Over the years Idea Factory has done a lot to build up the Neptunia franchise. The meta-humor and fourth-wall-breaking game series have moved past being something of a tribute and satirical look at the game industry to offering its own take on each genre. Over the years that has meant rhythm, various types of RPGs, Dynasty Warriors-esque, and more. With Neptunia Virtual Stars we have a new target, the rise of idol culture, along with a new style of gameplay. Over the years this has worked well for Neptunia, but is this another charming experience or a bad idea?
Neptunia Virtual Stars honestly starts exactly how you’d expect. Another world is having an issue, Neptune does something selfish for her friends and fellow CPUs, ultimately they wind up in another world with these V-Idols (virtual idols) only to find out they need to work together to defeat a larger foe. Like all of these games, the core story is basically there to give the characters something to do or justify moving forward, with the real center point being the character interactions.
This starts off with You, from the V-Idol side, and Vert, Noire, and Blanc remarking how similar Neptune and the aptly named Me are. Both of them view themselves as the main character, resulting in Neptune doing her running gag. It is a great way to bring the two groups together without really moving away from the interactions that players have grown to love from the franchise. These new concepts and settings give life to the comedic side, though the gameplay leaves a bit to be desired.
Despite being considered an action RPG, it’s actually a cross between action and shooter RPG. This stems from how the two different sides play and the unique advantages and disadvantages they provide.
For the CPUs, each character has a different type of gun and shooting mechanic that offers their own use case. Basically, players zip around the screen mindlessly shooting a machine gun of sorts, sniper, and things of the like at enemies. Based on your ability to bob and weave you’ll either take damage or finish the fight with relative ease. When playing as the V-Idols, it moves to a traditional hack and slash style of gameplay. Where these characters and mechanics start to come alive is when you realize there is the best way to do everything.
Sometimes that will be using You’s bow to effortlessly melt enemies, others have no clue how to deal with Me’s sword, Vice can reap certain enemies without even trying and the same goes for the CPUs too. Those uninterested in playing this way can play defensively with whomever you want, it just takes away from what little depth is here. Regardless of how tasks get accomplished, there are special attacks, dodge, and even super moves meant to give players options or offer some optional flash.
Unfortunately, like previous titles, the performance isn’t anything impressive. Even on my PlayStation 5, I noticed drop frames and graphics looked fairly blurry. This was especially true whenever it was a dialogue section. Either it would be a nice-looking CGI with minimal to no movement or models that didn’t have a lot of clarity to them. It doesn’t take away from the experience though it stood out.
There is also a general sense of emptiness on a lot of levels. Often times it felt less like an RPG and more a linear map with a couple of optional rooms or areas with enemies for the sake of it. These are important to do for levels or resources, like potions, though nothing overly special.
Neptunia Virtual Stars Review – Verdict
Unsurprisingly, Neptunia Virtual Stars hinges on what exactly you’re looking for. If that answer is a quirky RPG with tight and deep mechanics, you’ll likely be disappointed. However, if you just want a fun RPG that has amusing interactions and cute characters, it will likely be fun. That isn’t to say Neptunia Virtual Stars is a bad game, it just doesn’t particularly stand out in any positive or negative way.
[Editor’s Note: Neptunia Virtual Stars was reviewed on PlayStation 5 platform and a code was provided to us from the publisher for review purposes.]