Like many foreign fans of Japanese culture, my teenage infatuation with anime was an early indicator that I'd be voluntarily and enthusiastically shackled to Eastern media for much of my life. My interest in the medium has waxed and waned over the years, mostly due to the proliferation of shallow fan service that continues to plague the anime industry. These days, I'm a little pickier about the media I consume. Enter the bubbly Hatsune Miku whose shrill voice, coupled with her frequent depiction in outfits designed to attract the straight male gaze, make her a character I should be predisposed to dislike (or at least ignore). She isn't for me, and that's okay. Not every piece of media should cater to everyone. So why, then, have I spent over a hundred hours playing her goofy video games, especially Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone? Because they're really fun, dammit.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone is the latest in a long line of rhythm games centered on the green-haired vocaloid. The cool thing about Miku's immense popularity is that almost everything within the Project DIVA series is fan-created, from the songs and music videos at the core of each game to the artwork and outfits (oh good god, the outfits) on display throughout. Future Tone brings the Japanese arcade version of the game to PlayStation 4, and features more honest-to-goodness content than any other game in the series. We're talking over two hundred songs—a drastic increase over the scant thirty tracks featured in Project DIVA X—plus hundreds of costumes and accessories to unlock. In terms of sheer value, it can't be beaten.
The core rhythm gameplay of Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone is similar to previous Project DIVA games; though it swaps "flick" notes for "slides" and introduces challenging new double-, triple-, and quadruple-holds. It can get incredibly complex on higher difficulties, making this a game that's easy to pick up but tough to truly master. It also looks absolutely fantastic, running at a silky-smooth 60 frames per second in crisp 1080p. Between Future Tone's enormous track list and gorgeous presentation, I can't see myself ever going back to older Project DIVA titles—it really is that much better.
What I like best about Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone is its no-nonsense presentation. There's no superfluous story to muddle through, no convoluted gift-giving mechanics, and no obtuse unlock system. It's about jamming to all sorts of hyper-Japanese music and loving every minute of it. The interface is totally streamlined, minimizing the number of button presses required to select a song, and features handy sorting options to make thumbing through its massive track list as simple as possible. Character customization, while a focal point of the experience, serves a cosmetic purpose only and is completely optional. Want to dress Miku up in a Valkyria Chronicles costume while she sings about vegetable juice? Sure, go ahead. How about having her don a Sonic the Hedgehog hoodie while she dances to the OutRun theme song? That's what Project DIVA is all about, my friend.
At this point, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone is the pinnacle of the Project DIVA experience. It's unabashedly otaku-oriented, borne of a love for the idol whose virtual visage is alluring to many and repugnant to others. I was resistant at first, but over time, I found myself inexplicably drawn to her brand of exuberant weirdness. I guess I'm just a sucker for good rhythm games.