A new year, a new thing to celebrate! It’s going to be a good one for a few reasons. But I have it on good authority that it will be the year for Hatsune Miku for three reasons.
First off, the obvious question some of you may have. We’ve seen some newcomers around these parts recently, and new readers may not know about my uncharacteristic adoration of Hatsune Miku games.
Hold On, What’s a Hatsune Miku?!
For the uninitiated, Hatsune Miku is a vocaloid diva who hails from Japan, created by Crypton Future Media. “Vocaloid” is software that synthesizes vocals, in the same way that a synthesizer recreates musical instruments, or a drum machine synthesizes percussion. In short, “she” is essentially a fully-digital mascot for the vocaloid software, in the same way Mario is the poster child of Nintendo.
Hatsune Miku games are a series of rhythm games developed by SEGA where you press buttons on your controller (or touch screen in the case of the 3DS games) while notes fly across the screen. The music is heavily J-pop inspired but ranges in all sorts of genres, but the real adrenaline rush comes from the excitement of extraordinarily colorful music videos and concerts playing in the background, as you play along to loud and, typically, very peppy music.
This music is created by all sorts of different producers who use the Vocaloid software to create and edit lyrics. Her voice is based off of a real person, but it’s simulated through software to sing whatever lyrics she is programmed to sing. Again, in the same way that you program a synthesizer to “play” guitar or piano notes, you have the same type of flexibility with her voice. There are also a collection of voice banks in the software that are present in the video game titles, represented by other divas, both male and female.
Now, assuming you don’t get distracted by the insanity on screen while you’re playing and completely botch the song, you earn the in-game currency called DP (Diva Points) which you can then spend on costumes, character props, rooms, and decorations. Putting Hatsune Miku and the rest of the virtual divas (there are several of them) in their rooms puts you in decorating mode, in which you can change out all of the furniture, hang stuff on the walls, you name it.
It’s all goofy, light-hearted fun. It’s hard to explain why I enjoy these games so much (referring to Project Diva F 2nd on the Vita, and Project Mirai DX on the 3DS), but if I had to summarize it, it nails the combination of challenge, excitement, and charm.
She’s also an absolute institution in Japan. Heck, the entirety of Asia, really. Her concerts, which take place worldwide, sell out in mere hours.
Wait, Concerts? But She Isn’t a Real Person!
And you would be absolutely right! She performs in hologram form, similar to Tupac at Coachella of 2012. Although Mr. Shakur was running on some pretty vintage tech at the time. She’s typically joined by a real-live band that performs her hits while she dances around and sings. The whole thing is a massive production, programmed down to the note and looks like an absolute blast.
If you are still curious at what the heck this all looks like, you may find more of what you’re looking for in this article. Of course, you may just want to see a live concert. I timestamped one of my favorite tracks, Rolling Girl, right here.
I will now attempt to read your mind: “I Now Understand and Submit to This Weird Thing You Like, Please Tell Me More.” I’m glad you feel that way, thank you!
Now that are you are a Hatsune Miku expert, why’s this year a big one for Hatsune Miku?
A New Hatsune Miku Title Switch Exclusive
Well first and foremost, some pretty big news for those of us on Nintendo consoles: a new Hatsune Miku game is due out on the Switch the first quarter of this year. Specifically, February 20th in Japan, and “early 2020” for everywhere else. The title is called Project Diva Mega 39’s in Japan and Project Diva Megamix in the west and Europe, and will feature 101 tracks (that’s huge compared to the other earlier installments that I’ve played, not including Future Tone on the Playstation 4).
So why’s this a notable title? Well this will be the first official western Hatsune Miku release on a Nintendo console since 2015’s Project Mirai DX. And the first Project Diva game on a Nintendo console, period. Pretty exciting stuff!
There’s also the inclusion of a new Joycon-specific control scheme. While the 3DS titles had a really engaging and fun touch-screen play mode, the Joycons have this sort of “waving” game mode. The earliest prototypes shown in videos look admittedly a little wonky, but I’m confident they will iron out the kinks before release. Whatever, if I have to dance in front of my television to play this game, I consider that a win.
They also recently announced a mother-freaking t-shirt design mode feature where you can make your own t-shirts for Miku & Friends to wear during gameplay. I mean, come on. Can you get any more awesome than a t-shirt designer? Just look at these screenshots!
Ok, I regret ending this point on a t-shirt editor but let the record reflect how awesome it is designing t-shirts for virtual Japanese idols. I will not back down from these words.
Hatsune Miku at Coachella 2020
Remember how I mentioned earlier that Tupac performed in hologram form back in 2012 at Coachella? Well, some of the biggest news for Miku was announced only weeks ago – she officially secured a stage position to perform at Coachella 2020 this April.
She originally made her live debut in the United States all the way back in 2011 at the Anime Expo, and up until 2014 her performances remained pretty niche in the West. There was a (slightly awkward) show on the David Letterman Show, as well as a headlining for Lady Gaga in 2014, so performing at Coachella 2020 is a big deal. In past years, Hatsune Miku may have been a jolt of confusion to western viewers, but as the Internet has continued to normalize just about everything, it definitely isn’t as strange as it may have sounded back in 2009.
Hell, if you told me about a J-Pop hologram concert nearly a decade ago, I’d have thought it was made up.
Miku Expo 2020
Last but not least, there’s the Miku Expo in the United States! While this concert series has been going on for a few years now, there is no shortage of dates for those of us western-based fans. If you’re located in Europe, the final show in the tour is coming up in a few days as of this posting. While the tour has been going on since 2014, there were quite a few days and locations added to the US/Canada tour.
Including Coachella, that’s a total of 14 shows in the west, up from only 7 last year! And one of those locations is right by, you guessed it, Ya Boi Geddy.
So I suppose this is as good a time as ever to reveal this, and a fitting way to end the article, but I will be in attendance at Miku Expo 2020 in Asbury Park, NJ! Never thought I’d be saying this, and boy was it odd to explain it to my wife, but I’m stoked to be in a sea of glowsticks watching whatever’s in store for me.
That’s all for now – if you’re in the area and are also hitting up the Expo, let me know. Thanks for reading this rambly piece born out of pure vocaloid excitement!