Title: Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX
Platform: 3DS (review copy supplied)
Release date: September 11th, 2015.
TL;DR: Cute, colourful, and a little bewildering.
Family Friendly?: See below
I must admit, I’m not overly familiar with Vocaloid. I only really noticed it when Tetsuya Nomura screened a collaborative video with Miku in it, and I’ve been fascinated, albeit a little distantly with it, since. Therefore, I jumped at the chance to review Project Mirai, a cute little rhythm game with the various Vocaloids starring in it. It’s a fun game with plenty of nice music, but I have to say, it definitely has its down sides.
The game itself is relatively simple, and divided into two parts; the rhythm game, and the Hang Out mode, where you get to interact with six of the Vocaloids in a handful of ways. You can call to them through the microphone, buy them clothes and snacks, give them allowances, and even compose your own songs and dance routines with them, which is a neat little bit of player creativity; you can even share and upload them for other players to see.
The one I had a lot of fun with is the Mikuversi game:
It’s a simple enough concept to grasp (take as many counters in your colour as possible) and is nicely suited for a title like this, since it lets you interact with the characters a little more. Not only that, it’s a break from the tapping and swiping of the songs. The other mini game, a Tetris look a like, PuyoPuyo, is the same, only you can watch your characters dance along on the screen above, which is a nice touch. By playing these games and working your way through the songs, you earn MP, which can be spent on furniture for the room you own, clothes and snacks for your partner, or little statuettes you can collect. If nothing else, this should keep you playing; there’s tons of them.
The main bulk of the game, however, is the rhythm aspect. Aesthetically, it’s really nice; the graphics have a nice balance between realistic and cartoony, and there’s enough variety in the character designs and songs to keep you going for a while. There’s around 48 songs in total, and each have a very different style, setting, and theme, which really freshens it up a bit. Gameplay wise, it’s not overly varied. You have Tap Mode, where you hit either the pink or blue section of the screen to the beat:
The other one is called Button Mode, which I found a lot harder to get on with.
I’m no stranger to rhythm games, but I’ve yet to encounter one which requires you to use the letter buttons, which was the opposite to any sort of muscle memory I had. It seems a little counter productive to offer two separate modes, but in reality, don’t offer a lot of difference. The gameplay doesn’t change (the options consist of tapping the note, swiping up/down/left/right, holding the note, or pressing down on the screen and spinning the stylus in a circle), and it’s incredibly frustrating considering how close the buttons are together on the 3DS; they’re not made for rhythm games!
Now we get to the actual music part. The songs are nicely varied, split up between Miku, Rin, Len, Kaito, Meiko and Luka, though I think the girls get the majority. You have three modes, consisting of Easy, Hard and Expert, though I ended up blitzing through most of the songs on Hard with very little effort or practice on my part. Most of the time I ended up with S or an A rank, hitting 80%+ of the notes. Plus the sound effects, I found, were way too loud, especially the chimes; some of the songs like Hello/How Are You were just drowned out by the noise level, and after I turned it down in the options menu, it didn’t seem like it made a whole lot of difference. Overall, the songs were cute, catchy, and really very enjoyable; Sweet Magic has been put on my iPod, and I’ll definitely be doing the same with some of the others.
However, my biggest gripe with this game is the alienation of new players, or anyone who doesn’t speak a good amount of Japanese. I know it’s a rhythm game, and I really shouldn’t be expecting too much out of it in terms of depth, but it’s really hard to work out some of the features if you haven’t played some of the older games. I had to look up online guides to figure out how to change outfits for songs, for example, and the “Call,” function didn’t seem to be working until I found out you have to add an honorific on to the Vocaloid’s name to get any response – and this isn’t told to you in game. This is unfortunately another issue I ended up running into when playing the songs:
Notice that while the songs are subbed, it’s all in romanji; the only English translation you’ll ever see is the random words that are chucked in for some reason or another. So despite my love for the cute, dancey music, this is why I’m a little reluctant to say that this game is totally family friendly; Miku and co could be telling me to sacrifice my town to the almighty android overlord and I would have no idea.
Ultimately, it just shuts out Western gamers who were hoping to find out a little more about who these characters were (since there’s not even the slightest hint of plot), or even fully enjoying the game. If you can’t comprehend what the songs are trying to tell you, you’re missing out on a whole chunk of meaning and depth, which is a real shame. It’s very much a game for veteran Vocaloid fans, and while that isn’t a problem, people who want to get into the fandom will be left disappointed by Project Mirat.
Plus, good luck trying to even read those subtitles in the first place, since you’ll be paying attention to the notes and trying to hit the beat at the same time; if they were moved to the upper 3DS screen, I think it would work a lot better.
So, Verdict? On the plus side…
- Cute, adorable art style, and a great premise for a rhythm game.
- A nice variety of catchy songs.
- A unique set of characters
But on the other hand…
- Clearly made for existing Vocaloid fans and doesn’t do much to integrate newcomers.
- Lack of English subtitling.
- Fairly shallow, even for a rhythm game.
Ultimately, I would say yes; the PEGI rating is 3, after all, and none of the game seems to have anything inappropriate in the dance routines or any of the mini games. However, since I don’t know what the lyrics to the songs were because of the lack of English translations, I’m reluctant to give this one a definite yes or no.
Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy to review!