Platform: PlayStation Vita/PSTV
Developer(s): Idea Factory/Compile Heart/Tamsoft
Publisher: Idea Factory International*
# of Players: 1 – 4
MSRP: $39.99 (retail/PSN)
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Sneaky, Tamsoft, SNEAKY. Teaming up with Idea Factory and Compile Heart and getting your Onechanbara in my Neptunia while making it a ridiculously fun and ridiculously cute hack & slash with a ridiculous amount of replay value. Ridiculous! MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies is an absolutely silly blast of a game that’s easy to get into and deserves a sequel of some sort down the road. Yeah, I missed out on Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed (it’s on my list of stuff to get to, really!), so I’m going into this one as it’s an all-new and different experience.
While it’s packed with characters and content, the “Hey, let’s put on a show!” hijinks that revolve around the female students of Gamicademi trying to save their school from closing by making a low-budget zombie movie also makes for a pretty amusing plot. The game is part visual novel, part action/RPG and definitely going to take up a small to moderate chunk of your time thanks to all the variables that come into play. That tongue-in-cheek humor it bashes you over the head with gets you into the groove right from the start, but it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Your Vita will either pop out of its hiding place and kiss you for making this purchase or slap you in the face with a smirk if you get too serious while playing this game. Or both.
You start the game as Blanc, a Gamicademi senior who gets thrust into the director’s chair and decides to yank a bunch of other students into her film project. Of course, the zombie film in the works just so happens to be taking place as real zombies assault the school, so Blanc and friends end up taking them on while putting her loopy story through its paces. Some of her classmates end up joining more than willingly while others take some convincing before they’re pressed into service. The game is chock full of short to lengthy talking head cut scenes that advance the plot (via solid English or Japanese voice acting). But it’s a sure bet some players will be skipping through the bulk of these scenes so they can get to the chasin’ and choppin’. I say stick it through the dialog just for some hilarity on a few fronts as the wacky story progresses. Like the other Neptunia games, your knowledge of old game systems and certain Japanese developers and game magazines comes in handy, but isn’t at all necessary to enjoy the game.
As for the gameplay, it’s dirt simple and fun overall. Square and Triangle button combos, special attacks with the triggers, the ability to transform into powerful alter-egos plus tag in a chosen AI partner (and a tiny bit into the game, bring in two more AI assist gals) all make the game work exceptionally well. The maps are made up of large indoor or outdoor locales where in most cases, you’ll clear those maps with not a lot of ground covered because enemies appear almost right in front of your fighter. On the other hand, those huge maps come in handy when fighting the oversized bosses that tend to take a lot of work to put down. Missions are mostly fast slices of playtime lasting initially well under a minute each on the easiest setting, to up to a few minutes on tough boss battles as the difficulty is scaled up.
If you’ve played an Onechanbara game, you pretty much know what to expect minus the gouts of blood, chopped off zombie parts, and other M-rated content. That said, the gals here all have alternate outfits that are overly suggestive torn versions of their default main costumes, but you can simply choose not to use them if that sort of fan service offends. The game is pretty tame compared to certain other imports brought west, but it’s understood that a few irate gamers (who probably shouldn’t go anywhere near a game like this anyway) lose their minds when they see a digital panty on an artificial girl in a game that’s about as far away as it gets from actual reality.
As you level up, you can buy stats and skills that make your young ladies a more efficient fighting team. You’ll also gather collectible drops that can be combined to create special items that are quite useful when equipped pre-battle. The growing wealth of weapon attachments, accessories, collectible outfits and more lend the game a sort of “dress up” mode when you’re getting everyone ready with the increasingly powerful gear. Yes, you can abuse mission replays to get the girls even more powerful, but that’s up to you and how much time you want to spend playing. The story mode can be beaten in under eight hours, but that time can definitely be extended if you’re really into the game’s combat. There’s also a great multiplayer mode that packs in even harder bosses, up to four players online or ad-hoc, and some challenges and rewards not seen in the solo mode. It was only briefly dabbled with here at DAF HQ, but it’s going to be gotten back to at some point once the backlog clears up a chunk.
As far as presentation, the game is bright, cute and packed with nice visual effects when the action gets hot. Animations are fluid and while the lack of feedback makes it hard to figure out when you’ve been hit, you’ll certainly know it when those life bars start dwindling. Music and sounds are great, particularly the aforementioned VO
cast that makes the game sound like you’re watching some goofball anime. Complaints are few – the adjustable camera is set at a wee bit low of an angle, making it tough to see what’s in front of you. The lock-on is dicey when used as crowd control, as it focuses on a sole enemy while others bounce around, throw stuff or otherwise pester. Granted, fast attacks and skills make short work of many enemies. But in boss battles where a bunch of underlings are nipping at your gal’s heels from all sides while that big, bad is raining death from somewhere nearby or gets rightinyourface, you’ll want to be more reliant on transforming and/or tag-teaming in a support gal when needed.
That said, this is a nifty game for Hyperdimension newbies or veteran players well into the series and its quirky goings on. It’s been a superb year for the Vita so far and while light and fluffy noise like MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies won’t be winning any Game of the Year awards, it’s another solid title for Sony’s handheld, which is always a good thing.
Score: B+ (85%)
*Digital review code provided by the publisher
So what’s the score in terms of numbers? 8/10?
Amusingly enough, I think this review was done when I decided to experiment with dropping scores and letting the readers see that the number wasn’t as important as the recommendation. But, I edited in a score just now in case you’re still on the fence 😀
8.5/10, I know in critics terms, a B+ is around an 83.
Dirty little secret: I’ve been writing game reviews for over 20 years for a few sites and mags and there’s no such thing as uniform review scores across the board.
Some places use a simple 1 – 10 scale, no half or other points, others use that decimal point craziness, and some don’t bother with scores at all, preferring to use a version of buy/rent/pass. I think too much focus is on numbers as opposed to people reading a review and getting a recommend based on that.
Fights over a game not getting a 10 or getting ‘shorted’ a decimal point off a ‘buy’ are kind of silly at the end of the day because too many folks will outright miss great games thanks to reading the score first and judging either the writer or game (or both!) for any number of reasons. 😀
Where does it rank among the Neptunia games? Or is this the only one you’ve reviewed so far?
I’ve played 5 Nep titles so far and am a few hours into VII VR (I just got a review code a few days ago). I’d say Blanc is more of a Onechanbara game with the younger girls here filling in nicely as substitutes for the more mature gals in those games. Tamsoft was churning those out long before the Neptunia games they’ve worked on, so they know their stuff when it comes to cooking up the fun. Well, Onechanbara Special on the PSP was their low point, but that was more the issue of trying to squeeze something onto a system that couldn’t handle it and still cutting back on content.
It’s a tiny bit less talky (but you still get an earful)/ I think this and the Sega Hard Girls game are pretty solid because they shake up the franchise a bit. Then again, I just got around to picking up Cyberdimension Neptunia: 4 Goddesses Online, which uses a new engine (finally!), so I’m guessing there won’t be any reused assets in that game.