A virtual mainstay of Japanese culture, Hatsune Miku is a Vocaloid- software that can ‘sing’ music via a sound modulator and synthesizer. In video games, she has had an excellent run, thanks to some great rhythm titles by Sega published on PlayStation platforms. This year’s Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX marks the (western) debut of the franchise on Nintendo systems- and the developers have really gone all out to create a highly extensive game, that rhythm game fans would be remiss to not at least give a serious look. Others, however, will probably hear all the hubbub, and try to take a serious look at the game- and possibly come away confused.
This Nintendo 3DS game can be hard to get a handle on, especially when it is booted up at first. Whereas anyone with at least a faint knowledge of the series would be going in expecting a rhythm game, first impressions differ almost entirely at first: you are presented with what seems to be a sort of life simulator game, in the essence of Tamodachi Life, asking you to pick a ‘partner’ (of which the eponymous Miku is only one), an apartment to live with her in, and then which tasks you with furnishing said apartment. You are presented with an overwhelming array of options- feeding your ‘partner,’ buying clothes for her, just chatting with her, giving her gifts, and so on.
The actual meat of the game, the rhythm game portion, is actually tucked away at the bottom corner of the menu- and when you click it, you realize that your partner is actually an idol. You’re presented with a list of songs to choose to perform, and you’re on the road.
"Whereas anyone with at least a faint knowledge of the series would be going in expecting a rhythm game, first impressions differ almost entirely at first: you are presented with what seems to be a sort of life simulator game."
Project Mirai DX plays like a standard rhythm game- there’s not much to talk about here. It’s a single rail system (meaning that all inputs appear in the same spot on the screen), which makes life easier for people who may be intimidated by multi rail rhythm games. The input timing detection seems to be very lenient- I found it possible to keep going and not miss a beat even when I mistimed my button press by a second in several instances.
The one interesting thing to note about the rhythm gameplay is the new touchscreen mode. For players who are possibly daunted at the prospect of having to juggle multiple button presses, the touch screen mode provides something of a compromise- you are only asked to perform inputs via the touch screen. These are largely simple, such as taps, and long presses, and mostly all occur on the same spot on the screen, meaning that anybody who is completely lacking confidence in their coordination skills probably wants to start out here.
It’s a well done alternative to the traditional mode, and completely viable- you can easily go through all the tracks in the game with just touch screen inputs, though after a while, you will probably feel confident enough to want to make the switch.
"The input timing detection seems to be very lenient- I found it possible to keep going and not miss a beat even when I mistimed my button press by a second in several instances."
Of course, any rhythm game is only as good as the songs that it includes, and for western audiences, therein lies Project Mirai DX’s greatest advantage- and disadvantage too. Project Mirai DX includes a staggering variety of content for the player to make their way through (a grand total of 48 songs are included; these songs cover a wide variety of genres, and are usually different enough from each other for there to be no repetition across the entire track list), and with each player probably wanting to best their own performance on each track, there will be no shortage of playtime that one will be able to get from the game.
But whether or not you like the music comes entirely down to the Vocaloid singing. For many, it’s charming, trying to hear the synthesized words, in Japanese and in English, singing in all sorts of odd pitches, and can definitely add to the appeal to the game. To others, however, it might seem odd, or even ultimately an audio representation of uncanny valley- just uncomfortable enough that they want to stop. Personally, I didn’t have much issues with the music at all, and enjoyed a fair few tracks by the end of my time with the game- but just in case you’re a first timer looking to jump into the series with this game, remember, your mileage may vary. It may be a good idea to look up some YouTube videos, or play the demo on the eShop, first.
Project Mirai DX looks as unusual as it sounds. The game has ditched the usual series aesthetic for a more chibi, cuter look – again, probably done in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience beyond just the rhythm game enthusiasts that these games usually cater to. The game looks great on the 3DS, playing to the system’s strengths, with vibrant colors and a clean UI, and the art style usually does it well- if you are not one of the people who are immediately turned off by the chibi look.
The entire package ultimately comes down to being very elaborate dressing for a very competent and recommended rhythm game- sure, you can play it as an apartment virtual life simulator, moving in with your favorite idol, playing games with her, buying her gifts, making her food, getting better furniture, and for many, that may be reason enough to look into buying the game. Thanks to titles such as Animal Crossing, Tamodachi Life, Fantasy Life, and Disney Magical World, the 3DS has an audience for that kind of a game, and Project Mirai is certainly elaborate and well made enough on that front to appeal to that demographic. However, underneath all of that is a very well done rhythm game too, one that is accessible enough to hook some new fans in, and ultimately deep enough to also appeal to genre enthusiasts.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS.
Elaborate rhythm game, extremely well done touch screen mode, a well done life simulation mode, a huge list of 48 songs with a good variety across the track list
The life simulation can almost distract from the rhythm modes, the game might just look and sound weird enough to turn people off
The most accessible Hatsune Miku game yet is also probably the most extensive one, and is an easy recommendation for newcomers and fans alike.
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