Publisher: Idea Factory International
Developer: Idea Factory/Tamsoft/Compile Heart
As I've written before, there's a pretty straightforward way to figure out whether a Hyperdimension Neptunia game will be worth your time. If it's a mainline game, it'll probably be a generically okay. If it's a spin-off from the main series, there's a good chance it'll be worth your time. About a half-dozen games into the franchise's Vita lifespan, and that maxim hasn't failed me yet.
MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies is a Hyperdimension spin-off, so…need I say more?
Actually, I do, because MegaTagmension represents the first Hyperdimension spin-off that hasn't blown me away. To some extent, this is because my expectations were so high. All I knew going into it was that it was a hack & slash game, and that the enemies were, as the title implied, zombies. If that wasn't a recipe for success, I didn't know what was.
Unfortunately, my calculations of "hack & slash + zombies = awesome!!!" left out one crucial fact: this series' well-documented love of lengthy dialogue sequences. While you do get to slash your way through zombies, it's only in limited quantities. In general, you have to sit through get several minutes of dialogue just to get a minute or two of action, which means that while you do get to slash some zombies, it won't be as much as you'd probably like. In fact, you have a specific number to kill, and once you reach that number, the level ends, even if there are still undead teddy bears/otakus/blobs jumping around.
Surprisingly, though, what redeems MegaTagmension is the very thing that I was literally just complaining about — those aforementioned lengthy dialogue sequences. In contrast to most other games in the series, the dialogue here isn't filled with innuendo and referential in-jokes about Japanese gaming. I mean, those things are certainly present, don't get me wrong. But there's a balance here — more frequently, the girls here are just as likely to turn their knowing senses of humour to the absurdity of the plot, or to discuss zombie movie tropes. It's not that big a departure from the usual content, but it's just different enough that you feel like you're included in what they're talking about, even if you don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of Japan's gaming culture.
In other words, MegaTagmension Blanc + Neptune VS Zombies ultimately works because, like the other Hyperdimension Neptunia spin-offs, it takes the series' formula and applies it to something new. Rather than trying to have it both ways, by simultaneously mocking and embracing JRPG stereotypes, MegaTagmention follows in the footsteps of games like Action Unleashed and Producing Perfection by expanding its horizons. The results may not be quite as sublime as those other examples, but on the whole, it's still worth checking out.