If there’s a genre in gaming that I have little experience with and not any measure of talent playing, it’s definitely music. And even in actual music, I’m completely ignorant of a lot of nuances and vibes that are tied to every aspect of its creation. So much so that whenever anyone asks me what kind of music I like, I say movie soundtracks. Yeah, those do a good job of cherry picking examples of different styles into an usually concise package I can enjoy on its own, without worrying about who’s the person singing or playing or whatever.
So when it comes to particularly niche musical movements, I should be the last person you should approach with something like vocaloid. I knew very little about that style until a friend’s presentation on it that I was able to sit and watch last year, and up until that moment, the name Hatsune Miku only came up whenever I happened to come by a social media post with someone commenting on holographic concerts and whatnot.
With that out of the way, I can say that before diving into Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Mega Mix, I had never played any of the games in the franchise. And still, without any prior knowledge, I managed to get into what it’s going for, for as much as someone like me can, anyway. Having only really gotten into Guitar Hero here and there during the PlayStation 2 gen and eventually shyly into 2018’s Taiko no Tatsujin on Switch, it was surprising how much Project Mega Diva Mix has in common with them in terms of gameplay, even if the music is to me on a whole different level.
The basic gameplay relies on you pressing buttons as their floating prompts scroll down the screen and line up with their respective circles, sometimes holding them for a few seconds or combining a few for a variation in tone or sound. If that’s somehow unfamiliar to you, the game’s tutorial works really well in settling you in, and plays the first time you boot the game up into its main play mode. It all reminds me of the karaoke segments in the more recent Yakuza games and how I liked playing those in spurts to break up the action and drama in Kazuma’s adventures that can sometimes get a little too intense.
Playing this game on the Switch Pro Controller feels quite comfortable, and for the limited time I spent playing portably, the JoyCons also work well since the game doesn’t require a lot of directional inputs. If you feel like dancing along to the songs, there’s also a remix mode that has you break out the Joy Cons and go all Wii up in that thing, with plenty of joyful waggle to be had that works much better than Taiko no Tatsujin’s, let me tell you.
Visually, there’s a lot going on as you’re playing Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Mega Mix. During every song, Miku and her buddies dance and sing their virtual hides off as the button prompts scroll on screen, following the song that’s played along with how well (or badly) you manage to hit those notes. In games like this I tend not to pay attention to anything other than the prompts, completely ignoring anything else going on, but I can imagine that character’s fans going gaga over just how much of her there is in the gameplay segments.
Honestly, I can’t say much about the track list since it’s pretty much my first time hearing practically all of the songs, but it’s definitely catchy to say the least. I can take or leave the initial and staying weirdness of how vocaloid sounds in comparison to actual singers even though the actual arrangement of the music in this game is where the fun is at, and to that, I enjoyed what I tapped along to.
In terms of replayability, aside from the usual assortment of difficulty options that are the bread and butter to music button mashing games as well as leaderboards and such, there’s a lot of character customization to get into. The more you play and the better you do while doing it, you’ll gather up VP coins that you can spend buying cosmetic items for the game’s cast, Miku included, of course. They’ll then pop up and look the part during songs in the main game mode, so if you want them to wear capes, top hats and such for that particular look you like so much, you’re going to have to put some work in for sure.
There couldn’t be a game I’m less recommended to review than Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Mega Mix, but here we are, and surprisingly, I liked it. It’s in no way close to my gaming wheelhouse, and even so, it’s something even I am able to enjoy. If you’re like me and could imagine yourself playing anything other than a music rhythm game starring a virtual singer that belts out digitized voiced samples stringed into songs, well, you might be surprised in just how close you can be to furiously trying to get a high score in this new Hatsune Miku title.