Neptunia and friends have been on many quirky and memorable journeys and their latest has them join forces with real-world VTubers.
As a fan of the series, I must say that Neptunia Virtual Stars is an unexpected spin-off in both its gameplay and premise. However, that isn't a bad thing as I had a ton of fun with this delightful action RPG. The story basically has Neptunia and chums join forces with VStars You and Me in order to help the goddess Faira from planet Emote as the life force of her realm (Content) is being threatened by an evil force. This premise is so meta that it made my head spin. Thankfully, the cast of characters is extremely bubbly and the dialogue is downright hilarious. In fact, this might just be the funniest Neptunia game that I've played so far. Between the constant use of meta humour, strong personality types, confusingly-named characters, and typical cheeky humour; I found myself laughing a lot as I watched the story sequences. It really is the epitome of a game that doesn't take itself seriously yet it's surprisingly deep, too.
When it comes to gameplay, Neptunia Virtual Stars will have you swap between the goddesses and VStars which changes between a third-person shooter and a hack and slash action game, respectively. No matter which character you're playing as, you'll find plenty of differences whether it's via their preferred weapon, capabilities, or move sets. In fact, there's a lot to keep in mind as you battle enemies and swap between your parties and characters. For the first handful of hours, you'll regularly be introduced to new mechanics and after a while, I found myself overwhelmed by the amount of things that you can do in battle. For example, you can perform a special attack if you use a VStar skill enough, boss fights have their own gauges and mechanics, you can heal when enemies aren't around, and you can use stored energy to summon VTubers or perform a special overdrive attack. Keep in mind; I'm only scratching the surface.
This steep learning curve isn't all that daunting because you really don't have to pay attention to many of the complexities and grinding is quite easy to do. As you get comfortable with the basics, you can always review more advanced tutorials, too. In the end, I appreciated the combination of gameplay styles and it all culminates with rewarding RPG elements that'll have you equipping new gear and boosts as well as spending money to grow the central hub area which opens and expands shops, arenas, and such. There's a lot of complexity in this regard, too, and it's all very satisfying to watch progress being made. Speaking of which, there are plenty of super-challenging optional bosses to take on as well so even after you complete the game, there's sure to be much more content to unlock and challenges waiting to be mastered. It really is a complete package of fun-filled gameplay set in one lovely and colourful game world.
Although there is certainly a lot to it, Neptunia Virtual Stars becomes rather tedious at times as the core gameplay simply involves exploring dungeons while defeating hordes of enemies and toppling bosses. That being said, there are different environments that do a solid job of offering variety on a visual level and they all look great. Plus, there are hidden goodies that are satisfying to uncover as they may enhance your capabilities in surprising ways. At the same time, traversing areas while laying the smack down on the same kinds of enemies over and over again definitely gets repetitive, especially if you find yourself a bit overpowered which will happen regularly.
Finally, one aspect of Neptunia Virtual Stars that occasionally made me scratch my head is that being able to progress isn't always made clear. If you turn the game off and come back to it later, you might forget what to do. You get a clue on the pause screen of your next goal but I sometimes didn't know what it meant. Once, I needed to use a monitor and looked everywhere for it only to eventually find it in the back of a large open room. I wish more specific language was used so you could be pointed in the right direction without any ambiguity. After a while, you'll get in the groove of what to do but it can certainly be perplexing at the start. This is especially the case when you consider the fact that dungeons don't really have defined end points and sort of just exist as a series of rooms.
Neptunia Virtual Stars is one of my favourite spin-offs in the delightful franchise as it contains a brilliant blend of gameplay elements, a wonderful cast of characters, and one of the funniest meta premises in gaming history.
- + Fantastic blend of third-person shooting, hack and slash combat, and RPG elements
- + Large and lovely cast with hilarious dialogue
- + Rewarding unlockables and challenges
- - There are so many elements to gameplay that it can be overwhelming to learn
- - Core gameplay can get tedious at times
- - Progression isn't always made clear