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July 2019

MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation Vita
Genre: Action
Publisher: Idea Factory International
Developer: Compile Heart (EU), Tamsoft (US)
Release Date: May 10, 2016 (US), May 13, 2016 (EU)

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


PS Vita Review - 'MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs. Zombies'

by Brian Dumlao on June 7, 2016 @ 2:30 a.m. PDT

In this hack 'n' slash Neptunia spin-off, you fight through zombie hordes at the prestigious Gamicademi, customize character accessories, and even team up with friends in online multiplayer mode to take on more of the undead!

Buy MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs. Zombies

Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed may be considered the most accessible to the general public. The breezy difficulty and hack-and-slash nature appeal to a wider audience compared to the niche genres of the main series and other spin-offs. Since it wasn't necessary to have any experience with the previous titles, it was also a good entry point for those who were interested in that world. Looking to piggyback off that, Idea factory and Tamsoft have teamed up again for the hack-and-slash title, MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs. Zombies. A spiritual sequel to Action Unleashed, it does a number of things differently from the original that are both better and worse.

Though the game uses all of the characters that series fans are familiar with, the story is set in an alternate universe rather than the one occupied by the other titles. In an effort to understand the human culture better, the CPUs and the CPU Candidates attend Gamicademi, where they've been integrating with the population rather well. Unfortunately, with the population of student on the decline, the school is about to shut down. In an effort to garner some publicity for the place, the head of the film club Neptune asks Blanc to write and direct a zombie film for a contest. The hope is that the success of the film will persuade more students to enroll in the school. Unfortunately, an actual zombie outbreak occurs before the shoot begins, but Blanc decides to use it to make a film that revolves around fighting the zombie hordes.

Like the other titles in the series, the story isn't really the draw. By all accounts, the story is pretty silly and feels like it drags on longer than it should. This is especially true by the halfway point, where it hints that the tale is coming to an end only to fake you out and squeeze in a few more chapters. What keeps the story moving along are the characters, who are slightly less quirky than before. Neptune is still as ditzy as ever, and the twins Rom and Ram are still adorable, but Vert doesn't lust after Nepgear as much as before. Placing them in some typical anime situations, like recruiting others to the film club, makes things hilarious and retains the spirit of the series. However, this is really Blanc's story, and while the game doesn't introduce anything new to her personality, it amplifies what's already there. Her soft-spoken yet blunt nature is obvious, and she shows up in almost every cut scene, so fans will be pleased.

The core gameplay is unchanged from Action Unleashed. The gameplay is similar to Dynasty Warriors in that you'll see things from a third-person perspective. You roam the area while hordes of different enemy types rush toward you, and there's an occasional boss monster thrown into the mix. On the defensive side, you can jump and dodge attacks. You have light and strong attacks as well as the ability to unleash special moves, which can be frequently used since you're always on the offensive. You also have the ability to revert to EXE forms when your meter is full, allowing you to unleash stronger attacks and refill your health. When all else fails, you can switch over to your partner to give your character a breather.

There are a few new things here, the most notable being the inclusion of characters both old and new to the series. Plutia and Peashy from Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory join the game as fighters, as does Uzume from Megadimension Neptunia VII. Tamsoft, the developer, has also thrown in a self-titled character who produces some nice multi-hit combos but ends with a pause that leaves her open to attack from enemies. You also have assists from IF, Compa and a few others you acquire along the way. Though they don't appear on-screen, you can press their button combos to get health refills or attack and damage boosts for a short period of time. Players can also craft new items that can be used to add buffs to weapons. Leveling up is a much deeper experience, since you can now allocate points to increase health and learn new combos. Finally, the game lets you unlock outfits for each character by locating parts in each level, all of which are sly name and icon references to actual game systems.

Though all of those changes sound great, the title is missing a number of things that the previous title had. The most notable is the lack of side-quests. All of your missions are related to the story, and while you can replay them to get more items and grind to level up, it would've been nice to have the option to have different missions. The game keeps the Lily Rank system but does nothing with it, since maxing it out to level 10 between two characters doesn't yield any benefits. Also missing is the medal reward system, which added a nice wrinkle to how you approached missions. The experience here feels streamlined but not in a way that seems worthwhile.

The biggest letdown here comes from the game's combat which seems less robust. Just like before, enemies will do their best to simply crowd around you and either wait to get hit or try to sneak in a potshot or two before dying. What you'll notice immediately is that there just aren't as many foes as you'd expect. This isn't a complaint about the variety but the actual number and it is made more apparent by the fact that they seem to all spawn from one small area instead of from all around you like before. In a way, you're always put in a better position during a fight since you don't have to worry about getting caught undefended unless you jump headfirst into the middle of the fray. You'll also notice that while the areas you get to fight in are larger than before thanks to the removal of artificial barriers, you'll never get to make use of it since the fights are concentrated in one section of the map at almost all times. It feels like a waste to tease you with areas to explore but give you no incentive to ever visit such areas. It feels even more disappointing when you discover that there's actually nothing to get there in the first place.

The biggest letdown is the actual time of each fight. Until you reach the halfway point, battles can last a minute or two if you're slow. Once bosses are thrown into the mix, bouts last an average of five minutes. By comparison, the preceding cut scenes are much longer, provided you don't button-mash your way through the dialogue. Until you reach the final parts of the campaign, you're looking at a much higher cut scene-to-gameplay ratio, making this the opposite of what the previous game offered.

The game is much leaner in the single-player department, but that seems to have been compensated by the presence of multiplayer. For the first time in the series, players can team with up to three others — through ad hoc or the internet — and use their powered-up characters instead of starting from scratch. Interestingly, the game goes with a new story instead of replaying campaign missions, though the story boils down to you and your friends getting rid of monsters. The locations may be borrowed from the campaign, but the mission structure is much more interesting. There are also daily missions, which provide a chance of unlocking powerful equipment, giving you incentive to keep playing.

Though the core combat in multiplayer remains the same as the single-player mode, a few things are missing. Gone is your ability to call on an assist character to help you in a fight. You also don't have partner characters, and you can't transform into your stronger selves. Unless you're sufficiently strong enough to withstand hits or are very good at dodging, you'll rely on items and your partners. By that token, multiplayer is a much more difficult ordeal when compared to the campaign.

One of the more distinct things about the multiplayer is that you don't necessarily have to play it with others. If you wish, you can start games without anyone else in the lobby and reap the same rewards and undertake the same missions. This seems to undermine the multiplayer aspect a bit, especially since online connections are relatively good and there is a decent community playing the title. Still, the online Vita community isn't very well populated, so it's a wise move to give players the chance to experience the rest of the game after the population has dried up.

Of all of the titles in the series thus far, this one provides the least amount of fan service. With the exception of the Tamsoft character, none of the characters have exaggerated bosoms, and there's no bounce in the cut scenes. The clothing tear option is also gone, but if you wish, you can have the characters change into torn versions of their outfits. The only signs of fan service are in the pause menu, where you can freely move a camera around for still shots. Other than that and a moment where two characters might or might not declare their love for one another, this is one of the tamer entries in the series.

Graphically, nothing has changed between this title and the previous entry. The anime appearance of the previous games is maintained in the well-animated character models and bright colors, but the blurry texture issue of those games is resolved here since everything looks crisp on the Vita screen. The enemies are a mix of older ones, like the otaku and dogoos, with new textures to make them look more grotesque. Newer models fall in line with general monster designs instead of aping more recognizable figures from other games. As before, there are no issues of pop-up or slowdown, but as the previous title accomplished this with more people on-screen, that isn't much to crow about.

As always, the audio is very good. The music is bouncy, and there's a good mix of new and old material in the soundtrack. The new stuff doesn't stand out as much as the old tracks, however, so there is a feeling of déjà vu if you've recently played the previous title. The voice work is solid, as both the Japanese and English casts have grown comfortable in their roles at this point. The delivery is refined, and fans of both languages will have no problems listening to either one.

As a stand-alone title, MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs. Zombies does well for itself. The story may be silly, but it is enjoyable enough thanks to the characters. The combat has been refined to be more flexible, and the inclusion of multiplayer increases the game's longevity since the mode can still be played with no one around. As a spiritual sequel to Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed, however, the game is a bit of a letdown. Short fighting sessions, a lack of side-quests, and fewer enemies to fight against means the campaign is more of a visual novel that's broken up with little bits of action. Overall, MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs. Zombies is fine, but Hyperdimension Neptunia U is stronger for those who want to play with these characters in a more action-oriented setting.

Score: 7.0/10

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