Remember when rhythm games were all the rage? I sure do, as they were quite an addiction for me all through high school and college. When Guitar Hero and eventually Rock Band arrived on the scene, they blew up in ways nobody ever dreamed. Everyone was playing these games. Everyone. Bars were hosing Rock Band nights right alongside their karaoke nights. The rest of my family, who barely even touches video games, was getting in on the fun.
For many of these people, the whole “miming an instrument” thing was the appeal. After all, it’s easier to learn how to play these games than it is to learn a real instrument. I always wanted to learn how to play drum kit, and Rock Band let me feel like I already knew how to play one! It was awesome!
There were, and are, also others that got much deeper into these games. The ones that crank it to expert, want to prove they have the best skills, the best rhythm. While many of them played the plastic instrument games, you’d find most of them in the games that don’t feel like your playing an instrument at all. The ones where you grab a normal controller and tap along to the rhythm. Sure, it may not sound “as interesting” as playing a fake guitar, but for those who really wanted to hone and test their rhythm skills beyond the dual juggernauts, there was always another challenge waiting.
The biggest names in this space are probably games like Frequency and some of the DJMax series. PaRappa the Rapper, a game of this style, is one of the more well-known and well-loved games from the first PlayStation.
The game we’re looking at today is one of this style; grab a controller and tap away until your thumbs break. Hidden behind the exterior of cute anime characters, Hatsune Miku Project Diva F 2nd (…quite a mouthful of a title…) hit North America on November 18th, 2014 to bring rhythm gamers yet another challenge and addiction.
Diva F 2nd was released by Sega and Crypton Future Media for both PS3 and Vita. The PS3 version was played for this review.
Follow That Note
“But wait, where’s the story section?!”
There is none. There is no story. Therefore, we will move right to gameplay.
As I mentioned, the basic gameplay of Diva F 2nd is tapping your controller to the rhythm. Prompts appear on screen to the time of the music, and you have to press their corresponding buttons at the correct time. Miss or press the wrong buttons too many times, and you fail out. This is the general premise of most rhythm games.
In this game, however, the prompts don’t appear simply. You don’t get a scrolling board like Guitar Hero/Rock Band, or have them appear in a nice line like other games. In Diva F 2nd, they appear all over the screen wherever they damn well want to. Hell, sometimes the prompts appear on top of each other. Each button you have to press has a stationary “shadow,” while a colored sprite of it approaches it. When the sprite overlaps the shadow, you tap the button! These sprites will also appear from wherever they feel like, so you’re constantly moving your eyes around the screen to keep track of what to play next.
It’s not sheer insanity, though. While the prompts appear anywhere, they’re typically spaced out according to the rhythm. Further-spaced notes will be played slower, while faster ones might overlap each other. This can help when sightreading a chart, as the note spacing assists in giving a general idea of how the rhythm will go.
One kind of note breaks that rule, though. Diva F 2nd has a few different kinds of notes you have to hit: face buttons, hold notes (where timing the release is just as important as the initial press), arrows (where you press a face button and its corresponding d-pad button at the same time), and stars (where you flick the analog stick). One style of the star note is connected stars, where a set of them is connected with a line. The game says that if you hit every connected one, you get a score bonus.
What it doesn’t tell you is that all rules go out the window when they come up. While most notes have a logical layout , connected stars typically exist to draw some kind of pattern rather than show you the rhythm. The sprite moving along the track is more than willing to change its speed between prompts, even between prompts of the same distance. Playing them correctly comes down to either rote memorization of the song, or sheer luck, which left a sour taste in my mouth.
While the rhythm game is the meat of Diva F 2nd, there are a few side things to do as well. As in the first release, and mentioned in another article of mine, the Diva Room makes a return. I found this section weird and somewhat creepy in the first game, and it’s no different here. In the Diva Room, you get to sit down with the game’s cast (four female, two male) and pet their faces to make them like you. If you pet them correctly enough times, they go into “fever mode,” letting you poke them like crazy to make them like you more. No part of that is made up. It’s not even the stupid kind of charming, it’s just weird.
Lastly, playing the rhythm game earns you “Diva Points” to spend in the in-game store. In the store, you can purchase new outfits for the cast to wear during songs, new skins for the game’s layout, and various items to decorate the Diva Rooms. This game has an amazing amount of unlockables. Fortunately, for this game, a function was added to see what unlockable are tied to what songs, and what you have to accomplish to unlock them.
The Great Performance
To put it simply, Diva F 2nd‘s graphics are excellent for the style they’re going for. Each track has its own music video playing the background as you play, each with its own atmosphere and choreography. Each of the characters are designed well and they animate smoothly and naturally…although the over-abundant breast-jiggling of some of the female characters is a bit much. A number of the videos are just fun to watch on their own outside of the gameplay, and the game gives you the ability to do just that. Personally, I’m a fan of the video for the track “Two Breaths Walking.”
The well-done videos add another facet to the gameplay as well. As you play, the game will try its hardest to distract you with the video. Flashing lights, crazy antics, and just a little bit of fanservice here and there to try and make you lose focus. Personally, I enjoy this kind of challenge. I also appreciate the fact that Sega didn’t decide to be lazy with the visuals just because players won’t be focusing on them.
Being a rhythm game, the music will make it or break it. I probably should have mentioned it much earlier, but the entirety of Diva F 2nd is based around Vocaloid music. Vocaloid is a voice-synthesis program, allowing artists and musicians to add a digital singer to their compositions. None of the singers in this game are real; they are all sampled voices that are digitally pitched to create music. How natural the voice sounds all depends on how much work a musician puts into making it sound natural. This varies all throughout the track list. In one song, the characters sound almost like natural voices. In another, they sound like Microsoft Sam.
The songs themselves, though, are amazingly varied. The tracklist includes everything from ballads to hard rock to dance and techno. There is something for everyone here, except maybe hardcore metalheads or rap fanatics. I do have to say, I find this game’s tracklist much stronger than the first Diva F. Unlike the first game, there is only one song that I’d rather puncture my eardrums with a screwdriver than listen to. For those wondering, it’s “Clockwork Clown.”
As the game originates from Japan, all of the tracks are sung in Japanese as well. Thanks to the surprising success of the first game in the West, though, Sega took the time to translate the captioned lyrics this time around, so that non-Japanese speakers can understand what they lyrics are. Only one song, “Kagerou Daze,” did not get an English translation.
Addicted to the Rhythm
I’ll straight up say it: I’m addicted to this game. I picked this game up on its release date, a week after Tales of Hearts R came out. I’ve deemed myself the resident Tales fanatic here on GamerEscape, as it’s one of my favorite series. Yet, my copy of Hearts (an excellent game so far in its own right) has been neglected as I keep loading up this game instead. Diva F 2nd hits that perfect zone of addictability for me, making me want to keep replaying the songs to get a higher score, or finally get the elusive “Perfect” ranking on extreme difficulty.
A few small nitpickings aside, Diva F 2nd is an excellent game. If you’re a fan of rhythm games but hate the anime aesthetic, I’d still recommend trying it out. It’s easy enough for anyone to pick up and play, but offers a great level of challenge for those who stick with it. I’m hesitant to give it a perfect 10 ranking, as I believe those should be saved for a perfect game for which I have no complaints. I do believe, though, that this is a game that should be in every rhythm gamer’s library.
~ Final Score: 9/10 ~
Review copy purchased by reviewer for PS3. Screenshots taken by reviewer.