MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies PS Vita Review
It seems somewhat poetic that there would be a Neptunia game with zombies in it. Any video game franchise that has reached a certain number of remakes, re-releases and spin-offs will eventually reach a point where the creatively undead concept of zombies finds its way into the series. Whereas most games tend to have their zombie phase pass through DLC or multiplayer, developers Compile Heart and Tamsoft decided to build an entire game around the premise with MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies, which isn’t self was based off a Light Novel series starring the Neptunia girls (don’t even pretend to be surprised that there exists more Nep material beyond the games).
In this non-canonical (or is it? It’s become impossible to keep track anymore) spin-off, the girls are students attending Gamicademi, a high school that is facing the threat of closure due to the world’s fading population (whether this is a commentary on Japan’s declining birth rates will be left for debate elsewhere). In an attempt to raise awareness of their school, the film club decides to create a zombie movie right on campus. Conveniently, there are actual zombies roaming the campus, to which the Nep crew decides to take advantage of by filming their battles against the enigmatic undead. Sensing the opportunity to create a breakout film, Blanc takes up Neptune’s offer to write and direct the script, while the rest of the regulars (as well as a few new waifus-er, heroines joining in the fun) eventually band together to quash the zombie invasion while also filming the movie that may save their school.
Say what you will about the Neptunia series, but it at least finds a way to be creative with a premise involving zombies. Not only do the characters take on the role of CPUs attending class as students, they also take on the film roles of whatever Blanc directs them to while filming, which leads to some amusing moments where the characters are intentionally (and poorly) acting out their roles while occasionally questioning the plot holes and improvised scenes Blanc creates on the spot. Neptunia’s stories are not known for taking things seriously, and MegaTagmension might just be the most 4th wall breaking, pop-culture referencing of them all. If you’re an honest-to-goodness fan of Nep-Nep and friends, the sheer amount of dialog, scenes and bonus scenes are bound to be worth the price of admission alone.
But therein lies the problem: for as much fanservice as MegaTagmension dishes out, it’s actual gameplay isn’t quite as flavorful. From the same team that brought Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed, MegaTagmension is another action beat-’em-up that has characters mow down dozens of enemies at a time, similar to the Musou franchise and all of its distant cousins. On the surface, the game features all of the Musou staples, such as a hefty amount of selectable characters with their own unique move sets, the ability to upgrade their equipment and abilities to increase their zombie-slaying prowess, and unlockable rewards for hitting the highest rank on each mission.
Where MegaTagmension lacks compared to other Musou action games is…well, the action. Most missions take place in single map areas no bigger than an arena, where the goal is to defeat the requisite number of enemies and the occasional boss. Missions tend to last a couple of minutes at the most, and don’t have nearly enough enemies to allow players to play around with the various special moves and team-up attacks they have at their disposal. For a Vita title, the 3D action is fast and smooth and animates nicely, and for anyone creeped out by Action Unleashed’s zoom-in shots of torn clothes and bouncing breasts, you’ll be happy to know that neither make a return in MegaTagmension (though the option to equip the characters in “battle damaged” attire is still available, if you’re the type who really needed Neptune to parade around in her exposed underwear).
But where MegaTagmension’s presentation really shines is through its cutscenes. Nearly every major character from the franchise shows up, in addition to some new characters, and they all shine with their various quirks and personality traits. The game also features additional cutscenes depending which pair of characters are selected for certain missions, which can be collected in the gallery. Once again, however, this will only appeal to fans of the characters, though for what it’s worth, MegaTagmension probably has the funniest dialog and charm out of all the Neptunia games so far.
In a first for the series, MegaTagmension also features a multiplayer mode that includes both local and online play. Up to four players can join together to take down boss monsters which have lots of health and can do twice the damage. The multiplayer allows players to use their current leveled characters, but also allows the full roster to be selected, even if they haven’t been unlocked yet. This mode doesn’t do much beyond mashing buttons against a boss for an extended period of time, but there is an enjoyment to watching four CPUs unleash all of their Anime onto the screen at once, and the earned experience and rewards carries over to the player’s main save to boot. As for whether the online playerbase will be plentiful enough for this mode to last beyond a week, the fact that Neptunia remains a niche franchise released on a dying platform doesn’t hold the greatest of odds.
In the end, MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune vs Zombies is a mediocre action game where its charm and variety rests squarely on its characters. There’s lots of collectibles and upgrades to grind over, but it’s unfortunate that the developers couldn’t use the entertaining premise as the backdrop for one of their increasingly polished RPG systems. If you’re willing to put up with monotonous gameplay to unlock more unpredictable hijinks with the cast, then this fanservice fest should be worth slogging through the button-mashing bouts of gameplay.