Reviewing this game was harder than I expected it to be going in. Although I've had experience with the Project DIVA series in the past (having reviewed Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F 2nd back in 2014), and I even imported the title (Project DIVA X) at the Japanese launch, it took me a decently long time to decide if some of the changes that the game brings to the Project DIVA formula are positive or negative. For players both new and old to the series, Project DIVA X still has the same basic gameplay of timing button presses to a hectic, trailing line of symbols corresponding to different buttons - all to the Vocaloid tunes of Hatsune Miku and friends - however, it doesn't shy away from being a different sort of experience at its core.
The first difference that players will notice is that the game now includes a story. It's not very deep, though character interactions are a lot more interesting thanks to the localization, but it acts as a means to an end to justify the new mission-based gameplay. If you've played Project DIVA F 2nd, you probably remember the challenges that each song had, requiring you to complete certain objectives to unlock different items for the Diva Shop. Cloud Requests are somewhat similar, but differ in both the objectives they tend to feature as well as the rewards you get for completing them.
This is where one of those changes I wasn't sure off comes in. In order to make the game's Cloud Requests more interesting, every Module and Accessory has been given one of five alignments, corresponding to the various "Clouds" representing various facets of Miku's personality. Songs are divided up into Classic, Cool, Cute, Elegant, and Quirky - with Modules and Accessories given their own classifications as well, so as to incentivize players to use "equipment" that will mesh with the feel of each song. Each Module also have been given their own special attributes - like increasing the possibility of a new or rare module dropping after clearing Chance Time in a song, increasing the ratio of Rate Up notes in a song, and more.
Even if you're a longtime fan of the Project DIVA series, you're probably a little confused about that last bit - let me explain. First off, Cloud Requests have players going through songs, trying to gather a high enough "voltage" (aka score) to clear the specific challenge that they've chosen. At the same time, they're also attempting to overflow the voltage bar at the bottom of the screen as many times as possible, so they can get more item drops at the end of the song. Players can't fail any Cloud Request unless they don't have enough "voltage" at the end of the song, as the life meter has been replaced with a "voltage multiplier" in this game mode. Players can increase the initial multiplier by coordinating their equipped modules and accessories with the song, though playing the song will cause the multiplier to go up naturally.In addition, highlighted Rate Up notes sprinkled throughout a song will increase your multiplier instantly after being cleared.
Just like in the "regular" Project DIVA (which is available as "Free Play" here), songs include Technical Zones and Chance Time. Technical Zones are areas of especially difficult note combinations that give players a bonus if they manage to combo every note in the chain. Similarly, Chance Time is a portion of notes at the climax of the song that - in the Cloud Requests mode - allows you to get a random Module drop in the middle of the song, assuming you clear enough notes throughout it's duration and then clear the large star note at the end. Once the song is completed, you receive that module for customization use during other songs, and a set of items (accessories, gifts, et all) depending on how many times you filled up the voltage bar. Both the module that you get for clearing Chance Time and the items you get at the results screen are randomized.
This is completely different compared to the way that these things were handled in Project DIVA F 2nd, and I can't say that I'm the biggest fan of the change overall. Because of the fact that you can only get one random module drop each time you play a song, and the game features over 300 modules, it might easily take players over 100 hours to unlock every costume in the game. This is compared to the forty hours it might have taken in the previous games. The main reason it will take players so long to gather every module this time around is simple; you can get duplicates. I can understand why the developers may have chosen to make the change, as it does make each costume seem much more valuable compared to previous games, but it makes 100% clearing the game a much bigger pain, especially since you can't unlock modules in Free Play.
Even though I can see a reasoning for the change for costumes, I just can't justify the change done to items. It comes across as padding, pure and simple. I already had issues with how much harder it was to deal with the Diva Room in Project DIVA F 2nd - as each Vocaloid had limits to how many gifts you could give them between each song - but in addition to that limit being kept this time around, it's completely random what gifts you might get at the end of songs. As a result, it's almost impossible to plan around increasing your affection levels with the various idols. It's a grind, and if collecting costumes doesn't take players 100 hours, just getting every character up to the highest affection will. I would've VASTLY preferred returning to the Project DIVA f/F system instead of continuing along the Project DIVA F 2nd train of thought.
There are a few other problems I could go over - like the removal of the new star notes added in F 2nd - but in the grand scheme of things, the actual gameplay is still great. Modules and items are only secondary content in the first place, and Project DIVA X manages to add a few features I can definitely appreciate. The first I'd like to mention could be considered a negative depending on who you ask, but long story short, the "story" based song videos are completely replaced by stage-based dancing videos. While I definitely enjoyed them in f and F 2nd, it makes sense why they've been removed once you realize you can now play any song on any stage, as well as chain songs together as a Festival.
Festivals are a subset of a variety of "Event Requests", where you play one or more songs with an extra hard voltage requirement to attempt to unlock special modules. Festivals allow you to play multiple songs at the same time, with one song transitioning to the next near seamlessly. It's a cool feature, and it's just a shame that it isn't used to a greater extent. It would've been great if the feature was usable in Free Play.
SEGA has managed to integrate cross-save not only between PS4 and Vita copies of the game, but also games from differing regions as well. I was able to easily transfer my save data back and forth from my Japanese Vita copy of the game to my North America PS4 copy. It's not something that you see every day, but it's definitely greatly appreciated, and I thought it was worth mentioning even if the feature is something that I'd imagine most players won't experience. The company did a similar thing with Project DIVA F 2nd, which allowed players to import their saves from their Japanese copy to their English copy, but naturally, Project DIVA X's solution is even better.
Speaking of the differences between the game's two releases, it's hard to decide which version - the PS4 or Vita release - is objectively better. The Vita version is portable, and the game absolutely looks stunning for the platform, but the PS4 release runs at 1080p/60fps and includes much better graphics. They both play well, and really what it comes down to (in my eyes) is whether or not you would rather play the game at 60 fps - Project DIVA f/F 2nd ran at 30 - or if you'd rather have the game on a handheld. Both versions are worth your time.
Although Project DIVA X's tracklist is noticeably smaller than most other games in the series, it's my personal opinion that the tracks on display here are better than the tracks in the other two localized titles in the franchise. Medley's, though they aren't for everyone, were easily the highlight of the game for me, with many of them including songs that have been featured in the series in the past as part of their remixes. However, taste in music will always be subjective, so just because I personally loved the game's tracklist doesn't mean everyone will feel the same - I know people who hated the game's tracklist around the Japanese launch.
The final thing I have to say about gameplay is probably my biggest complaint with the game overall, and it's definitely not a small one. In Project DIVA f/F 2nd, players had access to the "Edit Mode" that would allow them to animate their own music videos and even design their own rhythm game charts. The feature was great, and there were many memorable user note charts uploaded for both titles - including note charts imitating some of the tracks from Project DIVA X following its release. Needless to say, it helped expand both game's replay values exponentially. Creating charts for your favorite songs or playing charts that had been shared online was great fun and was a major reason as to why I rated Project DIVA F 2nd as high as I did.
In short, Edit Mode has been replaced by a much simpler "Concert Editor" that only allows players to adjust the camera and stage effects for songs already in the game.
Unlike in F 2nd, players cannot create note charts in Project DIVA X. Although the Concert Editor boasts that it's an in-depth tool to create your own concert, players are not only limited to only songs already included in the game, but players can't even share their concert configurations online. Compounded with the fact that Project DIVA X has fewer songs on the cart/disc than either f or F 2nd (30, though DLC can bump it up to 32) it's easy to see that as far as practical content goes, Project DIVA X drops the ball. Despite all that, as far as rhythm games go, Project DIVA X is still a great one - it's the same great gameplay I fell in love with years ago. That being said, for nearly every type of player, the title is a noticeable step down from Project Diva F 2nd. There is less music to play, challenges aren't as interesting as the ones included in Project DIVA F 2nd, and for completionists, module collecting is a pain.
If someone were to ask me if I'd recommend the game, I'd have to know more about their specific situation. If they've already played Project DIVA F 2nd, and they're looking for more songs to play on their Vita or PS4 - sure. Even though I got my PS4 copy for free, I paid over $60 for my Japanese import months ago, and I thought the game was worth playing then. If you're a fan of the series, you probably already know that you're going to want to play the game, and that's cool - Project DIVA X is still a great game, it's just a shame to see it be a clear step down in quality from Project DIVA F 2nd.
Project DIVA X might be a very different beast from its predecessors, but it ends up feeling like a step down in quality. It's still a great rhythm game worth playing, but newcomers to the series might want to play Project DIVA F 2nd instead for that game's more substantial content and feature set.(Review Policy)