In addition to our main Game of the Year Awards 2022, each member of the PC Gamer team is shining a spotlight on a game they loved this year. We'll post new personal picks, alongside our main awards, throughout the rest of the month.
Fighting and rhythm games are two genres that have been in my life for as long as I can remember. It's unfortunate, then, that they haven't always had the best run on PC. That's been changing over the past few years, though, and 2022 has been the year of my favourite rhythm games heading over to our platform: Taiko no Tatsujin and Hatsune Miku: Project Diva MegaMix+. A shoddy port frustratingly mired the former, but with Project Diva it almost made me mad that we didn't get this series on PC sooner.
OK, I know that rhythm games aren't everyone's cup of tea. Especially rhythm games featuring virtual Japanese idols, computerised beats and carefully placed phonetic samples to make it sound like an actual human is singing. But the Project Diva games have had a death grip on me for over eight years, and MegaMix+ is the most robust and complete entry in the series to date.
There's something that's always fascinated me about the way Vocaloid songs are put together, which is part of what makes them so damn fun to play. Hatsune Miku and her fellow pop idols aren't real. They're not bound by a particular genre or image that defines their entire career. They're malleable, only limited by the tastes and abilities of the producer dropping their vocal library onto a timeline. I can play pumped-up poppy beats like Popipo and the all-too-relatable MMORPG Addict's Anthem. Scrolling a few songs down and you'll find heavy drum kicks and guitar riffs in Unhappy Refrain, and a few more into full-blown showtunes like Miracle Paint.
I never expected to really be a Miku person. I've been a fan of J-Pop and J-Rock for as long as I can remember, but always saw Vocaloids as an incredibly niche subsection of that. Now I regularly walk around with synthetic vocals bored into my brain, suffering from cutesy Japanese brain rot.
The versatility of Miku and Co's huge library of songs coupled with Project Diva's thoroughly moreish gameplay is what makes this the main rhythm game I recommend to all my friends, whether or not they're into J-Pop and adjacent genres. It's one of those easy-to-learn, hard-to-master games that makes you desperate to play just one more song. The home console series has pivoted to sharing the same control scheme as its arcade machine parent in recent years. It means more challenging inputs—holding double, triple and quadruple notes while trying to successfully hit the rest of the note chart keeps me on my toes and satisfies that craving to constantly improve.
Focusing on the notes flying in from all directions, I almost forget how good the music videos that play behind them are. MegaMix+ has two art styles that can be flicked between at the push of a button. My personal preference is the Future Tone style, though the music videos look great in MegaMix's more cartoonish style, too. Some songs, like Sadistic Music Factory, even use notes for further immersion in the music video, almost making them seem like interactive inputs to open doors, levers and get stabbed by comically large cutlery. It's that clever use that makes the whole experience such a joy to play and why it's long been one of my favourite rhythm game series.
It's been pretty damn cool seeing all my favourite series and genres coming over to PC in the last seven or eight years, and seeing some of the best arcade rhythm games embracing the platform has made this hobby so much cooler for me. If you've been looking for a new rhythm game to play or saw Jerma's stream (opens in new tab) earlier this year and wondered what the hell this was all about, give it a go. But don't blame me if you become a Miku convert.