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Review: Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone

9 Jan 2017

Vocaloid Revolution

Let me start this off by saying that I’ve always had an affinity for rhythm games. I came of age around the time Dance Dance Revolution and Pump It Up were taking over arcades and eventually the home console market. I frequented the flashy cabinets and ended up going through my fair share of dance pads at home in those days. The community was vast and involved. While that specific community might have shrunken in recent years, you’ll still find people jumping the hold bar to play a few songs from time to time.

This is notable because the same fervor that surrounded that IP ended up translating into success for the Vocaloid software and the Hatsune Miku: Project Diva/Mirai series of games. Needless to say, this franchise has seen success since Miku hit the scene proper.

In a similar fashion to DDR Extreme, SEGA unleashed a cabinet to Japanese arcades entitled Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Arcade Future Tone in late 2013. Featuring four face buttons and a slide bar, the arcade title was ported to Japanese PS4 systems in late June of 2016. The American and European markets will be getting in on the fun on January 10, 2017 by way of digital download only.

Developed and published by Sega, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone is a PS4 exclusive. Two sizable track packs will be available (titled Colorful Tone and Future Sound) at $29.99 each. You will be able to buy both packs as a bundle at $53.99.

Greatest Hits

For those who picked up Project Diva X and might have been disappointed with the anemic tracklist in that release, Future Tone has you covered in spades. Future Sound is the biggest pack of the bunch, with 127 songs spanning the Project Diva series (sans Diva X) present here. Colorful Tone includes tracks from the Arcade and Project Mirai releases that total out at 95.

Since this is an arcade port, these tracks are immediately available to play from the get-go. You won’t have to play to unlock more songs, so you can just pick a song and jam out. Needless to say, getting through both packs is not a small undertaking. Even if you do only pick up one pack, you’re still getting an insane amount of content at a budget price.

The dearth of content doesn’t stop at just a large amount of tracks. There are quite a bit of costumes, hairstyles and accessories along for the ride for all Vocaloids in both packs. In similar fashion to the tracks, said content spans the vast majority of the franchise’s history. Not only that, but you’ll also be able to assign your favorite duds to specific songs or to your favorite Vocaloid overall.

However, this is one thing you will have to work at to unlock. This is accomplished by accumulating in-game currency called Vocaloid Points, or VP. How many points you receive depends on your own performance in the rhythm game portion. Once you obtain these points, you’ll naturally be able to spend them on unlocks at varying thresholds. Some of these outfits do venture into skimpy fanservice territory for the female Vocaloids, but nowhere close to something you might find in something like DOA: Extreme.

Much Miku Love

Since we’re dealing with an arcade port, it comes as no surprise that Sega tried their hardest to make it as close to the arcade version as they possibly could. Arcade’s gameplay setup is dead simple, as it only presented four face buttons and a touch sensitive slide pad for “slide notes.” When these notes came up, you would slide your finger across the pad left or right in varying lengths.

The DualShock4 is put to good use in the home release. Much like the arcade release, players can use the face buttons with little issue. General button presses and hold notes are reliable. However, one thing that threw me compared to previous Project Diva games were the note icons displayed on screen.

By default, the game displays two face buttons and two D-Pad buttons for notes. I had initially thought that this meant I was required to use D-Pad inputs for certain notes. As it turns out, though, this is part of the game’s customization features. As in previous Diva games, face buttons and their corresponding D-Pad directions hit the same note. In this title, though, you can set what icons you want displayed on screen, whether you want all face buttons, all D-Pad directions (which made me think of DDR), or a mix of the two (like the default setting).

Input registration is not exactly an issue here, and the timing can be adjusted if your TV’s input lag becomes an issue. Slide notes have quite a bit of flexibility in this release, and each choice is relatively solid. Personally, I find that the shoulder buttons or the analog sticks will be your best bet here for slide notes. Here, you’ll end up simply tapping and holding in each direction in a pretty fast manner. The touchpad is a different story. While it’s nice that they used this feature to keep it more faithful to the arcade version, the small real estate makes it better suited for quick swipes as opposed to prolonged ones. There is also the ability to use the motion capabilities of the DualShock4 for these notes, if you so desire.

Sounds of Fun

The core gameplay of Future Tone naturally stays faithful to the franchise as a whole, with the aforementioned arcade presentation being at the forefront of everything. Future Tone does take a few cues from Rock Band and DDR in a couple of ways. Not only will you need to pass a certain threshold in performance to pass the song, but you’ll find yourself dropping out of a song if you perform poorly enough. This is nothing new for rhythm game veterans, but newcomers may still find this a bit overwhelming.

Speaking of difficulty, the accessibility is vast for both ends of the spectrum. Beginners will be able to work their way through the quick tutorial and cut their teeth on the easier difficulties. Multi-button holds are present in this title, and SEGA saw fit to include on-screen guidance to players uncomfortable with the concept (which can be toggled off in the options).

The only thing I could see being an issue for beginners is the fact that some might end up being distracted by the music videos in each song and the fact that the input does not remain static. This is a moot point for veterans, since they are used to the non-static nature of the inputs from the onset of the franchise.

The vast variety of difficulty is actually an asset here, but the hardest difficulties for many songs will need to be unlocked to tackle them. Clear a song on Hard, and you’ll unlock the Extreme difficulty. Hard difficulty is a challenge in its own right, so it comes as no surprise that Extreme is no joke whatsover. But if you’re extremely skilled (or a glutton for punishment), Extra Extreme is available on certain songs as well. I can’t emphasize enough how much skill you’ll need for these advanced difficulties. Needing to “git gud” is an understatement.

Crash Course

I will admit that I started gravitating towards the Miku franchise out of morbid curiosity and my affinity for rhythm games. While I can’t say I’ve fallen into the fandom as deeply as others, I can safely say that Future Tone is the great starting point for people wanting to give the franchise a legitimate shot. You’re not going to find a better value in the rhythm game sphere, and the gameplay is still as solid as it ever has been.

Some may argue that it could be stale, but I’d rather have a quality title with solid gameplay over a concept that falls flat on its face and brings down the IP. Future Tone is a slam dunk for newcomers and veterans alike, and I can’t recommend it enough. It shows why people fell in love with it in the first place, and it’s a great way to fall in love with Miku and the gang all over again…or for the first time.

~ Final Score: 9/10 ~

Review copy provided by Sega for PS4. Screenshots taken by reviewer.