By Steve Baltimore / March 19th, 2021
|Title||Neptunia Virtual Stars|
|Developer||Idea Factory, Compile Heart|
|Publisher||Idea Factory International|
|Release Date||March 2nd, 2021|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, Steam (3/29 Release)|
As most of you know, I’m a fan of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series. So, when Neptunia Virtual Stars was announced, I was pretty excited to see where they would go with this new spin-off. I didn’t know much about VTubers at the time, but since then, Hololive launched an English branch and I learned a lot about them really fast. I didn’t know all of the talents featured here, but I feel like the knowledge of what they do helped me understand this title a bit better. At any rate, let’s dive in and see if this digital adventure is worth your time and coin!
The girls arrive at an event in Gamindustri to check out a cool new VR game together when they are suddenly transported to a place called Virtualand. Here, a planet called Emote is being destroyed by an invading force. A Goddess in this world, named Faira, has asked the Goddesses to help her save her planet from the Antis destroying their world. The Goddesses will not be alone, however. Faira has also enlisted the help of rising VTuber stars, Me and You, members of MEWTRAL. Can the girls band together and save this world from certain doom?
While this story isn’t groundbreaking for the series by any means, it is very well thought out and satisfying in the end. It does that thing all good Neptunia stories do, it covers events going on, in, and around the game industry with a good amount of subtle commentary. Our favorite Goddesses are as wonderful as ever, and play off each other very well. The new VTuber characters, Me, You, Vice and Licht, are fantastic as well. I really loved Vice. She is about as chunni as they come which I find really cute! These girls complemented each other greatly as well, and the writing, overall, has a good balance between banter and actual storyline.
Graphically, Neptunia Virtual Stars looks great. The new character models for the Goddesses are nicely detailed and I actually love the default costumes they gave them. There are some free and paid DLC ones you can get that are bit more daring, but these look good on the girls. The VTuber models are done nicely as well, and I really hope we see these girls in other games down the line. The stages each have a very unique look. Since these places are supposed to be like sites on the internet, you will be able to spot the theme right off. The placed called Twinia is a play on Twitter, so you see fat birds all over the stage. There are even enemies that look like that damn bird. I may have felt a bit too good slaying them, to be honest. At any rate, each level is nicely detailed and fits the themes they were going for very well. The enemy models themselves looks nice, but they probably could have made a few more and used a few less color swaps.
Neptunia Virtual Stars has one of the best soundtracks in the franchise. The vocal tracks are all top quality. The stage background tracks are all fantastic as well. They are all very catchy and upbeat. In fact, I’m pretty sure a couple of these may never leave my head. There are a few different mixes of some of these tracks that are used in the BeatTik mini game and for the MV Battles, which we will get into in just a bit. The one big glaring issue in the audio department is the lack of an English dub. I know some folks were pretty disappointed by this. I’ve always loved both voice casts, so for me this was a non issue. But, it is what it is if you were a fan of the English crew.
The gameplay in Neptunia Virtual Stars has a lot of elements to it. The combat is very different depending on if you decide to play as the Goddesses or the VTubers. Each one has a very different play style. If you go with the Goddesses, the game plays like a rail shooter. Each girl has a unique weapon and set of special moves that make each of them play very differently. Nep is the assault type fighter. She fires quick rounds for low damage. Noire is a more balanced fighter with good attack power. Blanc fires very slowly, but she charges shots for some huge damage. And last, but not least, Vert is the sniper. Her shots can hit at long range and paralyze foes. The Goddesses can only have up to 30 life points, but these will only deplete one or two at a time when taking damage. The VTubers have a more hack and slash gameplay style. Unlike the Goddesses, the VTubers only come in pairs. Me and You or Vice and Licht are your choices here. One girl will have short to mid range attacks while the other will attack from a distance. Each one has a variety of special moves at their disposal and, unlike the Goddesses, they will get a ton of HP as the game progresses. They do take more damage, however, and since both girls are on the field at the same time, even the one you’re not controlling can be hurt as well. You can switch to any of the four Goddesses or two VTubers and between the two groups on the fly, so you can try out each one and see what works for the current foes.
You will notice a gauge at the top right. As this gauge fills, you will have access to a couple of very special attacks. The first is the Guest Connect. This will grant some help from a VTuber. They will attack enemies or give you a nice status buff. If you let the gauge fill further, you will have access to Emotional Overdrive. Here, the girls will pummel their foes into the ground and get some great items for it in the process. Just press the button for which attack range you want and let it rip. This is a very easy way to clear out an area of troublesome monsters in seconds.
Finishing up the combat area, let’s talk about the MV Battles. These are the game’s boss battles. During these battles, you will have to gain the advantage on your foes by attacking them and dodging their attacks. While you’re doing this, an MV Song will be playing with a colored bar at the bottom of the screen. Each color will give either you or the enemy more power. There are four different songs you can unlock during the game and each will have different area sizes and buffs. When you are in control of the battle, the sound gauge at the bottom of the screen will fill. Once it’s full, you can enter Resonance Mode. This mode will give you several perks against the bosses and once you fill the gauge again, you can let loose a powerful Flash Drive attack. These attacks do a ton of damage and are pretty to watch as well.
The girls will gain levels in the traditional way by defeating enemies, and they will gain more special moves the more you use the current ones. The best way to pump up their stats, however, is with V-Cubes. These are the essence of the VTubers found in this world in a cube form. Each will grant the girls many stat boosts and buffs. There are tons of different ones to be found for each VTuber, and they can be further powered up at NeoTube Plaza, which acts as the world hub. The main way you find these cubes is to search for them on the community board. When you get close, you will see them on a screen asking for help. Once you have discovered a VTuber, you will begin to receive other variations of their cube in chests as well.
The last things I would like to cover are the BeatTik video creator, Video Battler, and the MoE Accessories. The BeatTik creator allows you to create videos while playing a rhythm game. You can setup a palette of dances and items to help you get the best score possible. Now, I never thought I wanted to see Nep do some of these crazy dances, but I was so wrong! Nep and all the other girls are just plain cute doing these. Sometimes, you will trigger a partner to come on stage with you as well. I think this is just random since I couldn’t seem to find a way to make it happen every time. At the end of the video, you will be given a reward in currency or items your fans donated during your performance. Once you save the video, you can take them to Video Battler. Here, you can can use Video Stones to create items from the videos. You can get collector cards that give the girls stat boosts, MoE items and more. MoE items are, basically, the crazy accessories found in other Neptunia games, but, here they give you some buffs. Things like face masks, hats, tails, signs, lights and other craziness can be equipped to any part of the girls’ bodies. You can also resize these items and turn them any way you wish. If you just want the boost and not the looks, you can choose to have them not display as well. Each one of these items will come in different rarities and, of course, the rarest will give you the greatest effect.
I honestly had a great time with Neptunia Virtual Stars. The Goddesses were in top form and the new characters were an amazing addition to the cast I already loved. Seeing a lot of my favorite Hololive VTubers here was a lot of fun, and I found new girls to check out from other groups as well. The gameplay was nothing groundbreaking, but I had a lot of fun playing around with all the girls’ different attacks and play styles. The lack of English dub will turn some folks off, but this soundtrack is one of the best they’ve ever done. I put about 26 hours into this one to get the Platinum Trophy, but you could put a bit more in if you want to finish off some of the crazy extra bosses the game has to offer. At the $49.99 price tag, this one is a must for fans of Neptunia or VTubers. Folks wanting a fun action game or someone curious about the whole VTuber craze will likely find something to love here as well.
Game was provided by the publisher.
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