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Backlog Twosome | Neptunia Virtual Stars

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Online entertainment is quite the prolific thing isn’t it? It’s something that many of us consume on a daily basis! It goes great with our morning coffee, when we’re on our lunch breaks, and even when we’re trying to figure out how to repair that dang leaky faucet! I mean, the content you are reading right now was created by us, for your perusing pleasure!

Imagine however, if this content and its creators were what sustained the world that we lived in? Not just from an entertainment standpoint, but in an ecological, economical, and interpersonal way?! Well, for one, it would probably be a nightmare because trolls wouldn’t just be anonymous lurkers in the dark corners of the internet… they’d be honest to goodness baddies patrolling the streets!

Well, Idea Factory and Compile Heart hope to make this dystopian future a little more kawaii in their latest addition to the Neptunia franchise, Neptunia Virtual Stars! Nonetheless, will its shrill cuteness keep us on board as we battle through Planet Emote, or will we be hitting unsubscribe?  

I’ve seen the Hyperdimension Neptunia JRPGs floating around on various occasions but never played one myself. Virtual Stars took the much beloved characters from those games and threw them into an action style RPG which is a fun twist on the classic. I will say that these types of action shooter games aren’t really my jam but this one looked cute and colorful so I gave it my best shot, pun totally intended.

Despite always wanting to, I’ve never had the opportunity to play many of the Neptunia games, outside of the few offshoots we’ve also covered for Idea Factory. I mean, I love the idea of playing as a group of virtual goddess saving the day in their virtual world! That and the fact that these games always feature a cast of super cute characters and fourth wall breaking game dev jokes, meant I was all the way on board from the start.

So, when we had the opportunity to try out Neptunia Virtual Stars, there was no question that we would dive in! And the cherry on top was that this game featured a more action oriented playstyle!

Aesthetically, Neptunia Virtual Stars more than holds up. It’s bright, colorful, and just as exuberant as you would expect from a game in the Neptunia franchise. Of course, if that’s not your bag, you might find it a little grating and relentless, because its visuals do NOT apologize for its cuteness nor its dedication to make you smile (or cringe). With that being said, it’s a little unfortunate that there isn’t much variety in the environments. They all kind of look like the same “90s cyberspace” labyrinths with different layouts and enemy placements.

From a gameplay perspective, I’m of two minds. On one hand, I appreciate that Compile Heart is trying something new with the Neptunia universe. Instead of making another standard JRPG with way too much dialog, they made a run and gun shooter/ hack and slash with way too much dialog! I kid of course (only slightly), but I do find the action sequences to be fun and satisfying, even if it can be a bit clunky. 

On the other hand, exploring each of the environments can be confusing, and it’s easy to get lost. Mostly due to the strange map shading, lack of any real landmarks, and the sporadic appearance of the objective icons. Combine that with a feature set that won’t quit, and you end up with an overwhelming experience with a touch of frustration.

The artwork for the Neptunia games is always on point. Everything is so colorful and all the characters have their own unique styles that compliment their personalities. That being said, Virtual Stars is almost TOO colorful and vibrant. Everything is neon and bright, making the enemies and interactive map elements blend into the background and get lost from time to time. Also, I understand that it’s pretty standard fare for the characters in these games to have “battle noises” but hot damn…what a cacophony these girls make during battles! In general I think Virtual Stars amounted to just too much sensory overload for me to find it enjoyable.

Virtual Stars brings a lot to the table in terms of gameplay. You have six ladies to choose from, each with their own weapon and playstyle. Which is definitely fun and adds a nice “something for everyone” vibe to the game. However, there are so many other elements in this game to keep track of. I think even veterans of the genre would find it overwhelming. There’s a lot of dialogue to get through, which is something that is also reminiscent of these kinds of games, but the amount of tutorial pop ups just about rivals the dialogue. Special moves, music boosts, shops to unlock, 6 characters worth of outfits and accessories, VTuber cubes, special boss mechanics, special battle mechanics, special exploration mechanics …so many things to learn and remember and keep tabs on. Aaaah!

So, what would I keep you might be asking? Faira…I would keep her. She is the Goddess of the planet Emote and the cutest character ever. I know almost nothing about her but I love her and I don’t care who knows it. More Faira pleeeeeease!

If I could change anything about Neptunia Virtual Stars, it would be to dial back the number of features Compile Heart wanted to shove into this game. Even after playing the game for hours, we were still getting bombarded with new things to add to our repertoire. From new gameplay mechanics, to new collectibles and just general features to keep tabs on! It didn’t feel like a smooth ramp up in complexity either, it just felt like we were being bombarded by a sporadic set of disparate components that loosely fit the theme. Which again, just made it feel overwhelming. 

I did however really enjoy the idea of a run and gun shooter based in the Neptunia universe, and I would love to see more games like it! It just needs to be toned down a little bit. Or at least have a smoother progression system. That and I love the idea of unlocking alternate costumes for you characters, so keep that as well.

I think if you’re a Neptunia fan that’s looking for something that’s a little different, then Neptunia Virtual Stars might just be the game for you. The inclusion of the run and gun gameplay, is fun enough on its own, with the added benefit of it featuring your favorite Neptunia characters! If you’re like me however, and you’re just a fair-weather Neptunia fan, then gameplay might hold your interest for a hot minute, but you might want to consider looking somewhere else.

I realize that I had a fair amount of complaints regarding Neptunia Virtual Stars but again this type of game just isn’t my cup to tea. I can certainly see someone who IS a fan loving the heck out it. There’s definitely more than enough to keep a person occupied and entertained for hours upon hours. But for me personally the game just ended up feeling like the devs couldn’t decide on a direction so they chose all the directions. For me this game is like a dish with way too much going on. Choose a few facets and do them well instead of taking everything, including the kitchen sick, and throwing it into a game. It’s a big no from me game-wise, but you can bet your buns if I ever see any Faira merch for sale, I’m buying it!!!

It’s unfortunate when we run into a game that wows us visually, but disappoints us once we take the controller in our hand. Although Neptunia Virtual Stars has a ton of potential, especially for those who are long time fans of the series and its offshoots, the game just didn’t land for us. Here and there, there were inklings of great things that could easily hook you, but in the end it was just too much of a sensory overload to keep us invested! 

Nonetheless, despite having to come to the conclusion that we probably won’t be seeing the game through to its end, that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be excited to see more games like it. We just hope that Compile Heats reigns it in a bit… and gives us more Faira!

If you’re interested in checking out Neptunia Virtual Stars, you can find it right now on the PlayStation 4 and Steam!!