Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX feels like a time capsule from another era. It eschews the modern, stripped-down, focused template of game development and delivers something more like the experiences of a decade ago. Rather than delivering simply the best and most rhythm gameplay it can, Mirai DX really wants you to spend time in its world and never leave.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s certainly some rhythm game in this rhythm game. Mirai DX sports 48 songs, and they’re all sufficiently beefy. They’re longer than a lot of songs in rhythm games, and each one can be played by tapping or hitting buttons in three difficulty levels apiece. Each works fine; Miku veterans will likely want to use the buttons, but 3DS rhythm fans bred on Theatrhythm may find the tapping more comfortable. Either is a bit more forgiving than a Project Diva game, but skilled players shouldn’t fret: though you’re less likely to fail a song completely, earning an S+ rank on all songs on hard is still going to be a challenge.
When you’re tired of the rhythm action, though, usually that means you stop playing your rhythm game. Project Mirai DX instead tries its hardest to keep you in its world, with a bunch of ways to kick back. You can go shopping for costumes and ways to decorate various rooms your Vocaloid companions can inhabit. You can choreograph dance routines and compose special jingles. You can chill out and watch a performance on whatever surface you place one of the game’s 19 double-sided AR cards. You can even play minigames! In fact, the “main” mode itself is the smallest option on the main menu screen.
And even when you’re not doing any of these things, you’re accompanied by the little singing partner of your choice. Whether you prefer Miku, Rin, Len, Luka, Kaito or Meiko, your Nendoroid buddy is hanging out on the top screen, always there to keep you company and goof around. Sometimes they’ll be visited by friends! Most of the time, though, you’ll find them walking around their room. They’ll be checking out the furniture, posters and tchotchkes you’ve placed there, occasionally stopping to make funny faces at you and generally be adorable.
It gives you this feeling of camaraderie, as well as an immersion of the sort that hasn’t been seen since the days of all-encompassing PS2 JRPGs. This isn’t a throwaway set of challenges; Mirai DX really wants you to live in this space and get comfy. (And also sleep. There’s an alarm clock function, too.)
Hatsune Miku: Project Mirai DX releases on September 8. We’ll have a full review next week, but until then, you can always check out the demo on the 3DS eShop.