The Hyperdimension Neptunia series is a strange beast. Ever since the series debut on the PS3 back in late 2010 it has been met with mixed responses across the board. However that hasn’t stopped Compile Heart and Idea Factory from making new games and it seems that despite a rocky start the Neptunia games since Re;Birth 1 on the vita have been some pretty dang solid RPGs.
Although lets be honest, if you’re playing these games you’re usually playing them because you know about how the game is basically one giant mish mash of retro gaming references mixed in with copious amounts of fan service to make one truly interesting little series.
However as with many gaming series there is going to be some spin off titles and neptunia is no exception.
Most of these titles have found their home on the vita with Hyperdimension Neptunia Producing Perfection starting the spin off train off then with Hyperdevotion Noire and Hyperdimension Neptunia U following shortly after (although Noire and U have been released on steam as well)
The latest addition to this group of spinoffs is Megatagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies, a hack and slash spinoff from Tamsoft, creators of the Senran Kagura series.
I got a lot to say about this game so without future a due lets dive right in.
The Neptunia games have never been known for having intricate stories instead preferring to play the story for laughs most of the time (although there are a few exceptions. Looking at you MK2 and Victory II). Megatagmension is no exception to this rule. The games plot is very tongue and cheek and it knows it with many of the visual novel scenes in between gameplay segments being the prime example of this.
What little plot there is though revolves around the titular Blanc and her friends working together to film a movie to save their school of Gameacademi. Problem is the whole school is overrun with zombies. Instead of giving up however Blanc instead opts to use the zombies as props in the movie and film her friends fighting them off to use as footage for the movie.
This is just one example of the games goofy sense of humor. When Megatagmension isn’t talking about zombies though it is either making references to retro video games, breaking the fourth wall into many tiny pieces or just simply goofing around.
This is Megatagmensions real strength when it comes to the story. While the plot itself is pretty simple and really not that interesting the writing is excellent packed with many moments that can and will make you laugh out loud especially if you are a retro gamer like myself. The retro gaming references are spot on and pretty much always got a laugh out of me.
As for the characters I can best sum them up as being a trail mix team of Anime stereotypes. You have the goofball, the tsundere, the quiet girl, the one who has a giant rack and so on.
If you were looking for a game with a deep story you certainly won’t find that in Megatagmension but either way the excellent writing is bound to get a laugh out of you.
So before I start I’m going to be splitting this section up into 2 parts. One talking about the single player and the other about the multiplayer (yes this game does have multiplayer but I’ll come to that). I’ll start with the single player.
The single player campaign is mission based. You pick a scene (level) and then pick a cut (quest) and off you go. There are a total of 12 scenes in the game with around about 5 or 6 quests each.
Quests usually consist of having to kill a number of enemies. Megatagmension is a hack and slash game similar to the likes of Senran Kagura and it is no surprise considering that Tamsoft, the developers of Senran Kagura also developed this game.
If you’ve ever played a Senran Kagura game then you should be right at home here. Each character has a light and heavy attack (light mapped to the Square button and Heavy to the Triangle button) as well as a dodge, jump and access to special moves. You can chain together attacks to pull off combos as you would expect. You also have the ability to hit enemies into the air and “juggle” them in mid air, a feature also seen in the Senran Kagura series. You can also lock on to enemies using the L button and guard using the R button.
In the way of special attacks you have 2 kinds. You have normal skills and then you have SP skills.
Normal skills are activated by holding the R button and pressing one of the face buttons. As expected these will deal a large chunk of damage to enemies. The interesting thing about normal skills is that they don’t use any of your EXE gauge (More on that in a moment) and instead just have a cooldown time.
SP skills are activated by holding both L and R then pushing either Square or Triangle. SP skills make use of your EXE gauge, basically your SP meter which fills up overtime as you deal and take damage. To pull off an SP skill your EXE gauge needs to be above 30% though so you can’t just fill it up a little bit and spam SP skills.
You can also Press X while holding L and R to activate your CPU mode, a mode where your character transforms and deals more damage as well as just receiving buffs all around. This slowly drains your EXE gauge though so you can’t just go wild with it.
Finally holding L and R and pressing Circle allows you to switch characters. This doesn’t actually require anything from your EXE gauge however because each character has their own separate EXE gauge swapping characters will change how much you have available.
Whatever character is swapped out will also slowly recover HP which is useful if one of your characters is running a little low.
There are also support characters which can be activated when charged by pressing square and triangle or square and X at the same time. Finally the select button opens up your item menu and lets you use items.
The combat system itself I found quite enjoyable. There’s just something satisfying about mowing down a bunch of enemies by chaining together combos and pulling off the odd special attack. Dashing is also incredibly useful as well and is basically required if you want to avoid getting hurt by a large enemy who is charging up an attack. It probably also helps that Tamsoft are no stranger to hack and slash games meaning that they have this gameplay style down to an art at this point which leaves us with a fun and polished combat system.
It also helps that the game has a pretty large character roster with each character playing differently to others (with a few exceptions however). This certainly helps add more variety to the gameplay as each character has their own distinct fighting style. For example Neptune uses swords which are excellent for close combat and are pretty balanced all around while Uni instead opts for using guns making her extremely useful for taking out larger enemies from a distance although she can’t move while shooting or reloading.
The fact that each character has a different fighting style is something I quite like as it makes me want to go back and play around with each of the characters so I can experiment with different styles. However, this leads me onto the first problem I have with the single player campaign. You see, all characters start at level 1, even new characters that pop up halfway through the game, so if you want to level up a character so they don’t get killed in the later levels you have to go all the way back to the early quests and grind on them to get the character up to speed.
Now this wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for a few things. For one, quests are short, like, REALLY short. At the time of this review I have played halfway through the single player campaign and around 90% of the missions I have been able to finish in less than 2 minutes.
The other part of the problem is the number of quests... There isn’t many and they are all relatively short with a few exceptions.
Now you’re probably thinking “Why don’t you just go and play the 10% of the quests that are actually of a decent length to level your characters?”. Well the problem here is that these quests only start popping up in around scene 3 or 4 and taking a level 1 character into a quest designed for a level 10 character is usually not going to end well. This means that to get any new characters I want to use up to speed I have to grind the same single player early missions over and over and over again and it gets extremely repetitive.
I mean, playing the same mission over and over is one thing, playing the same mission that takes you less than 2 minutes to clear over and over again is another thing entirely. It just gets drawn out and boring and it’s a real shame because it really puts me off actually wanting to experiment with the other characters because I know I’ll have to grind them for a little bit in early missions to get them up to speed.
Granted you could always put said character in the second slot and play the higher level missions with a higher level character but it’s still annoying that I have to do stuff like that in the first place. It isn’t a deal breaker but I do find it annoying.
The other issue with the single player is the complete lack of sidequests. In Neptunia U not only did you have sidequests that popped up here and there but you had post game content as well. Megatagmension has none of that and it honestly feels like step backwards in terms of the single player. It’s still fun but there just isn’t enough there.
As for mechanics outside of the game you have a shop where you can go and buy new weapons, accessories and other bits and pieces. You can also fuse patches in the shop which are special little items which you can equip to your weapon to add buffs, change its type and all that.
Thing is, I have never found a use for fusing patches because patches drop all the time from normal enemies in gameplay. I already have more patches than I know what to do with so I don’t really feel the need to fuse more. It just feels a little tacked on.
Weapons wise each character has 4 weapons each one being more powerful than the last. Weapons are character specific so each character will have a maximum of 4 weapons, no more and no less.
Really once you have the 4th weapon for a character there is no reason to use anything else. Sure you have less room to apply patches but it doesn’t really matter much anyway.
Then we have accessories. These are purely cosmetic and can be applied to characters to change how they look during play. Each character can have a maximum of 5 accessories equipped and there is quite a lot of them to choose from. Probably the coolest thing with accessories is the amount of control you have over where you can place them. You have preset positions but you can also manually change the position, rotation and size of an accessory to your liking which is pretty darn neat. The level of customization in the game is quite impressive and when playing online you’re bound to see customized Neps made by other players.
Finally we have the treasure menu. During the game you’ll be able to pick up pieces of special game consoles and once you have all 5 pieces you can go to the treasure room and construct the console to get a new costume for characters. Again this is pretty cool and while the costumes are usually nothing too special there is just something satisfying about getting a new one.
Overall, the single player, while fun, is a little bit lacking to really be something worth coming back to and it’s a real shame. What is there is fun but the main problem is there isn’t enough of it. Let’s just cross our fingers and hope some new stuff gets patched in later on.
Really I’d consider Megatagmensions single player akin to icing on a cake. It tastes nice but it isn’t really that substantial and leaves you wanting more.
However if the single player is Megatagmensions icing on the cake then the multiplayer is most definetly the cake itself.
Megatagmension is the first Neptunia game to feature multiplayer and really the multiplayer is where Megatagmension really shines.
Multiplayer plays pretty much the same as single player although there are a few differences which I will go over now.
Firstly in multiplayer you can only take one character with you instead of having a second one on standby. Considering you’re playing with other people though this makes sense.
Multiplayer also removes the ability to go into HDD mode. Weirdly enough a characters HDD mode and their normal mode are considered as separate characters on the character select so you can pick either normal or HDD instead of having the ability to swap between them. Personally I find this a little weird but it isn’t like it breaks anything.
Lastly you can’t use assist characters, again a weird removal but I never really used them in single player anyway so it doesn’t matter much.
Multiplayer comes in 2 flavours, ad-hoc and Online. I only tested online mode as I had no one to Ad-Hoc with. There is also rankings which will rank you on leaderboards depending on how good your online performance is.
Up to 4 players are able to play at once during online play and when you do have 4 people playing it makes for some hectic and insane fun.
Creating a lobby is a simple affair, once in a lobby you can change your character, change their equipment, access the shop and treasure area and access the settings. Now while Megatagmension does not support voice chat it does have around 100 preset phrases which you can use to communicate with other players both in the lobby and during the game and ALL of these phrases are fully voiced no matter if you are playing in English or Japanese. The preset phrases are very useful and they have phrases for basically any situation including one for telling people you have a bad connection (which I had to use a lot).
Quest wise the multiplayer does something interesting and has a completely different set of quests to the single player. Not only that but these quests are of decent length and most actually take at least 5 minutes to complete. To add to that the game has 3 daily quests. 1 easy, 1 medium and 1 hard and these change every day. Quest wise the multiplayer gives you A LOT more to do than the single player does especially with the daily quests.
Gameplay in multiplayer itself is basically unchanged from how it was in single player however characters who run out of HP will be hit with a 30 second respawn time. However these characters can also be revived by other players provided they have enough in their EXE gauge. Items can also be used like in single player to recover HP or boost stats for a short period of time.
Now the most important part of any online game is how well it performs and well... Megatagmension performs excellent online. In fact in online play it was one of the most smooth and lag free experiences I had ever played on my PS Vita when it comes to online and that is saying a lot. I experienced very few issues and minimal lag when playing online although when playing with 4 players the game did noticeably slow down a little bit but it wasn’t enough to effect the experience. The lack of voice chat wasn’t much of a problem either and the preset phrases proved more than ample during play.
Really upon playing the multiplayer I could see that it was really what they were wanting to push with this title. The multiplayer is leaps and bounds ahead of the single player in terms of the level of content and the amount of work that seems to have gone into the multiplayer in general. To add to that all characters are unlocked from the start in multiplayer mode allowing for players to jump right in without even touching the single player campaign. Personally I’m glad they made it like that because having to trawl through the single player just to get all the characters in the multiplayer would suck so it’s nice to have them all available right off the bat in multiplayer.
Overall I will have to say that the multiplayer component is certainly the more enjoyable part of the game and is what you will be spending most of your time on. It is kind of annoying that they just sort of tacked on a single player campaign but the amount of fun you can have in multiplayer does make up for most of that.
Graphics and Sound:
Graphically the game looks pretty darn good. Character models are well made and are animated smoothly and all equippable items and accessories will make cosmetic changes to the characters. It’s nice to see games go the extra mile to make it so that changing items and weapons actually changes how your character looks.
The visual novel sections are graphically pleasing and feature the same live2D style that was present in Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth onwards. Characters will blink, breathe and all of that in these visual novel sections and it really does make them look that little bit more lifelike rather than just static drawings on a screen.
Performance wise the game performs at a rock solid 30 fps which makes for quite a nice experience while playing.
Sound wise the game is also pretty good although the soundtrack is not completely original. Some tracks from previous Neptunia games get reused in Megatagmension although the tracks that are original are pretty good.
I’d also like to mention the voice acting, Megatagmension has 2 voice tracks you can choose from, English and Japanese. Both of these voice tracks are pretty good but the English one is downright excellent. The Neptunia games have always had a reputation for high quality English dubs and Megatagmension is no exception with outstanding performances across the board. Plus the game is fully voice acted, every single visual novel scene has full voice acting in both vocal tracks which is a very nice addition.
Megatagmension is an interesting one. On one hand the single player is very lacking and feels tacked on but on the other hand the multiplayer is extremely fun and makes up for most of the shortcomings of the single player.
The amount of mileage you are going to get out of this game is really going to depend on how much you like the Neptunia series. If you’re like me and enjoy the series then most likely you will really enjoy Megatagmension but if you’re completely new to the series and are wanting to get into it then this really isn’t the best game to start on.
If you are still on the fence about this game then I’d recommend to wait for a price drop. For how good the multiplayer is the rather lacking single player is a little bit of a stretch for a full price game. Neptunia fans will probably pick this up on the day of release and really this is a Neptunia game for Neptunia fans. However if you are looking for a hack and slash with solid multiplayer then give Megatagmension a look, just wait for a price drop first.
For fans of the series Megatagmension gets a Highly Recommended
For people not familiar with the series Megatagmension gets a Wait for a sale.
2016 is looking like it is going to be a really good year for the Vita in terms of games so if you liked this review then keep your eyes on the blog for any future Vita reviews from myself!
BDVR Guest Author Nathan Green signing off
MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies releases on May 10th in North America and May 13th in Europe
OFLC: M (Unrestricted, Estimated Rating)
Special thanks to a friend who owned a copy of Neptunia U for providing me with some information on the differences between the two games.
Review copy provided by Idea Factory International. Screenshots from Idea Factory International ideafintl.com