Action games are a genre as old as the earliest game consoles. Games such as Castlevania defined the early action game genre, and the genre would explore hundreds of series and ideas. That brings us to today’s topic, a Hyperdimension Neptunia game.
As someone who’s never played a Neptunia game before, I have no idea what exactly to expect. I guess today’s review is going to be a learning experience for all parties involved. That being said… welcome to BagoGames and this is our review for Neptunia Virtual Stars on PlayStation 4.
The Game’s Story
Throughout the vast spaces of Virtualand reside thousands of digital worlds, each housing a core known as its Content. Within Virtualand’s depths lies a planet named Emote, whose Content lies in danger. An army of Content destroyers, known as Antis, have invaded the planet.
Emote’s Digital Goddess, Faira, sends a distress signal to various other dimensions to seek assistance. This is where the game’s playable characters, Neptune, Noire, Blanc and Vert, come in. Faira enlists them and two other Vtubers, Me and You (members of MEWTRAL), to help save her world.
Two Styles of Gameplay Intertwined
Upon loading into the first area of the game, the game gives you a choice between Neptune, Noire, Blanc, and Vert to control. It’s nice that you can freely switch between all four of them by pressing L1 and one of the four face buttons. At this point, the game opens up to being a third-person shooter, as Neptune and friends slide around areas dodging attacks from enemies. All four of their weapons behave differently, adding some uniqueness to them.
Completing this area pans over to Me and You, who control more like an action game. The same switching mechanics apply to them, too, so they aren’t missing out on much. They just don’t have a continuous slide like Neptune’s group of characters does. Otherwise, the two groups play interchangeably. This is further expanded the further you get into the first chapter, as both groups meet, and you can press L1 and R1 to freely switch the two styles.
This kind of style switching is reminiscent of Devil May Cry 4‘s style switching but is a little clunkier due to this game running slower and not as fluidly. The inspiration definitely is there, if it was intended.
The World of Emote’s Colors and Landscape
Most of Neptunia Virtual Stars’s environments, save for playable characters, enemies, and associated assets with them, all share a similar color scheme with each other. For instance, the first level’s entire landscape is varying shades of blue and indigo, minus the boss room. Levels seem to take on these similar color schemes, and it feels kind of bland at times.
The environments themselves have various destructible objects that reward you with items or currency. Beginners are probably going to need those items a lot, as enemies can do a lot of burst damage if they surround the player.
The landscape itself feels like it’s nothing more than running down hallways, killing all the enemies in an area, proceeding to next, and maybe find switches. Platforming also presents little in the way of challenge.
Tutorial and Mechanic Overload
What’s bad about Neptunia Virtual Stars? The moment-to-moment gameplay in levels is very much not that engaging, but we can discuss that later. It’s just run and gun, run and press square and dodge repeatedly. Only adding to the matter is how many mechanics the game tries to force into your face as the game progresses.
At a point in Chapter 2, you rescue a VTuber from a mob of enemies, who is then repurposed as a completely new mechanic. That’s fine and all, but the moment you step into the next area, it’s telling you about a completely unrelated mechanic, Emotional Overdrive. The way that works is, upon maxing out the heart icon in the upper right of the screen, you gain access to the equivalent of a screen nuke, but as a minigame.
You leave the area, and go to a miniboss, and a third system mechanic is added within ten minutes, known as Song Switch. Song Switch allows you to change the boss battle music, and different attributes are affected by it. Your options are limited at first, but you get more songs as the game progresses.
The game feels too simple to warrant having so many mechanics like this. I feel that if the switching mechanics were fleshed out, and then one more key mechanic was included, the game would be fine with everything else cut out.
Improving Mediocrity In Motion
This game is very AVERAGE. It doesn’t have any game-breaking glitches or any funny enemy behavior. It’s just average. Almost safe, even. The nature of the combat being one-note exacerbates this, due to the presence of these new mechanics. The mechanics really make it seem like the game is trying a little too hard.
If anything, the game could do with much fewer cutscenes and more time fleshed out on the moment-to-moment gameplay. The leveling system also could have been gutted entirely, as some enemies take forever to kill due to being a higher level and being a damage sponge anyways.
Giving characters more things to do aside from a couple of unlockable abilities would help too. As it stands now, I’ve had no reason to use anyone except Neptunia and Me as my playable characters. Whenever those two took serious damage, I’d heal them and go right back to what I was doing.
Closing The Book
Given everything we’ve talked about by now, as many problems as I see this game having… I feel as if it’s very catered to Neptunia fans. Fans of this game would probably feel right at home with this. But as someone who’s trying the series for the first time… I’m not exactly feeling any incentive to stick around.
As for gameplay, well, the game is just average overall. That’s the best way to describe this, as it’s the most applicable word. Nothing too offensive, nothing too shallow, it’s a very average, completable game. If there are other titles to introduce the Neptunia series to people, I’d advise checking those out first, because this isn’t it.
Neptunia Virtual Stars is releasing on PlayStation 4 and Steam. You can view the game’s website here.
This review is based on a key provided by the publisher
What did you think of our Neptunia Virtual Stars review? Did you like the game? Are there aspects of it that you would like to change? Are you planning to buy the game yourself? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
If you liked this article and like the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, be sure to read our review on Cyberdimension Neptunia 4: Goddesses Online here.