Another year, another Neptunia game. This time it’s another spin-off – and I know us Neptunia fans have been waiting ages for another in the main series – but this one at least comes with an interesting twist: VTubers.
Now let’s get right into the gameplay. If you’ve played Cyberdimension Neptunia, Virtual Stars is basically that, but with a bit more depth. For one, it’s both a third-person shooter and a hack and slash game, of which you can freely swap between the two at any time during gameplay. Neptune and the other three goddesses are your shooters and your slashers are these vtubers created exclusively for this game (at least, I think they are, I’ve never heard of them before). Each has their own unique skills and weapon type and there are matchups with enemies dependent on these, so you’re encouraged to swap between them to do optimal damage.
I found this part of the game to be just okay. It’s Neptunia, so I can’t say I was expecting much, but it’s at least better combat-wise than what we got with Cyberdimension Neptunia – even if it does become a bit repetitive. Part of what helps this is the enemy variety. Usually, with Compile Heart games, I’m prepared for the same recycled enemy assets from their previous works, but Virtual Stars actually has its own set of unique enemies – all designed around the Internet and VTuber theme. Whether that be walking troll accounts or Twitter birds equipped with rocket launchers, they’re pretty cheesy, but in the best way possible and perfectly fit that Neptunia theme.
Aside from combat, there’s the loot, character customization, and light exploration elements that come with games from this series. Again, nothing too impressive there – not good, not bad, just the usual. One area it did improve in though is level design. The levels are much less boxy this time, with fewer invisible walls and a greater emphasis on platforming. And they’re varied too, going for the same theme along with the enemy designs. It’s still not something I would consider “great”, but it’s a step-up nonetheless.
Another new element comes in the form of some light base-building. There’s this hub world that has a bunch of buildings and stuff that can be bought, upgraded, and used to deck out your characters – both equipment-wise and visually. You can also buy and use the job board, which gives the usual boring fetch quests, but is also used to begin VTuber rescue missions and even has its own mini gacha game.
And on the topic of VTubers, I’m afraid fans will be very disappointed with how they are handled in Virtual Stars. Despite the big VTuber theme, the only ones you actually get to play as are the slashers I mentioned earlier. All of those collab VTubers from Hololive, upd8, Game Club Project, and the rest are not playable. In fact, the only real presence they have is on these virtual billboards scattered about each level. That and each VTuber has a corresponding V-Cube that you can equip, which grants stat boosts and special attack when you fill a certain meter.
It is the most barebones implementation and I’m more so inclined to believe that they were included simply to sell the game rather than to add anything meaningful to it. I mean, most of the screen time for some of these VTubers is during the loading screens, so you can kinda get an idea for how weak the overall implementation is here. I may not be the biggest VTuber guy, but I can recognize a gimmick when I see one – and that’s 100% the case with Virtual Stars.
Then there’s the story – which follows the same trend as the gameplay. By that, I mean that it’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not good either. It’s got the usual Neptunia fluff, the constant shifting between serious and more comedic moments, and a cheesy plotline to tie it all together. The pacing is mostly fine, although it’s a bit slow to start, but it is still not something I would recommend the game for.
And that’s unfortunate in this game’s case because the story easily makes up the majority of it. The game took me 16 hours to clear and about 9-10 of that was visual novel stuff. It was not uncommon to kill a boss and then have to sit through 30 minutes of dialogue. I play a ton of Compile Heart games, so I’m used to it at this point, but it’s important to note for those expecting more on the gameplay side. And yes, there is a post-game with hidden bosses and other stuff to max out if you want to go the completionist route.
I should also note the lack of an English dub. This is the first Neptunia game to go without one and Idea Factory has stated that this was due to the VTuber collab element and high volume of voice lines. I don’t mind either way, but I know a lot of people enjoy the Neptunia dub, so that’s something to keep in mind.
As for the graphics and music – well don’t expect much there. Virtual Stars looks virtually identical to the last five Neptunia games and the music is entirely forgettable. Granted, the character designs are still top-notch, but the rest is just average.
The PC port is where things become even more iffy. Like, I was at least able to play it at 1440p, but it is obviously upscaled and the lack of anti-aliasing makes that obvious. It is also capped to 60 fps, but there are several dialogue scenes where it goes to 30 before shifting back to 60 during other dialogue scenes – it’s a little bit jarring.
Controls on a controller are fine, but if you plan on playing with keyboard and mouse, don’t go in expecting an intuitive experience. They are rebindable, but I could not get the mouse to do anything other than camera control, so everything else was keyboard-bound, including the menus. It just doesn’t feel good to play this way, so I would 100% recommend going the controller route.
And then there’s the crashes, which I unfortunately ran into several times during my playthrough. They seemed to really like happening either during a boss fight or immediately after one, before I’m able to save of course. In fact, there was one part where I had to go through a gauntlet of three bosses before the game crashed on me right as I touched the save point. The bosses are giant damage sponges, so you can see why I was tempted to just quit the game outright right then.
Neptunia Virtual Stars is just a disappointment overall, even for Neptunia fans. The gameplay and level design was improved a bit for sure, but there’s no single element that really shines here. A tacked-on VTuber element, a generic storyline, and technical issues on top of that are just a few of the problems. If you’re a hardcore Nep fan, it might be worth a look, but otherwise, give it a pass – there’s better Nep games out there anyways.
Quote: Neptunia Virtual Stars can be fun at times, but it is ultimately brought down by its generic storyline, tacked-on VTuber elements, and technical issues. An overall disappointment for Neptunia fans.
You can buy Neptunia Virtual Stars on Steam here. It is also available on PS4.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.