I have always liked the rhythm game genre and have certainly enjoyed the handful of Sega’s, Hatsune Miku games that I have played on the PS3 and Vita, but never before have I genuinely loved a rhythm game. Square Enix’s, Final Fantasy themed, Theatrhythm came close, as did the brilliantly bonkers, Elite Beat Agents, but honestly, there is something about, Hatsune Miku’s first foray onto the 3DS that makes it stand out from the crowd.
I say that like it is some ambiguous, unidentifiable something that makes it great…..what makes it great, the reason why I love it so much is because, well, everything in it (and there is a heck of a lot in this game) is almost universally brilliant. This game has everything you might want from a rhythm game and so much more. Heck, this is a game that for no apparent reason includes a brilliant version of the match-four puzzle game, Puyo Puyo. This is a fantastic game in its own right and is included here as an additional extra complete with cool visuals and its own set of challenges. It’s just one example of just how much fantastic content is included in this largely spectacular package.
Still, as great as Puyo Puyo might be (and it is great), the main draw here is virtual superstar, Hatsune Miku and her host of vocaloid buddies including the usual crowd of Rin, Len, Luka, Meiko and Kaito with newcomer Gumi thrown in for good measure. These virtual idols deliver a vast and extremely eclectic selection of songs to tap along to that range from the usual selection of j-pop, dance and pop rock to the more obscure types of samba and operatic ballads. It’s an often strange selection, but one that works thanks to the cheerful core that underlines just about every song and the consistent art design and tone that ties everything together. Some will inevitably find it all too sugary sweet, but for fans of Hatsune Mike (or fans of j-pop in general), a case could be made for Project Mirai DX having the best line-up of any Hatsune Miku game to date.
Beyond the consistently high quality of songs available, what really makes the experience tick is its impressive selection of control methods. Be it either timed taps with the stylus or the more traditional button presses, it is the core rhythm gameplay above all else that helps to make Project Mirai DX truly stand out from the crowd. I actually prefer the stylus style tapping mechanic myself, but with different difficulties and additional awards for completing songs in both styles, I actually felt compelled to complete each track in both stylus and button mode (and across multiple difficulties). Further to the core mechanics, the actual note arrangements actually make this one of the more visually arresting rhythm games on the market. While the music videos playing in the background are equally impressive (making great use of the Nintendo’s underrated 3D capabilities), watching them is all but impossible while playing. It is therefore left to the note strings to keep you connected to what is happening in the video behind. This is something that is ignored in the vast majority of rhythm games, but here, thanks to the fact that the note strings move along with the actual video direction, you are actually drawn into the video and subsequently immersed in a way that goes beyond the more traditional note implementation found in the likes of Theatrhythm.
With plenty to unlock, Project Mirai DX encourages a one more go attitude in every aspect of its design, always dangling a virtual carrot to keep you invested in both the songs and the overarching experience. Don’t get me wrong, those little completion boxes next to each song are reason enough, but with tons of furniture for your virtual home and even more in the way of unlockable costumes for your virtual superstar, Project Mirai DX always delivers a pleasing sense of progression.
The virtual home and idol wardrobe won’t be for everyone, but with its chibi art style inspired by the hugely popular Nendoroid figures (popular in Japan anyway), and its complete lack of questionable petting/poking options, there is an innocence to all of this that is often lacking from similar modes in other overtly Japanese releases. With many of the costumes based on the limited Nendoroid figures and the ability to dress up your room with your purchases, Project Mirai DX’s unlockables feel like more than your average tick-box of unlockables. It would have been nice if you could put more items up in your personal apartment, but with the additional option to change apartment style and chibi star of choice, the opportunity to change things up gives an additional reason to snap up all of those rare collectibles. Bizarrely, the game also allows you to go on holiday every so often, giving you a reason to dress up your holiday apartment for the duration of your 1 week (real time) visit. It’s a strange additional extra, but does add to the sense of this being more than your average rhythm game and another example of how Sega have gone above and beyond to bring 3DS owners the definitive Hatsune Mike experience.
Rounding off the array of game modes are the Theatre Mode which allows you to watch any of the videos without the need for any form of tapping (especially useful for big fans of Hatsune Miku), and the Dance Studio that, while not as deep or immersive as those found in some of the previous Hatsune Mike releases, still offers up a huge selection of dance moves with which to choreograph your own performances and routines.
Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX represents a fundamentally great video game that excels due to Sega’s commitment to a surprisingly refined kitchen sink approach to rhythm game development. They have thrown everything at this game, and for one reason or another, nearly all of it has stuck. The eclectic selection of songs and strong core mechanics would be enough to make this a very good game, but with the implementation and design being so carefully constructed, Project Mirai DX arguably represents the finest rhythm game on the Nintendo 3DS platform and perhaps the best of the Hatsune Miku games full stop. Whatever your opinion on its place in the pantheon of rhythm games though, with tons of additional content, a wealth of collectibles and even a great Puyo Puyo mini-game included for no other reason other than it’s awesome, Project Mirai DX certainly delivers plenty of content to go with its uniformly great gameplay and fantastically cheerful art design. It might not win over the doubters, but for fans of the genre, this really is as good as it gets.
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