Project Diva Extend

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Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Extend is the third game in the Project Diva series of rhythm games, although it is really more of an expansion for the second game. As the second sequel for a rhythm game, the only real expectation is for new content, but Project Diva Extend went beyond that and improved upon many flaws in the previous game and is a good example of how to develop sequels for games in mature genres with little room to grow.

Project Diva's first gift for its player is an improved user interface. First of all, song rankings and clear status are now visible for every difficulty on the song select screen. In previous games, the player could only see the clear status for the song across all difficulties and not the rank at all. Neither of these were necessary per se; however, their addition generally improved the player experience, especially in a game revolving heavily around song rankings for progress. Another UI improvement is the ability to play a song with its default character via a simple button press. In the previous games, this required a long loading screen to enter the character select screen and pressing the set default button for each character(i.e., you would need to press it once, switch to the second character and press it again for duet songs), an annoying process. The new default character button is a well-thought-out improvement; however, it could have been implemented much better: the player must set the option before each song, and a dialog pops up each time the option is set. The option could have been better implemented by remembering the setting, and only displaying the information dialog the first time the option is set. It's a shame the developers didn't go the extra step, since the UI would otherwise have been a great improvement over the previous game's.

One strong video game design theme is simplicity, which Project Divaas a series does really well, and Extend improves upon. (I'll talk about this more later.) While other rhythm games have a bunch of meters, special notes, &c., Project Diva only has three kinds, and in fact the first game only had one kind of note. However, because notes can appear anywhere on the screen and come in from any direction, there is a lot of potential for creative songs/charts. Whilst most rhythm games just throw a slew of notes at you (the most innovative pattern being some arbitrary series of notes not much unlike any other arbitrary series of notes), Project Diva can have subsequent melodic phrases going clockwise across the edge of the screen, a quick series of notes approaching in a spiral toward on point (very pretty), or an ascending/descending phrase going in one direction and coming back. The sole change in gameplay is that the release on held notes(yes, Project Diva requires you to actually time the releases, like in real music) seems to respond more accurately than in the previous game (the delay in the sound/image reaching the player and the player responding by releasing the button and the game actually receiving the signal is different than a button press, which the developers probably didn't compensate for enough previously; one of the many ways where making a game play well is more complex than most players realize). It's a small change, but the improvement is noticeable and welcome.

Another change in simplicity is the reduction of unnecessary help items. The previous game introduced help items if the player is having difficulty, such as for recovering half of the life bar, recovering the whole life bar, protecting against one missed note, protecting against two missed notes, &., with stronger items costing more points. Quite frankly, having different tiers of items with different costs was rather pointless, and Extend removed the weaker tier items and keeping only one version of each, recognizing that if the player needed help in an area, he or she would only get the best version, grinding for points if it cost more and thus only increasing the tediousness.

The genre of its song library may be a bit unusual for the average gamer, but gameplay-wise Project Diva, as a rhythm game is quite unmatched.Unfortunately, it's a Japan-only game, and importing is expensive; Western player will most likely never hear of this game.