A game’s aesthetic can make or break it. A game could be made that has absolutely everything that a gamer might be looking for and more – perfect engine, fun and engaging gameplay, involved story, etc – but put all that into a graphical style that people don’t find appealing, and many wouldn’t bother to buy it. Terrible graphics are one thing, but an aesthetic that only appeals to a niche can be even worse, as a game’s potential audience instantly becomes limited.
This is what I believe occurred with Hatsune Miku Project Diva F, as this is exactly what I thought of the game at first. The game had a surprisingly aggressive advertisement campaign at GameStop, with videos playing quite often and demo booths set up. Despite being a rhythm game addict, I was initially turned off by the presentation of this game. I’ll admit, I am a bit of an anime fan, but in the way I describe this game to my friends, Diva F is violently Japanese.
Diva F is, at its core, a basic rhythm game. Shapes corresponding to buttons on a PS3 controller show up on screen, and you have to tap them in time to the music. That’s really all there is to it. The major selling point (and the reason many are turned off by it), though, is it’s full-on use of a cutesy anime style. While you’re tapping away to the rhythm, a music video for each song plays in the background, featuring the main characters of the game dancing and performing their hearts out, with plenty of bright colors and crazy antics. This aesthetic pretty much targets the game only to the anime crowd, leaving other gamers behind.
The fact that this game even got an official release in the West is a major surprise. Sega didn’t do any kind of localization or Westernization in the release of this game. The translation job was pretty much just “make English menus and release it”. All of the songs are fully in Japanese, the on-screen lyrics are presented in untranslated romanji (Japanese characters represented with the Latin alphabet, for those who don’t know), and all the cultural references in the videos remain intact.
Sega did a lot of testing the waters to even see if there was demand for this game in the West. Their booth at E3 2012 had a partially translated version of the game to gauge interest, despite having no official plans for release. On the day of the game’s release in Japan, Sega made a post to their English Facebook page asking if anyone would be interested in a Western release of the game. Apparently there was enough demand, as the game did eventually end up released in North America in August 2013.
Despite the marketing campaign from GameStop, it seems many gamers either do not know what this game even is, or have no interest in it. I was originally in the latter group, turned off by how in-your-face the anime aesthetic was. However, during one night, after having a few beers, I decided to download the demo for the hell of it. What I ended up finding was an incredibly addictive rhythm game with some catchy poppy tracks. It impressed me enough that I went out to buy it the next day. From then on, I was hooked on the game. The setlist, while prominently J-pop, was surprisingly diverse, with everything from electronica to gothic metal. The game’s difficulty ramps up perfectly, starting off with simple beats on two buttons, and ending up with thumbs dancing frantically around the controller trying to keep up, without ever feeling too difficult. I’ll admit, I’ve put more time into this game than I have some recent RPGs.
While the rhythm game makes up the majority of the package, there is a small part of the game that got a lot of flack from Western games for coming off as “creepy”. A side part of the game allows you to interact directly with the game’s characters (2/3rds of which are female), decorating their rooms, dressing them up, and…uh…petting their faces. While this part of the game is optional, it is an unsightly blemish, and an example many gamers would use to keep away from trying it.
In the end, this games does have a happier conclusion to its story compared to the last installment of Black Sheep Gaming. It seems the game ended up selling well enough to prompt the localization of the Vita version. While I have yet to see the majority of gamers even mention this game, perhaps it’s due to the simplicity of Diva F‘s translation work that is allowing Sega to give another installment a shot in the West. A sequel is soon to be released in Japan, and those who know of and enjoyed the game are holding their breaths hoping for a localization announcement.
While perhaps not in as drastic of a situation as other games to come in this article series, Diva F is definitely a game that slipped under the radar. It’s certainly not a game for everyone, but for those who enjoy rhythm games, want to try something different, and can look past the aesthetic, you’ll find a game that is the epitome of addicting. To make use of a cliche phrase: simple to pick up and play, yet difficult to master.