Vocaloids are animated or illustrated characters who sing using a voicebank. They effectively work by having a singer record their vocals, and then artists use those recordings to create music. It’s a unique idea that started out in Japan, gaining traction rapidly over the last 15 years or so. The most popular Vocaloid of all is Hatsune Miku. She’s so popular that she even has a series of rhythm games named after her. And now that series makes its debut on PC with Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix+. Wow, that is a mouthful.
There has only ever been one Hatsune Miku game on PC, and it wasn’t one of the mainline rhythm games. Instead, we got Hatsune Miku VR, a virtual reality game that some felt was more of a tech demo than a major release. Given the wait for a mainline game, there’s pressure on Project DIVA Mega Mix+ to deliver.
A rhythm game is only ever as good as its song list. There are over 170 different Vocaloid tracks in Mega Mix+, making this one of the most impressive music collections in rhythm game history. The tracklist varies between the most iconic Vocaloid songs like “Senbonzakura” and “Alien Alien,” to more niche inclusions that fans of the genre will appreciate. The ‘plus’ in the title is there to indicate that this version comes pre-packaged with all the game’s 11 DLC song packs. Given that each individual pack costs $6.99 USD on the Switch, the Steam version offers impressive value in comparison.
One of the most interesting aspects of Mega Mix‘s tracklist is just how varied it is. Vocaloids are unique in the way that they act as an instrument for an artist to use. In this regard, Miku’s voicebank is no different from a violin or a guitar. So, in a rhythm game with over 170 tracks from a huge variety of artists, it’s natural that the genres of music included would vary massively. Regardless of if you like metal, pop, jazz, or just about anything else, there is probably going to be something here for you. That is, as long as you enjoy Vocaloid singing in the first place.
Getting into the flow
A lot of the best rhythm games on the market rely on concerted controllers. Think of the likes of Beat Saber or Rock Band. Even osu! is best played on a graphics tablet. There are limitations to a controller or keyboard and what you can do with them. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix+ does a good job of taking advantage of the more traditional inputs that it accepts. For those who don’t know how Miku’s games work, you basically just click whatever button is required at the right time. Sometimes you’ll have to hold a button and other times you may need to press multiple buttons at once. It is a simple premise that works well.
The reason that Project DIVA gets away with such basic controls is that the tracks have excellent mapping. The timing of the notes fits well with the flow and rhythm of most songs. It does get a little strange when you play at higher difficulties for some of the slower songs, though. There’s somewhat of a disconnect when you’re pressing thousands of buttons rapidly to a song that barely passes 100 beats per minute. But for the most part, this isn’t a problem.
An added bonus of the simple gameplay is that Mega Mix+ is its approachability. It isn’t difficult to pick up a controller and jump into a song that sounds catchy. This game’s skill ceiling is massive, but its skill floor is equally extreme. It’s the best of both worlds as rhythm game veterans and newcomers alike can both have a good time.
Back to the arcade
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix+ delivers an unapologetic arcade-inspired experience. You load up the game, pick a song, and play through. There is very little progression in terms of goals to work towards. You don’t even have to unlock songs as they are all available from the start.
The only real progression is that by completing songs you earn VP to spend on cosmetics. Different outfits, hairstyles, accessories, and custom T-shirts can be purchased. The amount of cosmetics present is impressive, with Miku alone having almost 200 different outfits to choose from. The rest of the cast doesn’t have quite that many, but there’s a good selection regardless. More than 400 costumes are available.
This lack of a progression model has its pros and cons. On one hand, there’s nothing to work toward, and this means that some players may get bored rather quickly. Unless you are a die-hard Vocaloid fan, replayability is not Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix+‘s greatest strength. On the other hand, you get a complete product straight away and can enjoy the vast tracklist with no extra effort.
Whether this is a good or bad thing is going to depend on your perspective. Personally, I would have liked to see some kind of progression system even if it was simple. It’s nice to unlock things and progress through story beats as a reward for your time and effort. Even so, this isn’t a full-price AAA game, so it’s forgivable. At the end of the day, you are still getting access to a fun rhythm game with a huge tracklist. That alone is going to be enough for most people.
The definition version
I believe that the PC port of any game should be the definitive version. After all, it’s the PC platform that hosts the most powerful hardware for developers to work with. Games are also put to higher standards in terms of customization and settings. Given this, it’s great to see that the PC rendition of Mega Mix+ is the best on the market.
Unlike the Switch port, there are no notable performance drops even during segments with flashy visual effects. Equally, the visuals look great offering a significant step up in visual fidelity when compared to the Switch port. The improvements to lighting and the increased resolution make a big difference. Plus, the Switch version’s painfully long loading times are far more manageable with an SSD of choice. Even when played on an HDD I found that the songs loaded far quicker than they do on the Switch. That means less waiting around and more vibing to the music.
The only criticism I have of the PC port is that it is locked at 60 frames per second. It’s possible that a workaround will be found for this in the future, but, with no integrated option to adjust the game’s refresh rate, I was stuck at 60 fps. Obviously, this is perfectly playable, but a lot of PC owners are going to have machines that are capable of far better performance if given the chance. Regardless, this is an overall good port, especially given that some Japanese developers have struggled on the PC platform in the past.
Despite its limited progression and simplistic gameplay, there’s no doubt that Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix+ is a good game. It isn’t overly ambitious, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be. You get cute Vocaloids, a colossal tracklist, lots of cosmetics, and some fun rhythm action.
Usually, the best games are the ones that achieve exactly what they set out to do. Mega Mix+ is no exception to that rule. If this was a more expensive game, I’d have problems with what’s available. But at this price point, you can’t expect too much. This is worth checking out for both Vocaloid fans and PC gamers looking for an entertaining rhythm game.