With Guitar Hero Live making its way to bargain bins, reports of underwhelming sales of Rock Band 4, and critical and commercial indifference toward the PS4 remake of Amplitude, signs point to the rhythm game facing a slump. But the genre isn’t experiencing a comprehensive downturn, with Crypton Future Media’s teal-haired temptress enjoying prodigious success on both sides of the Pacific. And with the release of Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone, the beloved vocaloid takes a triumphant victory lap, extending a duo of digital downloads that offer a generous 220-song compilation of crowd-sourced melodies.
The PlayStation 4 exclusive is based on Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Arcade Future Tone, a family of Japanese arcade cabinets that have been collecting 100-yen coins across the last seven years. Split into halves, Future Sound’s schedule of songs are culled from the DIVA and DIVA F franchises, which appeared on PSP, PS Vita, and PlayStation 3 systems. Meanwhile, Colorful Tone’s slightly smaller set draws from 3DS title Project Mirai DX, as well as the Project DIVA arcade games. Each sells for $29.99 (USD) each, with Miku maniacs able to pick up the bundle for an equitable $53.99 purchase price.
Venture into the game’s obligatory “Ievan Polkka”-fueled tutorial and you’ll likely notice a number of differences from previous iterations. Note holds present one of the most remarkable deviations, contributing an invigorating risk/reward mechanics that enlivens the conventional rhythm repetition. Here, holds endure much longer, contributing points as long as they are sustained or until they eventually end. Typically, they converge into subsequent note streams, providing a supreme test of finger dexterity, since the DualShock 4’s buttons are significantly smaller than the domed switches in the arcade version. The difference isn’t enough to warrant a purchase of Hori’s $120 dedicated, mini-controller, but it might goad gamers into ambidextrous play, as they simultaneously use the analog stick and face buttons.
In 2007, Crypton Future Media created a musical software package which allowed artists to compose vocal melodies build from the sound samples. Sensing that an identity could help market a voice bank, Crypton called upon manga artist Kei Garō to design a suitable persona. Instead of giving the creation a full-fledged backstory, Kei kept details intentionally sparse, only specifying Miku’s look, age, height, weight, and outfits. It was up to the public to flesh out the vocaloid- and they did in droves, transforming Miku from a musician’s tool to a crowdsourced diva, capable of drawing sell-out crowds. While a PS4 game might seem like a crowning achievement for the virtual star, in Japan, Miku is the reigning star of endorsements, featured in ads for Domino’s Pizza, Yamaha, Google, Toyota, as well as Japanese transit systems and racing teams. If you’re wondering where her name come from, “Hatsu” and “ne” combine to mean ‘first sound’ while “Miku” translates to ‘future’.
Similarly, the star-shaped notes in the Vita versions that required a flick of the stick or finger slide have been improved. Now, they’re redubbed Slides, and put the Dualshock’s shoulder buttons (or sticks, if you prefer) into play. As someone who would frequently botch an elongated sequence of notes with an errant stick flick, these are a welcome amendment, allowing me to realize my potential as a Miku Maestro, directing Future Tone’s vocaloids with the precision of a world-class orchestral conductor.
Those who are rhythmically gifted with certainly appreciate the ability to be able to jump right into the harder difficulty level, without having to prove themselves by inching their way through the lower tiers. And for players who struggle with rhythm games, Future Tone is an ideal starting point, abandoning a traditional campaign that unlocks additions songs to reward players. Instead, on Normal mode, the entire catalog is available for play, while the easy setting extends a large subset of music. Initially, I was worried that this new-found autonomy would stifle a sense of incentive. But given Future Sound and Colorful Tone’s massive setlist and plethora of unlockable costumes, any fears proved to be unfounded.
As someone with a mounting collection of Miku figurines, being able to use currency earned in performance to purchase modules proved to be an unexpected enticement. And it’s here that SEGA truly delivers, offering everything from loligoth garb, yukata and geta, swimsuits, Snow Miku attire, and even game-referencing apparel that can be worn during each song. Add in hair styles, and accessories, and there’s enough motivation to keep fans playing for a month. Pleasingly, prices are affordable as well, so you don’t have to grind for hours just to get that schoolgirl and twintails look.
As a port of Arcade Future Tone, a number of supplementals aren’t here, meaning those who enjoyed toying with the Tamagotchi-like DIVA Room and the editing suite that allowed you to stage your own performance are absent. While some will miss those diversions, this release feels more cohesive, with components like creating custom playlists and a survival mode existing for those who crave more than single-song challenges. It also helps that Project DIVA Future Tone’s interface is intelligently designed allowing for quick selection from its copious catalog.
With a mass of user-created art and the ability to watch a performance with gameplay, Project DIVA Future Tone also functions as an encyclopedic collection of vocaloid content. Outputting at 1080p with a flawless sixty-frame per second delivery, videos look appropriately attractive, showcasing just what users have been able to choreograph with the MikuMikuDance program. Even for the collector who owns the previously released DIVA and Project Mirai titles, and therefore is thoroughly familiar with the content, seeing Miku, KAITO, MEIKO, Megurine Luka, Kagamine Len/Rin, and even Yowane Haku in motion is destined to delight. Nearly every video flaunts exquisite choreography and character models that rival a Miku concert. Most gratifyingly, is the variety found in Project DIVA Future Tone song list, with tracks that transcend the typical energetic J-pop numbers, venturing into genres like samba, rock, and even quirky iterations of game music.
With contemporary games favoring compelling narratives and protracted campaigns, the concept of an arcade port seems a bit archaic. But Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone proves to be the rare exception, offering a cornucopia of content and a myriad of modules to unlock. For even the casual vocaloid fan, Future Sound and Colorful Tone are obligatory purchases, combining the best of Miku’s arcade and home experiences into a single, essential package.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone was played on the
PlayStation 4 with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release date: Jaunuary 10th, 2017
Price: $29.99 for each pack, $53.99 for the bundle,