Rarely is there a game that really takes me back to my teenage gaming days, back when JRPGs, sims, and rhythm games ruled my library. When Dance Dance Revolution was seeing a rise in popularity in North America and arcades everywhere had a DDR machine that may or may not have a busted dance pad.
I’d avoided the Project Diva games until recently. Not for any particular reason, but simply due to having so much else to play. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone is my first real foray into the series, sans a small stint on a PSP entry, and I almost regret not having gotten into the series at a younger, more nimble age where my thumbs could take more of a beating.
I cannot say whether someone who does not enjoy the very core of rhythm games would enjoy this, but someone with past experience in DDR, Pop’n Music, Beatmania, Taiko no Tatsujin, or any of the older style of rhythm games would no doubt fall in love with Vocaloid idol Hatsune Miku — whether they’ve played any of the prior games or not.
Unlike previous entries to the series, Future Tone is an arcade port. What this means is there’s no fluff, no frills — it’s pure arcade-style rhythm action. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X, which released in North America on the PlayStation 4 last year, has the fluff some Miku fans may want in the game’s Live Quest mode and the ability to interact with the Vocaloids, but Future Tone dominates it if you’re in it purely for the gameplay.
Changes from other home titles
Rhythm games are known to be difficult to master and the Project Diva series is no different. But Future Tone takes it up a notch with its gameplay shifting from being console-oriented to arcade-oriented. What this means is more rapid-repeating notes than ever, holds being optional, and new finger-busting slide and hold mechanics that are difficult for both new and old Project Diva players to master.
This is by far the most difficult entry of the series, but to an old rhythm game player like me, it feels right at home. I can’t say I’m a master, but being able to do 7.5-star songs reliably after playing for a couple weeks is good progress. That said, there’s no denying Future Tone is a huge step up in difficulty from previous games.
So how huge of a difficulty jump is it? Let’s take a look at two videos of the track Miracle Paint on Extreme, the first from Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd and the second from Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone (the very game this review is covering). You’ll have to skip a bit in the first video to get to the song.
One of these two looks fresh out of an arcade and that is the one from Future Tone. A real yen eater. It’s not a real yen eater here on the PS4, though. Project Diva Future Tone is sold in two parts on console and is a surprisingly good deal.
One part is titled Future Sound with over 120 songs from previous mainline entries to the series, and the other part is titled Colorful Tone, with about 100 songs from Project Diva Arcade and Project Mirai DX.
Both parts are priced at a very reasonable $29.99 each, which is far from shabby considering the amount of content for the price. If you don’t want to split the purchase, you can grab them both bundled for a smooth $53.99 instead. If you can only get one, go for Future Sound as it has some of the more prolific tracks and a longer tracklist.
The game may be hard as nails but it deviates from the pure arcade formula by allowing you to set your controller bindings, which is an absolute must as you push further and need to use L1, L2, R1, and R2 for more than simple slides. It’s very rare to see anyone playing on Extreme sticking with the default bindings, and even on Hard you will probably find yourself adjusting your buttons to your liking.
Purely arcade-style, plus dress up
Now, I’m not trying to push this game on anyone not majorly into rhythm games. If you’re not into them, you’re not going to be into any Project Diva game — and especially not this back-breaker. But if you are into rhythm games or have been at any point, Project Diva: Future Tone is one game I would tell you to throw dosh at right now unless you somehow can’t deal with the synthetic voices.
I say all that, but if you’re the type who prefers rhythm games give you some sort of progression or guidance past the tutorial, then Future Tone may not be for you.
When you buy Colorful Tone or Future Sound (or both), you’re given all of the songs without any catches. There’s no sense of progression. Instead, you’re let loose on a whole library of Vocaloid tracks and allowed to play as you please. The only restriction lies in having to play songs on Hard to unlock them in Extreme, and then (for those eligible) beat them on Extreme to unlock them in Extra Extreme.
Of course, I could extol the game’s gameplay and catchy music for hours but one simply has to mention the sheer amount of outfits and accessories you can dress the Vocaloids in as well. Nothing like playing dress up to round out an otherwise finger-breaking and borderline stressful game. Some may spend more time putting together outfits than others — I personally don’t care much — but you can only alter hairstyles if you have both Colorful Tone or Future Sound.
I’m glad I waited until Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Future Tone to really get into the series. Previous titles seemed decent enough, but they never seemed like enough to really get me hooked. Future Tone is perfectly and exactly what I would have wanted out of a non-peripheral rhythm game over a decade ago, and it’s exactly what I needed now. There really is no worthwhile replacement for a good, hardcore rhythm game; but it is just that and those without the thumb fortitude may get far less mileage with this entry to the Project Diva series than the others.