There’s never enough time in the day to play every game we want to play. It’s been a realization I’ve had to make as I’ve gotten older, and it’s really tough to deal with. Rationing out time to game, and to game in things that matter to the player becomes more and more difficult as more and more things require time. An opportunity passed by to review a game that was always a curiosity to me, and I knew I needed to take that chance. I needed to take the time to explore this mystery, and understand why and how this series has persisted for seven years. I had to take the time to do this. I had take the time to review Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X for PS4 and find out what made that game the long running series that it is, having never explored one ever before, and to see what a game about vocaloids restoring power to their music-filled world can say about creating an accessible experience to your players.
As someone who had never played one of these games, what the game was all about and the systems at work within that game were new mysteries to me. At its heart, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva series is a rhythm action series, requiring the player to match button presses with directional inputs, stick flicking, and importance placed on timing. A timing-based precision game sounds like an accessibility nightmare, but it’s got many features in place to aid the player that I’ll discuss later. The depth of the gameplay goes beyond just hoping to pass select songs, but also aiming to achieve score milestones for each song. The game explains this goal alongside the story, with the amount of “voltage” Hatsune Miku and friends create with their performances going to power crystals needed to keep their world alive. To increase this voltage, not only does the player need to be skilled in the game, but also a snappy dresser. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X features a robust wardrobe with hundreds of possible outfits per character on top of the hundreds of accessories, each conveying their own bonuses based upon style of clothing (such as Cool or Cute or Quirky), as well as particular sets of accessories giving bonuses to the player alongside combo bonuses. If it sounds in depth, it is, but not a completely uncrackable system for new players. The game does exceedingly well at leading the player through these systems during gameplay with bits of it given to the player through the course of the campaign, and not frontloading it all in a tutorial blurb. Would you rather have an outfit that gave you a 30% bonus to your voltage and gave you a straight point bonus when you hit a 50 note combo, or would you rather have a 20% bonus to your voltage with easier inputs during complicated bonus sections of songs? The game slow drips these options with the completion of every song, allowing more possible combinations as the game progresses, rewarding the player for skillful decisions before the first j-pop song has caressed your ears.
At this point, is the game actually being played? Maybe. The preparation is a big part of getting the best score possible, so much the same way one would select a starting gambit in chess before moving the first piece is playing the game. After deciding song, outfit, head accessory, back accessory, and a couple more accessories, you’re then launched into the music part of the game. The game features rhythm action gameplay, matching button imports and stick directions, all featured in front of your decorated vocaloids dance moves. The game does feature required d-pad buttons to being held as well as face button pressing, so one handed players may have a tough time with the speed and coordination required of this game. There are also select portions of the game that require specifically using either the analog sticks or touch pad to be flicked in a rhythm, those could cause difficulties for some gamers. There is also a Hatsune Miku Project Diva X Special Edition Controller released for use alongside the game. That style of controller may assist some players with playing the game, especially since it doesn’t require to you hold a controller at the same time. However, even the design of that controller features the analog sticks as well as touch pad, so no way to get out of the requirement of using face buttons, direction buttons, and sticks. However, the game has multiple options to make the gameplay easier or more difficult by how ‘accurate’ your timing needs to be to receive better rankings. The game alone only requires you to hit score requirements to progress, there’s not any sort of health bar that decreases if you get wrong notes. So, if you hit the minimum score required per level, you could stop playing and left the game continue until the end of the song with no penalties. Project Diva X also displays button inputs with a clock hand rotating from the moment they are on screen to the moment they need to be pressed, making visualization of the rhythm as easy as hearing the rhythm. Project Diva X also displays inputs with shapes of different buttons as well as the colors, thus making colorblindness modes unnecessary. One input that is required of players in game does happen to require the player to button mash to achieve the most possible points, but simply pressing the button a single time gives credit for combo purchases. While games in this genre normally require extreme precision and care to complete them all, Hatsune Miku Project Diva X has enough options to bring the difficulty to a level that nearly anyone can play and enjoy and assist their vocaloid friends at saving their world.
New experiences are valuable, especially outside of your normal area of interest. In this situation, discovered a fascinating new series that was an adorable break from all the big gruff shooters that come through, learned about the way developers even in a game focused on timing and accuracy and precision can modify their game with relevant options to make it more accessible for those who may not be able to normally play this style of game, as well as finding new controller options that may get someone in the game that never could game before. Hatsune Miku Project Diva X provides an uplifting and supportive gaming experience, and I’m glad to have taken the time to explore such a positive experience in the gaming world that I previously didn’t know. I’ll be sure to keep an eye on Hatsune Miku and her friends the next time her singing can save the universe.