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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sympho-Neighbours - Digital Singers Concerto

...well, I got to read that message sent to me by the other blog TT blog editors last week. To sum it up, it stated that I'd have to make up for the April Fools stunt with a feature concerning a topic I tend to dislike to "balance it out", or else I might see something of mine around the Interned be freezed...

With that said, here I am, making a Sympho-Neighbours feature about Vocaloid music in rhythm gaming!
...breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out...

Of all places to start for this topic, the most appropriate ones one is with Sega's Vocaloid-oriented music series production, starring everyone's cyan-haired favorite digital idol.

Co-created with Crypton Future Media -the company behind the making of the VOCALOID voice libraries-, the series formerly known as Hatsune Miku -Project DIVA- (初音ミク-Project DIVA-) started out in 2009 as a PSP music game franchise where the players can choose among a selection of Hatsune Miku songs to play with; each track comes with its own original choreography starring different Vocaloid characters (according to the song chosen) and the player has to hit flying markers shaped like the respective PSP buttons that have to be pressed/held while the dance performance is played in the background. As time went by, more digital singers came to the franchise from both Crypton Future Media and other companies, leading to the series being called nowadays as just Project DIVA and to the creation of multiple sequels for both Sony portable/home consoles and custom arcade versions.

In fact, it's from the arcade family of games that comes the gameplay video shown above, starring Hiro's Miku cover of MAGICAL SOUND SHOWER from the arcade racing series OutRun.

The two companies joined their forces together in order to make another portable-oriented music series many years later, this time focused on the Nintendo portable gaming tradition.

Released in Japan in 2012, the 3DS game Hatsune Miku and Future Stars: Project Mirai follows the footsteps of the Project DIVA series with a title whose music-oriented mechanics are nearly the same as the previously-mentioned franchise; however, the dance videos are now performed by custom chibi-fied variants of the VOCALOID singers while the markers are now following a connected path that shows up as the song is being played, rather that randomly appearing on the screen like the PD games. The year later, a 3DS sequel was released (Project Mirai 2), which was used as the base for the localization of both titles for Western markets in late 2015 (as Project Mirai Deluxe).

The song featured in the video is World is Mine, one of the first Vocaloid licenses that were made playable for the Taiko no Tatsujin franchise!

The last series made by the Sega/Crypton Future Media joint is the iOs-spawn Miku Flick, starring CG-animated musical videos while players have to tap out the song's lyrics by touching/swiping the respective panels on the latter half of the screen... literally!

Up here is showcased the game in action with Kagamine Rin's Meltdown (炉心融解) by Itsuu-P (胃痛P), one of the most known tracks performed by the yellow-haired female Vocaloid.

Later on, Sega has made out a name of their own with the making of arcade music series that were more independently developed by themselves... thus making the perfect scenario for some more Vocaloid-powered tracklist representation!

While for both the maimai and Chunithm series the niconico/Vocaloid song list management mostly consists of popular licenses that were made exclusively playable on one of the two series alone, there are some instances of a popular Vocaloid song making its way in both series, such as for producer kz (of Tell Your World fame)'s Hand in Hand.

Outside of Sega, however, the first software house who popularized Vocaloid songs in arcade rooms was Taito once again, with the 2nd (and currently final) installment of the Music GunGun! series.

Coupled off with the release of an actual iTunes soundtrack of both popular and original Hatsune Miku songs, the featured tracks from said release were also made playable for the first time outside of Sega music territory, alongside other cold hits like Melt (also notorious in Taiko for being the first ever-featured Vocaloid track). Plus, the track got a Very Hard variant mode, too!

The synthesized-voice musical support from Taito went on to their next arcade rhythm game sensation in Groove Coaster, up to actually make up for the genre with the highest number of songs featured in its (still ongoing) lifespan!

Once again, the feat has been made possible by the porting of popular Vocaloid songs alone such as CosmoBusouP's original Hatsune Miku no Shoushitsu... and just like Taiko no Tatsujin's Gekishouban version, the original in Groove Coaster arcades checks in with a tough-as-nails Extra mode, some time after its playable debut!

Slowly but surely, even bemani music gaming caught up with the Vocaloid craze in almost all its arcade-distributed franchise, starting out with the song-making-driven SOUND VOLTEX series up to nearly every other franchise, with selected popular tracks being distributed almost everywhere.

Up here, for example, is the also-available-on-Taiko Setsuna Trip being played on pop'n music series, the latest of the "historical" bemani franchise to join the fun by even booting a custom rival character version of GUMI, the singing Vocaloid of the track. Below are the song's other appearances in bemani (save for FutureTomTom, for which we couldn't find any video footage):

pop'n rhythmin

Outside from Sega, it's also possible to find other music games that feature their own original Vocaloid-powered songs, made exquisitely for the game! Among those we can find Rayark's Cytus, featuring the track COMA as one of the Chapter IX songs.

Performed by GUMI, the track's composer is Philippines Vocaloid producer ensou, for one of the two tracks with vocals of the game that isn't sung in either Japanese or English! It's actually performed in Tagalog, one of the most spread Austronesian languages in the Philippines.

Some other Vocaloid songs manage to become playable thanks to cover versions starring other Vocaloids and -again- outside from Sega gaming, Rayark mobile gaming is back at it again with a cover of Akari being one of the debut tracks of VOEZ, the Taiwanese house's latest music game.

In the game, markers have to be tapped at an horizontal line on the lower half of the screen, while a multiple set of vertical bars displays the many markers as they flow to the bottom of the screen; the twitst, however, is that said vertical bars can also slide along the songs or even change color/dimensions/disappear/multiply, adding a layer of visual trickery! Originally a mobile-exclusive title, VOEZ got a console porting on the Nintendo Switch for the system's launch day.

Back to the song, the version of Akari that has been made playable for VOEZ by Vocaloid producer ChunBaiP (纯白P) is a Hatsune Miku cover of the original Akari that was made in 2015 by sodatune, which featured the Chinese-speaking Vocaloid Xin Hua (心華) instead.

We briefly mentioned some Vocaloid DDR action before, but there's actually another competitor on the dance floor, with Andamiro's Pump It Up series featuring five Vocaloid tracks to be played with its diagonal-directions-'n-center dance mat.

One of these five songs is also another of the ones that is also included in the Taiko no Tatsujin series, so why don't we cover it up here, too? Thus, have a double-play performance of Houkago Stride with its own video thrown into the mix.

In order to make things come full circle (sort of), let's end this feature with the latest music game Vocaloid intermission to date with a Senbonzakura cover, straight outta the latest bemani music game series!

Replacing the line of the BeatStream arcade series with the same build but different control inputs, Nostalgia (ノスタルジア) puts a toy piano keyboard in the hands of the player, as they're called to reproduce piano charts by hitting different markers that come down to the screen. Many song licenses for the game with vocals have been remade for the game with the original vocalist/s track being played with the piano cover, but for bemani's Nostlagia, Kurousa-P's musical sensation was brought up only as a voice-less abridged piano cut.

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