Sunday, 8 September 2013

REVIEW/THOUGHTS [VIDEO GAMES] -- Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F [PS3]

Approx. Length: 6 hours to unlock all the songs on Normal; have currently spent over 30 hours
Language: English menus / instruction texts; Japanese songs
Played on: PS3
Type of Game: Rhythm
Overall Impression: I love it and highly recommend it!

PERSONAL STANDING (Pre-exposures, thoughts, etc.)
As mentioned in earlier blogs, I am a huge fan of Hatsune Miku and vocaloids. I also greatly enjoy rhythm games (Dance Dance Revolution, DJMax, Ouendan, Elite Beat Agents, Audio Surf, Daigasso Band Brothers, Kira Kira Pop Princess -- I've played them all). Put the two together and I'm in paradise, hahaha. Having played the Project Diva games on the PSP, I was super excited when I read that Project Diva f was being localized -- a most definite day one buy for me!

There is no main storyline, and that's fine. Most rhythm games don't have one, the gameplay being the main focus. Many of the songs carry their own storyline -- some sweet and touching; some sad and dreary; some just plain ridiculous and funny. Some don't have any storyline at all, at least from what I can tell.

An example of the gameplay in Arcade mode.
Hit the "X" button when blue "X" overlaps the grey "X".

In terms of gameplay, the Arcade mode (AKA "Rhythm Game" mode) is the meat of this game. 

Here's a brief outline of the gameplay in Arcade mode:

1. You select a song you want to play 
2. The song's music video will start up
3. As the music video plays, grey buttons will pop up on the screen
4. Coloured buttons will start scrolling towards them
5. Press the corresponding button when the coloured button overlaps with the grey (so if a red "O" overlaps with a grey "O", press the "O" button on your controller).
6. Succeeding at a Technical Zone (there are two in each song) will give a boost in your overall mark
7. Succeeding at a Chance Time will give a boost in your overall mark AND adjust the music video slightly

The main goal in Arcade mode is the same as in any rhythm game: pass the song! Passing a song, as with many rhythm games, doesn't just mean to "reach the end of the song"; it means to "reach the end of the song with a passing grade". For example, if I reached the end of the song above, but only acquired a 50-point grade (because I messed up a lot through the song), I will not have passed since I received a failing mark.

In the beginning, you have a very limited songlist to choose from. As you pass different songs, you unlock more songs. You will also earn Diva Points, which can be used to buy outfits and accessories for your vocaloid characters, as well as furniture items for their rooms. You can also use Diva Points to aid yourself for a certain song, or to give yourself an added challenge.

In terms of gameplay structure, this is more or less a standard rhythm game. Buuuut... it is super fun! Almost all the songs are a delight to hear; almost all the music videos are a delight to see, and the difficulty for Normal mode is just right (at least, in my opinion). And if Normal mode isn't enough, each song has a Hard and Extreme mode. Extreme mode is very extreme!

In Edit mode, you can create your own music video and share it on PSN for others to play. The neat thing here is you can actually use your own MP3s as the music track -- you're not restricted to just the Project Diva f songlist. However, when you upload your video on PSN, the song DOESN'T get uploaded with it (most likely to avoid copyright infringements). It's okay, though -- you can always mention what song goes with the video.

Unfortunately, most likely because I'm not too savvy with editing-type programs, I had a hard time using Edit mode. It just wasn't intuitive and the in-game help / tutorials weren't helpful enough. Currently, I'm trying to put together a video that's intentionally crappily made. When it's done, I'll upload it on PSN...

Playing around with Edit mode is your best bet of learning what each thing does.

A shot of how Edit mode looks like.

When you meet certain requirements, you unlock diva rooms, one room for each character. When you visit a diva's room, you can do several things:

1. Customize their room with purchased furniture pieces and items.
2. Select one of certain specific items to see the diva briefly interact with it.
3. Possibly access the arcade, jukebox, TV or Art Gallery features (if you purchased the corresponding items)
4. Interact with the diva by giving gifts or patting their head, possibly raising their friendship level.
5. Possibly play a rock-paper-scissors / look that way mini-game with the diva if you patted their head well enough and enough times.

When the diva's friendship level goes up, more character-specific room items are unlocked. Overall, I think this feature is pretty cute.

A shot of Kaito's room in my game.

I guess watching videos isn't exactly gameplay... but I gotta mention this feature (for the possible amusement factor). When you pass a song for the first time, you unlock the ability to watch its music video.

Now... even before unlocking the music video, you're able to switch out the character(s) (or "performers", as they're called in the game) featured in the video and adjust their outfits. The vocals don't change, but that's okay. I only mention it now because you'd probably be able to appreciate it more when you can focus on watching the video, instead of both watching the video and trying to hit a bunch of scrolling buttons.

I think this is a really neat option! You can switch out the performer in every music video with your favourite character. Or -- you can switch up duets / trios, changing the character dynamics / relations in that specific song to suit whatever you want. For example, "Acute" is a song about a love affair and features three performers -- one guy and two girls. If I really wanted to, I could change all the performers to girl characters. I can't really change them all to guy performers since there are only two guy characters -- but I could change all three performers to the same character, altering the overall meaning of the song (from a love affair to possibly a song about inner struggles and conflict). I think this bit of customization allows for a more personal, relatable, or amusing experience with each song.

An amusing combo to this song. 
Original performers: Hatsune Miku and Megurine Luka.

As you're watching music videos (or doing anything, really), you have a choice of taking a screenshot and it'll be saved to your PS3's photos folder. I really like this option! Since it's saved to the PS3's photos folder, I can put the screenshots onto a USB and then copy them over to my computer. Almost all the graphics in this blog were screenshots I took from the game. The process of taking a screenshot, though, is a little weird.

1. Press your controller's Home button
2. Go to the Photos section of the PS3's dashboard
3. Scroll to the "Save Screenshot" option
4. If you select "Save Screenshot", you'll be taken back to the game, but the screen is frozen in place. You can only take a screenshot of whatever you saw before you pressed the Home button. It makes it a little challenging to get a screenshot of a scene that only lasts for a few second -- you'd have to time it so that when you press Home, the screen will freeze at the scene you wanted.

Here's a couple of screenshots I took, after switching out the original performers:

Kaito and Hatsune Miku in "Fire Flower."
Original performers: Kagamine Rin and Kagamine Len.
This is my current PS3 background.

Kaito in "Time Machine".
Original performer: Hatsune Miku.

The main difference between Photo Studio and taking a screenshot is... well... everything. In Photo Studio, you're using static backgrounds and I think only one character can be taken at a time. You can have the character pose in many different ways. The cool thing here is that you can use photos / graphics from your PS3's Photos folder as the background. So if I really wanted to, I could use a photo of me sitting on a bench and I can place Kaito sitting right next to me (...!). Hahaha, it's pretty cool.

Kaito posing in an iDOLM@STER 2 screenshot that was in my PS3 Photos folder.

From left to right: Luka (pink hair), Rin (blonde hair with bow), Meiko (brown hair), 
Miku (green hair), Len (spiky blonde hair), Kaito (blue hair)

As mentioned in my last blog, vocaloids don't have any set personalities. I think that makes them way more personable. You decide how their personalities are like. You decide if you see something you can relate to. In a way, they're faceless... but capable of expressing so much, if you let them. ;)

My favourite character is Kaito. I place him in a lot of the more emotional songs so I can relate to him more, and I really like his song "Ashes to Ashes". Close seconds are Miku and Rin. Miku was the one who made vocaloids super popular, so I'll always love her. Rin has some really edgy songs and her voice works so well in them. 

Kaito! <3
This is my desktop wallpaper right now.

The graphics are amazing! I'd say it's about the same ilk as the iDOLM@STER games, but with a slightly different colour palette. Both are anime style and in 3D, but iDOLM@STER's colourization has a more anime feel while Project Diva f has a more realistic feel. Maybe it's because iDOLM@STER uses more outlines?

It's anime come to life!

Kaito in an amazing background.
Something about it feels more realistic.

Regardless, the graphics for Project Diva f are great, and most of the music videos are really well done.

I have to mention this as well: the loading screens art are amazing, too! And guess what? All the loading screens art are fanart -- made by fans. Well, actually, I'm going to save my butt here and say some of the loading screens art are fanart by fans. I think that is just too cool.

There's about 40 songs in Project Diva f, and the genres vary from industrial, punk, baroque-like, rock, traditional, to J-pop style (the most prominent genre). There's a little something for almost everybody. The nicest thing about the songlist in Project Diva f is that it wasn't Americanized in any way (not like Ouendan being released / developed here as Elite Beat Agents). The songlist is still the original Japanese songlist, and I like that -- A LOT

Here are some of my favourite tracks. I'd list them all, but that would be way too many, haha. I can't seem to share them, so here are their Youtube links:

"Tengaku" (vocals by Rin):
Love the rockish feel, and Rin sounds sooo full of power and conviction when she sings this.

"Ashes to Ashes" (vocals by Kaito):
The song sounds dark and gloomy, but I like that. Kaito's voice sounds so nice here, too.

"Monochrome Blue Sky" (vocals by Miku):
I like the video and the meaning of the song. I can really relate. I often switch Miku out with Kaito here.

"Torinoko City" (vocals by Miku):
I didn't like this in the beginning, but the rhythm and melody are growing on me.

"Time Machine" (vocals by Miku):
This song is so bittersweet. I switch Miku out with Kaito here as well. Sometimes it makes me cry a little, haha...

"Tell Your World" (vocals by Miku):
I still love this song a lot. I kinda feel connected with the world and this sense of belonging when I hear this.

Well... I unlocked all the songs in about 6 hours, and I'm still pumping more hours into this game -- either to try passing my favourite songs on Hard or Extreme, trying to perfect them on Normal, or just plain re-playing the songs to hear them again and watch the music videos. Sometimes I have the game running just so I can listen to the songs (I'm doing that right now!). Other times I'm interacting with Kaito in his diva room. And of course, I'm still trying to unlock the rest of the characters' outfits and earn enough Diva Points to buy them. 

So there is a ton of replayability with this game.

If you enjoy rhythm games and don't mind the anime style, pick up Project Diva f right away! Most of the songs are catchy, fun to play, and the music videos don't disappoint. If you're still not sold (because I just suck at selling), just try the free demo that's on PSN. Come on -- I dare you! :)

Thanks for reading! If you have any comments, feel free. Hope you all have an awesome week! :)

Usually I would have a "Spoilers" section here, but I think I covered everything I wanted to talk about.

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