A slightly inferior, but still really fun, sequel
NOTE: This review is regarding the Vita version of the game. I’m sure the PS3 version is much the same, but I haven’t actually played that version to make comparisons.
If you’ve gotten to this point, reading a user review for a Japanese rhythm game, you likely already know whether or not this game is for you. After all, not everyone is appealed by Vocaloid music or the leering nature of many Japanese games. If you know that you’re a fan of rhythm games or of Miku and gang’s songs, don’t bother reading this review--just go buy the game. For the rest of you, hang around and see what you might be missing out on. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva f 2nd is a solid rhythm game with a varied and fun soundtrack and some great core rhythm gameplay. If the music is to your tastes, it can be a lot of damn fun.
Gameplay in Project Diva f 2nd is practically identical to that of the original Project Diva f. Each song tasks you with reacting to notes that fly onscreen from various angles, hitting them in time to the music in order to succeed. There are a variety of notes to hit: single notes, double notes (which require hitting both a button and the corresponding d-pad direction), hold notes, and swipes which can be hit with either the touch screen or the sticks. There are also two new kinds of notes added to the sequel. The first is a double swipe, requiring either two fingers swiping in-time or both sticks being flicked in order to hit. The other is a series of swipes that must be executed rhythmically to complete. Unfortunately, both of these new note types are pointless, not adding anything enjoyable to the gameplay loop while also being a bit touchy; the double swipes have a tendency to misread and the swipe patterns have a tricky timing that makes them nearly impossible to hit the first time around. While I could do without these new note types personally, playing the songs is still a great deal of fun.
Overall, this game is a lot harder than the original. Normal difficulty in this game is about equal to the Hard difficulty from Project Diva f, and this difficulty only scales up as the harder songs come along. Hard is a bit trickier, but I found it easily manageable as a veteran of the original. Expert is a different story. Everything difficult about the original game has been kicked into overdrive. Lightning-fast patterns? Check. A dire need for the skill to tap strings of notes by alternating both inputs? Check. Confusing fly-in paths for the notes, trying to throw you off? Check. It gets really damn hard, easily challenging all but the most diehard of rhythm game fans. While I believe the difficulty curve is a bit harsher this time around, Project Diva f 2nd gives a great variety of challenge for players of many skill levels.
The tracklist has expanded, with 40 songs as part of the base game. There’s some nice variety, mixing up the songs between various styles and Vocaloids to keep things fresh. There’s still a heavy bias towards songs featuring Hatsune Miku, but her name is on the package, after all. While there are still some great songs (both in terms of sound and enjoyability to play), I do think the soundtrack is much weaker this time around. This can mostly be chalked up to personal preference, as I just didn’t really enjoy playing/listening to many of the songs in this game. On the whole, it’s still a fun package, but I’m sure I will find myself going back to the original game and its soundtrack more.
In addition to the new songs, a challenge system has been added. Each song has several of these, giving the player a task that is often more than just completing the song. Some examples of these are beating a song using a particular challenge item (which have been ramped up significantly here, by the way), obtaining a certain unbroken string of hits, or finishing the song with a certain costume or accessory on your chosen Vocaloid. While there were challenges like these in the original game, they were a bit more behind-the-scenes and didn’t unlock as much fun stuff. Every challenge in Project Diva f 2nd has some kind of reward, mostly new things to buy in the shop. While this may be a bit of a disappointment for those who don’t want to engage with that part of the game, it still adds a great deal of replay value.
Speaking of unlockables, there’s a TON more stuff to unlock in this game. Every Vocaloid has plenty of Modules (costumes), accessories, gifts, and Diva Room items to unlock through playing the game. Once you’ve unlocked them, you also have to earn the Diva Points to buy them by completing songs. It will easily take you hours and hours to both unlock everything and earn enough points to buy it all. For those who played the original, it is possible to import your save and bring in any unlocks you had already collected there, severely cutting down on the time and money necessary to own everything; I highly recommend it if you have a save.
All of the other modes return from the original Project Diva f as well. Diva Room still lets you interact with the Vocaloids in somewhat creepy ways, editing their rooms and giving them gifts in an effort to build affinity with each of them. Edit Mode lets you either make your own note paths for songs or download others’ from the Internet. You can take pictures of the various Vocaloids with the Picture Mode, or watch them perform virtual concerts (with the necessary AR card) in AR Mode. These modes still only really matter to those who wish to engage with them instead of (or in addition to) the rhythm game mode.. If you’re not looking to spend time with adorable virtual ladies or earn all the game’s trophies, the rhythm section of the game is likely where you will want to focus your attention.
Briefly, I want to mention the new options added to the game. There is now a choice of either English lyrics or romaji lyrics for each song. While I personally enjoy the romaji lyrics as someone who doesn’t want to know what is being said (and as someone trying to learn Japanese), it’s still a nice option for those who would like to understand the lyrics; although, fair warning, several of the lyrics are quite crazy. Also, some new control options have been added. Most notably, it is now possible to use several different input choices for the flick notes: the touch screen (original option), the analog nubs, or the rear touch screen. This lets you tailor the experience to the style you prefer, maybe increasing your abilities at the same time. These are small changes but really add a lot to the overall experience.
Project Diva f 2nd is another solid rhythm game at a time when rhythm games are few and far between. While I have a few issues with the soundtrack and the new note types, I still had a lot of fun playing through the 40 songs. The core rhythm gameplay is just as tight as it was in the original, giving me hours of entertainment as I fought my way through the various difficulties and played the songs I enjoyed most over and over again. If you’re a fan of Project Diva f, you owe it to yourself to pick this game up as well. For those of you who haven’t played the original, I suggest you give that a shot over this-- it’s just as enjoyable, and you can likely find it for cheaper.