With VIZ Media announcing their U.S. license for all things Hatsune Miku, the gate is officially open for a full-scale Miku invasion. The big question now is what exactly are they going to license? VIZ themselves are mostly known for their manga and anime licenses, but what had me interested was a few things they specifically mention (although just a mention, nothing official) in their press release. One I discussed in my previous cblog, the apparently "forthcoming" full length Supercell album. The other is the series of video games made by SEGA that we all know as Project Diva.
Now if you had told me there was a chance these games were coming to the U.S even a month or two ago, I would not have believed you. But it looks like the powers that be are really going through with this so why not use all the tools at your disposal? The Project Diva games not only showcase some of the best Vocaloid songs but they're also fun music/rhythm games in their own right. Even if you take away the Miku angle, it's not like we haven't seen some quirky Japanese music games hit our shores in the past. There are many examples, but compared to say Parappa the Rapper or SEGA's own Space Channel 5, Project Diva actually comes off as pretty "normal". Those games managed to find an audience and I'm pretty sure Miku would too.
Once you've decided to bring the series over, the next question is what games do you bring? The core gameplay mechanics of "push a button with the music" is consistent throughout, but the series exists in several overlapping, slightly confusing forms. First you have the two PSP releases and the oddly managed Dreamy Theater PS3 expansion that let's you to play in HD. Then there's the arcade version sporting upgraded graphics and a few unique songs of its own. Currently in the works is another PSP title and a second PS3 add-on, both of which seem to lean toward expansions with new songs as opposed to true sequels.
The most obvious, immediate choice would be to bring over the second PSP title, the appropriately named Project Diva 2nd. The game features a good selection of songs and there's not much to translate, so that would seem like the easiest way to go. But In the dream world where I get everything I want, I'm going to ask for a PS3 release. It doesn't have to be an entirely new game per se, using the songs from the two PSP titles would work fine. The assets are already there from Dreamy Theater or in the works for it's sequel, so how about putting them together for a standalone release? You could even re-package it back in Japan as the "International Version". Are you listening SEGA? Make it happen!
An interesting third option is the Arcade version. Yes, I understand arcades are dead outside of Japan, but having a few cabinets in a few malls dotted across the country couldn't hurt. The colorful, music-based gameplay might be appealing the same way DDR was, and at the very least you could gain a little exposure... OK that's the old man arcade-dweller in me talking, it's probably not the best idea. I still would like to see it though.
I suppose my opinion on the games' potential is not entirely objective, I may just be imposing my own experience on everyone else. When I first heard Hatsune Miku there were a few songs I thought were ok, but I didn't think much of it beyond that. Being a big fan of music/rhythm games however, the Project Diva series caught my attention, and I liked the music enough to go ahead with the import. As the hours passed by with my focus on playing the game and not the fact I was hearing songs sung by a computer program, I found the music embedding itself in my head. I had to appreciate that these were some creative, well composed pop songs regardless of who or what was singing them. I still wouldn't call myself the biggest Vocaloid fan out there, but experiencing the music in game form did help win me over to the concept. I think it would be cool if some other curious or on-the-fence people out there could have a similar experience.
Overall I'm just happy we've reached the point where you can actually make a viable case for an English-langauge Project Diva release. As bizarre as the Toyota partnership and other inevitable tie-ins may seem, I think it's ultimately good for Vocaloid fans who have had no official ways to purchase the music and merchandise in the past. Some people have voiced concern about Miku becoming too popular and that the scene will be overrun by the Hot Topic crowd, but I just don't see that happening. Even if it did, I say if some kid needs to wear a branded t-shirt to feel good about him/herself then that's his/her problem. If it means I'll be playing a reasonably-priced copy of the latest Project Diva game in English then I'll probably be too busy to notice.
I may have a few more Miku Invasion 2011 rants left in me, so keep an eye out for that. You can also check me out on twitter, @jelx23, should you feel compelled to discuss random things about anime and video games.
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