the direction on the d-pad and the standard button at the same time. Also, there are special star notes that require you to swipe the touch screen. Various sections of the song challenge you to hit all the notes in that section–doing so earns you bonus points. After you finish a song, you are scored on how accurately you hit the notes and how many of them you hit, with ranks varying from failure to perfection.
On the Vita, Project Diva f feels great. Since the developers knew the refresh rate of the screen, they were able to set the audio/visual delay to be perfect. Tapping along to a series of notes always feels in-time and rewarding. While the variety of notes is simple, the creators do a great job of mixing things up with challenging note patterns and tempo shifts to keep things engaging. The flashy music videos that play in the background can also add to the difficulty, as notes will sometimes be hard to see through the various colors and moving images. By the time I made it to Extreme difficulty, I was forced to have perfect mastery over the controls and the ability to read what was coming quickly in order to react. It’s far from the hardest rhythm game but it packs enough challenge for all but the most die-hard rhythm game fans.
One of the largest factors in determining whether or not you’ll like Project Diva f is if you like the music or not. Vocaloid music has particular cadences and instrumentation that may not be to everyone’s appeal. I highly advise listening to some songs on Youtube before making a purchase, unless you have heard the music before and know it is to your tastes. Those who stick around will find a great variety of songs that range from the slower, mellow God-Tier Tune to the breakneck pace and shredding guitar of Senbonzakura. It isn’t the largest collection of songs, meaning those who spend a lot of time with the game may tire of the selection, but I feel it packs enough longevity for most players.
In addition to the rhythm gameplay, there are a few other things to mess around with. Project Diva f features an area called the Diva Room where you can interact with the various vocaloids. These interactions range from mild things like giving gifts to somewhat creepy ones like rubbing their heads with the touch screen. You can also decorate these rooms with items purchased with your Diva Points (earned from playing the rhythm portion of the game) or change the vocaloids’ outfits to better suit your tastes. It all works well but likely won’t interest the lion’s share of people due to its shallow and slightly voyeuristic nature. If you have no interest in the game’s trophies or in playing house with the vocaloids, you don’t need to spend much time here.
Also noteworthy is the Edit Mode. This mode lets you take any of the existing music in the game (or any MP3s you have on your memory stick) and build your own tracks to play later. You can edit everything from the camera movements and the dancing of the character to the note patterns that play over the song. This is an intensely deep mode that resembles a video editing program in complexity. Once you’re done editing, you can save the data and even upload it online for others to download and play. It’s a great mode for those who like to be creative; fans of the rhythm game portion of Project Diva f, however, will likely give it only a few minutes before forgetting it even exists.
Finally, there is the AR section of the game. While you can watch the video for any song in the game through the Play mode, AR mode lets you watch special augmented-reality concerts using the Vita’s camera. By printing out the special AR card, you can bring Hatsune Miku to life and watch her dance to eight songs on your desk or table. It’s a cute and interesting novelty, worth seeing once or twice to laugh at how silly it is. Also in this section is the ability to take pictures of the various Vocaloids. You can put them in a variety of poses and outfits before taking as many pictures as your heart desires. Obviously, this mode caters to a very specific subset of players–if this is something you’re interested in, you know it already. Otherwise, you will likely ignore this section entirely.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f has a lot of extra features that I don’t care to spend any time with. Outside of grinding trophies (earned the platinum!), I didn’t bother with the Diva Room or Edit Mode. Still, even with all this extra “useless” content, I’ve still managed to spend nearly twenty hours with just the rhythm portion of the game (which I know thanks to a playtime clock). Outside of a few stinkers, I have yet to tire of the game’s soundtrack. Every day, I boot the game up again and try to earn a better ranking on another song or try a harder song on the game’s Extreme difficulty. This is a game I see myself playing for a long time to come, in between my other games. It’s a fantastic rhythm game that I can play anywhere: exactly what I’ve been hoping for all these years.