HomeReviewsREVIEW | Vocaloids Bring Musical Delights In "Project Mirai DX"

REVIEW | Vocaloids Bring Musical Delights In "Project Mirai DX"

Despite being a J-POP radio/podcast host for many years, I was a bit late joining the Hatsune Miku bandwagon. This hesitation came from the fact that I couldn't understand how people could be paying top dollar to see a hologram perform "live" in concert. That is, until I forgot that many a year ago I was crossing my fingers that Damon Albarn was going to bring his virtual band Gorillaz to life in the exact same way. So after realizing my hypocritical stance I caved in and actually took a listen to Miku and the rest of her Vocaloid pals, finding a huge assortment of great melodies both official and fan-made.

This brings me to the most recent video game based on these Vocaloids: the 3DS rhythm title Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX. And boy, even if the game may not be to one's liking the music alone will probably convert them into a fan.

Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX has you keeping watch on six of the popular Vocaloids: Miku, Rin, Len, Luka, KAITO, and MEIKO. You start by giving them residence in one of the many various kinds of homes, from the Asian-styled Japonica to the spacey Futura. To add more personality to the homes and characters you then buy furniture, clothes, decorations, posters, and even some toys to keep them happy and entertained. How you earn credit for all this comes in the form of a couple game modes: Rhythm Game, PiyoPiyo39!, and Mikuversi.

As you may guess Rhythm Game will have you pressing buttons/tapping the screen to the beat of one of over 40 tracks from the Vocaloid crew. How challenging a song can be depends on its tempo, and you'd be surprised to find out that slower melodies are tougher to catch up to than the faster ones. The better you play and the bigger the combos you make, the more you earn to buy more stuff.

At first glance the rhythm game aspect of Project Mirai DX seems easy. In fact for the first half of playing it I was scoring A's and S's. However as the game progressed the more hypnotized I was becoming by both its stellar music and beautiful music video-quality visuals. Whether it's the cute visuals in "Animal Fortune-telling" and the Vegas-based "Clover Club" to the twisted Madoka Magica-like vibe of "Matryoshka" and the environmentally-friendly chiptune melodies of "*Hello, Planet." the game features an incredible style that makes it hard not to keep staring at.

And that's when the game gets you! Soon you become so engulfed by the sounds and visuals that you begin to slip and hit the wrong button or swipe the wrong way. The object of the game suddenly shifts, where you cannot get too distracted by both the music and videos. Otherwise your grade goes down, and -- in some cases -- you'll fail the song and have to start the level over again. It may not seem like a challenging game at first, but believe me when I say that within this charming-looking game comes a very good challenge waiting in the wings. To put it bluntly: those looking to get a 100% completion on every level may be spending a month or two trying to accomplish that.

The other two mini-games bring their own sort of fun. PiyoPiyo39! takes the classic video game and has the Vocaloids battle it out in five stages. Connect at least four of the same color to get rid of them, with landing certain combos giving way to some nasty boulders falling on your opponents side. The quicker you beat your opponent, the better your letter grade will be and the more currency you'll earn. What's good is that two people with the game can also battle it out, which comes in handy when the CPU players start becoming too easy to defeat.

Then there is Mikuversi, which is merely a play on Miku's name and the game itself: the strategy board game Reversi. Here you must beat the current Vocaloid you're watching by having your colored discs covering the majority of the board. You can switch your opponent's pieces by trapping them via connecting your piece with another that's across the way vertically, horizontally, and diagonally.

Believe me when I say the Vocaloids aren't chumps when it coms to Mikuversi. The times I've lost against them are triple the amount I've actually won. In many cases I've thought victory was at hand, only to be unable to play any more spots and having Miku or MEIKO steal a whole bunch of my pieces to gain the win. It can be frustrating at times, but at least you still earn some currency even if you don't beat you Vocaloid.

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When not in the mood to game, you can always spend some time with Project Mirai DX by checking out past videos you've unlocked, play some Miku-inspired instruments on an interactive keyboard, do a little shopping for food and clothes based on the levels you've beaten, and add some style to your Vocaloid's surroundings. You can feed your Vocaloid, take some candid pics to share with friends to showcase your progress, and even set an alarm to wake up with your favorite Vocaloid (you know, if you're into that sort of thing that some of Miku's biggest fans are).

If you are looking to do something a tad bit more advanced, you can take your Vocaloid to the Dance Studio, where you can choreograph your own routines to all the tracks. Simple Mode will have you choosing various moves as the song goes along, but if you are really picky and want to create a routine that suits your musical style then jumping into Advanced may be your sort of thing. As you complete more levels, new dances will be added to the rotation that you can use in your own creations.

While there is no real way to actually beat Project Mirai DX I was able to unlock all the songs after roughly six hours of playtime. Even though there may not be much to go back to in regards to the Rhythm Game after beating it, the amount of fun that comes within the rest of the title is worth revisiting Miku and the gang, even if it's just for a quick hello or two.

PROS:

  • Incredibly catchy music
  • Fun mini-games & modes
  • Music videos are beautiful to watch/play

CONS:

  • Gameplay can be a tad repetitive
  • Taking care of Vocaloids somewhat addicting

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX is the type of game you play when you need to kill some time, whether it be on a long road trip or just spacing out until a hangout comes about. Nevertheless its soundtrack, great music videos, and fun mini-games are enough to make this Vocaloid title worthy to pick up. If you are a longtime fan it's a must-buy, but even if you are new to this phenomenon then Project Mirai DX is a great way to dive into the world of Hatsune Miku and her virtual musical friends.

FINAL GRADE: 8.5 (out of ten)

Review code provided by John Hardin of SEGA of America. Originally posted on the ESH EGMNOW page.

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Contributing Editor at ESH since 2008, and host of the No Borders No Race podcast show, which began as a humble college radio program in 2006. My passion for discovering new bands, developers, and Japanese pop culture is what drives me to give you my all in every article published and every podcast recorded.