Perhaps no one has delivered more content to the PlayStation Vita than Compile Heart and Idea Factory via the Hyperdimension Neptunia series and its various spinoffs. Even with Sony’s handheld getting short shrift of late, Neptune and company are back with MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies, an action-oriented one-off.
Let’s get this out of the way: MegaTagmension is very similar to 2015’s Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed, and as such it favors the same kind of button-mashing action. You have two basic attack buttons that can be combined for combos, a dash and a jump; the latter two can also be used in conjunction for evasive action such as double jumping or dashing in midair to avoid damage.
Shoulder buttons serve as modifiers. Alone each has its own purpose: left locks on, right blocks. When combined they allow you to switch between characters, activate your CPU form and unleash your most devastating attacks (one solo, one with your partner). Using these special skills drains a meter that’s filled by landing basic hits on enemies — transforming creates a slow drain while other moves use chunks.
This creates a pretty formulaic setup: pound away with your normal strikes until you build up your special meter enough to do real damage to fight bosses or clear large numbers of standard foes. This holds true regardless of which characters you select, so even though move sets will change there’s no compelling reason to ever vary your tactics from fight to fight.
Outside of some pretty good looking character models — you can modify hair color, clothing and weapons, add accessories and so on — MegaTagmension is a pretty dull visual experience. The zombified enemy skins might get you to crack a smile the first time you see them, but they don’t last. Location variety is even weaker with sparsely adorned small areas being the battleground no matter where you’re supposed to be fighting (forest, school, etc.).
Voice acting is typical Neptunia, and at this stage you either enjoy their goofy banter or you don’t. It’s worth noting that only the single-player story has been localized, meaning multiplayer and the “behind the scenes” conversations that unlock are in Japanese. The music and effects are fine, while the in-level banter is as painfully repetitive as ever.
Plot cohesion is never high on the priority list for Neptunia games, and MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies carries on that (proud?) tradition with aplomb. Our intrepid CPUs are back in their school days, and in order to save their beloved academy from going under they intend to raise enrollment by creating a student film.
As luck would have it, a zombie outbreak has occurred on campus, and Blanc, Neptune and company will use that as the backdrop to film the action scenes. If it sounds like complete nonsense, that’s because it is. The ad-libbed dialogue and random plot twists are played for silliness, and the game never varies its goals as you’re always asked to clear a set number of enemies or specific bosses.
As mentioned already, this is essentially Action Unleashed with more selectable characters and shorter fights — a much appreciated change to be sure. What’s funny, though, is that the game doesn’t seem to have updated the bite-sized approach as battles routinely give you 30 minutes or more to complete them, but I don’t recall any fight going longer than five.
Outside of the bosses, enemies line up for the slaughter with some bad A.I.; in fact, it’s not uncommon for several foes to just stand still and never engage in any way, allowing you to kill them without even an ounce of resistance. The bosses are more active and can deal some damage, but by using the strategy I mentioned earlier you should be able to blow through them fairly easily as well.
Your performance is graded and experience points are dished out. Each level you gain brings with it ability points you can use to upgrade hit points, power, defense or technique (more combos). You’ll also earn money to buy new weapons as well as accessories to customize your look — the latter is purely cosmetic and is overwhelmingly silly.
There’s also an online multiplayer element where up to four players can team up to take on unique missions and garner rewards. The performance was surprisingly stable, but the online community wasn’t very robust so don’t expect a lot of options for teaming up.
Although I had no complaints about playing through the game’s 12 cuts (read: chapters), the fact is MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies is basically Action Unleashed 2. So whereas with the first one I maxed out multiple characters, I don’t see this bringing me back the same way.
If you missed Action Unleashed, MegaTagmension has added appeal. Otherwise, this is strictly for hardcore fans of the series that can’t get enough.