Taking advantage of the PSP’s region-free functionality (amongst other things)? You bloody well should be. Some of my favourite games were released in Japan exclusively, or at least much earlier than in other regions. Imagine how hard it would have been for me to wait those three years for Tenchu: Time of the Assassins to get released in Europe. I’d have probably gone nutso and done something regretful.
Japan, oh boy, they’re still years ahead of us. Speaking of robotics, one particular piece of robotic-sounding synthesized voice software is receiving the love down in Tokyo town. Vocaloid is very much THE BIG THING right now.
The first second-generation Vocaloid released was “Miku Hatsune,” and people swoon over her. She has long blue hair and wears an incredibly impractical outfit, inspired by the traditional Seifuku.
WARNING! JAPANESE WORDS ALERT!
Why school uniforms? Oh wait, this is the Japanese we’re talking about.
Of course, although Miku Hatsune is a schoolgirl, she is also a robot and/or computer. Despite this, many NEETs still desire to put their 5¼-inch floppy disks into her universal serial bus. There is a collective hard-on amongst Hikikomori for the virtual idol and her other digital friends, as a quick unmoderated Google Image Search will confirm.
The Vocaloid series is incredibly popular, thanks to a video site named NicoNicoDouga (hailed as the Japanese YouTube). Because of growing popularity, Miku Hatsune has appeared in a slew of videogames, mangas and anime series.
One such videogame is Project Diva, a PSP exclusive rhythm-action title that acts as a block of unadulterated fanservice for all those who love robots, panchira and videogames with excellent soundtracks.
Let’s break Project Diva down for those who don’t follow Japanese trends:
- Fantastic gameplay reminiscent of Parappa the Rapper.
Oh wait, that’s it. You see, for those who are not drawn to this game because it is Japanese, cute, or perverted, then Project Diva doesn’t have much else to offer besides its very good gameplay. Naturally, if you don’t enjoy Japanese things, you won’t enjoy this game, even though the gameplay is superb.
However, if you’re into Japanese things, then read on, my new significant other.
As this game was released exclusively in Japan, it makes sense that the majority of its menus are in complete moonspeak. This comes at a cost for many who cannot navigate them. I’m always worried I might be deleting all my data by accident, but it is not that easy to make this mistake in Project Diva.
The fully featured song editor, included in the game, is very difficult to traverse without a good guide, but if you follow one, it’s a whole lot of fun to use.
Those who enjoy a little of the “poke-and-hope” approach will find their new home within the overcomplicated menus. Luckily, although the menus are pretty complicated, it’s still rather easy to throw yourself into gameplay—so it seems that the more you put into this game, the more you get out of it, though you’ll get a lot out of it regardless.
All of the songs are composed or arranged in Japanese, with the occasional English lyric. Hearing Miku Hatsune sing English lyrics makes me shiver all the way down my spine. They’re all very good songs when it comes to their construction, a merry mix of Japanese pop-styles that will appeal to the Japanophile deep within your soul.
The songlist consists of older Vocaloid songs, but also a great deal of new songs, too. Without “Burning Like A Volcano,” though, this game is missing the best Vocaloid song of all time. However, that argument is easily brought to a halt with the words “song editor.” Can this game even get any better!?
There are more outfits, Vocaloids, and songs that you can unlock by performing well on songs and generally by passing them. Doing so is difficult at first, especially when you’re not familiar with the controls, concept or music tracks. But as time passes, you become zoned into the game almost completely. Also, it’s impossible to play any song on Hard straight away—that privilege has to be unlocked by getting a Great or Perfect on the song in Normal difficulty.
Hard difficulty is when the game really kicks up into challenge-gear, but even then it doesn’t get “Expert on DDR” hard, and it doesn’t get “9 Button H on Pop’n’Music” hard; there are just a few more button presses thrown in. While I was writing this review, a sequel to Project Diva was announced (via a Famitsu leak), and I’m pleased to confirm the next game will include harder difficulties.
There is also one of these “pervert modes” ala all Japan-exclusive games. As if the motion-captured thirteen-year-old girl wasn’t already sick enough to meet your approval, you may pick any Vocaloid of your choice and get them to strut around a virtual room, while they listen to music, read a book or generally stare at the wall. This is well worth spending your time to unlock everything for; oh yes, I can’t think of any game that doesn’t need one of these modes.
Funnily enough, the unlockable trash you can fill Miku’s new virtual home with includes various Sega hardware, including a Genesis, Master System and even a Sega Game 1000! Of course, little Sega flourishes are always a win-win situation with me, such as the unlockable Space Channel 5 and Valkyria Chronicles costumes in this game.
The appeal of Project Diva is all down to how much of an affection you have for Japanese music and robot girls (and your skill level at rhythm games). It’s the license of this game, sadly, that both helps and hinders it. If it were any other license, it would be likely to get some kind of release outside of Japan—but Japanese fads are appreciated by few outside of the land of the rising sun.
That there, Sega—that there was a hint, that was. You should consider a localisation, something like Sonic & Sega All-Stars Cheerleading with Miku Hatsune.
Back to reality (shucks!), if you want to follow Vocaloid, a good place to start would be the Vocaloid Wiki. As for getting hold of this game, import sites are your best hope. Or if you’re just a pervert, there’s always Sankaku Complex, I guess.
And…oh yes…there’s that sequel on the way, July 29th. Mark that date in your Lucky Star–themed calendar.