The musical maven of the digital world returns with the release of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F 2nd – the second coming of the leading lady and her motley crew in SEGA’s fast-paced, rhythm series. Featuring even more music created through the character’s very own virtual vocals suite, does this sequel hit a high – or a bum note?

For those unfamiliar with the original, the core gameplay loop sees PlayStation’s iconic symbols flying across the screen, which you must swat using the DualShock 3’s corresponding buttons in time to the beat. Some combinations require you to press a particular d-pad direction, too, or even flick the analogue sticks, all while the green haired popstar performs in the background.

The system itself is almost identical to the first game, but it is advanced through the addition of new mechanics. Linked targets essentially see you flicking through sequences of stars that chain together to form shapes. These vary in speed, however, meaning that they can be a bit unpredictable. Elsewhere, another addition finds you moving both analogue sticks simultaneously – another layer on top of the rub your belly, pat your head gameplay loop.

Picking what to get your groove on to shouldn’t be a problem with a vast library of 40 new songs to select from, along with some live remixes of hits from the first game returning for other play modes. The fresh lineup includes some of the star’s most famous tunes, including The World Is Mine, Double Lariat, Romeo and Cinderella, and more – but these are just a select few.

The roster covers everything from pop to rock and everything in between, so you’ll definitely find a tune to your tastes. Most of the songs are performed by Miku, of course – but there are plenty of others available from the rest of her popstar posse, including a few duets. A nice new addition is that you can toggle between the lyrics being shown in Japanese or English, which fans will appreciate.

Meanwhile, the musical arenas are just as varied as the songs themselves, with some offering small podiums for the characters to perform on, while others opt for full stories for you to get swept away with. The presentation is vibrant and colourful, with a bold Japanese artstyle that befits the superstars on centre stage.

As with the previous entry, you can customise the characters to your heart’s content, too. More outfits are available than ever before, with an entire new wardrobe joining all of the clothing from the previous game. You won’t have a hard time trying to collect everything either, with the new unlock system.

Indeed, each song rewards you for reaching milestones such as completing the track numerous times, clearing it on harder difficulties, or while being obstructed by various handicaps. The clarity on how to unlock everything is welcome after its predecessor’s guessing game, and there are also rewards for progressing through the game as a whole. These typically add the ability to unlock skins, a fresh feature which allows you to change the design of the user interface during play.

When you’re bored of all of the button bashing, there are plenty of extra modes available to try. The Diva Room returns, allowing you to create a personalised home for your vocaloid characters. Here you can dress the stars up, give them gifts, or just plain lurk – all while listening to a personal playlist using the game’s jukebox functions.

There’s actually a little more to this than it may initially seem. You can raise affections with your digital buddy by furnishing them with presents and patting them on the head, as well as playing games. The tedious ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ style minigame from the first outing has been dumped this time for ‘Patty Cake’, which is equally childish, but surprisingly fun to play.

Still, while most aspects of the Diva Room have been improved – including the addition of more camera angles – the aforementioned jukebox’s usefulness has been diminished due to songs getting interrupted when an event begins, which leads to tracks starting over and over and over again. Honestly, even the biggest Miku fans will find this frustrating.

Of course, if you want something more practical, there are the live stage, photo booth, and edit modes. The live stage allows you to watch your artist of choice perform on stage, and is the perfect accompaniment to the live versions of the older songs, as they echo through the arena. Edit mode, meanwhile, enables you to create your own levels to play along to, allowing you to customise everything from dance routines to button inputs, while the photo booth lets you simply take snaps of the stars.

And those that are already fans of the franchise will find themselves well looked after here, as an import feature allows you to bring forward all of your costumes from the first Project Diva, without having to unlock them again. You can even transfer your data from the Japanese release, so you won’t be punished for importing the game prior to its Western launch.

Finally, those of you that purchase both the PS3 and Vita versions of the game will be able to copy your data back and forth, meaning that both systems will always be at the same point of progression. You can actually set this to update automatically, but we recommend the manual option, as it does cut down on saving times.

Conclusion

Hatsune Miku Project Diva F 2nd not only delivers the sequel that fans of the franchise asked for, but makes subtle changes throughout to add polish to an already rock solid system. Those put off by the music are unlikely to feel the rhythm of this release, but the converted will find their dancing feet in no time.