Last updated on December 15th, 2016 at 11:02 am
On May 10th, MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies releases. It’s a multiplayer Neptunia spinoff focusing on Blanc (sigh, and Neptune…) that’s based on Neptunia U’s parts but with a new Multiplayer component, some Monster Hunter inspiration and some general retooling that makes it feel more like it’s own game. This title is from Idea Factory and Tamsoft, developers of Senran Kagura and also Neptunia U.
I’ve played both the Japanese and English releases, so let’s see how this multiplayer action spin on the Neptunia franchise stacks up.
Disclaimer: A Review copy of this game was provided free of charge by Idea Factory International for review purposes. A Japanese limited edition was purchased and played prior entirely with my own funs. I beat the game and all bosses in the Japanese release, and saw all story scenes and beat almost all multiplayer missions in the English release, including some 4 player multiplayer in both releases.
The Single Player portion of the game is purely the story, and plays much like Neptunia U Action Unleashed. You still have a tag team of characters who slowly heal in the “back row”, you fight missions mostly composed of hordes of low-threat enemies.
Skills have been rebalanced and there’s a proper shop for equipment now (as well as crafting and unlockable goodies) but Story Mode still plays mostly like Neptunia U and is basically half story half practice for the main event.
The gameplay of Story mode isn’t bad, but the levels are exceedingly short, especially the first several chapters. Many times you’ll watch a couple minutes of cutscene, load for 10 seconds, play for another couple minutes, then you’re already done and watching another cutscene. The gameplay definitely could have been compressed into say, half as many levels that are twice as long.
The level system is pretty good actually. You get Ability Points instead of raw stat boosts now, and you choose what stat to put them in. You can buff Attack, HP, Defense or Technique (which gives extra combos). A fun element of this is that you can respec at any time, and you can also basically play a level 1 character or otherwise limit yourself if you’re too far ahead of your friends. It’s certainly a nice option to have in a genre where over-leveling often takes all the challenge out of the game permanently.
“Big Bosses” which behave somewhat like Monster Hunter bosses (telegraphed, powerful attacks, unique drops, breakable body parts) only feature in the Story mode once, as the final boss. Most of the story is instead those same Musou-ish hordes of enemies and simpler bosses from Neptunia U. It’s not bad, but it’s not as enjoyable as say, Senran Kagura Estival Versus, another title by Tamsoft.
The short levels and lack of proper challenge (or any difficulty options to add said challenge) means you’ll probably abandon Story Mode after playing it once, except for some grinding (due to Cheats you unlock after beating the story mode, it’s by far the best way to grind experience to get a new character multiplayer-ready). It’s not a huge problem as it seems to funnel the player along into multiplayer, but it’s worth noting the story mode/single player is not the main event here.
The controls are a bit different from Neptunia U, and include several “hold R+ Button” and “Hold L+R+Button” combos that make learning the game a little clumsy, but after a few rounds it all makes sense. You can even remap controls, a first for the series on console.
A big missed opportunity however is that when playing on PS TV you can’t map the LR2 and LR3 buttons, which would alleviate a lot of the control clumsiness. After playing Estival Versus and Megadimension Neptunia on PS4, I really wish I could have played this on PS4 as well, the 1080p and 60 FPS would result in a munch better looking and playing game. The game is 30 FPS and not without framedrops on Vita.
Multiplayer is clearly the “meat” of the game, though you’ll want to run through Story mode first to get a feel for the characters and level them up first. Notably the “Big Boss” fights tend to require a minimum level of 50 to not be painfully slow to fight. Note you can play multiplayer missions solo through use of “ad hoc” connections (you just make an empty room and play alone), it’s just significantly harder and less fun.
Multiplayer lobbies have a surprisingly in-depth set of filters and settings: You can give a quick name to your room from preset words (like Welcome or Friend), add a password, and even indicate what level of missions you’re taking on.
For some reason, lobbies are split into 5 “Dimensions”, which best I can tell are just sets of rooms. In the end it just makes finding rooms harder and everyone just uses Hyperdimension (the first lobby on the list).
A standard multiplayer lobby showing some creative use of props.
Part of the fun of multiplayer is seeing the ridiculous everyone comes up with. There’s a pretty precise UI you can use to carefully place, size and adjust every accessory you put on, from glasses to dolls to ahoges.
Multiplayer is separated into 5 tiers of replayable Missions, a la Monster Hunter, and a sixth set of special missions which include weekday-based missions and some other oddities. The first half of multiplayer missions are simple stuff much like you might find in Neptunia U, but once you get into 3 Star missions you start finding the Big Bosses.
Big Bosses have a number of interesting elements. Parts can break, disabling certain attacks. They drops parts, which can be (automatically) crafted into armor, as well as ingredients for crafting. Bosses can be weak to or resist certain weapon elements.
Unfortunately, the bosses lack a lot of polish as well. Dodging is rarely a good idea, as blocking every attack is usually a far better idea. The Lock On system isn’t very good and loses focus any time a boss moves too far away (almost every Big Boss has at least one attack that moves it well out of targeting range), resulting in lots of re-targeting. Despite only one Big Boss ever being on the map at once, their health bar is also hidden unless you’re locking on, a rather annoying detail.
The element system is neat on paper, but it’s a lot of effort to actually figure out what to do and it’s really not necessary to bother with, especially with a full party anyway. Missions don’t always list what element is recommended, the Mission UI could have used a big “use/don’t use” icon for easier reading. I don’t have the game with my as I write this, and I couldn’t tell you a single weakness/resistance of a single boss because it’s fairly well hidden and not really worth paying attention to.
The crafting is a great idea implemented rather poorly. I actually never noticed when I “crafted” armor (earned when you get all of a certain drop set from each boss) because the game doesn’t really tell you, you just find it in your inventory after getting all the pieces. Embarrassingly, the final boss of Story mode holds the best armor in the game, meaning it’s entirely possible to get the best armor before any others, making most of the armor totally useless. The armor is also all rather ugly, I take off the “best” armor regularly just because I’m sick of seeing it.
Then there’s “chips”, the thing you actually craft in the game. Chips are limited use items that attach to weapons for assorted effects. Craftable chips all have extremely limited uses, basically requiring the additional use of special chips that prevent using up other chips. It all feels rather silly and discouraged me from using anything but the commonly dropped chips to avoid dealing with the consumption systems.
There’s some good ideas in the equipment system, but the UI makes learning what to do confusing and the consumable nature of many drops/crafting items is unreasonably punishing. It’s entirely possible to just ignore these systems and a lot of players probably will just because, damn, that’s a lot of effort to put into setting up equipment that burns away after a few fights.
The biggest thing holding back the multiplayer fun is the matter of levels. If you’re not the right level, certain bosses are going to one hit KO you while taking ages to go down. That’s going to make single player impossible and multiplayer frustrating. You really need to be about level 50 to tackle the majority of Big Boss battles, the meat of the multiplayer, and by the end of Story Mode you might only have one or two characters close to that.
The game feels like it would play better were the level cap cut to 50 (and enemies adjusted accordingly) and progress beyond that were handled by crafting and equipment. Leveling to 99 is totally possible, and actually feels decently paced…assuming you play only one character. But there’s fourteen characters in this game, so if you want to use more than your favorite, you’re in for some grinding. (Grinding two characters to level 99 by fighting huge metal dogoos with Story Mode cheats takes maybe an hour very roughly, but it’s also super boring and mindless).
I have a couple hours of unedited multiplayer gameplay on my Youtube Channel here, you can kind of see the awkwardness resulting in being underleveled here. Boss battles are reasonably quick and fun once everyone is level 99, but there’s definitely some grueling, slow fights before then unless your party carries you or you stay away from the tougher bosses.
Voice chat is also useful for this title (you’ll need either Party Chat or an external voice chat system like Discord) as the ingame chat phrases are cute and fully voiced–but not actually very useful. I wanted to tell someone to stop using his level 18 side-character because we were about to fight a level 50 boss, but there was simply nothing I could say to that effect with ingame voices only.
Multiplayer is solid fun, but at the same time feels very uneven. I definitely think Multiplayer is a bit held back due to the Single Player as it feels like neither really got the time and TLC they needed to properly shine.
The story to this game has a pretty cute premise: The CPUs in this dimension attend an illustrious yet fading school to learn about humans. When a zombie outbreak occurs, the crew thinks to use the actual zombies as props for their zombie movie, which they’re making to bring the school back into the limelight.
As a Neptunia fan might expect, Blanc’s script is absolutely horrible and mostly made up on the spot. This results in some pretty predictable and repetitive “this scene makes no sense” and “why do I have to play this part” jokes. The script feels very dry compared to most games, even the side games. There’s still some funny bits, but the story feels like it has about as many good jokes in it as Neptunia U, which has drastically less cutscenes and plot.
It’s sort of interesting that despite being Blanc’s game Blanc is…a terrible person in this game. (She’s also arguably the least fun to play due to her slow speed). It’s been shown that she’s a jerk and a poor, fanfiction-tier writer in previous games so it’s not really out of character, but it’s rather jarring how unappealing she is as a main character. She shows her trademark breast-envy (even without being teased by Vert in this game) and immediately takes it out on Peashy (and Vert) moments after she appears in the story by sabotaging them in the film. While Noire starts off as a jerk in Hyperdevotion Noire she quickly has some character development and works to right her wrong. In this game Blanc is just kind of an ass and she gets away with it and no one really cares.
Blanc also kills off basically the entire cast in the movie except for herself and Neptune, resulting in a drastic reduction in lines from anyone but those two characters on or off “set”. Characters are not completely removed from the film’s story, but instead are used more or less as “extras” at random instead of contributing to the story properly.
Somewhat uncomfortably, Blanc is also clearly sharing the spotlight with Neptune in her own game. Neptune gets almost as many lines as Blanc in the actual story, leads several major events, and of course gets second billing just after Blanc. For better or worse, Neptune isn’t really any more endearing than Blanc, eagerly suggesting terrible ideas and messing things up.
Worse still, the game has the audacity to have Neptune make a joke about “not getting enough lines” when she’s clearly the secondary protagonist and probably gets almost as many lines as all the CPU candidates, Vert, and Noire combined.
I’m seriously getting tired of Neptune and the series’ insistence on shoving her in for the sake of her being “primary”. It’s a series with tons of great characters, it is actually detrimental to focus so heavily on a single character. The series should have a cast of protagonists, but their clumsily forcing Neptune in wherever they can runs counter to that.
This is a really…weirdly localized title. Something just feels very off, and I wonder if the dryness of the script itself isn’t because of some misguided attempt to stick closer to the original Japanese or simply lower budget/time to localize properly.
The English dub is fully voiced in the story, except for “backstage” scenes which…play in Japanese, even with the language set to English. This is really jarring and awkward. There’s also only about eight of these scenes, most under 10 or so lines of dialog, so it seems weird they wouldn’t record them at all, but suddenly hearing Japanese just feels very unprofessional. The “you beat all the big bosses” cutscene is also left in Japanese voicing for some reason. Vert’s voice actress is also Carrie Keranen again instead of Tara Platt still, so this change might be permanent, though I don’t have a confirmation.
Speaking of Japanese, several combat lines were left in Japanese, leaving the English voice actresses shouting “SO NEH!” and “ZEH TOH!” awkwardly. It’s…not good. In fact I can’t imagine why they would even do that. Never in the series has this happened before, and the single example I can even think of where a game has done something like this is Sonic Adventure 2 where some of the Japanese voice acting was left in resulting in Robotnik’s “YOSH” and Knuckles “ORAORAORA”. But in this case it’s clearly the English VAs reading the lines, and it’s just awkward. Some of the better lines from Neptunia U like Nepgear’s cute “BOING!” are gone too. On the plus side, Noire no longer unnecessarily screams every time she uses her standing triangle, a small mercy.
The zombies themselves are “DQNs” and are constantly referred to as such by the in-game dialog even in english, but this 2chan meme is never explained even briefly in the main story. It’s basically 2chan speak for “idiot” and something like “troll” would have easily sufficed (or a one-liner referencing such). There’s always going to be things that don’t 1:1 translate, but the series has generally done an excellent job in translating jokes and even bringing more flavor into the English script, for instance the ASIC members being called CFW in Mk2 and the Goddesses being called CPUs, shoving some fun gaming related references into a series all about gaming.
Unrelated to localization choices, the font used for the localization has major kerning issues, as seen in this screenshot. The text is readable enough but it just looks sloppy.
Another oddity that doesn’t really detract from the game but is just…weird, is that the “ages” of characters were messed with a bit. In the Japanese intro Rom and Ram are both referred to as “Elementary Schooler” and Uni and Nepgear are called “Middle Schooler”, written in clear english. In the localized release, Rom and Ram are “Freshman” and Uni and Nepgear are “Juniors”.
A High School freshman is about 14 years old, while Rom and Ram are maybe 8-10. There’s no way them being “Freshman” makes sense, and there’s no apparent reason to change the grades either. Uni/Nepgear being “Middle Schoolers” was a little weird as I’d peg them at about 14, but them being Juniors (~17) doesn’t make much sense either. The weird thing is they put effort into something so pointless when what was already there was perfectly fine, and made more sense. This is something I
ranted wrote about earlier.
I have a bad feeling IFI might be trying to please “translation purists” which is simply a poor idea all around. People who want to hear Japanese “ORAORA”s and “desus” and such will use the Japanese voice track anyway, so leaving them in the English acting just makes no sense. If the script is in fact dryer because it stays closer to the Japanese script, well that’s why literal translations suck and doing them is a terrible idea. You can already see a dreadfully dry fan-retranslation of the first Rebirth game on Steam if you wish to suffer.
I could be wrong of course, but I can’t really think of another reason IFI would suddenly put out such an awkward localization, unless the budget were particularly low. This localization is simply not of the quality I expect from them; even the reduced voice over coverage in Megadimension was forgivable as the reason (budget) could clearly be seen and the actual localized text was solid.
(As a random aside,if you’re interested in the ups and downs of localization and how hard it can be, check out Legends of Localization, a site with some good run throughs of some famous localizations.)
Much like Neptunia U, the game’s music is mostly recycled battle themes from the other games. This isn’t too much to complain about in my opinion since the battle music is always top notch. The two most notable new pieces, the intro and the multiplayer lobby track, are also quite good.
All in all the musical treatment clearly shows the thinness of the budget, but it’s still good music.
All in all, my response to MegaTagmension is largely “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed”. It’s not exactly a bad game, but it’s flaws are exceedingly visible, and it seems clear that the Neptunia side games are not improving by leaps and bounds, which the main games have been doing for the most part.
I know Idea Factory can localize a game better than this. I know IF can write a better game than this. I know Tamsoft can make a better action game than this. The problem doesn’t seem to be the skills of any one part, but the side Neptunia games are simply not given either the budget or the respect they need to stand tall.
As usual there’s some really good ideas in this game like the multiplayer, but it’s all bogged down by strange little things that pull down the experience left and right. The Neptunia series could certainly do with half as many side games that have twice the budget in my opinion, as matters of polish are generally what bring these unrefined games down. This game in particular is sort of split in two with Story and Multiplayer, and neither really seem to have gotten the polish they deserve.
In the end this is still a fun game to play if you’re a big fan of the series, mostly for it’s multiplayer component. Attacking feels good and teamwork is enjoyable when you’re not terribly underleveled. The story’s worth a few laughs but nothing special. Whether you get the game or not will probably depend on your dedication to the series and how many friends you have willing to play online, since the online is best played with friends and voice chat. But the crafting and team work could have resulted in a game that had much better replay value, but consumable, hard to use rewards simply don’t give that feeling of progress.
You can find Megatagmension Blanc vs Zombies on Amazon or, as always, digitally on the playstation store for Vita.