NCG Review: Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Mega Mix (Switch)

Hatsune Miku is back on the Switch for Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Mega Mix.  Loaded with tons of songs from your favorite virtual pop idol, the real question is whether the Switch is a good home for the Vocaloids.

Story

Since this is a rhythm game, no story included! This is a fantastic thing since I feel that the last installment (Project Diva X) fell flat with their attempt at a story.   You can turn on the game and go straight to game play.

Gameplay

Project Diva is a rhythm game featuring top virtual pop idol Hatsune Miku and friends.  To play the game, you need to press buttons in sync with the melody icons on the screen.  The melody icons will follow the vocals or background music of the song.   The melody icons are represented as the buttons on the Switch controller (A, B, Y, X) and incorporate “bumper” buttons (L, R buttons or the joystick swiped in the noted direction).  Depending on the level of game play you select (Easy, Normal, Hard, Extreme, Extra Extreme) the icons will appear to match that difficulty. With higher difficulties, you’ll need to hit more icons with a variation of button presses.  This is the “Arcade Mode” of the game.

As you play, the song is graded by the amount of notes you hit and can range from Cool, Good, Safe, Bad, Wrong.  Your score is based on how your perform the song.  You can pass the song with an average score (meaning you can miss notes or have bad/safe hits) and retry the song as many times as you’d like to aim for perfection or at least an “Excellent” pass (hitting a majority of Cool/Good notes). Missing too many notes or getting a majority of them wrong causes you to fail the song.

Completion of songs will allot you an X amount of Vocaloid Points (VP) which can be used to buy accessories and modules for your Vocaloids.

If you’re looking to add a challenge to the game, you can use modifiers which will speed up, hide, or limit the number of melody icons on the screen.  This is actually a minimal amount compared to previous titles which, in addition to challenge modifiers, included helping modifiers (which gave you a game play advantage for less amount of points earned).

Aside from the Arcade Mode, the game includes a Mix Mode where you use the joy con motion controllers and trigger buttons to hit notes. You’ll need to move your joy cons Left/Right and press the trigger to hit the note as it comes toward you.  This gets you up and moving.  The higher the difficulty, the more variety of notes you’ll have.  I’ll be totally honest, I didn’t really enjoy the Mix Mode very much. I just can’t get in tune with the motion controls. This is an issue I have, not because of the game, but with joy cons and joy con calibration.  If you can get the joy cons aligned just right, the new mode isn’t that bad.

Features

Customization

What really made this game a huge win for me, and what might help veterans of the series, was the ability to switch the melody icons to PlayStation icons.  Miku has, so far, only been on Sony products (PlayStation, PSP, Vita).  I am used to the X, Triangle, Square, and Circle icons that my brain can’t comprehend which console I’m on; I get X wrong every time.  Not having the option in the last Nintendo console installment (Project Mirai) was the main reason I didn’t spend 100+ hours on it.

If PlayStation icons aren’t your thing, there are other options that can help you feel more comfortable with the melody icons such as arrows, Switch buttons, and other options.   There’s a variety of ways to ensure the game play feels comfortable from button timing, sound, and a few other options to try out.

Costumes, or in Project Diva terms, “Modules”, are a staple of the game.  It’s fun to put the singers in wacky costumes with ridiculous accessories or a module that matches the music video of the song you’re playing.  Aside from the classic modules and accessories we’ve seen in all previous titles, you can now modify the hairstyles of the module.  You won’t be committed to the entire module! This gives you more opportunity to mix and customize the Vocaloids.

In addition to more module options, you can create your own t-shirt for your Vocaloids! Miku can now become YOUR biggest fan!  You can use a stylus or utilize the touch screen options to create your own designs for the Vocaloids to wear during their “performance”. However, this feature has a lot of bugs in it, particularly a lot of lag.  Changing the background of a t-shirt stopped the game for a few seconds which caused my inspiration to dwindle and my t-shirt to be made at a later date…

Playlist

If you don’t really want to play the game, but would prefer to just put on a few of your favorite jams and videos, you can create your own playlist.  Pick your favorite songs from the library and let them run in the background.  You can create multiple playlists based on your mood, favorite Vocaloid, or whatever floats your boat.

As awesome as it is to create your own playlist, this is an extremely clunky feature for a few reasons.  You can’t skip to the next song if you aren’t feeling it’s vibes.  While the song is playing you can only pause it, or restart it.  You can play your playlist randomly, but you can’t select which song to start with.  Overall, the playlist is good if you’re not feeling particular and don’t mind letting it just run in the background.

If you’re not feeling the playlist, you can also just play individual music videos in the game menu.

Song list

The most exciting part of the game is its massive playlist! The base game will give you 101 songs to play, but the title will include up to 141 from additional DLC song packs.  There will be 6 DLC packs with 6 songs in each.  The song options are just incredible! However… If you are not new to the Project Diva series, the 100+ song options are pretty much all the songs you have played multiple times before.  There are only 10 new songs to learn, master, and love.

Practice

Veterans to the game have probably spent countless hours trying to master songs.  From my experience, there has always been that one technical zone I could never hit and I just didn’t want to go back and play the entire song over again just to master it.  In the song menu you have a chance to Practice a song.  You can run through the entire song, or find the place in the song that trips you up to practice.  This is an awesome feature because my patience is limited and I can only play a song so many times before I get tired of it.

Graphics

Project Diva Mega Mix is like a port of Future Tone, which a port of the Arcade version.  The Vocaloids look beautiful and clear, which is a major upgrade from the PS4 versions. Overall, the game looks fantastic.

Verdict

Pros

There are a lot of new features to the game that I wish I had before.  The ability to practice (without having to be a super fan with hacked this- and-that on the PC) technical zones that trip you up is a major plus and something I with I had in the F series.  Since this is on the Switch, the ability to change my melody icons to PlayStation icons is a huge relief; I can actually play the game! I am certain this a feature veterans will appreciate. As I mentioned before, Project Mirai just ended up collecting dust because I hated the icons.

Although all of the songs are from previous titles with minimal new additions and the total exclusion of Gumi, it’s nice to have all of my favorite titles in one game without having to switch between consoles.

Cons

As much praise as I give the game for adding PlayStation melody icons, I just can’t, for the life of me, get comfortable with the controller.  Since PlayStation button layout has the press buttons parallel, it was difficult to get my hands adjusted to the non-parallel layout of the Switch.  My hands hurt and hitting the bumpers kind of sucks on my left hand.  I felt the most comfortable playing with the joy cons detached from the console, but I feel like this ruins the portability aspect of the title.  Even mix mode, for me, was difficult to enjoy because the joy cons and calibration of controllers are just, overall, awful on the Switch.  However, this isn’t an issue I have with just the Mega Mix title, it’s with a majority of my games overall.

A lot of the new features are very clunky.  The playlist option is clunky and the customization options are slow.  They definitely needed just a little bit of extra work to make them running and functional.  These features just didn’t feel like they were very thought out.

There is no story, which is a plus, but the reward factor of the game isn’t satisfying.  When you start the game, you already have a majority of the songs unlocked and ready to play.  I felt no reward for beating a song and no desire to grind to get all the collectibles.  Sure, you get to skip out on songs that you wouldn’t enjoy normally, but what kept me so hooked to previous titles was going through and unlocking all of the songs and earning enough points to buy every single Module, accessory, and gift option. It’s pretty easy for me to put Mega Mix down.

I’d rank the game as a 7 out of 10.  There are plenty of new features, but none of these have been perfected. It’s awesome to have all the songs in one portable platform, but Switch felt very uncomfortable and difficult to adjust to.  Not only that, but I just didn’t feel rewarded with my overall game play.  I can beat a song and try to get a better score next time, but my effort doesn’t unlock a thing.  This may because I’ve played this game so much on Sony products but I feel this might be something veterans to the title can relate to.  Newer players may not have this struggle.  There are tons of perks if you’re new to the series and will likely be an incredibly enjoyable experience for first timers.

Have you picked up this title? What did you think? Is this your first title from the Project Diva series?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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