Short Version: It is the weakest Miku game of all the recent console releases, but it’s still pretty good if all you are looking for is some good songs to play through. Graphically, the game looks and sounds beautiful, but everything surrounding that is a variety of strange decisions and changes that left me scratching my head until the credits rolled. If you can look past those things, like the story and the module distribution, then you’ll have a good time.
Long Version: This game is weird. Even as I type this review, I’m still having trouble trying to verbalize how I feel about it. In it’s purest form, this game is the same Miku-centric game as ever, with the same rhythm-based gameplay as always, along with an impressive facelift. However, amidst my experience, there were a couple of things that left me with an enormous question mark sign floating on top of my head as I wondered how this makes the game better in any way. None of it was inherently bad, but it just felt…weird; and the game might’ve been better without those things.
Time For A Festival
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X is Sega’s latest Miku rhythm game that now comes with a story to follow, in which the nameless world of the game is running low on energy, due to some Prisms not having enough voltage. You are the one that has to meet up with Miku and her friends in order to sing songs, create voltage and bring them up to working capacity. Every single cloud that you visit for reenergizing represents a different category of music, such as cool, quirky, elegant, etc. You will find a handful of songs per cloud, with a really cool medley to top it all off.
Initially, I thought this was a tedious way of organizing the song list, but then I started to see myself in the shoes of someone that has absolutely no idea who Hatsune Miku is or what kind of music she would sing. If I was in that position, I guess it would be pretty helpful to categorize all the songs in ways where you at least have some general idea of what the songs are going to sound like, rather than going in blind and not knowing what you are going to get; similar to a certain someone’s box of chocolates while waiting for a bus.
In any case, getting back all the energy for these Cloud Prisms will be pretty much the majority of your time spent on the game, in addition to winning prizes and costumes after beating each song. Along the way, you will be met with many dialogue scenes featuring the six Vocaloid characters, speaking the blandest, most generic sentences about how excited they are and how much they love to sing and be with their friends. This left me scratching my head, wondering if this was a necessary thing to have in the game at all. It wasn’t like I was playing any of the previous games and said, “Man, if only there was a story for me to follow. Then it would REALLY be a great game,” especially when factoring in the origin of these virtual singers.
The way that I had always seen it is that these characters are simply voice synthesizers with appealing, marketable faces attached to them. They are not really meant to have a personality beyond what the artists needs them to have for their songs. This is why many Vocaloid artists can simply insert these characters into literally any scenario imaginable without any problems. This is also the reason for why there are so many music videos putting the characters in many different situations in the previous games, which worked to good effect. Even in the credits sequence for Project Diva X, there is a small note in the end clarifying that the personalities depicted in the game are different and far removed from what Crypton Media originally conceived; and even that isn’t the most complex thing in the world either.
The Lost One’s Weeping
What I’m trying to say here is that none of the characters have any personality, despite the game’s efforts at trying to give them one. Any shred of depth that you do end up finding in any of them will be a basic template that you’ve seen many times before. This is made even weirder when the characters themselves tell you that their personality changes when putting on different costumes, and not by much. I feel like the game would’ve been better suited to not have any of this and instead let the personality come from the music videos provided in the song list.
Of course, that’s what I would’ve liked to say, but instead the game decided to opt for every single song just be a stage with a Vocaloid dancing on it, which is probably the biggest most enormous disappointment of the entire experience. One of my favorite things to do in Project Diva F and F 2nd was to play through the songs to see the different outcomes and stories being told. For better or worse, those were a big source of variety that gave some replay value and became a great representation of the creativity that the Vocaloid scene has to offer. Unfortunately, we don’t see any of that in Project Diva X.
The Spy Who Miku Miku’d Me
Of course, I don’t want to become totally pessimistic. Even though it’s only a bunch of stages with anime characters prancing around like it’s a live showing of Barney & Friends, the production value surrounding it is probably the best it has ever looked. I still have not gotten tired of staring at the incredibly bright and colorful environments, only brought to life by the great selection of music, camera work and editing that accompanies it. Whoever directed the cinematography for all the music videos seriously needs a promotion. If it weren’t that, none of the videos would’ve been interesting to watch in any way, since most of them are pretty much exactly the same thing, costume changes and all; which brings me to my next issue.
All of the outfits from the previous games are all still here, but you don’t obtain them by buying them in a shop. Instead you have to play through a song and succeed at certain points in order to activate a costume change. What you get will usually be a random selection within the category you are playing on. Most likely, you will get all of Miku’s outfits first, since the vast majority of the song selection is Miku songs, with barely any moments for the rest of the characters to shine on their own in anything that isn’t a side appearance on someone else’s song. Because of this, you will find it way more laborious to unlock costumes for anyone that isn’t Miku, since it will only make sense for you to play songs where the character you want is in the lead. You can absolutely place Rin in a song meant for Meiko, but in my experience, it simply didn’t feel right.
No matter what you do, it still doesn’t stop the fact that the game is deliberately trying to pad itself out by coming up with contrived ways to make the game longer, especially when you finish playing through all the songs and reenergized all the Cloud Prisms. To keep it simple, they basically tell you to do everything all over again, but in a higher difficulty, almost like how NES games would do it. There are way more costumes than there are songs in the game, so if you really want to unlock everything, you’ll have to play through the same 20-something songs over and over again until you do it. Playing in this way only made me think about how lucky the game is that the songs are good enough to play more than once, but I was still begging for a shop where I could just buy everything by the end of it.
There is also some friendship building with the Vocaloid characters, similar to the Diva Room in the previous games. As the matter of fact, it is a complete copy & paste of the Diva Room, save for a couple of changes. In this version, you get some really vague and unclear hints as to what gifts they like to be given, which resulted in me failing miserably every single time I tried to give my favorite characters (Luka and Rin, both wearing bikinis) anything. And if you ever happen to give them something they like, sometimes you’ll see a brief animation of them interacting with the object you gave them, which are completely identical to the previous games. I spent the huge majority of the game not even touching this mode, and I never felt like I missed anything. You’d be better off searching on Youtube for what happens after you level them all up, saving a ton of time that you could be using playing with other modes you’ll very quickly forget about, like the Photo Mode and Concert Editor, which are also identical to Project Diva F and F 2nd.
Needs More Cowbell
Despite everything I’ve said, I don’t think this is a bad game at all; I just think the way everything is delivered to you, that isn’t music-related, is silly and unnecessary. In an attempt to reinvent itself and try to have more personality, it ended up having less of it and providing the smallest, most bummer-inducing amount of content than any other Miku game I’ve seen, especially when factoring in the other recent Miku release from Japan, Project Diva Future Tone, which does everything Project Diva X does, but better, simply by getting to the point faster and doing away with all the forgettable fluff.
As I’ve said before, the song selection is the best they’ve had yet, and the medleys are nothing short of awesome to play. Granted, there were some moments where the levels of volume and the mixing of sounds where inconsistent (go play the song Ai Dee, then play anything else and you’ll know what I mean), but it wasn’t enough to break my experience. The 60 frames per second and 1080p resolution is a very welcome addition, and the costumes are beautiful to look at as well. However, the way that everything is unlocked, along with the flattest most uninteresting dialogue you’ll witness this year, does hold back the game by a significant amount. If you are a big Miku fan like I am, I still think you should get this, but go into it with the understanding that this is, by far, the weakest Miku game of all the three console releases. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a certain Neru song that I want go and beat on Extreme difficulty.