Neptunia Virtual Stars Review


This is the first Hyper Neptunia game I’ve gotten from the series but what better way to start than with a 3D beat em up genre game right? Virtual Stars mixes in the 4 goddesses from Neptunia along with a bunch of virtual idols this time. The game has a pretty solid story and the gameplay is on point. While it could certainly use a little more polish to make it to the next level, I was pretty satisfied with the overall experience.

The game starts with the Neptunia goddesses getting ready to enjoy a solid video game. Unfortunately before they can do so they end up falling inside a cyber world where another goddess lets them know that her world is being taken over. See, these worlds are homages of Youtube, Twitter, and general internet settings. The world is now being forced to create low quality content and to install paywalls everywhere. As a result everyone is upset and morale is quickly fading fast. The Neptunia goddesses agree to help her out and restore peace to the universe. The same goal is given to the idols who are taken away from their big online comedy routine. Can these girls all team up to save the planet or is it already too late? Only time will tell.

There are two main gameplay styles here. When you’re playing as the goddesses it is a third person shooter. You blast away at the enemies with your machine guns, grenades, and other long range techniques. You can also activate a team final smash where everyone blasts the target although in my case the other goddesses were so weak that ironically this would deal less damage than your normal attacks. Yes, it’s a bit odd but I recommend just giving all of the best equipment to one of the goddesses and ignoring the other 3 completely.

For the virtual idols the gameplay is more like something out of Dynasty Warriors. You use your sword to slice away at all of the enemies who get in your way. The attacks don’t deal as much damage though so after the first level I basically didn’t play as them again. I do like how the game really lets you feel like you’re playing two different games this way though. It’s a nice way to keep things fresh as you progress through the game.

Make no mistake, there is a ton to do in the game. You can customize the characters with accessories that unlock latent special abilities and of course general equipment. The V-Cubes are your best bet here since they are even better than traditional level ups. Here’s what you need to do, whenever you pass an item box, only open it when it turns to the V Cube corner. All other items are basically irrelevant in the game. As long as you focus on the cubes you will be good to go here. Whenever you get a weak one, just sell it for DP so you can power up your current one. By the end of this you will be suitably overpowered.

Also, it’s worth noting that the final phase of the final boss introduces a whole new mechanic to watch out for. You can only injure his core with alternate power. The initials are something like TXMD, but you’ll be able to see this on the menu. Make sure you keep some weak V Cubes for this or you could be in for a world of pain. Things almost got tricky for me there but fortunately I had held onto some. I don’t like the concept for that though, why do you have to lose some strength for the final boss? Without an explanation it was just a bit odd.

The game doesn’t tend to explain a whole lot but you can typically make sense of the mechanics on your own. The graphics are pretty solid as well. This may not be the ultimate AAA experience but there’s enough here where the visuals look impressive. I do think they could have put some more effort into having actual cutscenes or at least more stills though. I’ve seen Playstation 1 games with more cinematics. It would have made the story feel a lot more alive than it is. The only kind of animations the game shows a lot of is a fanservice animation for the DOA type effects.

While the game is mainly legit, they do force this into most cutscenes which can get a bit old. The game’s certainly not focusing its attention on the right things here like also amping up the soundtrack. I like the lyrical song pretty well but it shows up for literally every boss fight so I think they could have added a few more songs for variety. It can’t have been that difficult to shake things up a bit more right? Maybe alter the speed or something to at least make it sound a bit different.

As for the characters, they’re solid enough. Neptune is the leader of the main group and she is always ready for action. She likes calling out the tropes and breaking the fourth wall as much as possible. She may be more oblivious than the other characters but she is also the least likely to give up which is important. Her friend Noire isn’t quite as ready for the spotlight as she just isn’t used to being open with the other characters. Blanc is the weakest of the 4 though as her thing is that she’s the low key mean one who is always being passive aggressive but will always tend to blow up. Vert’s the least memorable as there isn’t a whole lot to her.

Then for the Idols you have Me and You which are pretty cool names when you think about it. Me’s a lot of fun and gives Neptune a run for her money as far as the bubbly lead is concerned. Her singing skills are legit and she holds the stage better than You. You is always trying to squash all the fun but Me makes sure to keep her from being too much of a downer. There are other supporting characters and Idols who show up as well of course but these are the main characters.

Then for the villains you have Hero and Kado. As the main villains they felt a lot like the duo from Gridman to me although things play out very differently. I was quite surprised with how Hero’s plot ended up turning out because it just seemed the whole time like it was going to go somewhere else and then it just didn’t. Terrific red herring that’s for sure and he has a solid design. Kado’s one of those characters with more of a sympathetic backstory although she was also letting people run all over her so easily that it could be a bit annoying. If she had been more assertive then things would be a lot different.

Additionally, she was whipping and torturing one character for the majority of the game so when we learn that she may not have been so bad…it’s hard to buy. Kado has an epic design and makes for a good villain but I have a hard time seeing her as anything other than a villain. So the game has a solid story here. The script has a lot of fun with this and the writing can really shine at times. It’s a pleasant game to go through and one that has a reasonable length. I want to say this will last for around 10 hours. Then if you want to get the Platinum that will add more time as well since you have to clear side quests and do some extra minigames like singing.

Overall, Virtual Stars is a good way to kick off the Neptunia series. The gameplay is solid and the plot is pretty good. What keeps it from being an 8 star game though is the lack of lock-on and the gameplay generally not feeling as refined as it could have been though. Additionally I think more effort could have been put into this game on a technical level like adding more cutscenes and illustrations. They could also get rid of the bouncing effect on the characters for good measure since it’s not really adding to the story. I like to think a sequel would be able to make it to the next level but either way this is a fun game and I expect you’ll have fun going through it.

Overall 7/10

Battlestar Galactica Review


Battlestar Galactica is one of those games that should have been good by all accounts. It’s a Sci-Fi game like Star Fox with a direct plot involving aliens and a main character who’s already showing some sass in the first level. How could it fumble the ball this hard? Well, unfortunately the controls are pretty bad and the game design is even worse. You have to be prepared for an incredibly long level and if you die at any point during it there are no checkpoints. That’s exactly the kind of thing that you don’t want to do.

The game starts off with a bunch of alien robots showing up. They want to destroy the Galactica. Your mission is to stop them and prevent the Galactica from being destroyed. Simple enough right? Unfortunately not really and this was the last level I would see. I gave it a whirl for around 3-4 hours but it was just not enough to get through. You have to see the same cutscenes and dialogue each time too which can get old. The main character constantly saying that he’s not a cadet but the other characters mock him anyway gets old pretty quick. It’s a shame because the main guy had some potential here.

The core gameplay is that you’re in a 3D environment where you have to fly in and start taking names. You have your main weapon, your sub weapon, boosters, and a few other tricks up your sleeve. You can reallocate your stats to increase attack or speed. Additionally you have charge missiles and other weapons by holding down each button. I think this may have been part of the problem though. The game just got a little too ambitious with all of this. At the end of the day the main issue here is there are too many controls. You have so many different attacks and movement options that none of them are actually reliable.

Then you have the fact that the levels are massive so it feels like you are never making any progress. I’m telling you, I’ve gone through that exact same intro so many times in this game that it’s incredibly old at this point. It’s just the same dialogue options over and over and over again. You really need a checkpoint system in this game or in any game with long levels for that matter. The worst feeling is dumping a few hours into something without anything to show for it. While minor, I’d say at least adding a play time ticker somewhere in the game would do it wonders. Then I could at least put that down somewhere as a quick achievement. Without it, the game feels like an empty experience.

The graphics are really good at least. The game looks surprisingly solid for the PS2 era and you could make a case for this looking like a PS3 game. It’s got full voice acting and the soundtrack is on point as well. On a technical level this game can hold its own and that’s more than I can say for other games at this level. That’s part of why the whole situation is tragic since at least some of the departments working on this game seemed to try hard. Just not hard enough to really make this a good game.

So, how would I fix this? Well, aside from adding checkpoints I would remove some of the control options. We shouldn’t have 3 different ways to boost. Make R1 the boost option and otherwise you are accelerating by default. L1 will be to slow down. Square button will fire the homing rockets. No need to have it twice. I would make the lock-on system a whole lot more pronounced so you don’t have to be wondering where the enemies are. Remove the team strategy options or just make it something you control from the pause menu. Same for redistributing your skills in the level, that should be through the pause menu. Now with this we’re cooking with gas.

Next up, instead of making each level 20-30 minutes and only having 7 levels in the game, make it 21 shorter levels. Each level is the objective so the length is more akin to what an average Star Wars or Star Fox level is like. Bite sized levels like that are perfect for objective based games like this one. For that matter they make a lot more sense as well. With these changes I think you can instantly bump this game all the way up to a 7. It would feel like a completely different game in a good way.

Of course at the end of the day that’s all just wish fulfillment. The game exists and nothing’s really going to change that. Perhaps if the developers see this they can use it for context on their next game though. For some reason sci-fi games just tend to have a lot of issues I’ve noticed. Star Trek hasn’t exactly hit it out of the park and then you had that game about visiting planets a while back. Star Wars has had its hits but it’s also definitely had some titles that didn’t hit people the way you would have hoped they did. I don’t get what’s so hard to make about a space shooter. Just look at Star Fox Assault for a good idea of how to handle it. That game is quite old by now and yet to this day it is easily the best sci-fi shooter I’ve ever seen. It could handle both aerial combat as well as on the ground. It’s a true legend.

Overall, Battlestar Galactica is not a franchise that I’ve ever started and this game definitely wouldn’t help me to turn around on that. It’s just not a very well developed game with the level designs being too long and the controls are overly complex. The series in general always seemed like an alternate version of Star Trek so there’s a lot of potential there. We just need a modern game version to really adapt the series and give it more respect with the fundamentals. I think if you handle this right then you may definitely have something here. Until then though, stay far away from this game and buy Star Fox Assault instead. You’ll be glad you did.

Overall 3/10

Blaster Master Zero 2 Review


After playing through the first Blaster Master I knew that it was definitely time to dive into the sequel right away. Blaster Master 2 definitely ups the stakes with more of a detailed story and more areas to explore. Rather than be stuck on one planet you can now travel across the universe. With the graphics and soundtrack being on point there is absolutely a lot to enjoy here. You just can’t go wrong with this classic gameplay.

The game starts with Jason and Eve attempting to find a cure for her mutant corruption. The first game ended with her deciding to destroy herself to prevent the spread while Jason was unaware but there was a true ending so I suppose in that version he was able to save her in time and this is continuing off of that. Due to this illness, Eve is unable to leave the ship so Jason has to explore on his own. He is determined to heal her and then they can destroy the mutant plague once and for all. Many planets have been affected already though and there’s a mysterious fighter who keeps getting in Jason’s way.

The gameplay is pretty similar to the first game. You pilot the tank and fly through the levels as you blast through any opponent in your way. You can also get out of the tank and go through dungeons as the pilot which takes more of an overhead approach to the shooting gameplay. As a tank you have a whole lot of defense so as long as you play things out carefully you should be able to take your opponents down. There is a greater emphasis on switching weapons to combat the bosses so some weapons are better for some occasions.

Your main blaster is always handy though so I definitely recommend it. As the pilot I like his L8 and homing variations as well but for most of the bosses I would just stick to the standard gun. It does a whole lot of damage. One thing that’s important is to really learn the boss attack patterns. Towards the end there is a big boss rush like a Mega Man game where you have to take down multiple bosses without gaining any health. That was pretty tough and definitely took me a few shots to get through.

Pure gameplay-wise I would say the game is a little weaker than the first one. It’s only really noticeable in the tank where it’s harder to hit enemies with how fast it moves. That said, it’s a very small difference. Also, it’s worth noting that this game is considerably harder than the first one so you need to take that into account as well. It’s definitely not exactly going to be a walk in the park that’s for sure. I would recommend at least grabbing some of the optional upgrades and power ups since they make a difference in a pinch. Without the extra health I would have certainly lost more fights since a lot of bosses literally came down to my final health point which was pretty intense.

For the story you should definitely be engaged from the start. The fact that we’re expanding the lore with other mech pilots running around was pretty neat. We run into 4 of them. 3 who are allies on different planets and then one who is out to murder us. The whole time I was expecting a plot twist that this guy was from the future where things didn’t work out for the lead. The game doesn’t go in that direction but I still like the theory and it hasn’t been ruled out so that’s my head canon for now. It explains why he really can’t stand Jason and keeps on trying to destroy him. Makes for a lot of great dialogue and boss fights too of course.

As good as Jason and Eve are doing in their campaign though, it does feel like they’re outmatched at the moment. For every villain they take down more show up. Even some bosses from the first game have returned along with the same name so I assume the mutants revived them? This game has a few bosses who are recycled so I won’t count the second versions of them but at least for the initial ones it does seem like they are back from the grave. With the heroes being away from Earth for so long as well you know that the main planet won’t be doing so well either. Hopefully if we get a third game they get some backup because otherwise they may be doomed.

The graphics are really solid. The sprites all look very good and we get more illustrations here for the story. Jason’s outfit is like something out of Kamen Rider or Power Rangers and he’s even got a cool cape. The main rival/villain also has a pretty great design as well. You’re always in store for something visually cool as you go through the levels so that’s certainly a credit to how solid the game is. For the soundtrack, it’s definitely got a nice Mega Man vibe going. All of the tunes were solid and definitely kept up the solid sci-fi themes.

The game took me around 6 hours to conquer. Outside of that there is a lot of replay value here as you try to assemble all of the maps, weapons, and bonus items. Then you can go back to conquer the true final boss and along the way collect the rest of the PS4 trophies. I imagine that this should extend you to at least 10 hours of play time by the time this is all over. You’re definitely getting good value for your dollar here.

Overall, Blaster Master Zero 2 is a great follow up to the first game. The ending is also pretty surprising although of course there is a true ending so you can always play through some more to get that as the more satisfying climax. It depends on what kind of ending you’re looking for of course. The sheer suddenness of this one was pretty intense though and you can also see how it would work as a real ending because there are still some glimmer of hope here. This would definitely make for a great anime someday. Well, I definitely recommend playing through this game, you don’t want to miss out on the hype.

Overall 7/10

Blaster Master Zero Review


I remember playing Blaster Master recently thanks to the Nintendo Switch Online game selection. It’s a pretty classic game with a fun dynamic between switching from the pilot controls and over to the tank. Well, Zero is a modern take on this while keeping the core gameplay intact. It definitely works out quite well and it’s why I say a lot of these old NES and SNES titles have a lot of potential with modern reboots. If you just bring them up to date with the graphics, soundtrack, and all of that then you will be in a good position. I’m ready to play the sequel to this later today.

The game starts with Jason working on his machines when he meets a frog named Fred. The frog is pretty interesting but then he falls into a portal so Jason jumps after him. He’s now in an odd world where everything just looks foreign. Fortunately there is a tank lying around and it has sensors which can detect Fred. Jason is determined to find this guy but it does mean that he is going to have to do a lot of legwork in order to find him. He’ll have to traverse across the entire planet to locate this guy and the sensors keep picking up a lot of false readings as well. When he runs into a lady named Eve who is in a rough state Jason knows that things are about to get complicated.

For the gameplay we have two main styles here. When you’re in the Tank you progress as a 2D shooter/platformer where you look around the area and use the maps to get to the next world. You’ll come across caves and caverns along the way. At these points you exit the tank and as the pilot head through these labyrinths. The gameplay style changes a bit at this point as it becomes more of an overhead shooter. Think of the original Legend of Zelda and it’s sort of like that only you have a gun here as well as your sub weapon. From all of the sub weapons I got the most out of the grenades to be sure, but once you unlock the tank weapon that is incredibly handy to have at the ready. It would have certainly been a lot more difficult without it. You can only use the tank once but it can even take the final boss down to half his health so it’s a must have.

You can actually miss out on some power ups if you skip dungeons so watch out for that. In particular in World 3 you’re supposed to get a light bomb of sorts which lets you see through the pitch black dungeons. It’s not easy to complete these with no light although if you missed it, it’s not the end of the world. You can still complete the dungeons, it’ll just be a little trickier. If you manage not to get hit much and store up a lot of weapon power then as the human fighter you can use different guns. You lose them when you get hit so keep that in mind.

There’s a lot of solid platforming going on here and a healthy amount of save points and health items so you can confidently challenge the unknown and go as hard as you can. The main thing to watch out for is the minions. If you shoot one make sure you keep going until you destroy it because otherwise it is definitely about to become a big handful and you will have a hard time dealing with it.

The game looks very good graphically. It’s definitely got a nice Mega Man vibe to it with all of the sci-fi backgrounds and the energy attacks in general. Then you’ve also got a solid soundtrack here including a classic Warning message that pops up before bosses like something in Mega Man as well. There are also illustrations that appear from time to time so you can really see how the characters look outside of their sprites and the overall world landscape. You can see how an anime would work out quite nicely with this concept since there’s a lot to explore.

The game has a bit of a cliffhanger ending although it’s also the kind of climax where a sequel isn’t really needed. It depends on how you interpret the ending. There’s also a True Ending which can be unlocked and a sequel that was already created so there’s a lot of ways to take it. Of course you all know my position on this is that everything should get sequels and keep the franchise going while you can. There’s a lot the sequel can dive into so I look forward to seeing what the plot is.

The game took me around 5 hours to conquer. If you intend to grab all of the power ups and beat all of the dungeons I’m thinking you could probably boost the time to around 8-10 hours. Some more replay value can also be found by trying to get the Platinum Trophy in this game. I got quite a few of the trophies in this title but definitely not all of them. That would take more effort to be sure.

For the characters we’ve really got 3 main ones. Two if you don’t count Fred since he’s more a part of the story than actually being a character especially since he’s gone most of the time. Jason is a solid lead. He’s pretty determined to follow Fred and is also quick to help Eve out. He’s your classic protagonist who is always willing to do the right thing and takes the whole portal situation in stride. I liked his focused nature here. Then you have Eve who is a solid heroine. Certainly a very secretive one and there are a lot of moments where the game shows her as being a little shady or at least cryptic to an extent. I can see the sequel delving more into her character. Eve’s certainly a solid assist character though and it does make a difference having someone with you when you’re isolated in a strange planet with tons of creatures out to get you.

Overall, Blaster Master Zero is definitely a solid game and one that I would recommend. There’s a lot of action going on here and various worlds to explore. It’s the kind of game that rewards searching quite a lot as well as the more power ups you get, the easier it is to move around and fight. Minions which took a lot of hits to beat early on could be taken down in a single blast by the end of the game. I certainly made my tank nice and overpowered so it was tough to beat although I had a little more trouble as the human form. If you’re looking for a modern shooter title to check out, this is definitely the one to get.

Overall 7/10

Defender Review


Defender is a game I’ve had on the shelf for a very long time. It’s a game that is also extremely difficult and the developers did not pull any punches with the game. I had it frozen on the backlog for a long time but with the numbers continuing to drop it was time to put this one back into play. Currently we are down to 35 games left so that’s pretty good. Defender is a good title and far better than something like Battlestar Galactica. Now that’s a game that could use a bunch of work.

The general plot is that the aliens have taken over Earth as well as the entire solar system. The humans have been forced to move out of the system entirely to regroup which has not made them very happy campers. Well, we’ve now got a good amount of ships and mechs at our disposal so it’s time to reclaim our planets. The game has you go from world to world as you exterminate the aliens with Earth naturally being the big prize at the end. It hasn’t been easy but now it’s the humans’ turn for a counter attack. It’s a pretty nice plot and I like the idea of the humans having to invade Earth since it has already been taken over.

There are some cutscenes here and there which get pretty emotional. For example there was a mechanic just minding his own business and suddenly an alien appears and takes him away. The graphics hold up really well for both the cinematics and the gameplay. At most it can be a little hard to follow along with what is going on at times but I’d guess that is a little unavoidable with how many enemies are running around at all times. If you want the skies to be cleared then you’ll have to do it yourself.

The soundtrack is okay. It’s not particularly memorable but works well enough with the the levels. It’s a fitting ost which is all that you can ask for. In terms of length I wouldn’t call the story all that long but the difficulty should help to extend that quite a bit. I would estimate the game is maybe around 5-6 hours long. It can also be longer if you do the bonus levels. See, each world has 2-3 levels but you’re always able to just go to the next one after beating the first mission. The others are totally optional but note that if you skip to the next planet then there is no way to go back so that’s definitely something to keep in mind. You have to be absolutely sure of yourself when making the decision.

For the gameplay, this is a 3D shooter. You pilot your ship around the surface of the planet as you blow up all of the enemy fighters and installations. The actual goal of the level will vary heavily so always pay attention to the objectives which are shown at the beginning of the level and also explained through the dialogue. For example, one mission may have you simply blow up all of the fighters while another one may have you protecting a base until everyone is able to be evacuated. With the title of the game you won’t be surprised to hear that quite a few of the levels are protection missions like that.

In general protection missions never tend to be my favorite ones. Your ally’s health goes down so quickly and it’s hard to protect everyone. One level I really had some issues with was where you had to protect a series of satellites from robotic suicide bombers. That one was really tough in part because the level was so big and aside from the bombers you had to worry about the rest of the crew as well. Definitely puts you in a tough spot.

Fortunately you have more than one ship to choose as an option. Each ship has a different array of weapons. Personally I used the second ship for almost the whole game and then used the second to last ship for the final few levels. The reason I switched was because the new ship has an laser which has no limits for ammo. You can just keep on using it although you do need to let it recharge for a few seconds here and there. Each ship can be updated by using your points which can improve all of the weapons on board and even add another life to your ship. I would say that the extra life should be your lowest priority since most of the levels have a strict time limit anyway which ends up being more important than having another life which you may not need.

Overall, Defender is a pretty decent game. It’s a basic sci-fi shooter game where you’re blasting away at aliens. You can’t really go wrong there right? I would say that one area which would improve the game though would be a way to play old levels and earn some more money. Much like Armored Core 2 you could be in a tough spot if you spend your money on the wrong ship and have none left for the final level. It’s why I stuck with one of the default ships for almost the whole game just in case. Last thing you want it to be trapped without money in a level that’s just too difficult to conquer. If you see this game in stories somewhere somehow, then I would say to pick it up. It’s old school but has aged pretty well. The plot’s fun and the gameplay is pretty smooth which is really all that you need in the end.

Overall 7/10