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Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX (3DS) artwork

Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX (3DS) review

"Tame and unconfident."

At some point, while writing a Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX review that criticizes the game for both its song selection and its bizarre focus on dollhouse elements, I'm forced to ask myself whether I fall within this title's intended audience.

The answer is that while there's still dispute over how Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA f wound up in my Vita library last year, the game made me an instantaneous and unabashed fan of the titular vocaloid, and I'm not alone. Since the localization, the eruption of the Hatsune Miku brand has resulted in the character's hologram indulging in "performances" (backed by a live band) in front of a baffled David Letterman and at two separate shows in Manhattan's Hammerstein Ballroom. I saw M83 there a few years ago. It's a big venue. I don't entirely see the appeal in attending a concert led by a non-sentient hologram, but after playing the DIVA games, I absolutely see the appeal in these characters and their music.

Hatsune Miku and her friends, for those unaware, are Japanese "vocaloids," programs that use speech samples to emulate human singing. Anyone can write, compose and produce songs using the vocaloids, and as such, Hatsune Miku and her friends are simply avatars for music coming from a wide variety of sources. I'm sure plenty of them are terrible, but the popular ones gain traction and eventually show up in rhythm games such as these. I'm not even into J-pop, but DIVA f offered a rich selection of catchy pop jams, moving ballads and thrashing rockers, all backed by stunning visuals that seemed to adequately convey stories that would otherwise be lost in translation.

Project Mirai DX, by comparison, feels tame and unconfident. This may be because it's actually a spin-off; with the DIVA games gaining popularity in Western territories, Sega has now resurrected and enhanced a Miku title from a couple of years ago that was never localized. Not being an expert on the series, I couldn't tell you if Mirai is an outlier, but the song selection here, despite numbering a whopping 48, is disappointingly weak. Most of them fall into formulaic pop territory, missing the hooks and energetic charm that made DIVA f such an instant charm. I wish I could be more descriptive than that, but hey, this is why I got into video game criticism rather than music criticism.

Mirai also has very little visual appeal, a major step down from the DIVA series' colorful sets and complex dance numbers. Most of the videos consist of Miku and her friends (now donning a superdeformed look) meekly waving about on static stages with dull camerawork and little overall flair. So it's a rhythm game with bare-bones presentation and a mediocre song selection, depriving Mirai of the empowering feeling of successfully jamming along to music in these types of games. Mechanically, the only intriguing addition is the full-on touch controls, but they needlessly complicated things once players are expected to alternate between different commands while keeping their eyes on the top screen. Thankfully, button input is still an option.

This is also a considerably easier rhythm game than either of the entries in the DIVA series that we've already got. The lead developer has claimed that the real challenge is in polishing your work and earning higher scores, but you can do that in any rhythm game, and I'd rather strive to perfect the timing for songs I'm enjoying. The big asterisk for my lack of enthusiasm, however, is the MP system. Players are awarded MP for higher scores, and it can be used to purchase personalization items.

Mirai, as it turns out, has a big emphasis on what I'm calling dollhouse elements – picking a Miku character as your own avatar, dressing her up, taking her out on the town, and so forth. This whole aspect of the game is 100% not for me, owing partly to the fact that I'm not in tune with these character or this world beyond what's portrayed in the music videos. But judging by the fact that the rhythm game itself – which I'd taken to be Mirai's primary draw – is buried on the main menu beneath options like "Hang Out Mode" and "Home Remodel," it's worth considering that Mirai is targeted more to those who find these elements more engaging.

So to say that there's no incentive for cranking up the difficulty and perfecting your moves would be false, but the fact remains that Mirai's song selection is too bland for it to work as anything more than a passing diversion as a rhythm game. For whatever reason, a new version of the classic dropping-tile game Puyo Puyo is included, and I actually found myself far more engaged in that. So I personally found value in Mirai, but in probably the last area that Sega wanted me to.


Suskie's avatar
Freelance review by Mike Suskie (September 24, 2015)

Mike Suskie is a freelance writer who has contributed to GamesRadar and has a blog. He can usually be found on Twitter at @MikeSuskie.

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qxz posted September 24, 2015:

I'd be willing to buy a copy of Project Mirai JUST for the Puyo Puyo mini-game itself. It's one of my favorite puzzle game formulas of all time, and it's quite a shame that this blob-matching series hasn't gotten much love here on the eastern side of the Pacific.
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Suskie posted September 24, 2015:

Seriously, it's the best thing about this game.

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