And now it’s time to complain about Project Diva for the exact reason I just spent an entire article praising it.
Hey, I’m a complicated guy.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a tendency to… indulge in the histories of fictional characters. I literally cannot remember a time in my life when this was not the case (personally, I blame Nintendo Power reaming paragraphs of biographical information out of those glowy balls in Castlevania 3), but I have distinct memories of discussing the backgrounds of Robot Masters with friends in grade school (“There has to be a reason there’s a Snake Man and a Toad Man!”), and later spending time at my grandparents’ home and sneaking off with a laptop to read up on SoulCalibur character profiles. Obviously, this trend has continued into my adulthood, as I can somehow recount the life and times of violent skeleton ghosts at the drop of a hat. It’s pretty inevitable that, should I enjoy Media X, then I’ll be up until 4 am on X-wiki sussing out the complete tale of Character Y. And, to be clear, this doesn’t just apply to videogames; let me tell you about my universal savior.
So it was only natural that, when I discovered I really enjoyed Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F, I had to dive into the Vocaloid fandom. I wasn’t going to start putting together any transgender cosplay or anything (… probably), but you better believe I wanted an explanation for everything I was seeing during these eclectic music videos. Why is that woman always in the sad videos? Are these two supposed to be twins? Is the pink haired one, like, the mom? And why is the star of the show sometimes villainous? None of this makes any sense, but I’m sure there’s an online resource to explain what I’m seeing.
And… there wasn’t.
Well, alright, that’s not completely true. There are, of course, billions of words on the subject of Hatsune Miku and her Vocaloid buddies. But I found that investigating “the real Hatsune Miku” was a fool’s errand no more valid than attempting to explain why Bugs Bunny is a wise-cracking wabbit one minute and a (parenthetically female) opera singer the next. The Vocaloids were created as mascots for a piece of virtual singing software, and no one really felt a need to pin down the exact personality of the virtual divas. There are general roles for these characters, but, by and large, they are deliberately as adaptable as the singing software to which they are attached.
As I covered in the previous article, that’s marvelous, and practically unheard of nowadays. Whether you’re Justin Bieber or Harry Potter, you need to have a defined image, and videogames have been providing these stories for decades. Mario could just be Jump Man, but, no, he’s a proud and courageous plumber that was born through the intervention of bipedal dinosaurs. Ryu is a wandering street fighter that lives for the glory of the fight and maybe to avenge his dead/not-dead master who died/fell asleep at the hands of the malevolent Akuma and his assassin’s fist. Mega Man is a dorky little metal boy with a peashooter that is somehow attached to literally thousands of years of robot wars and apocalypses of various sizes. Come to think of it, how dare Hatsune Miku not have a defined background? What’s the matter, blue hair, having enough backstory to fill up a few pages of a strategy guide not good enough for ya?!
And, while I may have been quietly disrespected by the lack of Vocaloid background beyond “Hatsune is dedicated” or “Rin is eccentric”, I got by. This was an excellent rhythm series, so who cares if the main character is as flat as a chalkboard? What’s important is the experience and the songs! You don’t need a story mode in a rhythm game!
And then… there was one.
Hatsune Miku Project Diva X is the third or fourth Project Diva game released on this side of the Pacific. It is, like its sisters, another rhythm game where you can tap along to your favorite Vocaloid tunes. There is great choreography, fun songs, and the usual mix of quirky ‘n cool that defines the other Project Diva titles. I can’t complain about more of the same, because it’s more of the same good, and, if we’re going to get a new Madden every year, we may as well get a Japanese idol simulator annually to balance out all the testosterone. I’m always going to be down for a new Project Diva, one way or another.
But this Project Diva game had a p…p….plot! The Vocaloids are trapped in some sort of musical limbo, and aren’t even allowed to sing until “you” the player manage a very willing Hatsune Miku to sing through a few hits. Then, once a musical prism has filled with voltage (or… something?), the other Vocaloids are free to sing along through other songs to fill up other prisms. And each prism has a theme like “cool” or “elegant”, and, between songs, the Vocaloids discuss what it means to “be” these abstract concepts. The girls start a rock band! That blue kid becomes an idol! The twins are performing some kind of comedy routine! And it all culminates with a grand performance where they finally make it to regionals! I’m filled with glee!
Wait, no I’m not. I hate this. I just want to get back to the rhythm game. Who would ever want this nonsense?
Oh… right. I did.
So I am again reminded that I have no idea what I want to see in a videogame. I want grand sweeping stories of love and hate and triumphs over adversity… but I’d probably be happier if those stories didn’t actually happen in the videogames themselves. I complain about “gimped” Street Fighter 5 and its teeny tiny story modes, and then literally laugh out loud at the complete insanity that is its “real” story mode. I want all the information I can find on the latest Bioshock prior to release, but I ignore those silly audio tapes because I’m playing a videogame, dammit, let me get back to the action and not sit around listening to some doctor prattle on about the wonders of mad science.
I want the story to be there, but I want to ignore it the minute it becomes available. I’m not that hard to please!
And, of course, in this case, the “story” hampers the very thing I enjoy about the experience. I like Hatsune Miku chameleoning into all these different roles and situations for three minutes at a time, and a “set” backstory only obstructs that ability. Batman can’t randomly become a magical girl, but Hatsune Miku can instantly become a hard-boiled vigilante for the length of a song. However, something about that switch loses something when, moments later, Hatsune Miku is back on your screen asking for a new teddy bear for her room.
So, in the end, what’s important is that no one listens to be about videogame writing, because I clearly have issues with not knowing what I want. If anybody needs me, I’ll be back in the Kingdom Hearts corner, scrutinizing some old man for his ridiculous plans to conquer Disney World. That should make me feel better…
FGC #185.2 Hatsune Miku: Project Diva (series)
- System: Playstation 3, Vita, and still Playstation 4.
- Number of players: Just one story to unite them all.
- Not going to talk about the 3DS game? Nah, that’s it’s own thing.
- So Final Fantasy 4 and Project Diva are both worthy of multiple articles, but not other games? Well, both of those “franchises” have had multiple releases, so I haven’t even done an FGC article for every Project Diva or Final Fantasy 4 game available. And now we don’t have to hear about the Vocaloids again for a while, so everybody wins!
- Favorite Vocaloid: Uh… they’re pretty much all the same? I guess I like the tall, pink-haired one. What’s her name again? Never mind, I don’t want to know anymore.
- Did you know? Hatsune Miku only made the scene with the Vocaloid software’s second release. She wasn’t there from the beginning! And her entire debut popularity is owed to a welsh onion (citation needed)!
- Would I play again: The good news is that story mode eventually kind of quits, and then you can do whatever the heck you want. So, yes, I will be randomly replaying bits and pieces of any given Project Diva game as the mood strikes me. Like a fighting game, a good rhythm game is great for pickup ‘n play over some downtime between game “experiences”. So way to go, Hatsune Miku, you succeed despite yourself.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Pokémon Blue! What good timing, as I was just thinking of the original 151 thanks to various cell phone related activities. Bulbasaur rides again! Please look forward to it!