EDITOR'S NOTE:
... Actually, at this point, I think I'd rather have LoveLive again. At least it would make a change.
Ahem. Guess we'd better 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 Future Tone comes 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.

This is the definitive 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!)

When we last spoke, the Project DIVA series was in what we'd call a weird place, with the release of Project DIVA X, something we felt was a step down from previous games. The big problems, really, were the changes to the structure. In a way, the series went for too many big ideas too quickly- randomised module drops? A restrictive quest mode that didn't let you unlock content in free play and had too much grinding? And that's not even counting baggage from previous entries in the series, like the DIVA Room and the now-useless Live Edit feature. Shortly afterwards though, Sega delivered a digital-only release of Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone, a modified port of the 2013 arcade game of the same name just with the Arcade bit dropped. This, in turn, is a sequel to Project DIVA Arcade, and this is where it gets weird- the first arcade game came out in 2010 and was the first Project DIVA sequel, released half a year before Project DIVA 2nd on PSP. As a result, the game was iterated upon in a very different way than what happened with its console cousin, and Future Tone goes even further away from the home DIVA games. It's almost like a divergent series, and the fact that there was no home version of either for so long made it a bit of a mystery on this side of the pond, albeit the kind of mystery you could see getting absolutely destroyed by experts on NicoNicoDouga.

Anyway, it should be obvious, for a fifth time, that Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone is a rhythm game.

(Yep, still going with that line.)



The basics are, for the most part, standard DIVA- hit the swirling notes, make combos, don't die- but the original Arcade was made in a time before the Hold notes and Direction notes of 2nd, and as such the basics evolved in quite a different direction. For a start, there's no Direction notes- each of the face buttons and each arrow on the d-pad do the same notes, and you'll never have to, say, press Up and Triangle at once. There are Hold notes, but they're not what you saw in 2nd, and serve as probably the biggest distinction. Rather than hold a note for a set amount of time before letting go on-beat, you just hold the note for as long as you can- doing so displays how many points you're racking up, and you can even hold multiple notes at once for even higher scores. They will eventually time out, at which point you'll get an extra bonus, so they're critical to high scores. There are also Combo notes, which need you to press two buttons, such as Square and Circle, at the same time. Finally, there are Slider notes- Future Tone introduced a slider bar at the top of the control panel, which had short Slider notes that required just a tap, and longer Slider notes that had to gliding your finger across for the specified length. In this home version, you can do Slider notes either with the analogue sticks, the shoulder buttons, or the touch pad by default. With these four kinds of notes, you must rack up a certain percentage on the progress bar (with percentage calculated with a formula using a reference score as 100%- explained a little here) to conquer the 200+ songs, divided into two packs of ~100 songs each, and assert your dominance as the Rhythm Queen!



Weirdly, it's the controls I'm going to have to talk about in-depth first, as they can at first be a bit difficult to get used to. The original Arcade and Future Tone cabinets didn't have the familiar cross formation for the buttons, instead having giant buttons laid out horizontally, with the slider bar above. This means rather than using your thumbs, you used your hands to play, and this naturally made holding multiple buttons and reaching over for the slider bar much easier. On home consoles, you are a little more cramped and the slider bar is substituted for the touch pad and analogue sticks, and while holding two buttons for Combo notes is no big deal, holding three is a little trickier to do with finesse at high-speed. and your thumbs can get muddled up. It's not quite as difficult to grasp as pop'n music on a controller, and there are tricks to it (for three-button Combos, look for the note that's not there) but it takes getting used to. Luckily, this is alleviated by Sega letting you assign the buttons to your liking, and even change the melody icons themselves. By default, X and Circle are as they always are, and Square and Triangle are representing by arrow symbols instead. The idea is that you have two buttons per thumb, but you can also change them so they're all symbols, or all arrows, but more importantly you can remap all the buttons, including the shoulder buttons to do Combo notes with a button press! It also means that, unlike the Scratch notes from F, you can perform Slider notes here with the shoulder buttons if you wish without having to use a challenge item/being penalised for it. Once you do begin to get a handle on things, though, it's almost not a problem.

In the game itself, these customisable controls are just one of a few contributing factors to Future Tone feeling far more accessible to the whole spectrum of skill levels, a very welcome addition. The most prominent additions in this regard are the fact that all songs are unlocked from the off, the No Fail mode where you will never get booted out of a song because your life bar's empty, and the Practice mode which lets you start a song from anywhere and rewind to let you practice specific sections. This can be especially helpful in Extreme where you keep getting murdered by one specific segment, but it can also help Normal level players learn the best way to tackle tricky areas, and while you may have to put a little work in, it's a neat, interactive way of improving and getting higher scores. Additionally, while the Technical Zones and Chance Times, useful 'come-back' mechanics that could improve your chances of passing in previous games, are now gone, Easy and Normal players get Challenge Time like in 2nd, which removes the life bar temporarily and can offer a big increase in score and passing percentage, to give them that little extra boost.



There's other, more subtle details that alleviate possible trouble spots for the game- Combo strings that shift buttons quickly (such as Triangle + Square to Square + Circle) keep the button they have in common on the same horizontal level as it travels across the screen so you know which you need to stick to, every difficulty except Extreme shows you a shot of the pad and the buttons you need to press for Combo notes (if you haven't changed them), and Combo and Hold notes being very clearly identified from a glance (Combo notes glow yellow and red, Hold notes are marked). More than anything, this has probably the most helpful HUD in the entire series, which charts which rank you're on-target for, and will also flash red when you're in danger of failing the song entirely- more than ever, you really have a gauge on exactly where you are in terms of song completion and how you're improving. The one thing dropped I would've like to see come back is the breakdown of where you were dropping notes, but other than that, all these little concessions help to make things a little easier for new players to get into but don't overhaul the game too dramatically like the Voltage system did in DIVA X. To an extent, this idea of easing players in extends to Prelude (the free download you have to get before the song packs) itself- I might be seeing too much here, but it's interesting to note that Weekender Girl is part of the free download, and its Extreme version actually serves as quite a gentle intro to doing changing Combo notes in a row. The one slight fault here is that while every song has Hard and Extreme charts, Easy and Normal aren't universal, but you at least get one or the other.

At the same time, the game also appeals to intermediate (that's where I am) and expert players. You no longer have to play through Normal to get to the Hard songs, as they're unlocked straight away, so you can start from there and unlock Extreme (and new Extra Extreme songs, notecharts that add Slider notes to songs that were missing them). It also records if you beat a stage with any of the Challenge Items, and in a change that may divide people, the difficulty of Hard and upwards is a big, big uptick from previous games. Hard will test you if you're not ready for it, with some devious note patterns awaiting you, but Extreme is on a whole other level, with a higher percentage needed to pass and utterly, brutally difficult notecharts, meaning you are going to die on your first try... The thing is, as you play and get used to some of the new mechanics and quirks of Extreme (such as its new tendency to stack different button notes on one another- you need to drum them but watch your fingers!), you learn that Extreme isn't insurmountable, but it feels like a real accomplishment to get these stages done. There's a strong sense of satisfaction here, one that I definitely didn't feel in DIVA X, and the excellent note patterns, which continually challenge your dexterity, note recognition and greed (are you gonna Hold those notes for just that little too long? The Extreme stages have a higher focus on letting you build up multiple Hold notes over time, as long as you keep up), make them really engaging and fun to replay. It helps that the Slider notes, while analogous to the Scratch notes from F onwards, are used a lot more sparingly and feel much more natural, instead of being overused just to screw players over (and it helps that there's much less flimsiness to them this time). You can advance your game even further due to the way scoring works- Hold notes will stop adding to your percentage after you earn 5% from them across the whole song, but expert players can learn which normal notes to ignore and keep a Hold going for the higher amount of points they offer overall! From a note pattern and mechanics perspective, then, Future Tone absolutely nails it.



Something else that's a lot different is the structure- this was an arcade game, after all, so it was designed with quick play in mind. As mentioned there's no unlocking new songs (only Extreme and Extra Extreme) but also no silly DIVA Room, no Edit Studio, no extraneous fluff. There is the list of songs- unlocked when you buy each pack (and a bonus Survival Course when you have both packs that puts you on one lifebar) but that's it. This is definitely a boon for the game. Back when I was playing 2nd, I got myself stuck on certain trouble songs, and while that's not an issue for me with these games, I always try and keep the new player experience in mind, and I think Future Tone has the best system for being as accommodating as possible to newbies and pros, as you are free to play whichever song you like as long as you have that pack. Modules don't need to be unlocked before you purchase them either, and you're free to go at your own pace. Some players may find it a little weird not to have to unlock the songs, and may find themselves a little overwhelmed with choice, but because of this, you're able to sort songs by difficulty and either challenge yourself immediately or work your way towards the harder songs. I've found this especially useful in Extreme, finding my sweet spot at the 8.5 difficulty mark, and it's especially good at making you feel like you're making progress, as you start to tackle harder songs.

As for the setlist itself, it's hard to rate it as I typically do with these games, mostly because when combined, both packs have almost every song that's appeared in the DIVA series up to F 2nd, and several from Project mirai (based on their Arcade Future Tone PVs). If you have favourites from the previous games, especially those released in English (except Kagerou Days and, for some reason, Kagamine HachiHachi Flower Fight), then you're mostly covered. Most of those are found in the Future Sound pack, though, so let's instead look at the songs in Colorful Tone, the ones you're more likely not to have seen. They're a very good set, honestly, including but not limited to four superb Sega remixes, the club lounge feel of on the rocks the gloomy beats of break;down, the late-night TV oddity How'd It Get To Be Like This?, the Eurobeat-esque NIGHTMARE☆PARTY NIGHT and the honest-to-goodness yodelling of Oha-Yo-del!!. Plenty of genre variety there, and while the songs are predominantly voiced by Miku, the other Vocaloids get far more of a look-in this time (a problem with DIVA X and F). There's some standout stuff from OSTER project, kz and ryo as well as many other of the usual producer suspects, but my one complaint is the same one I have with every DIVA release- needs more Mitchie M. As for Future Sound, while it may be less tempting if you've already played the other games, it's worth it if you missed a few instalments (extend for me) and, of course, because of the altered mechanics, these will not be the same notecharts you know and love. You will be challenged anew!



With regards to visuals, the original Arcade served as the basis for the PS3 Dreamy Theater releases of the portable DIVA games, so they look pretty solid- nothing that's pushing the PS4 at any rate, but they're certainly not bad, and both the notes and background PV now run at 60FPS, so they run silky-smooth and there's not a hint of any stuttering like some of the Vita versions, The one visual quirk you will notice is some of the earlier songs in Colorful Tone have a slightly odd look to their PVs, in that specific animations and backgrounds get reused a lot, there's lots of very abrupt camera and pose changes, and they generally look less polished. It's a little odd, but later PVs from the arcade game such as LIKE THE WIND and Arifurea Sekai Seifuku look so fantastic it's easy to forgive, and some PVs are even purely music videos (the standout here being Slump). In addition to songs, the modules are mostly culled from previous games but with plenty of ones you won't have seen before, and when you buy both packs, you can mix and match hairstyles, a first for the series. In the presentation and audio department, then, this is very difficult to fault, unless you're not a fan of the new character models (mostly the smaller eyes).

There's but three reservations about the game, and two of them are super-minor, things only I would really notice- the HUD skins that debuted in the arcade games and were present in F 2nf are completely gone, which is a shame. I wanted to set my HUD to a pack of Mikudayos. That's the second reservation- no standalone Mikudayo (she's only available as a head). The other is that the way the game's distributed is a little odd, and may even be offputting for some players- as said, it's divided into two gigantic song packs with respective modules, with a free download offering two songs for free, and additional Encore packs also adding extra songs and modules. Not the first time a rhythm game's done this- see also, Vita LoveLive!, PSP Idolm@ster, etc.- but I'd say it's worth it even if you get just one pack. Either pack gets you three times the songs of a normal DIVA game. If you're worried about there being no value for money here, you have absolutely nothing to worry about, you will get what you paid for (except for that cheeky module unlock key, which I'm disappointed to see it still here- naughty Sega!). Just one pack on its own is worth more than the whole of DIVA X, and it's cheaper to boot.



So, that was a lot of words- even for us- on a video game, but it's not without due cause- I can, without hesitation, call this the best Project DIVA game, by a long shot, as it's laser-focused on making the experience as palatable yet challenging as possible, sanding away all the imperfections to a mirror shine. From 2nd, it fixes the problems with not getting enough feedback with its progress bar. From F and F 2nd, it fixes the obsession with Scratch notes and the stuttering and juddering. From DIVA X, it has absolutely none of the grindy bullshit and convoluted structure that ruined an otherwise solid entry. Yet from all of them, it takes a gigantic setlist, hundreds of cute modules, but brings in its own virtues with its customisable controls, elements that cater to both novice players and experts, and the highlight of the rhythm mechanics being the challenging and engaging Hold system. Whether you are completely new to the series or a battle-hardened veteran of the DIVA World, I cannot recommend Future Tone enough. It's amazing to think Future Tone came out almost 5 years ago, before many of the other sequels we've covered on this site, and yet it is, to me, the best game in the series. The touch of Sega AM2, clearly. If you can only get one pack, make it Colorful Tone as there'll be a lot you've not seen, but I would honestly go for both, so you have all the Project DIVA you'll ever need. Highly recommended.



In other words, Haku and Godzilla approve.

For being the best in the entire series, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone is awarded...

In a sentence, Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone is...
Finally, the game the series was aiming for..



And now, it's that time, folks!
EXTENDED PLAY!



Again, we've glossed over some of the finer details regarding both the game and Vocaloids in general.

For more detailed intel on the Project DIVA series, point your eyes at The Project DIVA Wiki which catalogues... Everything.

For more information on Vocaloid itself, go forth to The Vocaloid Wiki although be warned, you're best searching for producers rather than individual songs.

I'm not responsible for what you do with this knowledge. Good luck!



Just a few notes on the Western release, which I'm honestly astounded happened at all.



While X and Future Tone were released very close to one another in Japan, it took until 2017 for the Western version of Future Tone to appear- for the longest time, I figured Sega wouldn't bother at all, but I guess they wanted to space things out. In any case, the localisation is pretty interesting for this one in a few ways. For a start, most of the songs use their translated titles from the Western releases, with a handful of odd exceptions. The song Torinokocity was previously localised as Urbandonment, Karakuri Pierrot was Clockwork Clown, and Sakura no Ame was Sakura Rain. Aside from this, the names for most songs and every costume are the same as they were in previously-localised versions. The other oddity is that while F 2nd and X had fully-translated lyrics for every song except Kagerou Days, Future Tone is more like F, with lyrics presented in romaji only. The reasoning for this is logistical and obvious- there's over 200 songs, each requiring approval of the lyrics translation from its producer. 30 songs is doable, 200+ is not. Just one of those things, eh? I also imagine they didn't want to provide translations only for the F 2nd songs, so kept it consistent instead.

Additionally, the graphical changes made to the Western versions of the Project DIVA games, such as the Dreamcast swirl in Remote Control changing from red to blue and the cafe in Summer Idol from '70 POP to '70s POP ... With one exception that we've spotted so far, the item box opened in The MMORPG Addict's Anthem remains in Japanese even in the Western version, which I like to interpret as a subtle nod that Sega knows that game's never coming out in English. Just a thought.





Like previous games, this one has DLC too. But we'll be covering it later in March, when it all comes out.

We could have waited until then to release this article, but no. Absolutely not. You had to see our words on Vocaloids immediately.

Please wait warmly until DLC is ready, so that you may see the heading of this section and skip by it instantly.



It's time for our traditional look at all the Sega costumes in the game.

The bad news, there's only one new one. The good news, every Sega costume in the series is here!



Even better, the vast majority of them are included in the Prelude download so you don't need either pack to get your Sega cameo fix, or at least part of it. There's quite a few of them this time, so here's a handy chart denoting what the module is, who it's for, what game they're from, and which pack they're included in.

Modules For... Module Name (Eng) Origin Character Original Game Included Pack
Miku Gallia Squad 7 Alicia Melchiott Valkyria Chronicles Prelude
Miku Space Channel 5 Ulala Space Channel 5 Prelude
Miku Type 2020 Hatsune Miku 7th Dragon 2020 Prelude
Miku Sonic Style Sonic Sonic the Hedgehog Prelude
Miku Fei-Yen Style Fei-Yen Virtual On: Cyber Troopers Colorful Tone
Miku FOnewearl Style FOnewearl Phantasy Star Online 2 Future Sound
Miku P4: Dancing All Night Miku Hatsune Miku Persnoa 4: Dancing All Night Colorful Tone
Rin RoF Style Leanne Resonance of Fate Colorful Tone
Rin Nameless No. 1 Nameless No. 1 / Imca Valkyria Chronicles III Prelude
Rin Apprentice Magician Arle Nadja Puyo Puyo Prelude
Len Nameless No. 7 Nameless No. 1 / Kurt Irving Valkyria Chronicles III Prelude
Luka VF Suit Sarah Bryant Virtua Fighter Colorful Tone
Luka Nagisa Replica Nagisa Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity Prelude
Luka Nagisa Replica Alt Nagisa (no eyepatch) Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity Prelude
Luka Wood Nymph Altina Mel Sylphis Shining Blade Prelude
KAITO VF Ninja Kage-Maru Virtua Fighter Prelude
KAITO VF Ninja Alt. Kage-Maru (no mask) Virtua Fighter Prelude
MEIKO Lin Xiao-Mei Costume Lin Xiao-Mei Shining Hearts Prelude
MEIKO Border Break Operator Fiona Border Break Colorful Tone



Did you spot the new one on this list? Well, it's new to you, at any rate- it's Miku's costume from Persona 4: Dancing All Night, as designed by Shigenori Soejima, main character designer from Persona 3 onwards. The costume was originally used as part of a collaboration between him and singer Namie Amuro for her album _genic, which came out a few days before Dancing All Night (all those notes come from the Hatsune Miku page on the Megami Tensei Wiki, so ta). It's unclear whether the DLC of this costume for DIVA X came out before or after it was included in the arcade release, but this is probably where you saw it first outside Dancing All Night, so... There we are! Way too many notes on one (1) costume.



Additionally, as noted, the game includes four Sega remix songs, and while Magical Sound Shower and Quartet of Multiple Futures -Quartet Theme- both reuse backdrops from earlier Project DIVA songs, the others get new backdrops! After Burner uses assets taken from After Burner Climax (and even includes the licensed F-14 Tomcat model from the game) and, more impressively, Like the Wind not only looks faithful to Power Drift, including similar cars, adverts and the flying START bammer, but the backdrop is a genuine 3D reproduction of the figure-8 course that served as Stage 1 in Course B, which is where Like the Wind originally served as the background music.



Finally, as this may be the last Vocaloid-centric article for a while... Songs from Project DIVA on iTunes.

You'd be quite surprised at the number of Vocaloid-produced songs on iTunes- we certainly were- so we decided to have a quick gander and see what songs featured in Future Tone (and, as such, the entire series) you can get from there. This is something we'll try and keep updated and add to (if you listen carefully, you can hear a hearty, raspy laugh coming from my editor's office) but for now, let us share the Vocaloid love on iTunes (in the UK, at least- sorry, America). Some of these link to albums, but we've marked which songs we're dealing with. Also, we've only included proper versions of the songs, which excludes live show versions.

Song Producer iTunes Link
SYMPHONIC DIVE Re:nG On iTunes
Sing & Smile Re:nG On iTunes
Negaposi*Continues Sasakure:UK On iTunes
Weekender Girl kz(livetune) x Hachioji P On iTunes
Decorator kz(livetune) On iTunes
Tell Your World kz(livetune) On iTunes
Yumeyume DECO*27 On iTunes
Ai Kotoba DECO*27 On iTunes
39 Sasakure:UK x DECO*27 On iTunes
Unhappy Refrain
Rolling Girl
(as Rollin' Girl)
Two-Sided Lovers (as Uraomote Lovers)
World's End Dancehall
wowaka On iTunes
This is the Happiness and Peace of Mind Commitee t.Komine On iTunes
Time Limit North-T On iTunes
Giant Girl (as Kyoudai Syoujo) 40mp On iTunes
Time Machine (as Timemachine)
Torinokocity)
Karakuri Pierrot
40mp On iTunes
moon iroha(sasaki) On iTunes
Akatsuki Arrival Last Note. On iTunes
Blackjack yuchaP On iTunes
DYE AVTechNO! On iTunes
Palette Yuyoyuppe On iTunes
Systematic Love Camellia On iTunes
Megane Ultra-Noob On iTunes
Hello Worker KEI On iTunes
Meiteki Cybernetics
Stardust Utopia
(as Hoshizuka Utopia)
otetsu On iTunes
Meltdown (AKA Roshin Yuukai) iroha(sasaki) On iTunes
Tokyo Teddy Bear Neru On iTunes
Melancholic Junky On iTunes
Kokoro toraboruta On iTunes
The End of Solitude Hikari Shuyo On iTunes
Remote Control Jesus-P On iTunes
RinRinSignal
Cendrillion
SignalP On iTunes
Knife rerulili On iTunes

Enjoy!





Where does the Project DIVA series go from here?

It is a mystery.

See you next game, Miku.