Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone is one hell of an experience.
I really enjoy rhythm games and usually wind up spending a lot of time and money on them. My Guitar Hero and Rock Band libraries are not to be trifled with, and I’ve spent more time on Theatrhythm than I should honestly admit to. But while Guitar Hero and Rock Band brought rhythm games back into the public eye for a while, the niche’s general appeal has faded. It feels like not a lot of new rhythm games are out there.
Enter Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone. The game is made up of two huge collections with over 100 songs each: “Colorful Tone” for bouncy, upbeat songs and “Future Sound” for more danceable or rock-influenced tunes. All of these songs come courtesy of the Project DIVA, Project Mirai and Hatsune Miku arcade games.
Difficulties range from Easy to Extra Extreme, with difficulty increasing by .5 stars rather than a whole star, which lets you gradually scale up difficulty. That’s much appreciated, because this is a frenetic game with no mercy for your eyeballs.
The visual onslaught is immediate: as you play through a song, your chosen character (or characters) for the song gyrates and bops about in a field of the brightest and most epilepsy-inducing flashing colors and lights. The wild colors and flailing androids in the background music videos make it really hard to pick out the buttons you’re supposed to press, especially since the beats are not on a railroad-like track but instead dart all about the screen, usually but not always following some kind of logic.
Slides and multi-hold button controls make the rhythm game itself a little more jazzy and arcade-style. As you progress through the difficulty levels, more of the tricky button combos appear. But the game gives you a leg up in terms of advancing in difficulty: each song has a Challenge section, which is a slightly harder portion of the song, prepping you for harder and harder tracks.
As for the songs themselves, that’s really, really going to depend on your feelings towards Hatsune Miku and her robot cohorts. For those who don’t know, Hatsune Miku and her legion of buddies are all “humanoid personas” who are voiced by Vocaloid voice synthesizer technology. The entire Hatsune Miku ecosphere is highly collaborative - fans create songs for Hatsune Miku, outfits, music videos, illustrations and more.
For my part, with very few exceptions, the music leaves me cold. I consider myself to have a pretty high tolerance for J-pop/J-rock nonsense, but to pair the visual assault of the background music videos with all the Vocaloid robot warbling makes me feel like I’ve warped to some hellish, soulless, slick and glossy dimension, making me keenly feel the contrast of my own blighted, fleshly, aging form. I’m not sure rhythm games are supposed to leave you contemplating the mortality of man.
I do enjoy that there are over a hundred customization modules available, including SEGA modules, letting you vary the look of your android avatar considerably from song to song. When you purchase both song packs, you also have the ability to swap hairstyles from different outfits. You can choose outfits and characters on a per-song basis or assign “Shared Sets” if there’s a favored idol and outfit you like. The game also lets you sit back and enjoy the music videos if you don’t want to play the game but still want to enjoy the robot warbling and explosions of color on the screen.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone gives you a whole lot of content: the two packs combined give you 224 songs and tons of outfits and hairstyles with which to equip your cadre of android idols. The music videos themselves are beautiful productions, each visually distinct and lovingly detailed, and all the outfits and hairstyles are equally as detailed. The songs include Hatsune Miku classics as well as newer songs.
But at the end of the day, I think this game is best suited to fans of Hatsune Miku and not necessarily fans of rhythm games, because the sheer amount of visual noise combined with the more complicated controls makes maneuvering the beat less than straightforward and not in a fun way.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone is a digital-only product. The base game can be downloaded for free but comes with only two songs. The Colorful Tone pack will run you $29.99, the Future Sound pack will run you $29.99, and if you purchase both as a bundle, the total comes to $53.99.