Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA ReviewKyle Stepp
During the dawn of 2004, the Yamaha Corporation had a brilliant idea: a "singer in a box" that enabled users to create synthesized singing by typing in the lyrics and melody, and putting it against a musical backdrop of the user's choice. This software became known as Vocaloid and it took the Japanese musical world by storm. However, nobody could have anticipated the popularity of one particular Vocaloid.
Hatsune Miku was a Vocaloid created by Crypton Future Media in 2007. Unlike other Vocaloids, Hatsune Miku was developed with an image in mind, bringing the manga artist Kei on board to design a character to fit the virtual voice. The resulting image became synonymous with the Vocaloid of Hatsune Miku, and soon after the software's release, people on Nico Nico Douga (think of it as Japan's answer to Youtube) starting creating and posting videos of songs made with Hatsune Miku. Before long, a gigantic collaborative effort was made with users creating songs using the software, while other users would add 2D and 3D graphics depicting Miku dancing to the song created. Since then, she's been constantly referenced in anime and video games alike, and has sold out concerts in Japan where a screen with a 3D render of Miku dances while her songs play.
Due to all this popularity, a video game adaptation of Hatsune Miku would be inevitable. It was SEGA who would come to develop Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA, and while they could have gone for something cheesy like a dating sim starring everyon'e favourite virtual pop star, they played it safe and went the more obvious route: a rhythm title. Instead of creating their own songs with the Vocaloid software, SEGA instead created a game for the fans by licensing the songs that helped make Miku famous in the first place. Even the loading screens utilize one of hundreds of pieces of Hatsune Miku fanart. Of course, none of that would matter if the game itself were rubbish, and thankfully, it's not.
It plays out like a typical rhythm game in which you must press the right button on screen at the right time. Unlike other rhythm games, the buttons aren't placed along a bar, but are instead all over the place, requiring your eyes to dart all over as Miku happily shakes her cute anime-styled booty in the background. The camera pans all around and cuts to different angles as you're going through the song. The game seems to like to make sneaky upskirt shots. I have no complaints about that.
Even when the game isn't giving you an eyeful of Miku's panties, the graphics are generally quite gorgeous. Still shots make the game look kinda blocky like an early PS2 title, but in motion it's very fast and fluid and the blockiness isn't quite as noticeable. Aurally, the game's CD-quality music ranges from happy tunes, to a somber rock melody, to even some stuff that takes advantage of Miku's unique properties. Because Miku is a computer program, she's capable of songs that no human could ever reproduce successfully. One of these is called "The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku" and tells a heartwrenching tale. In it, Miku has been infected with a virus and has to be deleted, so she only has several seconds to get her feelings out to her master. As you might expect, the song is incredibly fast and will keep your fingers moving at a blistering pace.
Complete that song though, and even more songs will make themselves available. There's a whole ton of unlockables, from new costumes for Miku to new songs that even feature several other Vocaloids, to pieces for a customizable room that include a pile of old SEGA memorabillia, among other quirks. Collecting everything can take an excruciatingly long time, but the catchy songs and the cute avatar you control make it a more than enjoyable run, as the songs rarely seem to get old. There's been very few SEGA titles I've been able to say this about in recent years, but SEGA has created a great import gem with Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA, that is not only a great game, but does her unique legacy more than enough justice.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.