Neptunia Virtual Stars (PlayStation 4) Review

By Nayu 23.02.2021

Review for Neptunia Virtual Stars on PlayStation 4

The beloved gaming goddesses Neptune, Blanc, Noir and Vert are back for this tenth anniversary title, Neptunia Virtual Stars from Compile Heart and Idea Factory. The heroes are summoned by a Virtual Goddess Faira, who bears a resemblance to a certain twin-tailed, green-haired vocaloid, to help save the planet Emote (EMO) in the dimension Virtualand. Vtubers have been kidnapped and transformed into V-Cubes and it's up to Neptune and friends - alongside some V-Idols including Me and You who form the group MEWTRAL - to save the Vtubers from the Antis who, led by a mysterious woman, want to destroy all the content in Emote.

The story itself follows the usual Neptunia series style with an abundance of tension, hilarity, and plot twists. There is a lot of emotion from character interactions between the Goddesses, Vtubers, Faira and the main enemy, with several scenes potentially needing some tissues depending how attached to the characters the player gets. It is next to impossible not to become invested in Neptune's crazy adventure. As well as being central to the main plot, the Vtubers can be seen in action during loading screens. Whether on purpose or simply a coincidence, it took several chapters for the intermission Vtuber to change from Compile Heart's Vtuber, Ileheart, to alternate between other Vtubers. Perhaps it is related to the Vtubers which get released from their prison; as cute and funny as Ileheart is, it can become boring seeing her repeatedly perform the same routine during every loading screen.

The Vtubers can give random support in battles and even make requests for items to be found in certain places. There is a shop solely for Vtuber related items, where V-Cubes can be bought for a high price, and there is a Vtuber gacha game using a special currency to roll for Vtuber cards, in single pulls or a pull of ten for a cheaper price. No real money is needed: it's all in-game currency, so collecting all the cards will be possible for everyone - albeit a bit of a challenge as duplicates are possible in each scout.

Screenshot for Neptunia Virtual Stars on PlayStation 4

Long-time Neptunia fans will rejoice to see Neptune, also affectionally known as Neppy and NepNep, in action in a world that feels made for her. Neptune's go-get-em personality, which frequently causes her to break the fourth wall, thrives on adoration (and pudding). It will bring smiles and laughter even to new fans who, aside from not knowing the personalities of the four Gamindustri Goddesses, won't miss out from this being their first foray into the Neptunia series. In the Japanese-with-subtitles gameplay, Neptune and her friends each have a special gun which remains their only weapon throughout the campaign. The guns level up when the Goddesses themselves level up, and there is no weapon store to purchase stronger guns which felt a bit strange. The real power, however, comes from V-Cubes, where Vtubers are trapped and eventually freed. These V-Cubes can be strengthened to raise their various in-game stat boosters: some focus on health while others focus on attack or defense, allowing players to improve the characters according to their playstyle.

Certain enemies can be defeated by particular characters, which is indicated when the V-Idols lock-on to them (Goddesses can't lock on but can focus in their own way), but realistically it is okay to use one or two favourite characters throughout the entire story. Some of this reviewer's favourites are the game-addict Goddess Vert, known as Green Heart due to her deity over Leanbox (based on the Xbox); as well as Goddess Blanc, known as White Heart, the Goddess of Lowee (which is based on the Wii). Blanc has quite a temper, which can be at odds with her quieter demeanour out of conflict. Vert's weapon is moderately powered, while Blanc's is slow to charge but packs a punch and works well when facing a few enemies who can easily be dodged around. The V-Idols, who are also Vtubers, have non-gun weapons like a sword and staff that are equally powerful. There is the occasional difficulty spike at the start of a new chapter, but this is soon overcome by levelling up in earlier and easier stages and by using V-Cubes.

Screenshot for Neptunia Virtual Stars on PlayStation 4

In and out of battle, if the Goddesses are being used they can use a feature called Boost, which lets them glide for quite a long period of time in any direction. This is perfect for avoiding enemy fire or zipping from one area of the map to the next. Boost feels like inline skating and is useful throughout much of Neptunia Virtual Stars. The four playable V-Idols do not have the Boost ability but do have one called Step which seems like the equivalent of a dodge action. If Step is used in battle at the right time, Step Charm will activate, allowing unlimited MP so special attacks can be used with impunity for a very short time. Both Goddesses and V-Idols have special attacks that activate once a gauge is filled up; the fancy animations have the Goddesses transform into their Goddess form, known as HDD in previous entries in the series.

Whereas in the past the Goddesses each had several separate special attacks unique to them, in Neptunia Virtual Stars there only seems to be one special attack in this mode. Furthermore, no matter which Goddess is being used as the protagonist, the special attack always uses a certain order for which Goddess does each action. There is a second part to the attack but activating it seems random. There is an additional attack mode which uses three buttons corresponding to three types of attack: when activated there may be an element of strategy on which moves to use, but button mashing works equally well for less experienced players.

The explorable areas in Neptunia Virtual Stars are a pure delight to uncover. The level of detail in them is top quality; particularly noteworthy are Cookunia, a land full of mouthwatering giant cakes, brightly coloured macarons, and huge orange slices to jump upon; Twinia, the social media themed area full of blue birds both as scenery and enemies; and Novelia, the book-themed land with detailed books forming platforms that will thrill bookworms. Even the Safe Areas, where health is restored and Vtubers can be switched between alongside the Goddesses later in the game, are appropriately themed with musical notes and cubic imagery. It's these details, including various parts of costumes lighting up (and in a later level where the ground itself lights up when stepped on) that add to the overall thrill of the game. Neptunia titles are RPGs but have a visual novel-like aspect with a lot of text conversation between characters that explores their personalities. These are never dull.

Screenshot for Neptunia Virtual Stars on PlayStation 4

One area which is in keeping with the Neptunia series is the accessories. So far, only two main outfits have been unlocked by this reviewer, the others being swimsuits and numerous dresses and other outfits. It unfortunately took almost the entire campaign to figure out how to change the position of the accessories: when first used a lot of the items are in the wrong place. For example, rabbit ears on a headband are hovering above the head instead of sitting firmly in the hair, and a moustache is right by the eyes instead of under the nose. The wide accessory range does have abilities to unlock, but the central purpose is to get fan points in the Beatnik mini-game.

Accessory placement is not the only element of Neptunia Virtual Stars that is not given a full tutorial: Beatnik, the rhythm mini-game which can net the player more currency and items to use in the main campaign, is available for use after a certain point in the story, but unfortunately it is not clearly signposted. Its location in the Neotube Plaza can be overlooked by less observant players who stick to visiting the various shops for items which get unlocked and upgraded throughout the story without looking at the surrounding environment. Once unlocked, though, there is a decent tutorial within Beatnik explaining how it all works. The simple rhythm game uses a single note beat that needs to be hit by any button in time to the beat; it is a let down for regular rhythm gamers who may be hoping for more complex gameplay, but those new to the genre can easily pick up and get points, which in turn wins items. There is no faulting the catchy tunes, different stages, and fun dances, and up to three accessories can be worn by each character, adding bonus points to the final score.

Screenshot for Neptunia Virtual Stars on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

There is no doubt that Neptunia Virtual Stars is a perfect match for the world of social media and Vtubers. The execution of this title may not be perfect in the peripheral elements, but overall it is a solid addition to the series. Returning fans and new ones alike will enjoy seeing their favourite Goddesses and getting to know the new characters. The fact that the Vtubers are real outside of the the experience is a big pull for Vtuber fans as they can get to know their favourite stars more deeply through this experience. Even when the main story is concluded, there is still plenty of V-Cubes to collect, new strong enemies to kill and Beatnik to master, making it a title that can't be missed for fans of the Neptunia universe.

Developer

Compile Heart

Publisher

Idea Factory

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 05.03.2021   North America release date 02.03.2021   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date 05.03.2021   

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