Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X Review

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X Review

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X released many years ago, 2016 in the West to be precise. Since then, we’ve had another Project DIVA game, so why would I choose to review Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X specifically? Good question. The answer to that question is that the game is unique. Despite its mixed reception, the game brings something to the Project DIVA franchise that it desperately needed. Variation between titles.

Whilst some may hail Project DIVA F2nd as the best title, whilst others may say it’s Project DIVA Future Tone, one thing has been lacking between titles since the initial release of Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F. Despite the ever increasing quality of graphics and additional songs here and there, the song choice and gameplay always felt repetitive between each game. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X tried to remedy this, and it was ultimately why it received such a harsh greeting upon launch.

Story

I know you all read the subheading of ‘Story’ and questioned if a Rhythm game even has a story. Normally, a Project DIVA title wouldn’t, but Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X is the exception to this rule. The game implemented something that had never really been done in the franchise before, Visual Novel based elements. Players were often following Miku’s story, as she tries to become a better friend with the other characters and save the clouds.

This addition of a story came as a shock to many, and the hardcore Project DIVA fans were not happy. However, this element of story adds many more layers to the characters that we’ve not really ever seen before or since. Sure, all the characters express emotion via their songs, but outside of that, it’s rare to see them have any personality, so it was refreshing to see this in an official title.

Most of the actual story isn’t very complicated, nor does it have a wow factor. It’s more just a bunch of small events, or every day life questions that the characters ask themselves. The underlying story is about filling up the various clouds using song, but it’s not very important. Ultimately though this is likely the best option for a story based element in a rhythm game, since it needs to be kept interesting whilst also not requiring a lot of focus. Leaving all the focus to the actual rhythm game aspect of the game is a wise choice.

I personally really enjoy these small snippets of story and the personalities shown by the characters. It adds a lot of life to the Vocaloid characters included in the title, whilst also showing they’re more than just singers. It helps this title stand out from the others in the series, as it offers something unique rather than just another typical Project DIVA rhythm game.

Gameplay

Getting Into The Rhythm Of Things

As the subheading suggests, getting into the game is important. What with Project DIVA having a very noticeable difficulty spike when going from Normal to Hard and Hard to Extreme, it’s easy to see why this would be a worry to newcomers. The introduction to the gameplay is fairly simple and well guided. The player will be given a fun and fairly simple introduction level that will teach them how to play.

After learning the basics of the game, players will then be able to play in either cloud select mode (the story mode) or free mode. These have slight difference, but in terms of difficulty are the same. The main difference being that the story mode levels ditch the well known scoring system of Normal (Standard), Great, Excellent and Perfect. Replacing that well known system is a simple clear or clear* scoring system. A change that many didn’t like.

Not to fret though, the old scoring system still exists, it’s just moved. The old scoring system that many know and love has moved to the Free Play section, but for many, including myself, it’s a shame to see it replaced at all in the game.

Back to difficulty though, I’ve gotta say that Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X seems a lot easier than previous titles and the titles that followed it. Perhaps this is to play into the more casual atmosphere the game is going for, so I can understand why it is the way it is. As a self proclaimed try hard at Project DIVA, it was disappointing that the game felt a bit overly easy at times, especially with the removal of the double star notes and link stars that were present in Project DIVA F2nd.

Another change that was made to the gameplay was the addition of Rush notes. They’re exactly what they sound like. You hit the first note and then rush to press that same note as fast as you can before it disappears. It’s very gimmicky in my opinion and doesn’t add much to the game.

Throwing Chaos Into The Mix

Chaos is not a word often attributed to gaming, much less any areas of gaming. However there is one mechanic that is known for being chaotic in nature, and that is RNG. RNG, or in none gamer speak, randomness, plays a big part in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X. This randomness doesn’t effect the gameplay itself, but instead the unlock system.

In other Project DIVA games, costumes, or Modules as they’re known in game, are usually unlocked via a specific objective. This could be using a specific accessory during a certain song, completing a song on a certain difficulty, and so on. This is changed in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X with the brand new Module unlock system called Module Drop.

This Module Drop is triggered by the success of chance time, and unlocks a new Module at random. The problem here is that you can get duplicates, so attaining all Modules is pretty much down to luck.

Feeling Cool or Cute?

As mentioned earlier, Modules are unlocked randomly. What I didn’t mention however was the fact that Modules now have a purpose, other than looking good of course. Modules in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X now feature a style system called Auras that categorise all Modules and Accessories into Classic, Cool, Cute, Elegant or Quirky styles. Whilst this is an interesting idea that might have been a cool concept, it doesn’t work well at all in the game.

In the story section, there are various clouds that the player must fill up in the main story section of the game. The clouds consist of Classic, Cool, Cute, Elegant and Quirky, which of course is how they relate to the Modules and accessories.  If you assign a Module or Accessory that matches the cloud, it’ll reward you with a voltage bonus, which of course helps you in game.

The problem with this voltage system is that it forces players to use the same Modules and Accessories repeatedly, and takes the choice away from the player. Each Module also has a unique ability, so the better abilities will of course be more useful. This again makes the player feel like they have to choose the Modules that will help them, rather than what they think looks good or matches the song.

Story Vs Selection

With most things in life, putting more focus on one area will often take focus away from another area. That’s no different with Project DIVA, so with the addition of a story comes the cost of losing some important features. As is evident by the subheading, in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X it’s really a battle between which content takes priority.

Sadly the game seems to rely on the player being invested in a story that is ultimately very boring. As mentioned earlier, the story is nothing special. It’s really a story that’s enjoyed in very short bursts. The main issue here though is that by having the story become the main focus with the addition of Cloud Mode and Event Mode, it limits the rest of the game.

The new features Cloud Mode and Event Mode bring are extremely limited. Some new features in the game such as the stage select help keep the game feeling fresh, but there’s only so much you can do with a set amount of stages and set amount of songs, especially when the performance is the same regardless of the stage selected. Concert Editor and Portrait Mode are fun but really don’t make up for the lack of certain modes being absent, such as DIVA Room interactions.

Extra Extra, Read All About It

Aside from the main game contents, there are also sub game contents. These are clearly split in the main home menu into separate areas. The Sub menu, as is shown by the picture below, shows additional activities the player can take part in, along with the records and options menus.

The Free Play mode is fairly self explanatory. Players can play any of the songs they’ve already unlocked on whatever difficulty they’d like. It’s also important to note that in Free Play mode, Auras have no effect. A breath of fresh air for those who really want to play with any Module on any Stage they’ve unlocked. I’ve got more to say on Free Play, but that’s a little later on.

The rest of the Sub menu contents aren’t too complicated. The Concert Editor lets you edit concerts, as is evident by the title. The official Project DIVA site describes Concert Editor as “a fusion of the former “Live Studio Mode” and “Edit” features from past games, allowing you to produce your own scenes with unprecedented ease.” I’d say it’s a little more complicated than that, but still not rocket science.

Photo Studio is really what it says on the tin too. Photo Studio is a really simple and easy to understand photo mode that lets players take pictures of various characters in different scenes and poses. The Records section shows players their records such as play time and song scores, and the Options has all the usual stuff, such as sound settings and saving options.

Remodelling

I honestly wasn’t planning on making a separate section for the remodelling option in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X. Not because I don’t have an opinion on it, but more due to the fact that it’s fairly bare bones. In previous titles there were options to not only customise the type of DIVA room, but also be able to customise the accessories in it.

Various items from the catalogue could be hung up on the walls, placed in certain areas or put on a shelf for all to see. That’s all gone in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X, with the maximum customisation available being that of the room’s theme. As for the accessories in the room, well, they just get placed randomly whenever you decide to gift a character an item, which leads me into the next point.

The Gift Of Friendship

Excuse the gift pun, I just really had to present it. Okay I’ll stop. Anyways, the next topic is the friendship system, which much like the DIVA  room customisation has been reduced to near nothing. It only takes a quick comparison of the Project DIVA F2nd website and the Project Diva X website to see this. Why such a downgrade though? The answer is again down to Auras.

See Auras don’t just effect gameplay or points. The exact Aura module linked to a character will effect their personality. If they’re using a Cute Module for example, they’ll act more cute or shy sometimes. This is where the focus went for friendships. Each interaction with a character is changed based on what their personality is at the time, which is of course determined by their Module Aura.

Whilst the game has a lot more dialogue and personality, the reward just isn’t there. The only way to level up friendship is via gifts, which are a grind to get. Even if you give characters gifts they love, the friendship bar will move such a small amount it’s hardly worth the grind. It really wasn’t worth the loss of the incredible headpat mechanic Project DIVA F2nd had. I really did love that mechanic.

Unlocking The Games Potential

The last of the gameplay areas now, I promise. So after reading the above, the game might sound like a grind. There’s some stuff to do that’ll get boring quick, and there really isn’t much quantity in terms of the fun gameplay. Well, there is one saving grace, if it really can be called that.

Collectables have been a part of the Project DIVA series for a long time, even it’s just referring to the collectable images shown in loading screens. These collectable images are still around, but are now obtained via completing cloud songs. The art gallery really isn’t so bad and has some high quality art to enjoy.

The Event Collection on the other hand is one of the biggest grinds. Events are also normal for Project DIVA, but in this game requiring the means to unlock events is just too time consuming for the activities presented. The Event Collection consists of events for story, requests, friendship, gifts and celebrations. Getting all the story events might not be too hard, but those friendship or gift events are certainly a no go for me in terms of reward vs effort.

Graphics

A Simplistic Approach

The Project DIVA franchise is no stranger to amazing videos. It’s one of the reasons that near all the titles allow you to watch the video without even playing the rhythm game at the same time. If there’s one pattern that’s popping up in this review it’s that Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X has changed a lot of things, and this feature is one of those changes.

In each new release, most videos would stay the same, they’re usually just visually upgraded every game. Sometimes a new song will get added, but more often than not the video that accompanies it is taken and upgraded from the Project DIVA Arcade game. These upgraded videos are sometimes incredible to watch, and sometimes they’re insanely annoying whilst trying to play. Concentrating on the notes can be hard whilst there’s colours flying around in the background.

What’s the solution to this distraction then? Well Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X replaces these unique videos that accompany each song with a performance. Think of it like going to see a live Vocaloid concert in which all songs are performed on stage with a unique dance. That’s essentially what happens here, and it makes sense, given the story elements of the game.

It’s ultimately a very hit and miss trade though. Some iconic songs that fans love to see upgraded videos for no longer got beautiful upgrades, and instead have a Vocaloid dancing on stage. This trade certainly makes playing songs easier, but it also makes the entire experience feel somewhat empty. After all, every song features a Vocaloid dancing, so it gets repetitive fast. Ultimately I’d say the game loses more than it gains for this trade.

Project Diva: Xtreme Upgrade

Onto the actual graphics now though, which is where the above criticisms turn on their head. The Vocaloid concerts held for each song are absolutely incredible visually. The graphics in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X were a massive upgrade at the time and it’s really cool to be able to see the characters have somewhat of a personality.

The dances, as mentioned earlier, can feel somewhat repetitive at times. That being said, they’re a lot more realistic, which makes learning them a whole lot easier. If there’s one thing Vocaloid or anime fans love to do it’s learn dances, so perhaps this change made that process a little better. The actual motions, lighting and camera work of each song really make following the character easier and it looks incredible whilst doing so.

It’s not just the Vocaloid models that look incredible either. The stages are all unique and offer a different aesthetics, meaning that they really match the songs being played on them 90% of the time. The lighting as mentioned earlier really compliments the moods being set with the songs, and overall the experiences just feel so much more immersive due to how much it feels like an actual concert.

Music & Audio

Quality Vs Quantity

It’s no secret that the amount of songs in a rhythm game determine a lot about it. It’s playtime, replayability and even its quality are often based on the amount of songs available, so the fact that Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X has an underwhelming amount of songs reflects incredibly poorly on the title.

The Free Play section is really the place to be for a somewhat classic Project DIVA experience, but even then, it’s underwhelming. The choice of songs is shockingly low, to the point where a hardcore fan could probably complete Free Play mode completely in a day or two.

Unfortunately, the Cloud Mode isn’t any better. With only 29 songs available in Cloud Mode, it’s pretty shocking. It’s a massive shame that this game has some of the best songs in the series, only to be let down by the lack of them. The remixes are incredible and the Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X exclusive songs are mostly great. I’d give it high marks if I was just judging on quality, but the quantity is just far too important for a Project DIVA game.

Voice Acting Vocaloids

Singing isn’t the only thing the Vocaloid squad do in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X. That’s right, they’ll actually speak. Unlike many of the other Project DIVA games, the Vocaloids will say words or sometimes even sentences to go with the conversations they’re having on screen. As an avid Project DIVA fan this made me very happy.

This added bit of detail draws the player into the game so much more because it helps the game feel like an actual universe, with characters who think and speak and act. It helps flesh out their personalities much more than simply reading dialogue can do which really helps lead into the enjoyment of the songs and concerts too.

There were often times that I’d watch a scene in which the characters have a conversation, and then I’d be jumping into a song. Even playing the song after hearing the characters speak really helped create the feeling that it was Miku or Rin actually singing and enjoying it, rather than just a character singing a song because a game told them too.

Summary

Overall, I enjoyed Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X. If I had to summarise it into one word, it’d be ‘misunderstood’. Sure, it tries a lot of new or different things and a lot of those things don’t work out, but I gotta give it credit for trying. Ultimately the game doesn’t feel as good as it is due to it trying to live up to its absolutely excellent predecessors.

My major gripe with this game is simply how much of a grind it is. I don’t know about most people, but I’m the type of person to sit down and play Project DIVA for about 6 or so hours at a time. That really is just impossible to do with Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X, mainly due to how the game forces you to play the story mode which has a very limited amount of songs.

If I was to play this game for maybe an hour or two a day instead, then I’d likely feel completely different about it, but in my opinion that’s just not how Project DIVA games are meant to be played. I do enjoy a lot of the features though, so hopefully someday soon some of those features might return. A side note that I didn’t review the VR elements of this game because I don’t have VR. Until then, I’ll be playing Project DIVA Future Tone and Project DIVA Mega Mix.

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X is available on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 now. The game was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro console with a standard Dualshock 4 controller. As always with my reviews, all images were taken by myself, so please do not repost without permission of myself.

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Review

68%
Summary: Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X tries to do something new for the franchise, which ultimately doesn't work out. Some ideas are great but don't completely work whilst others are awful. The core gameplay of Project DIVA still remains and is excellent, but the story elements of the game let it down. Without the grinding elements and RNG it'd be a near perfect game, but those two points alone bring it down to just being a good game, which isn't good enough in such a great franchise.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X - 68%

User Rating: 93% (1 votes).

Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA X Review 4.0 5 2