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Neptunia Virtual Stars Review

Neptunia Virtual Stars Review

Unless you have been avoiding the Internet for the past few years you will likely have heard of Vtubers. With their growing success it’s no surprise that the latest in the Neptunia series, Neptunia Virtual Stars, takes advantage of their popularity to make a game themed around them. Sounding like a match made in heaven, I sat down with the PlayStation 4 version of the game to see just how developers Idea Factory and Compile Heart merged these two worlds together. Spoilers, I wish I hadn’t.

Much like other entries in the Neptunia series the story to Neptunia Virtual Stars has quite the setup. Taking place on planet Emote, the Goddesses of Gamindustri, and series protagonists, Neptune, Noir, Blanc, and Vert find themselves summoned to help defeat the evil group Antis and save Content from being destroyed, thus preventing the planet from extinction. At the same time, a number of virtual idols are also summoned and tasked with the same mission. This means it’s time for Goddesses and idols to team up and form a ragtag group of heroes who will save the day, restore all the Content, and maybe become famous streamers at the same time.

As is the norm with the series, most if not all of the narrative is delivered in visual novel style segments. For the most part these are enjoyable as characters are not static, making use of a range of animations and expressions to help with the delivery of their lines. That said, with some sections of dialogue lasting up to 30 minutes at a time, it can become quite taxing especially when you only get a few minutes of gameplay in between a couple of these story beats. As for the overall story, while it has an interesting setup with some fun ideas at play it never really reaches a point that will have you on the edge of your seat and after a few hours just becomes background noise. That said, the character interactions are easily the best part of any of the games writing.

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When out of these narrative segments the bulk of the title is played in third-person where you explore vast dungeon-like levels defeating countless enemies and bosses on your adventure to save the day. Each of these locations has a different theme and gimmick that helps keep things somewhat fresh, but ultimately each one plays out just about the same. Run around, defeat enemies, grab loot, beat a boss, and repeat until you hit the next story development. While you will venture through these locations quite quickly the game does give you several reasons to revisit stages later on be it for leveling, fighting extra bosses, or just gaining better loot. This is a nice addition but is not enough to make any level in particular overly memorable.

As for actually navigating these levels and doing battle, that is where things get rather messy for Neptunia Virtual Stars. The game opens by giving you control of the four Goddess’ who form your main party. Not long after this you will unlock a sort of ‘sub-party’ that is made up of two V-Idols (virtual idols) who you can switch to at any point. This means you are actually playing the game with a party of six, but to make things are not as simple as they might seem. For starters, the Goddess’ play like a third-person shooter while the V-Idol’s play like a third-person hack ‘n’ slash. While both of these make use of the same systems and have several similarities, there is a slight twist on both that end up making it feel like you are playing two completely different games at the same time which can become quite disorienting.

Playing as a Goddess is as simple as running and dashing around the levels blasting enemies with your gun and making use of your equipped abilities to defeat enemies. Each of the Goddess’ has a different type of gun, encouraging you to use the best one for the enemy you are battling. For example, Neptune is somewhat of the middle ground with average damage and rate of fire while Blanc has a slow firing gun that can be charged to deal massive damage.

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Meanwhile the V-Idol’s make use of more fantasy-like weapons, such as swords, bows, and scythes, to unleash combos in order to defeat their enemies. Where the Goddess’ make use of different weapon types the V-Idols use elements to really tell eachother apart. Each one will have an element type that they associated with that when matched on an enemy will see your attacks dealing extra damage. It’s a nice little system but as it’s only active when controlling a V-Idol which makes the two gameplay styles feel even further apart.

Both Goddess’ and V-Idols can make use of similar abilities, including three equippable skills to perform special moves, calling on support from Vtuber’s, and charging up and unleashing Emotional Overdrive. This is sort of the teams big finishing move which can clear the screen of enemies and is a visual show, with differences in how it plays out depending on who you are controlling. There are then other small differences such as how the Goddess’ boost where as the V-Idols dash, and bigger differences such as how health works. V-Idols have large pools of health per character but the Goddess’ have a shared pool of hitpoints, similar to hearts in Zelda games, which just adds to the confusion.

While on the one hand it is nice to have these different gameplay styles to give the player some choice to play in their preferred way, it ultimately brings the game down. This isn’t helped by the fact that you can get through most of the game with next to no trouble by just holding the fire button as Neptune and circling your target until it dies, switching to the V-Idol’s only when your health is low. This works regardless of the enemy level, meaning even bosses twice your level don’t pose a real challenge and if they do you can just stand on a box above them and wait for them to fall. It all feels like a mess rather than a compelling set of systems and it loses all sense of fun very quickly.

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But how about those Vtubers? Well, you will be glad to hear that Neptunia Virtual Stars is full of cameos from a wide range of different Vtubers, big and small, who feature across the game. That is a sort of meta game in the background where you are encouraged to collect them all but the real use for them is in leveling your character by equipping them along calling on them in battle. The problem here is that outside of the loading scenes they also appear in a small window which has its own subtitles, making it next to impossible to read what is being said. On top of that there is a feature in the game that sees an invisible audience react to your performance with comments that fill your screen, judging how you play. If you ever wanted to have half your screen covered with ‘try harder’ comments then look no further!

It’s actually a shame just how much of a mess Neptunia Virtual Stars is. The concept and setup are solid, with strong presentation to be found throughout, but the lack of polish in the complex mess of gameplay systems results in a lackluster title. Odd design choices hold the game back from being an enjoyable experience and that’s before you even get into the numerous bugs and glitches this game has. In the end, the best way to describe Neptunia Virtual Stars is that it is underwhelming, underdeveloped, and falls short of hitting any real mark. Though some will surely find some fun in all this chaos, I can’t say I’ll be recommending it.

4.00/10 4

Neptunia Virtual Stars (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)

Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.

The inclusion of popular Vtubers’ isn’t enough to save Neptunia Virtual Stars, as it ends up being an underwhelming mess that fails to deliver.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Judgemental Waifu

Judgemental Waifu

Staff Writer

Married a light cruiser. No, really

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Acelister - 04:29pm, 5th May 2021

*Disappointed Nep Nep noises*