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Neptunia Virtual Stars – Review | A Nep Letter to VTubers

I have a problem, one which I think I should share with you all… I am obsessed with the Neptunia franchise. Why is that? I’d say it’s the same reason I like Super Smash Brothers; it’s a love letter to gaming’s history! It’s not just that though; it also has a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor where the fourth wall is just a light suggestion. Add to that having famed artist Tsunako create these now-iconic character designs, and it’s not hard to see why this franchise has persisted for over a decade! While we’re still waiting for the fifth mainline entry that follows the events after Megadimension Neptunia VII, Neptune and friends have been quite busy dabbling in a variety of genres. So why not add another one to the pile? Enter Neptunia Virtual Stars.

Neptunia Virtual Stars is the latest entry in Idea Factory and Compile Heart’s Neptunia franchise. Rather than going for an RPG, this game aims to be a 3D action game with both shooting and close-quarters combat. As the name implies, Neptunia Virtual Stars is heavily themed around the recent VTuber phenomenon in both its art direction and story. Does Neptune make a strong shooting debut or should she just go back to turn-based combat?

Neptunia Virtual Stars - Neptune


In a dimension named Virtualand, Content is king and helps every planet function. Unfortunately, one of those planets, Planet Emote is under siege by a woman named Kado and her army of Antis from Obsoletia and they aim to destroy Emote’s Content. In a last-ditch effort to save her planet, Emote’s goddess, Faira calls out to other dimensions for saviors, and she just so happens to find some!

In a different dimension, it’s the annual gaming festival where the latest technology in the gaming industry is showcased to the citizens of Gamindustri. The four goddesses who preside over the world, Neptune, Noire, Blanc, and Vert have the event all to themselves for the day. Upon trying out an experimental new virtual reality system, they end up transported to Virtualand. Among them are two up-and-coming VTubters brought here from Earth: You and Me… yes, those are actually their names. It’s now up to these six heroines with the help of Faira to save the Planet Emote from Kado’s invasion!

Neptunia Virtual Stars’ story wasn’t all that great. The names for these places and certain characters are unbelievably uninspired; who actively names their world Obsoletia and expects to be taken seriously? The context for each location is pretty strong though; these aren’t just empty backdrops for the sake of visual variety. Each area is a representation of content on the internet, such as video sharing, social media, and online databases.

The majority of story sequences follow a similar formula: enter a new location, see what’s ailing it, get introduced to the enemy behind the issue, and thwart their plans while gettings small hints to the overall narrative. This structure hardly, if ever deviates, which causes the game to feel quite repetitive.

What exasperates this problem is the dialogue. Even if the trademark humor the Neptunia series is known for is still here, the dialogue segments go on for far too long. A lot of that comes down to characters saying things that should be obvious to the player just to make sure the point is made. Granted, I’m aware that these long dialogue segments are a trademark of the series, but those were mainly in turn-based RPGs. Neptunia Virtual Stars is an action RPG, so these dialogue sequences cause the pacing to be quite fragmented and just make you want to get back to playing the game.

Neptunia Virtual Stars - 3D Models

But what about the overall plot? I’ll admit it had a very strong start; you really feel the impending doom of Planet Emote and want to actively prevent it! As it progresses though, the formulaic structure mentioned previously drags the story’s progression. This is only made worse with how the game handles its big reveals since a majority of them are very easy to predict. This is because the game gives the player too much information to work off and leads to the twists failing to hit their mark. Thankfully, the story picks back up in the last third, but regardless, the story is quite inconsistent in terms of its quality.

On a more positive note, what saves the game’s story is its charming characters! For instance, the new characters introduced in Neptunia Virtual Stars are ones I surprisingly liked! Then again, because it introduces a lot of them, it seems to go for a “throw characters at a wall and see what sticks” approach like some of the past entries. Out of all the new characters introduced, my favorites were Me and You… no, I mean the characters called Me and You. As a VTuber duo called MEWTRAL, Me is the ditzy airhead and eternal optimist, whereas You is more of a realist with a serious demeanor. They play off each other quite a bit and their exchanges frequently put a smile on my face! I’d love to see them return in future Neptunia titles!

As for the existing characters, the four goddesses are just as well defined as they’ve always been. All four of them have endearing traits and unique personalities with their interactions being the highlights of any story segment. Whether it being Neptune’s constant protagonist exclamations, Noire’s fragile ego, Blanc’s short temper, or Vert’s level-headed attitude, you’re bound to find a favorite among them! While prior entries did a better job establishing their personalities, if you’re already a fan of the franchise, you can rest easy knowing these are still the characters you know and love!

A final note on the story, Kado is easily one of the best-written villains in the Neptunia series! She’s manipulative, commanding and it leads to her presence being felt throughout the game. There’s a lot to her character, but explaining it would be going into spoiler territory, so I’ll just say that she’s a great antagonist!

Neptunia Virtual Stars - CG


There may be shooting and slashing, but don’t let that fool you. Neptunia Virtual Stars is an action RPG with various stats to manage, items to buy, and equipment to… well, equip. The gameplay is in a third-person perspective with two types of combat: shooting and hack-and-slash. Let’s dabble into the shooting mechanics first.

The four goddesses of Gamindustri are characters who rely on guns for survival. It was quick to adjust from exploration to combat, thanks to the camera also acting as the means to target enemies while strafing with the left stick. Though one addition is a godsend that if it weren’t included, could have completely ruined this style of play! Enemies attack fast and fierce and when playing as a goddess, you’ve got no means to dodge other than a continuous dash to quickly dart around the map, so constant movement is key to survival. Trying to aim your shots while doing this would be extremely difficult, so the game gives you a “down the sights” mode to lock on to enemies you aim at. While you could argue this trivializes the game’s challenge, it’s more down to being aware of your environment and dodging attacks rather than getting accurate shots to the head, so a lock-on feature was a welcome addition!

Each of the four goddesses functions very differently from one another, making them more viable in certain situations. Need to do damage in a condensed area? Summon Noire to launch wind blasts for multi-hit projectiles! Is an enemy’s defense too high? Switch the Blanc, whose charge shots can damage even the thickest hides! With four characters to play, this imparts the game with a lot of variety, since shooting enemies with the same character would eventually get stale. Though that did eventually end up happening towards the endgame once I started almost exclusively using who I think is the game’s strongest character: Neptune. Her focus is on dealing area-of-effect damage across a wide area, and because enemies spawn in small groups, these attacks are the quickest and safest way to dispatch them. Sure, this only becomes an issue towards the end of the game, but it’s a shame that this is an issue in the first place.

It’s not just shooting though; you’re also able to wield a melee weapon and a mid-range projectile weapon with the second set of characters: the VTubers. As much as I like these new additions to the Neptunia cast, they sadly feel incredibly underpowered when compared to the goddesses’ shooting abilities. Though really, it’s more of a double-edged sword, as the melee characters are the ones who really suffer. Like I mentioned earlier, enemies can be incredibly aggressive and they come in packs, so these melee-centric characters have to get in close to do damage. This makes you more susceptible to damage, but a handy step dodge is there to help you avoid taking damage. Their combos feel quite clunky and I regularly had issues trying to connect my physical attack skills against enemies mid-combo. Characters who use mid-ranged weapons are thankfully much easier to use, with their skills being much better suited for taking on multiple adversaries at once from a safe distance.

Neptunia Virtual Stars - Combat

Another interesting difference is how health is managed between each set of characters. The VTubers have their own health bars measured in numbers, whereas the goddesses share a health pool measured in nodes. I found myself regularly dying when using the VTubers and barely at all with the goddesses, as their health loss isn’t as large in comparison. This brings us to Neptunia Virtual Stars’ difficulty. Early on, the game is quite easy, but gets more challenging the further you get in, but not for the right reasons. You’ll often find times where you deal next-to-no damage to enemies, forcing you to play as Blanc to efficiently take them out. Enemy placement is also awful, as you’ll regularly see four to six enemies spawn in tight spaces, even on floating platforms. How are you supposed to avoid damage when a ton of angry antagonistic enemies are crammed into a tiny space? This also leads to camera issues, since if you go near a wall, the camera zooms in far too much and the angle when locking on regularly had me accidentally falling off platforms because I couldn’t see the floor around my character’s feet.

To give you a fighting chance, you have a gauge at the top right portion of the screen called the Emote gauge. Using half of the gauge will have a VTuber assist you with a random skill, such as an attack that blasts a group of enemies or a skill that makes you temporarily invincible. The problem is that you don’t know what bonus you’ll get, so it’s purely down to chance. If you fill the Emote gauge to its max, you’ll gain access to the Emotional Overdrive (EOD) and it blows the previously mentioned VTuber assists out of the water! EOD brings every enemy into a brand new field where you can take them on one at a time while also gaining items for matching icons during the onslaught. Essentially, it’s a screen nuke, but the added interactivity helps sell the EOD’s sense of power and it’s quite gratifying! Bit of a nitpick here, but it’s a shame that this is the only section of the game where the goddesses are in their well-known transformed states. It’s great that they weren’t excluded, but being able to temporarily control them on the field would have been the approach I would have gone with when compared to what we got.

But what action RPG would be complete without bosses? You fight them in a circular arena and your goal is to, obviously, reduce their health to zero. What’s makes it unique is how you fight them; you are essentially fighting them while listening to a song. Each song has highlighted sections that give you an advantage when it reaches that point in the song and it’s up to you to lay on the damage during these sections. It’s a neat idea, but the bosses themselves dampen it slightly, as they’re mostly boring affairs that are far too easy and come off as damage sponges.

Okay, so the combat is rather mixed, but this is an action RPG, so what about the mechanics other than combat? The good news: there are a ton of mechanics and features! The bad news: some of it feels like needless fluff. The most important mechanic is the V-Cube system. These are orange cubes that encase the personalities of various VTubers and you can equip five of them on your character to boost their stats like health and damage. These stats can be further boosted at the V-Cube shop or you can find a new one in chests while exploring. If you want to unlock more VTubers, you’ll need to rescue them by defeating certain enemy types or using a gacha-style search system using a unique currency. It’s important that you do this since near the end of the game, you’re forced to rescue a certain amount of them to progress the story. The game is decently long as it is, and there’s even content after you’ve completed the game, so padding the game with this mandatory collect-a-thon was unneeded.

You’ll also find accessories you can equip on your characters, which range from animal ears to angel wings. You can freely adjust where they are on a character’s body, as well as changing their size and rotation. While they look goofy, you have the option to hide them, but they serve a more functional purpose. Equipping one lets you unlock a skill that’s attached to that accessory, so you shouldn’t ignore this system if you want an advantage in combat!

Neptunia Virtual Stars - Costumes

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, as there’s one mechanic which I quickly grew to dislike. Around halfway through the game, you unlock a dancing mini-game that can reward you with items. You can also record them to use in another menu to get bonus items. How does it work? Well, it’s presented as a rhythm minigame where you time button presses to the music… or at least that’s it should be. No matter which song I chose, the beat maps were all the same. You press a button to a repetitive beat with no change to timing or alternate notes like hold notes throughout the whole song. I’ve been playing rhythm games for almost a decade (in no small part thanks to the Project DIVA series), so I grew quite frustrated with the lack of effort put into this mode. Granted, you can use items set to certain button prompts to add some depth, but it ultimately came off as a tacked-on mode that could have been removed.


Neptunia Virtual Stars’ greatest strength is its presentation. The most drastic change is how dialogue is handled; almost all of these scenes now use the game’s 3D models talking to each other! This hasn’t been seen since Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 all the way back in 2012. While it wasn’t handled that well back then, it certainly is now! Almost every single character has a wide variety of poses and expressions to help enhance a scene and it works wonderfully! If future games go back to using talking 2D portraits, it would be a huge shame given how well dialogue is handled here.

Artistically, the game looks great too! The idol outfits for the Gamindustri’s goddesses look sleek and not too overly designed. The VTubers and other new characters also have solid designs, with a distinct use of certain colors to add some individuality to them. As for the environments, there are a ton of them to trek through that have unique themes to make them all visually distinct, plus they’re all quite large too. Neptunia Virtual Stars also runs pretty well too, with 30 frames-per-second when exploring the environments with dialogue scenes being at 60.

There is one feature that I have to bring attention to since it’s easily the most charming aspect of the game. The VTuber theme isn’t just for show; their presence is felt all throughout the game. When loading between locations, you’ll regularly see interludes from actual Japanese VTubers! Whether they’re smaller VTubers or some of hololive’s iconic characters, they’re all given time to introduce themselves and promote their channel. Even while exploring, you’ll see them regularly pop up to give words of encouragement. All of these inclusions are incredibly charming and I couldn’t help but smile when these moments occurred, and I’m not even a big fan of VTubers!

Neptunia Virtual Stars - Korone

The soundtracks in the Neptunia games are quite mixed, but Neptunia Virtual Stars is on the stronger side and is arguably one of the best OSTs in the whole series! It goes for an electronic tone, which matches the high-paced action and digital setting. Considering you’ll be spending quite a while in each location listening to these songs, it’s a good thing they’re quality tracks!

All of this is fantastic, but there’s one omission that’s hard to ignore, especially for long-time fans like myself. For the first time in the series, there is only a Japanese dub; there’s no English dub whatsoever. All the seiyuus do a fantastic job, don’t get me wrong, but their performances aren’t the problem. The argument for there being no English dub is that there are so many Japanese VTubers being showcased and it would have been a herculean task to voice every single one of them. While that may be true, that hasn’t stopped fans of VTubers from getting past the language barrier and falling in love with these characters regardless, so I don’t think anyone would have minded if they stayed subbed. I, myself have always played the Neptunia series with the English dub and I’m sure I’m not the only one, so this exclusion really hits hard.


It’s always a gamble when a new game releases in the Neptunia franchise, since Idea Factory and Compile Heart love to experiment with the IP. As for Neptunia Virtual Stars, I’d say it’s an above-average title and one of the better spin-offs in the franchise, but that doesn’t make it great. Issues with the story and game design harm the title’s overall quality, which is a shame because the game looks and sounds brilliant! If you’re a fan of the franchise, you’ll undoubtedly get more out of the game, but it’s not an easy sell for someone new to the series.


Platforms: PS4, PC (Steam)
Purchase: Humble (PC Steam)

Enjoy Hack’n’Slash titles in the anime style? Why not check out Sakura Wars?

Many thanks go to Idea Factory/Reef Entertainment for a PlayStation 4 review code for this title.

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