Its been a while since I last played a rhythm game. Black Friday 2020 Nintendo had deals for a few games, one of which was “Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix”. I am a big fan of Vocaloid, and the game looked pretty and had a good collection of songs. Never having played a Project DIVA game before, the gameplay didn’t look too appealing from the trailer. It appeared to be extremely flashy button mashing with no other sort of meta gameplay mechanics at first glance. I decided to buy it anyways, and am glad I did. The game is a lot more engaging as a player than it appears as an onlooker.

The game is extremely simple and geared towards short play sessions. This is perfect since as I’ve been getting older I have a hard time enjoying video games that can’t be played in short bursts. The basic gameplay is to pick an included Vocaloid song, watch the PV (Promotional Video), listen to the music, and follow the button input prompts as they appear in a pattern across the screen. The button prompts come fast and varied, and the score is determined by how precisely timed the prompts are answered. Miss too many notes and the healthbar in the top-left corner of the screen decreases until empty, resulting in failure. Alternatively, if every note is hit within a certain range of accuracy, without a single miss, bonus points are awarded and the song is cleared with a “perfect” rating.

The included soundtrack is quite good, with over 100 songs, about half as many as the Playstation Project DIVA games. Each PV can be watched without gameplay, and the Vocaloid characters starring in them can be customized with different outfits and accessories. The outfit selection is quite large for the starring Vocaloid, Hatsune Miku, but is still quite good for the rest of cast. There are a few extra non-Vocaloid characters as well. Hatsune Miku dominates most of the included soundtrack, but there are still a substantial amount of songs starring the other Vocaloids. The outfits and accessories unlock through an in-game currency that is earned from clearing songs. Thankfully there are no micro-transactions for this currency, and the in-game prices are low enough that clearing 1-2 songs will afford a new purchase.

Difficulty is handled very well. The offerrings are “easy”, “normal”, “hard”, “extreme”, and for some songs there is even an “extra extreme” which is not for the faint of heart. The way the game scales the songs for these difficulties is quite clever, and lets a newcomer clear a few songs on lower difficulty settings while still developing skills needed for higher difficulties. The easy and normal difficulties restrict the variety of inputs a player needs to make throughout a song, but during the end of a song the game features a “challenge mode” that prevents the player from losing life but in exchange the button prompts change to those usually found only in the harder difficulties. This is a great mechanism for introducing more difficult gameplay to players. It encourages them to play through the difficult sections without fear of failing the song, and gives them a chance to learn the gameplay of the harder difficulty levels.

While there isn’t much beyond playing the game and unlocking new costumes, there really doesn’t have to be. It is great that none of the songs need to be unlocked, outside of harder difficulties. If you can’t clear the automatically available difficulties then you probably can’t clear the harder ones either, so this isn’t a problem. The game includes a very nice amount of configuration options including changing of the game sound effects, different on-screen button icon sets, and complete remapping of the controller. The gameplay runs at a smooth 60fps with no drops, while the PVs run at a variable 30-60fps depending on how intense the graphics are.

My favorite songs so far are:

  1. Hello, Worker
  2. DYE
  3. Catch the Wave
  4. Tell Your World
  5. 1925
  6. 39 Music!
  7. The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku
  8. Dreamin’ Chuchu
  9. This is the Happiness and Peace of Mind Committee
  10. Po Pi Po