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Just one year following the US release of the original Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F and Sega is here to sate the hunger of J-pop-loving rhythm game fans with another visit from everybody's favorite virtual idol. Featuring new mechanics, a few helpful tweaks and an even greater degree of difficulty, Project Diva F 2nd is basically everything a fan of the series could ask for.
Hatsune Miku's journey West has been an interesting one. Unconvinced that the vocaloid and her cohorts would have an audience here in the States, Sega promised to bring the original Project Diva our direction if enough fans made their voices heard. They rose to the occasion and, following the PS3 release, bought enough copies of the game to convince the publisher to offer up the Vita version a little further down the road.
Since then, the blue-haired star of the series has danced and sung her way into American culture, resulting in a series of performances with Lady Gaga, an appearance on Letterman and the launch of her new game, Project Diva F 2nd for the PlayStation 3 and Vita.
The Diva series is a bit of a departure from modern rhythm games in that there are no plastic instrument peripherals required to play it. Crazy, right? Instead, the series takes a more old school route, requiring players to match on-screen prompts to button mashes, holds and analog flicks or screen swipes, depending on if you're playing the console or handheld version of the game.
One of my minor gripes from the original Project Diva remains intact for this second outing, but I'm not sure how it could be fixed without completely altering the way the game is played. The music videos that accompany each song are so bright, colorful and lively, that it can sometimes be difficult to see when a prompt is flying onto the screen. Since prompts can come in from any direction and wind up pretty much anywhere, that means you'll be dealing with a little frustration until your eyes adjust to the madness or you play the song a time or two, giving muscle memory a chance to get rolling.
A couple of new prompts have been added to the repertoire this time around, including flick/swipe commands that require you to do two at once, as well as chained star patterns that frequently completely change in tempo from the song. Like seeing the prompts themselves, they become something you start to look out for after you've played a song a couple of times, adding an interesting new degree of difficulty to the already demanding rhythm game.
No, seriously, the Project Diva series is hard, and I mean that in the best way possible. You wouldn't think it from looking at Miku, Kaito, Rin and the rest of the idols that make up the game's cast, but this is a rhythm series that demands fast reflexes and expert timing. Miss more than a few notes in a song or botch triggering the added series of notes that can be tacked onto the end of a song, and you're likely to be rewarded with a failure.
Thankfully, the easy mode in Project Diva F 2nd is exactly that, only requiring a single button to be pushed and only bringing up the other types of prompts rarely. The jump to medium, or from medium to hard, though, is a big one, so even seasoned players might want to start off in the minors before amping up the difficulty.
Just like its predecessor, Project Diva F 2nd offers a long list of songs to pick from (around 40 to unlock on-disc and more coming through DLC), as well as a bunch of other ways to spend your time outside of the actual rhythm game.
You can hang out with your idols in their own virtual rooms, decorating the environment and the characters when you're not presenting them with gifts and patting them on the top of the head to gain their affection. You can also unlock songs to be viewed in a special live concert mode, where the singer performs on a virtual stage and you control everything from the movement of the camera to the glow sticks being swung around in the audience.
For those who fall deep into the PDF2 hole, you'll likely sink an untold number of hours into edit mode, too, where you can create your own prompt patterns and completely alter all of the songs in the game to make your own levels. It's surprisingly deep and gives you a great understanding of how the game has to be created. Prompts and their locations aren't as random as they might seem, often pulling the player's eyes in one direction or another to match with visual and audio cues. Deciding how to best create that experience with prompts of your own can be a lot of fun.
If you enjoyed the first Project Diva F, then diving into this follow-up is a no-brainer. It's more of the content you love with a more diverse soundtrack ranging loads of genres. I'm not too into playing dress up or interacting with the idols, but there's a huge market for that more personal interaction with the game's characters, so I'm happy to see those features brought back and bolstered for the diehard Miku fans. There's also a ridiculous amount of DLC coming, for those of you who like additional reasons to keep coming back for more.
If you're looking for a solid rhythm game and don't mind the vocaloid brand of sugary-sweet music, then Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd absolutely delivers. The difficulty curve is a bit steep and following prompts can sometimes be annoying but, for those willing to put in the time, you'll find a deep, rewarding rhythm game that's a heck of a lot of fun.
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Vita