Even in the most lackluster gaming years, Hatsune Miku’s always managed to perk me up. From 2013 to now, the localized entries in Sega’s rhythm series have uniformly impressed me. They’re loaded with content, from great tracklists to fun unlockables, coupled with the classic addiction of trying to top your own scores. In a gaming landscape devoid of mainstream rhythm titles, these are some of the last bastions of the ailing genre. Yet with Hatsune Miku Project Diva X, the series practically destroys the structure it’s built upon.
In its place, we get a stripped-down, simplified, and overall truncated version of the past games.
Hatsune Miku Project Diva X fundamentally changes everything about the franchise outside of the core rhythm gameplay. The method of progression has been eliminated, the scoring system is entirely different, and even the presentation of the music has been altered. In other words, this is Project Diva in name and basic mechanics only. Nothing else that’s endeared me or countless other fans to the franchise remains intact. What’s left is a hollow and somewhat soulless husk of a game.
The problems start at the aforementioned progression system. Previous games gave you a list of songs to work through. You picked a song and played it until you got a good enough score to progress. Then you’d unlock the next song, and progress down the list, unlocking bonus content along the way. It was simple, sure, but it was pretty traditional presentation for a rhythm game. And, in the case of the fantastic Project Mirai DX, there was a pretty compelling Tamagotchi-esque life sim surrounding the whole thing.
Now, players have to slog through a narrative to progress. All of the “Clouds” are losing their energy, which means the Vocaloids can’t sing. You’re their only hope, using your controller to make them perform and restore energy to the Clouds through collecting “Voltage.” The more Voltage you get, the more they can sing, and therefore they can restore the Clouds faster. Compelling stuff, I know.
The narrative component of Hatsune Miku Project Diva X is a complete bore. Players yawn through virtual conversations with Miku and pals, with dialogue options that don’t really feel like options. In theory, these would let you get a better sense of each character’s personality. In execution, the hackneyed localization, which is half bad translation and half cringe-inducing internet lingo, sticks out way more than any memorable characterization. Bonus gimmicks, like giving your favorite Vocaloids gifts to raise their affection level, don’t help much. They just feel like forced fluff that doesn’t add anything meaningful to the experience. All of it feels like a dull, skip-worthy affair.
But that’s the problem at the heart of this game. You can’t actually skip the story at all. In order to get new songs, you have to lock yourself into a Cloud, which has four to five songs. Then you beat all of them, restore the Cloud’s Voltage and then you can play them on a higher difficulty level. This whole thing is made more tedious by having to be taken back to the main menu after each song, then reselecting your cloud, getting back to the song list, and then selecting your Vocaloid. It’s slow, monotonous, and interspersed with obnoxious character interactions.
When a game makes me actively dislike the downright adorable Rin Kagamine, you know it’s doing something wrong.
Aside from the progression system, the content in Hatsune Miku Project Diva X is incredibly scant. There are only thirty songs to choose from, compared to the usual 40-50. Most of them aren’t even that memorable, either, with only a few standouts that I can recall. On top of that, the gameplay feels more plodding and simplistic than other entries. Also, the actual song performances, which are usually snazzy music videos, consist of little more than dancing through repetitious choreography. To wrap it all up, it’s not a particularly attractive game, with animations looking awkward in some places and downright eldritch in others.
There aren’t a whole lot of words to describe how disappointed I am with Hatsune Miku Project Diva X. One of my favorite franchises has been completely overhauled for the worse. From the lackluster tracklist to the awful progression system to the simplified scoring mechanic, everything about this game feels like a watered-down package compared to past releases. A few hours’ time will be all you need to spend with this game, before you go back to the superior Project Diva f2 or Project Mirai DX.