I have seen the future, and it is adorable
Project Diva is a game you very likely won’t be familiar with, a situation which—while really unfortunate—is also totally understandable. The music/rhythm game from Sega was based on the Vocaloid phenomenon—a type of music crafted electronically using Japanese voice synthesization software from Yamaha. Through this software, virtual singers are created, the most popular of which is a twin-ponytailed anime-esque girl named Hatsune Miku. Miku has become quite a phenomenon among many in Japan, with her likeness not only being used in all kinds of marketing and merchandise, but albums created using her as the singer have gone on to sometimes even hit on top-selling album charts.
It was inevitable that she and the rest of Crypton Future Media’s Vocaloid crew—which includes other virtual idols such as Megurine Luka and Kagamine Rin—would find themselves as the subject of a video game at some point, and one of those was Sega’s Project Diva. Being a fan of the Vocaloid phenomenon, I was already entering into playing the game with a pre-set bias, but Sega’s first release on the PSP turned out to be one of my absolute favorite rhythm/music games.
After two PSP releases (with a third coming), two PlayStation 3 downloadable packs, and an arcade version, Project Diva has proven to be a hit among Japanese fans and consumers. Sega then announced that the 3DS would be the next platform they’d be bringing Miku to, but this time via a new game titled Project Mirai (“mirai” being the Japanese word for “future”).
With Project Diva being geared more towards the hardcore music game fan, Project Mirai instead seems directed more at the casual player. This is noticeable right away due to the game’s visual style, which replaces the slightly more serious look of Diva with a far more cutesy and child-like style. Miku in Mirai gains more of a Japanese “super deformed” character design; this look also exists as a tie-in of sorts to the Nendoroid line of figures from Good Smile Company, a product line which has produced many releases based on Miku and her Vocaloid friends.
Even so, my time with the two songs available in the TGS demo proved that the same hard work that went into creating fun and intricate song videos for Project Diva seems to also be shown here. Unfortunately, the gameplay itself wasn’t as impressive to me. Circles show up on screen, and a marker makes one rotation around them in a clockwise direction—think about a clock, and the second hand constantly moving around it, and you’ll have the idea. When each circle appears, on it will be one of two icons: one for the A button, one for the B button. If the icon is just by itself, then when the moving market reaching it, you press the appropriate button. If the icon has a line extended out from it along the path of the circle, then you press the proper button when the marker reaches the icon, but continue to press the button until the marker reaches the end of that line.
It’s a pretty simple concept, and once one circle has had a full rotation made of it, gameplay switches to the next circle. The problem I had was that it was all too simple; even on normal difficulty, both songs were outrageously easy. By nature of how the gameplay is set up, there never existed that panic of having a lot of buttons to keep track of and press, as there was only two options and I always knew the exact timing and order of what was coming up.
The question I walked away with was this: was the TGS demo not a good representation of what the final game will be, or is this simply a game that isn’t meant for me? If this is meant to be an easier game targeted at the segment of players who aren’t able or don’t want to play more challenging titles like Project Diva, then I’m perfectly okay with that. At that point, however, I still wonder if the overall set-up might be too simplistic even for that crowd.
Project Mirai is a game where “wait and see” absolutely applies. I didn’t walk away being impressed with what I played, but my opinion of the full game will depend on what direction Sega is taking in it. Either we’ll see more diversity and difficulty to gameplay a bit later down the line, or I hope that the more casual fans who it’s better suited for will find it more enjoyable than I did.
Project Mirai is coming to the Nintendo 3DS in March 2012 in Japan. No North American or European release has been announced yet.