By Az Elias 09.01.2017
Whilst SEGA's Project Diva series has gradually made its way over to the West in the last few years, each entry never feels like a sure-fire guarantee of making it outside of Japan, and that still rang true for Hatsune Miku's high-ranking arcade game—and especially so after the last console release, Project Diva X, which was rather surprisingly unsatisfactory. It is with uncontainable joy, then, to say that the content-heavy arcade title has been given the localisation treatment, and comes to PlayStation 4 under the guise of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone. This could well be the rhythm game to end all rhythm games…
Hatsune Miku's latest title has been split up into two separate packs: Future Sound and Colorful Tone. Purchasable separately or as a cheaper bundle, both sets contain exclusive songs and modules that may better suit different types of Miku fans. Future Sound is over 120 songs strong, packing in tunes from the unlocalised Project Diva PSP titles and Project Diva F games, whilst Colorful Tone crams in about 100 tracks from the Nintendo 3DS' Project Mirai DX and some extras from the Japan-only Project Diva Arcade.
This separation works pretty well. Since each expansion is so full of content, any player could survive on a single pack alone, and it allows for the purchasing of one set now and then picking up the rest later if a little short on funds. Of course, it's better to buy the bundle for the reduced price, but the choice is there to buy the pack that suits the individual, as Future Sound is more dance and rock oriented, whilst Colorful Tone has an upbeat and cutesy vibe.
Buying both packs unlocks a hairstyle customisation feature for all characters, as well as an all-new Survival Course mode, where pre-set song lists can be tackled with a single life gauge and combos can be carried over into the next song for huge points and a possible place in the online leaderboards.
Project Diva Future Tone is the ultimate Hatsune Miku experience. There are no life simulation side activities, gift giving, pointless story modes, locked songs that require playing through others first—this is a true rhythm arcade game, just as Miku is intended to be. Sure, the life sim stuff is cute to have, but in no way at all does its absence result in a worse game. Same for the narrative that Project Diva X tried to implement, as well as the awful method of having to unlock songs and difficulties. There is none of that here. Future Tone gives full access to every single song right off the bat, making for a whopping total of 224 songs, each with their own difficulties, with some having exclusive Extreme modes, and even Extra Extreme for the true masters.
There are some notable differences from previous titles that do take some getting used to. Notes fly across the screen as normal, representing the common PlayStation controller shape symbols that must be pressed in time as they move over the targets. This time, though, there are multi-button combinations that must be hit, such as X+O or Triangle+Square. There are even three-button and four-button targets, but it is the former that is hardest to hit. This is where the transition from arcade cabinet to console is felt the most, as the controller makes it difficult to hit these three-press combos successfully.
The solution comes in the form of allowing players to use the D-pad directions to also act as the standard symbols, so Down on the D-pad represents the X button. This allows the tricky combos, such as X+Triangle to be hit easier, by pressing Down+Triangle instead. It is something that requires some getting used to, and may take some a lot longer than others to find a way that works for them, as it is common to really mess things up when freely using the normal shape symbol buttons on the right side of the pad, and then suddenly having to adjust the mind quickly to start throwing in direction buttons, trying to determine which one will be best to hit in combination with the face buttons. There is a learning curve there, and it might actually result in users thinking about picking up an arcade controller to compensate.
That said, full button customisation is allowed, and shortcuts can be placed anywhere, so provided you can remember which three-button combos you've placed as shortcuts, you could assign such combinations to shoulder buttons or the D-pad.
Is there much else here given the lack of story or life sim modes, though? Well, whilst this is a true Project Diva title that is focused on delivering a massive selection of quality tunes, there are some great little extras that fans will really appreciate. The first of those comes in the form of a practice mode that allows users to jump to anywhere in a track and practice over and over certain sections that are giving them a hard time. That might not sound very exciting, but anyone who has ever struggled on a challenging bit of a song, only to have to replay the whole thing to get back to that point, will be over the moon with this feature.
The biggest aspect outside of the actual playing of songs would definitely be the unlocking and customising of modules. Winnings are kept simple this time around, with just the single VP currency earned upon completion of songs, and this is spent on a bucket-load of costumes and hairstyles for each of the Vocaloids, whether it is Miku, Rin, Luka, Meiko, Kaito, or Len. Whilst each song has its own recommended getup, complete freedom is given as to which outfit the singers can put on, and unique hairstyles and accessories can be added to mix things up. The list is seemingly endless, and needless to say, there is a lot of fancy stage-wear for any occasion, as well as some cool SEGA-related ones. Do you miss Space Channel 5's Ulala? Dress Miku up in her gear and she'll be back singing and dancing once more!
Customisation goes further in terms of some of the technical stuff, including picking exactly which symbols show up on the screen during play, whether it's shapes or arrows, or a mixture of both; lag calibration for every individual song; button help showing which buttons to hit or hold for multi-press targets; going right down to the types of sounds that will be produced when hitting notes or slides. Some of this may not seem like much to the average onlooker, but accounting for lag on a song-by-song basis and choosing which symbols appear can go a long way to really ensuring every player gets the experience that suits them. Sometimes it's the little things.
Of course, a Miku game without custom playlists wouldn't be a Miku game, and so organising music videos into a pre-set list and either playing them in order or shuffled is another option enabled to players. Pictures can be taken during these performances and saved to the hard drive, and can even be used as loading screens if desired. Topping everything off is an extensive online leaderboard that filters through a number of rankings, including high score, clear percentage, and Survival Courses.
It has to be said that the quality of visuals and performances is outstanding. Project Diva X ran into a terrible problem with its almost static performances of characters standing on a single stage and doing relatively little else, but there is a lot more to be pleased about in Project Diva Future Tone. Not only do things look mesmerizingly slick and vibrant, running at a smooth 60 frames per second, but PVs are full of variety in terms of scenes, locations and character. Many performances really make the most of the music to create some excellent videos that complement the high level of the tracks themselves. It's sometimes difficult not to look at what's going on in the background during play, so try to save the enjoyment of the PVs for playlist mode!
Factoring both packs into the overall package that makes up Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone, there is very little to fault in this true arcade rhythm experience. Clocking in at 224 songs strong, the sheer number of tracks is incredible, and the fact so many of them are fantastically addictive is icing on the cake. The game doesn't lose anything by not including any life simulation or story modes—this gets straight to the point and delivers exactly what fans want from a Miku title, but keeps replay value high through the unlocking of modules, of which there are absolutely tons. Perhaps the only thing going against it is that the multi-press targets haven't transitioned as well to gamepad from the arcade cabinet, so there is a bit of an adjustment to be made for those well-versed in using a controller. A small complaint in the end, though, for what is Hatsune Miku's greatest rhythm game yet; one that looks brilliant, is packed to the brim with content, and will hopefully keep itself going with DLC packs. A huge thanks to SEGA for bringing this one outside of Japan!