Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix sees the world's most famous virtual Vocaloid pop idol finally arrive on Nintendo Switch in an excellent portable version of the hit rhythm game series that includes a brand new Switch-exclusive art style, motion-control Mix Mode and touchscreen options that give players more ways than ever to bash along to the beat with 111 songs – including ten new tracks that are making their Project DIVA debuts here.
Gameplay in Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix consists of pressing combinations of your controller's buttons in time to the music, carefully matching your inputs to increasingly complex on-screen button prompts in order to successfully blast your way through songs. To clear a track here you'll need to hit prompts with at least a "good" or "cool" rating in order to fill up a blue progress meter at the bottom of your screen so that it passes the 50% mark, whilst avoiding making so many errors that your green life bar empties – resulting in a fail. You're constantly aware of your draining life bar as you mess up and songs often come to an exciting climax as you fight through tricky bonus point sections in order to nail some combos, reverse early errors and get that blue bar where it needs to be by the track's end.
Players of every skill level are very well catered for here, with difficulties ranging from the very chilled out easy setting to a mind-bendingly difficult extreme option. As you crank up the difficulty the game will fire faster, more complex arrays of button prompts at you – the very hardest mode spitting out nigh-on impossible layers of commands that only the most experienced players will be able to keep up with.
We found that starting out nice and slowly on easy mode, learning a handful of our favourite tracks and then gently nudging up the difficulty as we got to grips with things saw us making relatively quick progress into clearing tunes on normal, which left us to then chase those extremely addictive perfect rankings – a properly challenging task which really makes you feel as though you're an integral part of whatever zany music performance is currently taking place on the screen. There's a really satisfying sense of progression as you go from fumbling around and failing at your favourite songs to managing to pull of a perfect performance on higher difficulty settings.
In terms of the basic mechanics of the thing, then, it's all pretty much par-for-the-course for a rhythm game; there aren't really any great surprises here, but Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix raises itself above many other entries in the genre on account of its wealth of truly excellent tunes, a cast of cool and kooky pop idols it's impossible not to adore and the consistently high quality of the quirky, colourful videos that accompany each and every one of the songs on offer.
This is a very stylish game featuring an eclectic mix of music, with everything from hardcore dance numbers to metal, power ballads, saccharine pop, funky electro, punk and a few absolutely mad anime efforts alongside everything else in-between. It won't take long before you've zeroed in on something you like the sound of and we found our favourites list expanding pretty quickly, with the likes of Po Pi Po, Senbonzakura, World's End Dance Hall, Black Rock Shooter and Catch the Wave among some of our immediate favourites. If you simply hate the Vocaloid sound you probably won't get much out of what's going on here, but everyone else is sure to gel with plenty of the great tracks on offer.
In comparison to Project DIVA: Arcade Future Tone the track-listing is a little more sparse – although there's still a lot of content – and in this respect, it's really newcomers who'll be getting the most value for money in terms of content as the vast majority of the game's tracks have featured in previous titles. You can, if you wish, opt for the slightly more expensive special edition of the game which features all currently available DLC – six packs of six more tracks each that bring the total number of tunes to around 140 – but we still reckon that even with the vanilla version of the game it's worth the compromised song catalogue to have this one available to play in portable mode. It's just such a great fit for the Switch, and jumping in for quick handheld sessions to improve your score and unlock some goodies is massively addictive and super fun stuff.
Speaking of goodies, there's a huge number of costumes, hairstyles, accessories and other bits and bobs to unlock for your favourite pop idol by using points earned from performing well in songs, with hundreds of individual pieces of kit to acquire in order to dress Hatsune and the other idols up however you see fit and, alongside that somewhat compromised – but still pretty hefty – track listing there's plenty to keep Hatsune Miku fans busy for a very long time here.
This Switch version of the game also introduces a new Mix Mode that allows you to play through songs utilising the Joy-Con's motion control technology. Here you'll hold one Joy-Con in each hand, shifting them from side to side in order to manoeuvre coloured bars through prompts onscreen and hitting the correct trigger button as your bar passes through each one. It's a more fully-fledged mode than we had initially thought it might be and, although it definitely lacks the precision of the default control method, it's a fun diversion that manages to feel a little more relaxed and forgiving than the core arcade mode; it's certainly something we can see newcomers taking to while they learn the ropes and get acquainted with a few tracks.
The touchscreen mode, activated by jumping into the game's customisation settings, allows you to bash button prompts onscreen and also works pretty well for the most part although, again, it's really the default mode that wins out in the end in terms of giving you the least fussy and most reliable way to play the game, especially if you've got the difficulty cranked up. It should also be noted at this point that Switch Lite users won't have access to the new motion control Mix Mode, which is a shame – however, as we've said, the default way of controlling this one really is the best option in the long run. Still, it's something to remember if you're considering a purchase.
The developers have also very cleverly included the ability to change button prompts from the default Switch commands to their PlayStation or even arcade counterparts, an excellent addition for veteran players especially who'll most likely have the DualShock 4 commands burned into their memories; it's an option that really helps avoid the trial of having to relearn tracks with the new Switch screen prompts.
The new graphics style, which replaces the usual 3D character models with 2D anime art, also looks great. We're assuming it may have been an artistic decision that was partly taken to help with the performance of the game on Nintendo's portable console, and in this regard, it's certainly something that's paid off, with the videos and characters here all looking fantastic and the performance across the board absolutely rock-solid with zero stutters or framerate drops. You may notice a slightly blurred image quality from time to time in portable mode – if indeed you can concentrate on watching the background videos as you attempt to hit all the right notes – but besides this, and the odd slightly long loading time here and there, this is a triumphant portable version of a brilliant rhythm game that feels like a perfect fit for the Switch.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Mega Mix is a strong portable version of a truly joyous rhythm game which loses out a little in terms of track numbers in comparison to the likes of series stablemate Future Tone, but makes up for this with a surprisingly solid Switch-exclusive motion control mode alongside touchscreen controls and a new art style that helps keep things running smoothly as you blast your way through its eclectic mix of excellent music. It's a perfect fit for dipping in and out of in handheld and is extremely welcoming to newcomers whilst still providing plenty of tough challenges for veteran rhythm game fans. If you're a follower of this particular genre, then Project DIVA Mega Mix comes highly recommended.