Hatsune Miku and her fellow Vocaloids have sang their way to stardom, but I've largely overlooked the phenomenon up until now. It's a unique music sensation involving singing voice synthesizers known as "Vocaloids" that provide the vocals to a variety of catchy songs. This software is personified by Hatsune Miku and other characters that make up the cast of Sega's Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX. Don't worry if you're unfamiliar with these songs and fictional singers. I was, and still am to a certain degree. Just know that this is a quirky rhythm game with an upbeat personality and a wide variety of music that is fun to play along to. It's clearly a love letter to fans of Vocaloids, but those who have a taste for rhythm games will feel right at home with Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX.
Project Mirai DX has a style all its own. The music is the meat of this game, but it's garnished with all kinds of unconventional content. The first thing you're tasked with is to pick a Vocaloid that will occupy an apartment of your choosing. You can change apartments or Vocaloids at any time, and your selections have no effect on the core gameplay. These choices simply give the player an opportunity to interact with the characters and personalize their experience. Decorating apartments, putting together dance routines, and playing Puyo Puyo are just a few of the things that you can do when you're taking a break from the main portion of the game. These simple diversions make Project Mirai DX feel like more than just a rhythm game, and I appreciate all of the extra effort that went into them.
That said, you will spend most of your time in the rhythm game mode where you can either press buttons or use the touchscreen to follow along with the music. Once a song gets going, a blue line will appear. The objective is to hit red, blue, and yellow circles that travel across that line within a circular frame to match the rhythm. Normal mode actually limits the beats to red and blue while yellow beats only appear in hard mode. There are also grey circles that require you to swipe the touchscreen in the direction that they indicate. It doesn't matter what part of the touchscreen you swipe for the grey circles, but each colored circle corresponds to a specific section of the touchscreen. This makes keeping up with a song engaging, and it can get pretty challenging if you're shooting for a high score. It's nothing out of the ordinary for this genre, but the mechanics are incredibly solid and fun. The beats are timed well to the music, and the controls feel perfectly responsive. I also like that the line which the beats travel on moves all over the screen. I think it adds some extra energy to the visuals.
Most of the songs are pop-flavored, but there's a surprising amount of variety even within those borders. Just about each song has its own distinct look, feel, and sound. That's an impressive feat considering that there are quite a few songs in this game. Playing through one song usually unlocks another, and getting a good grade may unlock costumes, items or features themed after that song. Basically, there's a lot in place to keep you playing long after you've cleared each song at least once.
Another noteworthy aspect of this game is the presentation. It's overwhelmingly cute. The Vocaloids are expressive even when they aren't singing, and their toy-like proportions add some silliness to their performances. The backgrounds for each song are just as lively, too. Sometimes I get distracted and miss a beat or two because I'm enjoying the visuals so much. Sega did an awesome job bringing these characters and their stages to life.
Like many 3DS games, Streetpass also comes into play. Similar to Final Fantasy Theatrhythm, you can create a profile card and it'll automatically be sent to other Project Mirai DX players that you've tagged. The card's appearance can be customized in all sorts of ways, but many of the options have to be unlocked first. A song and dance routine that you've made can also be attached to the card for other players to view. I managed to tag a couple of other players prior to this review, and one of them had a Vocaloid rendition of a Legend of Zelda song attached to their card! StreetPass also exchanges comments that you and other players have left on songs in theater mode. Simply view a song in theater mode that has been commented on to see comments and emoticons scroll across the screen. Each song can hold 250 comments, so it could be quite a sight to behold if you manage to tag multiple people who own Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX!
At the end of the day, Project Mirai DX is a robust rhythm game that can easily be enjoyed by those who are unfamiliar with these characters and songs. The music works extremely well within this context, and I think you'll have a great time as long as this genre appeals to you.