The Neptunia series has always been one of my guiltiest of pleasures. With every game released they seem to be nearing a level of mastery in concept and parody – with the gameplay only improving in increments. Of course, the series has also explored other genres, so many so that they easily overwhelm the amount of ‘mainline’ titles (and I eagerly await the inevitable racing spinoff). And yet, despite the conception of Hyperdimension Neptunia U, the title from which this entry in particular steals a lot of assets and its rather stellar gameplay from, how is it that Megatagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies pales in comparison?
Gamicademi – the prestigious academy famous for educating the reigning nations’ CPUs in coexisting with the common people is about to be closed due to the recent population crisis (remind you of anything?). Unwilling to see their school close down, the band of misfits (read CPUs) begin filming a movie in hopes of garnering popularity for school while taking advantage of the students mysteriously turning into zombies.
While the concept of Megatagmension is rather comical, the witty, fourth wall breaking dialogue the series is most infamously renowned for seems to be missing in this entry. The plot certainly seems like the perfect vehicle for delivering the series’ heart, but it seems to have forgotten that its greatest strength lies in its characters – and they seem to have taken a backseat in this entry. Some interactions are even hidden as unlockables in this game, and throughout the “Story” mode, a majority of them revolve around the shoddy acting and writing of the movie. Sure, it’s incredibly fitting and done intentionally, but when the plot of the movie is purposefully drab and is the crux of any and all character interaction, I’d find myself pondering games I could by playing instead as soon as the main menu. There’s one new character introduced in the game within the first half hour of the story, and, despite boasting possibly my favorite character design of the series yet, they immediately become irrelevant outside of gameplay. Whatever change in design principles there was, it’s ambiguous where their focus lied in this game’s development — and it’s certainly not the gameplay.
Despite having written their own recipe for the action-oriented gameplay of Neptunia U, it’s absolutely appalling that the gameplay is so disappointing. Megatagmension is still action-oriented, sure, and the gameplay might as well have been ripped straight from U, but perhaps it’s the fact that missions will really only last you 1-2 minutes or that characters feel more sluggish than they should or maybe it’s how the combo list for each character is incredibly shallow or how enemies aren’t even phased by your moves if they don’t use your SP but I can’t find it at all gratifying. You’re graded on your performance throughout missions and while that would normally provide for much replay value, the grading system and your overall score will really only reflect on your time elapsed. The game is actively advocating playing faster, and being as easy as it is, certainly doesn’t demand that you play better. If you’re in it to fill out your collection of Neptunia games, go ahead and buy it (hopefully on sale), but there’s no meat to this bone — and at a price of $39.99, not including tax, it’s not worth it.
It was refreshing at first to actually see new environments in a Neptunia game, considering their reputation to reuse assets like they were a rag, and there were a few new tracks that were surprisingly pleasant to the ears, but that’s about all Megatagmension has going for it in its presentation. The consistent use of familiar assets definitely ails the series, and if it aims to improve, it’ll need to take some risks and have at least a moderate budget. For those unfamiliar, however, the game looks fine for a Vita game, nothing outstanding, and I never came across a moment where the framerate chugged along.
I want for the day where I can recommend a Neptunia game to a friend. Each entry is an experiment, one that may crash and burn or possibly be an overall improvement. For now, the series would be fine exclusively being RPGs, and I doubt anyone would blame them for playing it safe. It’s not often you see a game so niche start to experiment with spinoffs, but if they start to degrade in quality and lose sales, no doubt it won’t be long till we start seeing these games in bargain bins and pawn shops.
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