Neptunia Virtual Stars (PlayStation 4)

Hot on the heels of the Hyperdimension Neptunia 10th anniversary, we have the latest spin-off in the decade old franchise in Neptunia Virtual Stars, which looks to take the series usual goofiness and apply it to the idea of vTubers – with added third person shooter action. Is it as successful an experiment as other spin-offs? Lets take a look

Out there is a place known as Virtualand – a digital world that exists alongside the networks of various dimensions, and within Virtualand lies the planet Emote. Emote is currently facing with extinction as a maleficent group of Content destroyers known as Antis have invaded to make the worlds content obsolete. In final act of desperation, the Digital Goddess Faira sends a distress signal to other dimensions in the hope that a savior could be found to aid Emote. The distress signal happens upon several candidates – The rising Vtuber stars of MEWTRAL, Me and You, as well as the Goddesses of Gamindustri: Neptune, Noire, Blanc, and Vert! Can MEWTRAL and the Goddesses band together to save the planet Emote from complete obsolescence?

Story presentation here is probably the best in the series so far, with the delivery on point as always for the Nep-meister. 2D sprites during dialogue segments like we had before are almost gone, replaced with the 3D modals used throughout the game that are generally expressive but occasionally animated more than expected. The game leans heavily into the vTuber angle, even loading screens are used as amusing showcases, so if you have no interest in these things it could leave you a little lost. On the other hand if you have an interest in it then this could be one immersive ride as you soak in all the characters and jabs at online culture in general. Whilst Nep & the other goddesses aren’t the full focus this time, they’re all still here and the 4th wall breaking tongue in cheek shenanigans of gaming’s greatest protagonist is ever present.

Oddly enough for this game, Unreal Engine 4 has been dropped in favour of using their own engine again. I say ‘oddly enough’ though as the game still carries some of the graphical flourishes found in the likes of Cyberdimension Neptunia. The characters and stages are relatively well detailed, there’s some nice touches such as reflections, with the worlds themselves having a nice virtual sheen to them. You’ll probably notice a few returning enemies, but at least the new ones don’t look out of place and some of the bosses can make for an extravagant looking battle.

There doesn’t appear to be any Pro upgrade with this one, but that at least means that performance is pretty solid – could be due to boost mode tho. At least the audio side of things is as good as always, the upbeat soundtrack marries perfectly with the stories these games tell – and the recognisable voice acting is always good. The game is lacking an English dub as is usually offered, but it’s not something missed personally.

Being a spin-off, this game looks to offer gameplay outside of the typical JRPG on offer from the mainline series. The hack & slash gameplay from the likes of Neptunia U makes a return here, with added third-person shooter action from our goddesses. A sword & bow are taken up by the idol duo, with the 4 goddesses each getting their own weapon that offers a different firing mode. Nep has pretty much an SMG, fast firing with slow damage, with Blanc having more of a semi-auto rifle that can be charged to do increased damage – the other two goddesses offer up some added variety too. You can switch between all of this on the fly, the characters themselves, and even the gameplay modes from the two teams. There’s also some nice touches such as the team healing during stages and customisable abilities that unlock as you level up. It does make for some interesting encounters when in full flow and switching seamlessly between all the characters means you can also tackle each differently.

Whilst the game does play on the TPS angle, it also still has quite a few RPG elements, similar to other games in the series, that the game bombards you with during the opening sections. Your abilities can also be enhanced in other ways, such as with the vTube cubes collected, that can boost stats as well offer advice via PIP segments during gameplay. It doesn’t just end there either, the BGM itself can even have an effect for example, and the game goes above & beyond in making sure you know about it all before it’s useful. The first boss for example can be beat easily with just Nep blasting away and collecting the gems, but the game wants you to know all about the gauge you gotta fill and powerful special abilities that entails. Once you’ve unlocked the hub sections there’s even more to take into account, but the game does have some interesting additions here too as you build them up. Luckily all this can be reviewed in the menu at a later time when it feels necessary to make use of, but it does make for some confusion at first as the game piles it on without taking a breather.

Neptunia Virtual Stars is an amusing romp through cyberspace with the customary change in playstyle that one can expect from a Neptunia spin-off. For the most part its a fun little game that one can enjoy, but then there is also the odd aspect that doesn’t quite click fully and can lead to some confusion within the gameplay loop.

Personally as a fan of the series it’s easy to overlook these things on account of the Nep, and those interested in vTuber culture could find themselves enjoying what’s on offer in the virtual world too. As expected the game does nothing to appease those outside of its niches tho, nor should it have to really, so drawing in a new audience may be difficult.

3

Summary

Whilst it’s always good seeing the Nep try something new, shooting doesn’t look to be her forte with misses here & there

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Geoffrey Wright

Rocking the world of gaming since the Atari 2600, has now settled down to bask in the warmth of moe. Moe is life for a moe connoisseur.