I'm fascinated by the whole Hatsune Miku phenomenon – the blue haired virtual star about whom nothing is real, not even her voice, which is created using an artificial voice synthesiser called Vocaloid. Hatsune Miku is obviously every record label's dream – a star who does anything they ask without complaint, will never trash hotel rooms or get too wasted to go on stage, or demand her dressing room be completely swathed in pink or ever, ever ask to get paid. It's even possible to fill concert halls with fans and watch her – with the help of clever holograms and technology – "perform" live on stage.
Hatsune Miku is my kind of girl – I love her impossibly long bright blue bunches of flowing hair, her gothic Lolita and sci-fi inspired outfits and her bright, big eyed anime face. The music? Well, it sounds pretty indistinguishable from most of the other bubblegum J-pop songs out there, which isn't saying much. Also like most J-pop songs, you can translate the lyrics and find that they still make about as much sense as they did back when they were in a language you didn't understand. The songs are allegedly about things like cats, playing video games and love, sweet love.
I heard about the Vita game Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f a few years ago, when I first got a Vita. This Japanese import rhythm game kept coming up again and again in conversations and recommendations, both from friends and various forums. Lots of people said that it was hands down the best game of any genre for the Vita and a must buy, so when I heard that an English language download-only version was coming to Europe and the US, I had to have it.
There are 30 or so of Hatsune Miku's (and friends') greatest hits to play through, each with four different difficulty levels to try. On easy, you'll only need to use one button on the D-pad, as well as to switch it up and draw occasional lines on the screen (which the game calls "scratching"). On normal, you'll need to switch between two buttons. You can probably guess from this that hard and extreme use three and four buttons respectively. When you start, finishing a song successfully in easy or normal will unlock a new song. You'll need to finish a song on normal level to unlock the hard version, and finish the hard version to unlock the extreme one.
I like that you can play every song on easy rather than lock some songs up for harder play only and it's great that there are so many difficulty levels – which are also broken up into their own difficulty levels with star ratings – you can jump straight in as a beginner, and conversely there's plenty to challenge you if you're already a rhythm game pro.
Each time you complete a song, you get Diva Points, which you can spend on new outfits, accessories and presents for the characters. Before you start playing, be sure to download the free Diva Enhancement DLC, which adds a load of extra stuff to the store shelves. There are currently also three other DLC packs, one called Snow Miku DLC, which adds two outfits for Hatsune Miku and at £1.99 is a total rip off, and Extra Songs DLC for £6.49 that adds six new songs and Extra Characters DLC, which adds three new characters for £1.99. If you enjoy the game, you might as well download these as well – with the added cost, that makes it about the same price as other Vita games.
In addition to the main game, there are also some other added features - the best of which is the ability to dress up your characters in various outfits and mix and match accessories such as cat ears, ear muffs and sunglasses. You can even virtually visit your virtual singers in their "Diva rooms", which you can remodel and also, zoom in on your characters and virtually touch them, which seemed a rather uniquely Japanese thing to be able to do and felt kind of weird and creepy. The characters will react by smiling or shaking their heads if they appreciate your poking them – or not. You can also pose the virtual idols and take pictures of them in front of real-life scenes. I struggled, but couldn't think of anything particularly entertaining to do with this, although that's not to say I won't at some point in the future.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f is a great little rhythm game for the Vita with all the features of a great video game – it's easy and fun to play, stupidly addictive and holds plenty of challenge and replay value. Even better, if you find yourself hooked and wanting more, a second game, predictably titled Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f 2nd, is coming to the European PlayStation store in the autumn.