The Hyperdimension Neptunia series of games seems to enjoy moderate success with its various spin-offs. Even if the results are less than stellar, enough people seem to buy the games to warrant new entries. Thus, we have arrived at Neptunia Virtual Stars, a mixture of the CPUs fans have come to know and love, and real-world—yet virtual—guests, all wrapped in a third-person action shooter. Is this the spin-off that finally gets all of its pieces aligned properly? Find out in our Neptunia Virtual Stars review.
Neptunia Virtual Stars Review – A New Enemy
Neptune’s latest adventure takes her and three of her fellow Gameindustri goddesses to the planet Emote, thanks to a summon by that planet’s goddess Faira. An evil army of Antis have invaded from the planet Obsoletia, as they attempt to ruin nation after nation by removing their Content, which is somehow the lifeforce of planet Emote. If it sounds convoluted, it kind of is – imagine YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, etc. were transformed into real places, with cities that feature billboards of some popular VTubers, and you kind of get the idea. At the end of the day, your teams have been summoned to repel the bad guys. The details don’t really matter, especially considering how simple the gameplay is.
Neptunia Virtual Stars is a third-person shooter, and a third-person action RPG, but never at the same time. From shortly after the tutorial, the player is given control of two groups of characters. The first group consists of the four Gameindustri goddesses from previous Neptunia games – the titular Neptunia, Noire, Vert, and Blanc, while the second group consists of two VTubers – Me and You. No, not me the reviewer and you the reader; their names are literally Me and You, and together they are known as the VTuber group MEWTRAL. A few more playable VTubers join the party later, but this is the gist of the player’s options.
What’s a VTuber you may ask? Well, this is something that has seen a huge surge of popularity in recent years. The short version is that a VTuber, or “Virtual YouTuber,” is a fully animated 3D or 2D character that streams shows like any regular influencer. The only difference is that this character is completely virtual—the voice artist behind the character is never (or rarely) seen. They all have backgrounds, personalities, and quirks, just like real people, though of course there is nothing real about them besides their voices.
Neptunia Virtual Stars Review – VTuber Fans Rejoice
If you’re immersed in this world, then Neptunia Virtual Stars should suit you just fine. All kinds of actual VTubers make guest appearances in this game, and each can be “collected” in the form of a cube with a play button on it. They can then be equipped on any playable character’s equipment screen, where attributes will be buffed or nerfed accordingly. Some VTubers will also occasionally assist players with an attack by pressing the touchpad button when prompted, though some VTubers remain in-character and are too lazy to help you out, with only a video of them complaining about having work to do as consolation. Neptunia Virtual Stars’ inclusion of VTubers stretches into the game’s loading screens, as well. While each level loads, a guest VTuber fills the otherwise dead air with a little skit of their own. While it is possible to skip the video, most are intriguing enough the first time to watch all the way through (and the game thanks you for doing so).
While in control of the VTubers, the game switches to an action RPG, with one character who deals melee damage, and the other who dishes out ranged attacks. The problem with this mode is that the character not currently controlled by the player is all but guaranteed to knock themselves out in short order. I quickly became tired of having to constantly revive the other character, and only used this set of characters when they were needed to reach certain parts of some levels. While all characters can perform a double jump, only the VTuber duos can follow that up with a mid-air dash, and some levels have spots which can only be reached in this manner.
Neptunia Virtual Stars Review – Limited Controls
While controlling the goddesses, Neptunia Virtual Stars plays as a third-person shooter, with a heavy reliance on a lock-on system. It seems aiming with the right stick is limited to up, down, left, and right, and with imprecise adjustments. Holding down L2 and keeping an enemy relatively in front of the player helps to ensure hits and is needed to compensate for the poor aiming mechanics on offer. While the VTubers have traditional HP, the goddesses share an HP pool that simply counts down the number of hits they can receive before being knocked out. Holding the R1 and cross buttons allows the heroes to heal slowly, and this can be done at any time, provided the player can steer clear of getting hit while doing so. Traditional healing items can also be used in a pinch.
Really, once the player has collected enough healing items, battles become a repetitive affair of moving around to avoid getting hit, and whittling down the HP of enemies. Even the game’s toughest boss battles involve this basic tactic. Each goddess has different attacks, but choosing your favorite character and sticking with them usually does just as well as switching things up. The weapons are actually musical instruments that somehow attack and record video footage at the same time, and this is alluded to in boss fights with some sort of rhythm/flow-based mechanic that can easily be ignored.
What can’t so easily be ignored is the incessant comments that stream in from the world’s citizens. They react to the actions you perform in battle, and while some are nice, others are insulting, or even boastful. This is meant to drive the point home that you are saving the world by getting more views and satisfying people’s thirst for fresh content, but it usually just crowds the screen. Furthermore, the comments quickly repeat themselves, and you’ll find yourself not bothering to read them after just a few minutes.
Neptunia Virtual Stars Review | PlayStation LifeStyle
Neptunia Virtual Stars Review – A Limited Audience
To Compile Heart’s credit, Neptunia Virtual Stars has a runtime of at least 20 hours, with a much longer completion time for those who want to 100% everything. All cutscenes are also well voiced, though there is no English audio option owing to the large cast of VTubers. Much of the length of the game is spent in cutscenes, or finding every collectible strewn about each level. There are also some decent customization options for each character, with plenty of fan service for those who want it. The game even awards kawaii points for certain outfits with accessories.
Neptunia Virtual Stars is best served to either VTuber fans, Neptunia fans, or both. There’s little appeal here for other types of gamers. There are many, many better third-person shooters out there, and plenty of JRPGs worthy of a huge timesink. At least you’ll get a full-length, fully-voiced adventure for your trouble with Neptunia Virtual Stars, but unless you’ve really got a thing for the VTube lifestyle mixed with hyper-cuteness, your time is probably better spent elsewhere.
Neptunia Virtual Stars review code for PS4 provided by the publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a PS5. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.