Project Diva, a rhythm game that began on the PSP in 2009 and has since exploded into a super series alongside wielding what is a distinctly large import following in the western sphere, is now on it's eighth entry following three PSP games, two iOS titles, one 3DS game and one Arcade entry, this time for the PlayStation Vita; Project Diva f. Hosting a vast soundtrack of 32 absolutely jamming songs, an in-game store with a tremendous assortment of outfits, items, and decorations, and a slew of gameplay additions that revolutionize the series' gameplay, Project Diva f is without question the strongest entry to the series yet.
Gameplay in Project Diva is similar to other rhythm games; gray
spheres appear on screen which are followed by trailing button icons
(the four face buttons) where you then press the corresponding button
when it is near or within the sphere. The button presses are timed to
the song playing so that your input is consistently syncopated with the
music, a staple of the series as this is handled extremely well for not
only beats of the music but lyrics also. It is simple and accessible,
but also bears a rapid change in button variety and speed per difficulty
level. There are also Chance Times, which are brief segments where
points are doubled (in this entry they also conclude with a "Swipe Star"
(more on that below)).
The music selection is of the first radical changes, something which may have to do with the alleged lower interest from women for the series; these songs simply rock,
and nearly all songs are of such extreme energy and pace that you'll
rarely find yourself taking a breath between. While there are a few
slower or more sentimental songs, mostly you will find the tracks
bearing toward punk rock, electronic/club music, and straight rock
n'roll, and they are each downright cool. There's a lot of diversity in
each track's sound, but this is without doubt the most energized and
demanding of Project Diva soundtracks, host to songs such as Sadistic Music Factory and the acclaimed Vocaloid track Black Rock Shooter. All tracks are selected carefully though, and you'll be hardpressed to find one you genuinely do not enjoy.
Project Diva f (PDf) holds the established gameplay of the series to a
fine point, but it is the several, subtle additions that make this
entry stand out; Player Immersion seems to have been on the mind of Sega
here, and they nailed it. The addition of Technical Zones, areas where
you have to hit a number of notes with only a "Fine" or "Cool" rating to
achieve a 1.5 bonus, really enliven the gameplay element for each song.
If you want to close the gap between a "Great" and "Excellent" rating
(or to just keep yourself from failing), these technical zones are
absolutely crucial, and cause each song to not only be played and
listened to, but submerged into. All songs have at least one Technical Zone, and the longer ones have multiple.
The most important addition though are the Swipe Stars. Swipe Stars
act just like the buttons, but are inputted by swiping your finger
across the screen. Fortunately these aren't just a utility of "gimmick"
for the Vita's touchscreen, and are only used in sporadic brilliance
throughout each song, particularly in opening segments, solos and
closings, areas where swiping your finger goes alongside what is usually
a singular instrument (keyboard, guitar, etc:). It feels completely
natural, and best of all is the intelligence surrounding them; Project
Diva f does not ignore that swiping requires you to take your hand from
the buttons, and even on the hardest difficulty the Swipe Stars are
never used in an improbable or hindering manner, always allowing enough
time for you to re-adjust to the face buttons. Mostly Swipe Stars are
used in areas of their own, but on harder difficulties become a part of
combos, and still there is never a moment where the game ignores the
handicap of taking your finger from the buttons. They're a terrific
addition to the series as, like the Technical Zones, they keep the
player focused on gameplay while holding a unique reward of their own;
it feels good to nail an 10 streak swipe.
As for the Vita's dominating power, PDf doesn't skimp; all songs are
accompanied by simply outstanding music videos which really take the
series to a whole new level. Whether Miku is driving a Hoverbike within a
Cybernetic City, smashing guitar jams in a burning down building or
just doing a standard performance before a planet-sized crowd,
everything is simply beautiful. All animations, all scenery;
everything is just delightful and crisp, and this new potential for
detail and variety really explores the scope of identity for the Project
Diva experience. It's wild, and at times I even found myself ignoring
buttons just to watch the music video. Fortunately completing a song
unlocks the option to listen to and view it without having to do inputs,
so you don't have to cripple your score over it.
I really can't express how stellar PDf's graphics and content are; it
was genuinely saddening to know I can only choose so few from my tons of screen shots for this review.
PDf also retains the usual outside of the main gameplay, with a few
nice additions; Shop, which is the in-game store where you can purchase
Modules (Outfits) for the full cast of six characters, items to assist
you if you're having trouble with the songs/going for High Scores, and
decorations for the Diva Room (a place you can just watch Miku do
whatever she wants; you just watch). There is also the inclusion of
items for individual segments that go on over Modules (Back
items , Hair/Face items, Eye pieces, and Neck Items); these tend to be
more towards the quirky side of Diva, and when combined can make some
seriously bizarre/hilarious "Divas." Edit Mode is also still here, which
allows you to customize and make your own tunes using the included
songs (But you're going to need a considerable knowledge of Japanese to
really utilize this); you can post your own tracks online as well as
download others also. Ranking and Awards are kept under a tidy section
where you view in-game awards, make your own Diva profile, and see how
much you've done in the main game.
The new option is the AR Mode; this works by either using the
included AR Marker which has Miku dancing to a song of your choosing
wherever you place it, or taking a still photograph of Miku. It's a nice
addition riddled with some of the most unique, adoring or sick
possibilities that any person could think for silly lil' Miku, but it's
nothing mind-blowing or necessary.
Project Diva f isn't completely without flaws though; On very few
occasions did I find the background music video to blend alongside the
button inputs causing me to miss or be distracted. Also, you still don't
have the option to begin the game on either Hard or Extreme difficulty;
for series' regulars, this is a bit annoying, as once you obtain the
skill to handle these difficulties playing the game on Normal just
doesn't bear the same immersion.
Project Diva f is certainly the most complete entry for the series to
date, and while it does nothing to break the formula (a good thing, as
it rocks), the carefully selected additions create an entirely unique
perspective for the gameplay. And, so long as you don't have an utter
distaste for the Japanese lyrics, then you've no reason to doubt Project
Diva f; this is a must-have Vita title, and arguably the best for the
Project Diva f has almost zero Language Barrier. The main menu is
accompanied with helpful little icons like a shopping basket for the
store or a house for Diva Home, and playing the game is as easy as
clicking the O button twice. There are no secrets to playing Diva other
than just beating a song and unlocking the next, and there's genuinely
no "patience" required to just chowing right down into it.
That said, the Edit Mode and Items are going to be a shot-in-the-dark
if you don't know Japanese. While the items are okay to pass (they
disable you from either really clearing the song or keeping
your score), losing the Edit Mode is kind of a bummer. Still, it's the
core game of Project Diva f, which is 32 songs just over 3 hours total,
alongside the two elevated difficulty settings besides Easy and Normal.
where the series really shines.
If you have zero knowledge of Japanese, than this is the borderline perfect import.