Game Review | MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune Vs. Zombies
Short Version: This game sucks. The gameplay sucks. The “story” sucks. The music sucks. The enemies suck. The controls suck. The maps suck. The dialogue scenes suck. It’s an improvement over Hyperdimension Neptunia U, but it still sucks. Do yourselves a favor and play something like Senran Kagura instead, a game that does everything that MegaTagmension is trying to do, but a million times better, and it is actually fun and amounts to something.
Long Version: Every single time I expose myself to a game from the Hyperdimension Neptunia series, I see a great idea, an RPG about the console wars, that is never fully realized, dumbed down to a mediocre level thanks to cliché anime tropes and an underwhelming performance in the world being created. There are many occasions where the characters are charming, and some of the writing can be borderline brilliant social commentary, but these moments are so few and far in between that it’s not worth suffering through everything to get to see it. Many people would disagree with me, but this is what I feel when playing every single Neptunia game so far, especially when talking about the series’ latest zombie-slaying beat-em-up.
Let’s Make A Movie!
MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune Vs. Zombies (rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) is a follow-up to Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed, in that the 3D brawler gameplay is pretty much the same idea in both, minus some significant changes, for better or worst; mostly worst.
The main protagonist of the game is the anime representation of the Nintendo consoles named Blanc, though it’s not necessary to know that, since that bit of information never factors into the story, nor is it ever mentioned. The main setup is that her and all of her other console-representative friends have enrolled into Gamicademi High School in order to both understand humans better and to save the school from shutting down. After signing up for the Film Club, they decide to make a zombie movie that could potentially save the school, but then real, actual zombies show up. Because of this, they have to handle both problems at once by beating zombified versions of previous Neptunia enemies and trying to create the best horror movie at the same time. All of this sounds fine, except for the fact that the actual execution, the surroundings and the way everything is organized angers me just by thinking about it.
Most of my time playing was spent in amazement at how mediocre and hollow everything felt, with many of the dialogue scenes feeling completely disconnected from what was actually going on during the combat levels, which are dull, repetitive and can be completed within a very small amount of time. It is impressive how quickly I can beat them, despite the fact that the game gives you 30, sometimes even 60 whole minutes, to complete the task of mindlessly destroying the same enemies and bosses over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again with the most of the fun having faded away after the first two levels. Many of the gameplay changes made from Neptunia U to MegaTagmension are an improvement, but unfortunately, it also further enforces how immensely easy and brain-dead (no zombie puns intended) most of the fighting is.
Zombie Bashing 101
For starters, all the attacks are a lot faster and have a slightly better punch to them, which is a vast improvement over Neptunia U’s clunky, slow and frustrating movement. This isn’t to say that MegaTagmension Blanc isn’t clunky, slow and frustrating; I am simply saying that it is less so than its predecessor. Many of the special attacks are a lot easier and faster to pull off, now that they rely on a cooldown, rather than filling up a gauge. It sounds good on paper, but that just serves to make the fights a lot easier than they already were. In addition to that, you can unlock support characters that can either heal you or give you buffs, but again, my previous point still stands, so you won’t need them all that much, if at all.
After selecting a pair of characters, you are plopped into a stage that will always be way too big, empty and bland for what you need to do, along with the same boring, recycled and uninspired enemies that occasionally change color. Many of them are technically not even zombies, but the game never really explains why they are there. The difficulty in taking these guys on can range from beating them in a couple minutes to inexplicably getting killed in 3 barely noticeable hits. This is due to the game never providing an easily detectable punch or sound effect that indicates that you took any damage at all. When I feel like I’m really hitting an enemy, I expect to get a similar feeling when the enemies do the same thing to me, and I’m not seeing it here.
More Disjointed Than A Broken Arm
Whenever you’re done beating monsters up, you don’t get any follow-up or continuation from the previous dialogue scene that incited the mostly unrelated combat. Instead, you get booted off to the main menu, to which then you have to select the same menu options over and over again, just to get to where you were just a few seconds ago. You have to do this every single time you finish one of your many minute-long missions, with some loading screens in between, of course. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t just allow you to continue on with the current chapter, or at least give you the option to continue.
Here’s when I realized that when you retry a mission more than once, you don’t get any of the dialogue scenes anymore. You actually need to exit out of the entire main menu and choose the gallery on the opening screen to see them again. Why couldn’t they just integrate everything onto one screen? No idea. Instead, we have this disjointed, badly organized mess that jumps around from one menu to the other when I feel that it doesn’t need to. Well hey, maybe the gameplay, audio mixing, even the UI font and menus suck, but maybe the characters are good enough to make you see everything through to the end, right? Not really.
Live Of Un-Life
Most of the story campaign feels like a bad spin-off episode to an anime that was already a spin-off to something else, stretched out to be way too long than it should, but still too short to be satisfying. It wouldn’t bother me so much if it weren’t for the fact that most of the time everything feels like it’s in this perpetual state of nothingness, with the majority of your experience spent retreading the same backgrounds with the same 2 or 3 characters standing in the same position, barely moving or doing anything of note, with your imagination having to fill in the gaps that shouldn’t be there. Some very rare moments of social commentary and fourth wall-breaking work to good effect, but the rest is as generic, predictable and vague as it’s ever going to get, assuming you can hear it at all.
I say that because, even though the music is really not that bad at all (all the character theme songs are pretty damn good, actually), it doesn’t feel like it fits the tone of the game. It’s almost as if they copied the soundtrack to a rejected Dragon Ball Z game to make it sound more action-y than it actually is. If you are not wearing headphones, the sound mixing can sometimes be so loud and inconsistent that it’ll overpower most of the dialogue to the point where you can only hear open-mouth vowels and nothing else.
They probably have it so loud because they don’t want you to hear any of the poorly voice-acted English and Japanese voices. Yes, you heard me right. Not even the Japanese voices are all that good. Way better than the English one, but still pretty average. Some characters started to grow on me, like Noire, Dengekiko and Famitsu, but the struggle was palpable.
Never Enough Nep-Nep
The only voice and character that I enjoyed all the way through was Neptune, who I think is the only distinctive, funny and more natural sounding voice in the whole cast. Whoever voices and writes Neptune has a perfect grasp of who she is and why she is there, which makes her English performance even better and enjoyable than its Japanese counterpart. It is very sad that I cannot say the same about the rest, with pretty much everyone else acting like they had a cramming session for an “Anime Fan Service 101” exam that they didn’t study for. This makes me want to have Neptune as the protagonist, rather than Blanc, the one that the game constantly insists is the main character, despite the fact that Neptune is standing right next to her 95% of the time. The other 5% is Blanc giving exposition or narration in front of an empty, black screen.
None of the brand new characters have anything worthwhile to do either, with them just being introduced, and then pretty much never showing up again, rarely popping their heads back in to remind you that they exist. You are not even forced to use them in battle. You have the option to choose whomever you want from the start, so you can technically play the whole game with one, completely unrelated character and never use anyone else, saving you the time of leveling everyone up, in favor of one overpowered character that can annihilate an already easy game. This is happening without even mentioning the enormous amounts of weapons, upgrades, ability points and modifications that you can use and purchase. All of these things never felt necessary for my entire playthrough, save for the 2 times that I felt the need to slightly upgrade. Yes, it was only 2 times. I counted them.
Shambling, Lifeless Husk
What really puts the icing on the cake is the ending credits after beating the game, that depict some images of what seemed to me a much more intriguing, fun and creative showing of what they could’ve done, but instead they decided it was okay to come out with this disheartening excuse of a video game where even its fan service bores me to death; and believe me, I love me some fan service. Personally, I found that part insulting more than anything else, knowing that whoever made this game thought that what we got as the final product was way better than what was depicted in the credits.
The only other thing I can say about this game that is positive, aside from the soundtrack and a handful of characters I enjoyed, is that the visuals are very pretty looking, with everything as bright and colorful as I tend to like in the kind of anime I fancy. Even then, this look has persisted through the entire Neptunia series, so nothing has really changed to make me point this out as a significant thing.
After saying all of that, now would be the point where I would start talking about the multiplayer in the game, but I can’t, since I saw absolutely no one playing during my playthrough. It’s pretty much the same as the single player campaign, but now with more people and chat options involved. Besides, I’ve never been a multiplayer kind of guy, so I wouldn’t be a reliable source to talk about that anyway.
I could easily stay here and continue to talk about every single thing that this game does wrong, like the horrible UI font and other inconsistencies between dialogue and battle, but this review is already long enough as it is. I think it is pretty well understood by now that this game was depressing to go through and not worth playing at all.
This is the kind of thing that makes me appreciate other games, like the Senran Kagura series, that actually does it right in both gameplay and fan service execution. Just thinking about this game pisses me off and ruins my day, because I know that there is a good game in there somewhere, but I can’t find it. But then again, I could say the same thing about the entirety of the Hyperdimension Neptunia series and its spin-offs. Stay away from it and do something better with your time. Seeing some attractive anime girls in schoolgirl outfits break the fourth wall for the millionth time is not worth the $40 investment. Play Senran Kagura instead.