When Sega released the well-rounded and enjoyable Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X for PlayStation 4 in the middle of a packed 2016 schedule, it brought with it a quality level that was a heck of a lot higher than many would have expected. Hardcore fans of the franchise know that the rhythm action title provides rock-solid gameplay, but with PDX, the game outside of the game was enjoyable enough to keep players playing far longer than they otherwise might.
Naturally then, the publisher is looking to extend that good feeling for as long as it can and has decided to bring the next quirky entry to western audiences. Calling a Hatsune Miku game “quirky” seems somewhat redundant, I know – after all, it’s a Hatsune Miku game – but this release is especially so. A digital-only title, Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone consists of two parts – Hatsune Miku: Colorful Tone and Hatsune Miku: Future Sound. The main Future Tone application is free to download and contains two songs as a demo, but then you purchase the two song packs at a price of $29.99 each or $53.99 for the pair.
Colorful Tone contains 100 or so songs from the Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai series and the Project DIVA arcade machine, whereas Future Sound packs in over 120 tracks from Project DIVA and Project DIVA-F. The simple math shows that Hatsune Miku fans will be absolutely head-over-heels for the bundle, given that for their money, they’re getting access to over 220 songs — each of which comes with its own dance routine for your character of choice to perform, and an original video that plays away in the background as you try to match your button presses with the on-screen commands. If that wasn’t enough, there are a truckload of new modules and accessories to purchase with your earned in-game credits, including a Space Channel 5 outfit that — for my money — should be mandatory, even if your vocaloids don’t get the chance to anchor a swingin’ report show.
There are some minor tweaks to the in-game mix over Project Diva X, with freestyle “hold” notes (as opposed to notes you’d have to hold for a specified amount of time) providing a nice bit of risk/reward action. Holding a note of this type for a long time might well max out your hold bonus, but there are often times where trying to do that will cause issues with getting to subsequent notes, so some forward thinking is required. Without a doubt, even more experienced players will find that there’s a learning curve to this, and they’ll initially be tripping over their own fingers when they hold a note for too long and can’t reposition their hands to hit the next command in the chain.
At times, the problem won’t necessarily be your skills, as there are some tracks that feel as if the note charts haven’t been particularly well-optimized for controller-based play. On an arcade machine (or the hard-to-find and expensive-for-what-it-is Hori controller) with the eight big buttons, the holds on these tracks would be tricky but entirely possible. On the DualShock 4, though, you’ll be left fumbling.
Also new over PDX are slide notes. Controlled with the analog sticks, this type of command sees you pointing one or both of the sticks in a specified direction and holding it until the end of the slide. When you do this, the controller’s speaker lets out a loud and spacey slide sound that really doesn’t fit in with the vast majority of the tracks you’re playing through. Thankfully, an option exists in the menus to kill that needless noise. There’s also an increase in challenge here over other home Hatsune Miku titles for sure. Most won’t even come close to clearing the more taxing tracks on the EX difficulty levels early on, but getting to the level where you can successfully complete these more challenging songs is the main draw.
The gameplay changes aside, Future Tone is much as you’d expect from the franchise. What will be unexpected is how very thin the non-rhythm parts of the package are. In some respects, it’s a weighty offering that will provide fans with absolutely hours upon hours of the gameplay that they like, as well as the chance to play some songs that haven’t been available on home platforms before. For those who aren’t super-fanatical about the series though, you’re looking at a collection of songs that you can play in any order, with completion of a track awarding you some credits, which you can spend on new modules or accessories for the characters.
And, I’m sad to say, that’s it.
There’s no story, no goals, no structure, no unlocks (barring a harder difficulty level for each track for beating it on Hard) and nothing to really keep you playing, unless you’re absolutely mad about trying to get to the top of the online leaderboards for a track. Even the trophies list is threadbare, with the base application offering five awards that you’ll obtain within forty minutes of normal gameplay and exploration and the two song packs each providing a further five trophies that are either incredibly easy to pick up, or which are a pure grindfest. When a third of the trophies available are for watching a set amount of videos or taking a set amount of photos, you know that someone has been clutching at straws.
It could be argued that back in the day, the early versions of arcade rhythm titles like Dance Dance Revolution offered little more than what’s on offer here. You might have gotten some sort of fitness or endless mode, but you’d generally get a selection of songs on a disc that you could play individually or in a setlist. Again, unless you were a hardcore DDR player, you generally bought the game for the music that was on offer and the party experience, as opposed to picking it up for any sort of campaign mode. However, time has moved on and for players who aren’t hardcore Miku fans, it has to be said that Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone doesn’t do enough to warrant the purchase price.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
Fans of the Hatsune Miku franchise (or Miku herself) will likely be happy with what Future Tone provides. The sheer number of tracks on offer is impressive, but there's no doubt that this is a rushed compilation that provides little for those that aren't Miku-crazy.