As ever, it's time to fling out the standard three notes on this one, so standard that some of this text is actually recycled from the Editor's Note for F 2nd (it's economically friendly)- first, we took our own screenshots, so click them to embiggen them. Second, we've done our best to avoid having to parse Vocaloid names in full, using only their first names simply because it gives us a headache. Finally, because this is a sort-of port of Future Tone which came to us from the arcades, it is pure and untainted, which means we don't have to say we won't be mentioning the DIVA Rooms or Edit Mode this time! Except for just now, when we did. Never mind. The other thing is that we played on a mixture of docked and undocked modes, but primarily undocked because, well, that's the biggest draw of this version, as we shall soon see.
This is the somehow-still-ongoing story of how I became the worst Vocaloid fan in the world.
(Hey, stop! If you haven't already, I'd highly recommend reading Gaming Hell's collection of Project DIVA game reviews before proceeding!)
(If nothing else, please read the article on Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone as Mega Mix is mostly based on that one!)
Well, it's been a little while, hasn't it? Last time, I really wasn't sure when the gears of rhythm would turn again. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone seemed like a pretty damn high note to end things on for the time being- an enhanced port of the arcade game with the biggest setlist in the entire series and razor-sharp mechanics that made it the best of the lot- and indeed that's how things had been until July 2019, when Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega39's- Mega Mix for Western markets- was announced for the Nintendo Switch, with a release following in 2020. Not only would Miku be returning to a portable format for the first time since 2016's Project DIVA X, but this also marked the first appearance of Project DIVA on a non-Sony format at home. Putting games on the Switch is basically a license to print money at the moment, so of course our little Meeks would be making the jump! Naturally, this also meant that your pals, Gaming Hell, would be doomed to write about it, long long after any kind of critique would be useful to people. Business as usual over here, then.
Anyway, it should be obvious, for a sixth time, that Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix is a rhythm game.
(How many times can this site get away with that old line, I wonder? Probably not many.)
Mega Mix is kind of a 'best of' port of the PS4 Future Tone from 2017- indeed, The Cutting Room Floor notes that this still uses files and directories from the PS4 game, and some things can even be put back in with the right know-how- but with a heck of a lot of songs cut out and new features added in. We'll get back to that setlist later, but while I guess this is more a straight port than a brand new game, that's not how it's presented- the Future Tone branding is basically gone entirely from the game, although you can use the old menu music if you desire- and it bucks the trend of other ports in the series that generally add only a few extra songs, like Project DIVA f on Vita versus Project DIVA F on PS3. The format is also a big consideration here, so let's get on with it. In terms of game mechanics, nothing has changed- as a swirling mass of notes make their way onto the screen while the PV plays in the background, you must bop them out of existence by pressing the matching button in time with the music (fortunately for veterans of the series, you can use the standard Playstation icons if the idea of X not being the bottom face button sends you for a loop), with other types of notes including Hold Notes (hold them for as long as you can for the maximum bonus, and you get even more points for holding multiple notes at once), Combo Notes where you need to press two or more buttons at the same time (with a diagram appearing if you haven't messed with the control layout) and Slider Notes that require you to use either the analogue sticks or shoulder buttons to hit (originally a touchscreen thing, although as we'll see that can be changed back). Miss notes and your precious life meter decreases eventually leading to Game Over, but hit the borderline percentage (explained briefly here under Completion Gauge) to clear the song and be awarded a ranking befitting your performance! Achieve ultimate victory across five possible difficulty settings with a Perfect ranking and brag to your friends! I mean, if you want, like.
Now, reading this site for more than a few minutes will clue you in that I really enjoy the Project DIVA games. They're satisfying, exciting, and just the right level of challenge for me, but they also fluctuate a little in terms of mechanics, and so Future Tone in particular got it just right. Fortunately, not only has the core of Future Tone been preserved in Mega Mix, but so have all the extremely useful extras and tweaks to the mechanics that made FT the perfect DIVA game to me, and probably the most accessible to players of all skill levels. To rattle some of them off pretty quickly so we're all up to speed... Hard Mode is unlocked from the off, meaning that only Extreme needs to be unlocked on every song; Controls are fully customisable to your liking with several different symbol options; Combo Notes have diagrams to show what to press and strings of them that change the notes keep the note in common on the same horizontal line to keep things clear; there's a robust Practice Mode allowing you to rewind and play sections giving you trouble; Easy and Normal modes have Challenge Time that remove the life meter to help players earn extra points; and probably most importantly, the in-game UI very clearly shows what rank you're on-target for and whether you're failing or not, something earlier entries struggled to adequately communicate to the player. All of this, and the general high quality of Future Tone, makes it over for this version, so there's really not too much to say in terms of really in-the-weeds mechanics. One thing I will say for this version though, the Switch's JoyCons are actually a good fit for this game! While the D-Pad having the form factor of face buttons makes them a little awkward for other games, they're quite handy here as they feel just like buttons. I wish there was an option to hit Slider Notes with the touchscreen when undocked while playing normally (we'll get to touch controls later) but the analogue sticks and shoulder buttons here are just fine for this.
So, this is a completely fine port, exactly what you'd expect. Everything that's made it over has done so with no noticeable problems, and it really feels like you've got a portable version of Future Tone in your hands, definitely not a compromised port in technical terms at least. That's why I've got way less to say about the general mechanics this time One oddity, however, is the general look of the PVs and characters- rather than the 'shiny' look of Future Tone, everything has had a cel-shaded-esque look, a graphical effect referred to as the toon shader by fans, perhaps a little closer to the older Project DIVA games. This look does make the character models pop out from the background and emphasises their eyes more, and what few new PVs are in the game that use the in-game engine (particularly Catch the Wave) feel like they were made specifically with this shader in mind. However, it also makes model detail harder to pick out and sometimes the colours feel a little too blown out (you can see this on the PV for Weekender Girl- you can't really see any detail on Miku's costume) so you may find this shader looking worse than the original. Weirdly, it seems hacking the game can remove the toon shader so it's a bit baffling why the option wasn't included to toggle it on or off (perhaps some unseen performance issues?). Other than this though, as far as Switch ports go, this is pretty great! What's new, though? Well...
Obviously the biggest new feature is the portability- Project DIVA began on portables, so it's nice to see the best in the series available in the palm of your hand. This'd all be naught if it didn't work well in handheld mode (as has apparently been an issue with other Switch ports) so we're gonna have to invoke our inner PC Gaming nerd (spoiler, it doesn't exist) and assess performance. Fortunately, it's completely fine, although not without mild caveats for the ultra-hardcore. The actual rhythm game portion runs at full speed at all times with no hiccups as far as I could see from my time with it, but the PVs in the background vary. Generally if the environments are simple and there's only one character on-screen, it will run at the correct 60FPS, anything more than that and it will play at 30FPS with ghosting (which ruined more than a few screenshots, and is a little noticeable here and there) but gameplay is not compromised, which is the important thing. The only time the game badly struggles is on the menus, oddly enough, specifically the Customisation menu when picking costumes for any songs that allow for six characters- the poor thing will chug and strain to select anything! Needless to say, there's nothing like that in docked mode, with all PVs running at 60FPS with the only exception being some slowdown during the sakura petal storm in Senbonzakura (at least, as far as I noticed). The portability also allows for one extra mode barely advertised (it's hiding in the Customisation menu)- Tap Play, which rearranges the UI and lays the buttons out like the arcade game at the bottom of the screen, so you can tap the screen to play and slide your finger across the screen for Slider Notes, like you're some kind of savage playing a mobile rhythm game This works far better than it has any right to, honestly, with the buttons being just the right size to comfortably play and still see the screen, so if you have a suitable place to rest your Switch on, you can experience the game as it was in the arcades without having to either find a cabinet or get one of those monstrously expensive Project DIVA arcade controllers from HORI (yes, they made one of those for the Switch version too). Why more of a fuss wasn't made about this inclusion I've no idea.
This brings me to the other, more heavily-advertised feature, the all-new Mix Mode. Theoretically you can play this in portable mode, but it's intended to be played docked where you don't have to worry about the Switch screen flopping over, as you'll be detaching the JoyCons for this. Here, you play using the JoyCon's gyroscopic sensors, with each hand representing a paddle at the bottom of the screen that curves in a half-circle as you twist the gyroscope with your wrist, with the objective being to line the note bars that descend from the top of the screen with the appropriate bottom bar and tapping the shoulder button to register a hit. The closest contemporary I can think of is the control knobs from Konami's SOUND VOLTEX as in both titles you have to keep your icon lined up with the notes, especially the ones where you have to hold a shoulder button rather than just tap and keep it in the target zone. That's all there is to it, really, same rules as the rest of the game otherwise. The main problem with Mix Mode is that it doesn't work properly and it's not fun. Sorry, was that too blunt? To elaborate, I was half-convinced my JoyCons were broken when I first played this, and after I had to send them away to get fixed (the dreaded JoyCon Drift was stopping me playing Collection of Mana) I tried again and hey, turns out this mode is just rubbish. Twisting the gyroscopes as explained by the game is finicky and inaccurate leaving you frustrated as you fail to line the bars up with the notes, and it's actually quite uncomfortable to do for any length of time, giving me vivid flashbacks of the worst of the Wii era. Even if it did work properly, it's an unexciting mode with nothing really going for it and I'd rather just, you know, play the proper game, so Mix Mode is honestly a bust. I'm sure a fun gyroscope mode is possible with the Project DIVA format but not like this, and it certainly isn't anything worth buying this version exclusively for.
The remaining additions are the new songs and modules / costumes, plus leaderboard support. Ten songs never before playable in the Project DIVA series make their debut, and the good ones are absolute crackers- Catch the Wave is another belter by kz(livetune) made specifically for this game, Alien Alien is NayutalieN's otherworldly bop with an infectious dance to go along with it, HIBANA is a superb contribution from DECO*27 as expected, and Ooedo Julianight is an excellent fusion of traditional Japanese music and '90s techno beats by Mitchie M, one of my very favourite producers. Oh, and emon's Dreamin Chuchu is pretty great too and has a really fun note pattern, but while I'm a little ambivalent on the others they added, that's fine. Can't like all the songs. One disappointment here is that half these new songs use PVs that are just videos with no way to put your chosen character in. This is alright for songs like Ooedo Julianight which already had a smashing music video, but Roki is a bizarre outlier- it's a music video made with Project DIVA models but you can't customise it! This also means there's no real new modules (the only new one without DLC is Miku's great Catch the Wave costume) but instead you have a large selection of t-shirts plus five slots for designing your own. This is a cute idea in theory, but it doesn't pan out in practice, as while the six main Vocaloids can wear your t-shirts, the designs will be cut off or left with empty space depending on who you put it on. Additionally, even with the touch screen, actually drawing a design is difficult to do accurately- all I had to do was write Cutie Q and draw a heart and somehow that was way harder than I thought it'd be. In any case, having most of the old modules is nice in lieu of anything new, and again, that's fine. As for leaderboard support, it's neat that it's there (seeing how you've performed compared to others can get you on that score hunting) but it's surprisingly hidden (it's in the Gallery section for whatever reason) so you may not even realise it's there!
So... The extras added to this port are mostly swing and a miss, beyond the portability, Tap Play and the quality of the new songs. Where the conflict lies in Mega Mix is that it is a perfectly fine port of the best Project Diva game, with the added bonus of portability that's hard to complain about... But you're paying a heck of a premium for that portability with a lot gutted out only to have that stuff sold back to you for even more money. Specifically, PS4 Future Tone's two main game packs come as a bundle at £32.99 for over 220 songs (it launched at £44.99, but no longer), while Mega Mix on its own is £34.99 for 101 songs with many old songs sold in packs of four for £5.99 a pop or £24.99 per season pass. That Switch tax, am I right, folks? By the end, there were seventeen DLC packs, that's a lot for stuff you can get in another version! Normally pricing, amount of "content" (sorry, I just threw up a little in my mouth) and DLC isn't a huge issue for Gaming Hell, not because we're fabulously, monstrously wealthy (HA HA HA WE WISH, please donate to us) but because, well, this site mostly looks at old games, far away from the modern games industry. It is absolutely a concern here because, well, look at those numbers, that disparity, for previously-available songs! At least Future Tone's DLC was new stuff! One way of looking at it is that the Mega Mix setlist is a 'curated' one, having only the best of the best, and honestly they made a lot of great choices (although the fact that Nyan Cat isn't here by default makes me question that) with this approach intended for newcomers to get comfy with the series without overwhelming them. That's fair, even if some of those ones that didn't make it are personal favourites (at one point in the Future Tone review I rattle off a list of songs I really loved- almost all of them were cut). There's also the fact that before Future Tone, songs would be cut from these games all the time, with each new game having a new setlist, and keeping this many songs in the game would, eventually, have to stop. Quality over quantity is something I'm OK with, I mean, you've seen this site's update schedule, right? [Oh, that's what you call it? I thought you were just a sloth. - Ed] So if that were the extent of it, maybe I'd be a bit kinder.
What irks me, however, is the fact that many of the songs cut from Future Tone are being sold back to you as pricey DLC- the first eight bundles of DLC are just that, and the second season pass of the remaining nine packs of songs has a few new ones but plenty more are just the cut songs. This happened in F 2nd, for sure, but that adapted old songs from the PSP games to a new format while completely remastering the PVs, so you could at least see a justification for it. That's also happening here, but the 'new format' in this case is Mix Mode which, well, you saw what I thought of that, and Future Tone is readily available with those songs for significantly cheaper. The final straw for me was the Sega remixes carrying an additional price tag in the West (they were free in Japan) especially since a lot of Mikumaniac friends of mine stopped themselves from buying the game specifically because those songs were cut. I know, game development often has to claw back money through DLC, but this is a bit cheeky and there doesn't seem to be much of a way to justify gutting so many songs to sell back to you. A different way of handling it- perhaps a selection of free (non-pre-prder / bundle purchase bonuses, there's a few of those too) songs to salve the wound, or more songs trapped in Project DIVA X made available as DLC, even if they used video PVs for them- might've made me less miffed about it all. Admittedly, yes, owning Future Tone does make one wonder why you'd buy Mega Mix at all, but that lure of portability is very potent, especially for something so suited to it as Project DIVA, and piecemealing these songs away for no real reason- even if you didn't want those songs, the game has a link to visit the eShop on the main menu- just feels like money for old rope, seeing if they can get away with it. DLC can be done right, and this ain't it. In fact, maybe a later port of this game would show a better way of doing things, hmm, we'll see.
OK, now I've put the old soapbox away, it's probably time to wrap things up, this has gone on for far too long already. In the end, let's put the dropped songs and sneaky DLC practices to one side for a second and ask a simple question: whether you own PS4 Future Tone or not, is Mega Mix worth the inflated price? I think the answer is yes if you want portability, and that's the main thing. If you want to be able to whip out Miku on a whim and play with the best game mechanics of the series, then Mega Mix is absolutely worth it, perhaps with just the base set of songs if you can bear to live without Yellow and Gigantic Girl. I think there's an argument to be made for it being a nice introduction to the series as a whole- less songs may be less overwhelming, and you'll be seeing a lot of the all-time classics. You're definitely not buying this for the Mix Mode which is a complete waste of time (if you can have fun with it, more power to you, but my hands just scream out in pain when thinking about it and it feels worthless and undercooked) or the t-shirt designer which is a weird bit of fluff that doesn't even work that great. Had the undocked mode not worked as well as it does then this would've been a hard pass, absolutely not, not even for Miku. Bring those dropped songs and DLC shenanigans back to the table, however, and the deal is soured a bit, especially since the exclusive songs in Mega Mix are coming to PS4 Future Tone anyway as DLC. Ultimately, games on Gaming Hell are judged on merit rather than pricetag or anything like that, but I can't say to you that my opinion on Mega Mix was not affected by this nonsense 'cause I'd be lying. A straight port would've probably got full marks again, honestly! Thus, you, the reader, are free to interpret that one star docked from this review in your own way- it's either because of the lacklustre additions to a fantastic game, or because of the sacrifice of many an excellent song to the throne of downloadable content and the Switch tax. Or hey, even both, if you're nasty.
Anyway, there's only one way to end this, and it's how it always ends- with Not-Godzilla and Haku, hangin' out, bein' friends.
For showing the more avaricious side of this modern diva, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix is awarded...
In a sentence, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix is...
The same great game as last time, but less so.