When you’ve been bearing for years a principle as simple as pressing buttons in rhythm, surprising your public is no easy task. Hatsune Miku Project Diva X will thus split itself in two distinct parts : the “old” Free Play mode and the brand new Live Quest mode.
The Free Play mode sees little change, and neither does the base of gameplay : we’re still in a pure rhythm game. The Playstation icons still show up everywhere on the PSVita display, and you also have to consider the direction buttons, plus the analog stick (or the touchscreen) to succeed with the star-shaped notes. The only changes are the removal of the big and linked stars seen in Project Diva F 2nd, and the introduction of Rush notes, for which you have to mash the corresponding button (which doesn’t get you anything besides a few more points).
In that part of the game, you find once again the AR photography stuff. You can therefore use the AR capability of your Vita to insert Miku and her friends in your daily life. The number of poses/costumes has further grown so really the only limit is your imagination.
Let’s enter the big subject that is Live Quest. The universe of Hatsune Miku Project Diva X is divided into five zones that have some sort of theme, featuring musics that share a similar atmosphere. There’s Neutral, Cute, Cool, Beauty and Chaos. For example, the Cute environment has kiddy or joyful tracks, while Chaos features weird design and unsettling paces. When you start, all those worlds have lost their vitality : Miku, Luka, Kaito, Meiko, Rin and Ren dedicate themselves to restoring the lost shine. By the power of song, of course.
Each zone will ask you a definite objective of “voltage” you have to get from four or five songs (all new or so), and a medley which is a mini-concert featuring several extracts from well-known vocaloid tracks. Each song in each difficulty has its own numbered voltage objective you have to meet, otherwise you have to do it again from scratch. Let’s say a song has an objective of 131’000 : if you finish at 129’000, all is lost and nothing gets added to the current zone. If you achieve more, then total goes directly in the zone total. To make voltage go up, you just have to do usual : push button following the rhythm. Here again, the fundamentals stay as they are. The player starts with the choice between easy and normal, so you won’t get stuck because of the challenge.
Once all the zones are fully restored, the game is “finished”, but not over. All zones will receive new voltage assignments, each time a more important figure. You can then replay your favorite songs as you like to earn the numerous remaining trophies. Hard and extreme mode will have been added too and those ones will earn you a lot more voltage (but as you imagine, it gets a lot harder).
The extreme mode in Live Quest is particularly interesting because the music doesn’t stop even if you do a lot of mistakes : non-expert players can then see the full extend of the challenge in this mode. The hard mode is less tough than in Project Diva F 2nd, as there are fewer tricky spots and the average game speed is a little lower. To make the pleasure longer and more intense, Hatsune Miku Project Diva X adds little challenges that are some handicaps : icons vanishing, zigzagging, or twice faster! Quite some stuff to test your skills and make the fun last.
Modules (which means a costume in Project Diva) are no longer for show but have a huge impact on gameplay in this third installment. You don’t trade them for Diva points at the shop anymore (the shop is gone, as well as Diva points), but earn them by succeeding in the Chance Time of a song. Every time playing a song, a gauge will appear at some point and you’ll need to avoid mistakes as much as possible in that timeframe to fill it. Once it’s filled and if you’ve hit the last star, your character will “transform”, kind of, wear a new outfit and finish the song with it. The problem is that the module you get is chosen at random, so you can actually get duplicates! Because of that, the system is less convenient than Diva points in order to collect the 300 (!) modules. After you’ve clocked 20 hours or so, it becomes really frustrating.
Modules will directly impact your progression as they allow voltage bonuses. Divided into the sames categories as the areas, they give a 20% bonus if the element matches with the environment. Choosing a Cool module in the Cool area is advantageous, but the same module in another place will earn you nothing special. The various accessories (earned on the result screen) work in the same way. In harder settings, it is necessary to coordinate your character’s look so that he or she receives a maximum bonus rate. Note that you can register some appareance sets so as to save time in menus. Besides, each modules bears a special skills likely to help you : it may be extra voltage in certain conditions or a higher chance to get a rare module. Your current goal will dictate your strategy in that matter. The bad news is that it makes it inevitable to use modules or accessories that aren’t your taste. To be totally free, you must go back to Free Play (which you can do anytime).
Despite Sega’s enthusiastic communication on the matter, the interaction part has been lightened. Proof enough, Diva Room has just vanished! No more gazing at Miku and the others as they occupy themselves in their loft. Instead of that, the character is facing you in the main menu and you can enjoy some funny reactions, with a bit of touchscreen stuff. It is not as rich as Project Diva F 2nd in that department, but it’s more lively and in the end, entertaining.
The friend level still exist, but you can only make it go up by offering presents : stroking the character is no more on the agenda. The presents being obtained at random too, you don’t always have the right one at the right timing. That doesn’t help you get the friend level to the maximum… Too bad, because the friendship also slightly improve the voltage rate in Live Quest. In short, a communication aspect not perfect but the kawaii part makes up for it somehow.
But the most important aspect of a rhythm game, that is still the music. It’s once more the excellent track selection that makes the formidable strength of Hatsune Miku Project Diva X, essentially because it’s varied and of high quality. The various themes being equally shared within the game, it can please everyone… provided they have some affinity with J-pop! There are fast and slow-paced musics, so every game style is covered. There are also a bunch of different sonorities. While the choreographies are as good as ever, the game is less stylish than before : you can swap the backgrounds as you wish, making it impossible to have graphical art like in Suki Kirai or Uraomoete Lovers. Also, we lament the lack of artwork in the loading screens. Some clips do have some genius in them : Hikyô Sentai Urotanda, hilarious tribute to series of the 80’s, is a clever parody of Sentai shows. Mrs Pumpkin no Kokkei na Yume is a good successor to Musunde Hiraite Setsuna to Dokuro in the “fantastic” category, rhythm, design and musical accents being close.
Medleys also make a good novelty, because they’ll make you discover or re-discover great songs. Kono Fusaketa Subarashii Sekai and I.R. Fanclub are new to the series and add thunderous pace to their medleys. Star titles like Unhappy Refrain or Hatsune Miku no Gesshô will return to please their numerous fans. They are very well orchestrated in real “concert” spirit with some nice transitions. The style here sure is good. Remains the difficult question of the number of tracks. 30 songs or so, far less than the 200+ of Hatsune Miku Project Diva Future Tone. Let’s bear in mind that Future Tone is a straight port of the arcade, so everything existed before. In Hatsune Miku Project Diva X, everything is exclusive and Sega had to create it all from the very beginning. In an ever dwindling Japanese market, it is utopian to ask for more.
Technically speaking, the 3D engine was so ahead of its time in 2012 that it’s still one of the best. Handheld games with that level of graphics aren’t exactly commonplace. Even though there’s basically just characters and background to manage, the modeling is just perfect for a handheld system. Despite its downrating from CERO C (late teens) to CERO B (Teen) in Japan, the content is still quite sexy in choreographies, costumes… or even lyrics. Those of Sôsei Bakuretsu Boy got Miku’s game to be pulled out from Korean shelves for a while.
Less rich than the past two episodes, Hatsune Miku Project Diva X still benefits from an iron-clad formula that doesn’t age : intense gameplay, great music and guaranteed fun. While the new progression system does some questionable choices, it makes the game and the pleasure longer. A very good pick for Miku fans, yet again.