Over the past few years it seems that vocaloids, and Hatsune Miku in particular, have gotten more popular. The games based around this genre of music have been big hits in Japan for years. In 2013, the PS3 Hatsune Miku: Project Diva games got localized for North America and did well, or at least well enough to justify the sequels on the Vita to also be brought over to North America. They are simple button timing rhythm games with flashy music videos and some life sim elements thrown into the mix. All of them were received fairly well by fans and critics. So is this new Project Mirai on 3DS another all-star show or the series’ first poor performance?
One thing I can say is the rhythm gameplay is still simplistic and highly entertaining. This new 3DS version has a new mode based entirely around touch controls. Before the song starts you choose from two different difficulties and whether you want button or touch controls. You then press buttons or tap the screen in rhythm with the beat and icons on screen. It’s easy to learn, but hard to master and just like any good rhythm game it can keep you busy for quite some time trying to get perfect scores. The other part of the game is this strange friendship simulator with the Project Diva girls. You hang out with them, give them money, buy them outfits, and generally just become their friend. Outside of setting up dance routines for music videos, I didn’t find any of this compelling or fun. In short the gameplay is a really strong rhythm game with a really weak friendship simulator.
On the presentation front, things are disappointing at least when it comes to visuals. The previous Miku games have been exceptional when it comes to visuals so this was an unfortunate turn of events. The backgrounds for music videos feel flat and lifeless. Your apartment when you hang out looks like an upscaled N64 game before you get furniture and it’s not that much better after. For whatever reason, the art went from standard anime to chibi, which could work for these characters if done right, but this transition just feels quick and lazy. I can say the audio is impressive; all the songs sound great with all parts coming in clear. This is definitely a game you will want to play with headphones. As a whole, the presentation is a Jekyll and Hyde case of poor visuals with great audio.
Project Mirai isn’t bad. It’s just not as good as the other Hatsune Miku games. I had a lot of fun with the rhythm game portion, the song choices were great, making dance routines to go with them was a nice way to set the game apart, and the touch controls were a smart addition. But the visual presentation is weak, outside of the rhythm game portion the game feels soulless, and if you have a Vita or PS3 you are better off playing the other games in the franchise.
Final Score: 6.5/10