The four goddesses and the Console Patron Unit candidates of video games consoles personified make a frolicsome return in MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies. Now I know there are lots of great new games out there, but this one’s special, it has schoolgirls! (Yes, this is actually how the game introduced itself!) Set in an alternate universe, the console war of past is over, but can Blanc and co. lead a peaceful High School life? Read on to find out!
Game: MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies
Developer: Tamsoft, Compile Heart
Publisher: Idea Factory International
(Review code provided by publisher)
MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies is a spinoff from the main franchise Hyperdimension Neptunia, and is loosely based on the light novel series which branches off from the main universe. Located in the quiet town of Gamindustri is a school for CPU’s where they can integrate and learn about human life and culture, Gamicademi. Due to the worlds population crisis their school is facing closure from a lack of new students. Blanc and Neptune, steadfast in their desire to save their beloved school, decide to create a blockbuster movie to raise recognition and attract new students by winning a film award. What better way to do this on a budget than to create a Zombie flick! As production starts, amidst all the groaning, in a twist of fate real zombies begin to appear all over campus, transforming the student populous into mindless (and often perverted) zombies. Instead of making an escape, Blanc and co. use this opportunity to add authenticity to the set by saving the student body whilst filming their pulverising, zombie slaying action!
Now some of you may be familiar or huge fans of the franchise; others, like myself may be experiencing it for the first time. So, if like me you are a newcomer to the series then this is probably the wrong title to set up the franchise for you. Unfortunately, this game does nothing to explain the world and instead relies on you to have prior knowledge. So to help clear things up for myself and you out there, I did a little digging. The series was born from the lack of games that parodied the games industry itself and the love of the moe subculture and ‘little sister’ relationships. It also features an all female playable cast, and as you can imagine, there is a strong focus on fanservice with some lesbian moments thrown into the mix (cue bloody noses, no not you, from the cast itself!). As I mentioned earlier, the Console Patron Units (CPU’s), otherwise known as goddesses and their little sisters (CPU candidates) each represent a video game console or accessory. Blanc represents the Wii, Neptune’s the Sega Neptune, Noire’s the Playstation 3 and Vert represents the Xbox. The little sisters are often smaller handhelds or accessories, for example Ron (Read Only Memory) and Ram (Random Access Memory) represent the Nintendo DS.
All this moe is reflected in the graphics with Anime visuals. The game uses 3D modelling for the characters and battle environments, which adds a realistic touch to the way the characters move on screen. Their apparent breathing makes them full of life, though I can imagine this is also to draw attention to their breasts. The cutscenes and occasional stills are vibrant and certainly make things, pop. The graphics are however let down by the battleground environments, which are few in number and are often repeated, with awkward camera angles that become a nuisance mid fight. The ability to pause the game to capture those epic pantie shots, I er, mean epic moves is also a neat feature. I must admit, the appearance of the zombies somewhat threw me. Otakus with a shuriken in the head, ginormous Dogoo’s that are too kawaii to kill and even tall mecha (can these even count?)… not quite your typical zombies! As it turns out, the enemies are reused assets from previous titles in the series, with a new skin thrown on to make them, well a bit more like a zombie should.
Aside from the ambient sounds of grunts and groans, the opening and ending themes by Idol College are high spirited and catchy. Not only that, the battle score is energetic, with fast paced electro tracks and guitar rifts, not exactly what I had in mind when fighting zombies. I did expect it to have a much deeper tone considering the gravity of the situation, however these tracks do work perfectly with the hacking of zombies, not to mention the underlying video game theme. Another audio delight is the option to play through the game with the original Japanese voice cast, or if you prefer you can stick with the dubbed cast. Personally I found the original cast to be the most enjoyable, especially with their mid battle conversations, whining about being ignored or staring at them on the menu screen…
MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies offers hack n’ slash gameplay alongside its story elements. It is also the first in the series to include multiplayer. I will be honest with you, do not come into this game expecting a long campaign or a challenging fight. I didn’t quite know what to expect but I certainly didn’t anticipate feeling this unsatisfied and disappointed. The game offers two modes: Story and Multi with no difficulty options. Story mode contains 12 scenes in total, with 1-8 cuts to play through per scene. Honestly, if you are looking for the best action then Multi mode is where it’s at. Story mode is more along the lines of a Visual Novel with the odd battle thrown in. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good story but there is too much talk and too little action here. I fear I may have even turned into a zombie myself, dying from a hunger left unsatisfied by little slaying. The story itself plays upon many parodies from other games, movies and corporations, following the same humour the series is known for. Tamsoft have created their own character new to this title, and characters like Dengekiko and Famitsu are personifications of their popular magazines in Japan. Most of these gags went right over my head or just weren’t as funny as they could be. Its as if they anticipated this, or it was done on purpose due the the crowd laughter audio clips played after some of them. (At least the game can laugh at itself!)
As you hack on through the story, new characters will slowly join you. Each character has a unique skill set and style of battle. Blanc is the heavy hitter and thus has a slow movement speed and is more cumbersome to master. Characters like Neptune and Peashy are quick in combat, whilst Uni attacks with ranged guns and Ron & Ram fight with more long ranged, magic based attacks. Though Blanc is the main protagonist, you are free to play with the characters that better suit your play style. Keep in mind however that characters level up individually. If you decide to stray from your favourites you do have the ability to replay previous scenes and cuts and grind to your hearts content! As with Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed, you utilise a dual system where you can tag out and switch between two characters at any time during battle. This allows you to be more tactical and pick a team based on skills and stats, or like me you can find your own winning combination. (I played through with a combination of Tamsoft and Vert!) Should you fall in battle (a rare occurrence) you swap characters whilst the other then regains HP, no need for items here. There are also a few supporting characters that can offer you assistance throughout, such as attack and defence buffs.
In combat you hack n’ slash your way through hordes of zombies with various button combos that you can time right to chain up powerful attacks (or a lot of button bashing). You have your basic weak and strong attacks alongside each characters unique set of 4 special skills. Some characters combos, like Tamsoft’s can be tricker to pull off than some, but all SP skills are easily executed like holding the right shoulder button and pressing jump. Each character can transform into their goddess form once the EXE Drive is above 30%, where your attacks pack more of a punch (as well as your looks and personality!). Once the EXE Drive reaches 50% you can unleash a Lily Special, where both characters jump in and combine their skills in a spectacular, slashing display! (A great way to tackle bosses or large groups.) During the course of your battles you will gain experience and earn ability points which you can use to upgrade health, defence or unlock new combos. You will also collect materials and treasures which can be used to unlock new costumes or fuse together to give your weapons special perks. If schoolgirl outfits don’t offer enough fanservice then the new outfits you unlock will as many of them are torn to shreds, only just enough to cover a girls dignity. This is of course optional and you can change the look and style of your character to suit your own preferences with accessories you can purchase from the shop. If you fancy a POW upgrade then new weapons can also be purchased from the shop using coins earned in battle, each character having a total of 4 tiered unique weapons.
As fun as this sounds, sadly the combat is the greatest let down of the game. A vast majority of my battles were completed in under 1 minute or 2, with the longest battle taking under 6, and this happened maybe twice throughout the whole campaign. Enemies were surprisingly weak, and the occasional boss offered no more of a challenge other than figuring out their attack patterns. The enemy lock on system was a failure, which rarely seemed to work resulting in being unable to target particular enemies or viewing HP. This however seems to be redundant as most enemies spawn in large clusters, making them easy to round up and take down with a few attacks. One annoyance of the spawn points was that most times you could not see where the next point was, resulting in you frantically traversing the entire map until you ran into it. My largest disappointment comes in the form of the final boss. Not only does the path to him take way under 7 hours, but it was the most anti-climatic boss ever! Now this could be in part my fault as I stuck with the same characters throughout and so I had a highly skilled combatant, but upon being presented with this half male, half female zombie king (one representation of the game industries dark history!), I found it was over in just under 3 minutes! Not only this, but I took zero damage throughout the entire bout despite running right into enemy fire. This could be me being too powerful, a glitch or a failure for the game to produce any challenge whatsoever. In any case it made the whole slog to the end rather pointless.
The only remaining saving grace to this game would be the Multiplayer mode. A first in the series, here you can team up with other players online or close by in Ad Hoc mode, with up to 4 players in a co-op match. Battles here work exactly the same way, however there are a plethora of different maps and locations, with some old and unique bosses to slay not found in the story campaign. All characters are available from the start, including their transformations as the ability to transform is removed here, instead this is purely focused on your combat combo skills. You can join other players matches, or create your own with set conditions, such as a beginner only room and chat using a limited set of key words and phrases. This my friends is where the real action game lies!
Despite not knowing what to expect, I had hopes that this would be a more unique zombie slaying experience compared to what I’m used to. Sadly it was, but in a very negative way. It wasn’t the cuteness of the zombies, the bad humour or the fanservice that let it down, it was the gameplay itself. Enemies were far too weak and there was no challenge to combat, even without button bashing. Story mode offered more story than action and whilst this did pick up towards the end scenes, breezing through each one in under 2 minutes made it a painstaking ordeal. Its just unfulfilling, often leaving me saying “What, its over already?!” or “Oh my god its a boss…Oh is that it?!”. The multiplayer is where you need to head to if your seeking pure, unhindered action, but it is questionable how long this will grip peoples attention. There is little to keep you coming back for more other than to find all the treasure and complete your trophy list. If you are a fan of the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise then you may enjoy this but if you are new to the series, this may not be the right title to introduce you to it. At a retail price of £39.99, is it worth it? Simply no, not until it has had a major price drop at least