When Project X Zone was announced for release in Japan, many Western gamers were hoping that the title would be released overseas but very few of us thought it would be possible. This is thanks to the fact that it features characters from franchises belonging not only to the publisher Namco Bandai, but also from Sega and Capcom as well.
To make things even more complicated, a number of these characters have never appeared in a Western release before, leaving their Western debuts in question thanks to their licenses being up in the air. However Namco Bandai has managed to overcome all issues in their way and have brought Project X Zone to North America. Is this crossover SPRG worth the faith that fans have put into it?
After something of a family heirloom is stolen from a rich girl named Mii Kouryuuji who seems to be a cheerleader that dresses in a skimpy outfit, the worlds begin to shift and collide with one another. The normal human world and the Makai world are clashing together and even portals to the past, future and alternate timelines are appearing all over the place. To make things even worse, the organization behind the theft are now trying to track down Mii for an unknown purpose.
Only by teaming up with her tutor/bodyguard/ninja/detective Kogoro Tenzai and the numerous allies from multiple dimensions and timelines can Mii not only defend herself from the onslaught of enemies seeking to abduct her, but also retrieve the heirloom and put a stop to the group’s plans once and for all.
It is pretty clear right away that the storyline for Project X Zone is clearly there to set up the premise of worlds colliding, giving us a game that features more characters than you can shake a stick at. The two main characters, and that term is used roughly here, are given their purpose in the story but for the most part that focus is diluted down to the point that it is simply in the background as we see beloved characters return and fight alongside other beloved characters and even a few new unknown faces appearing as well.
Using the term fan-service wouldn’t be inaccurate here with Project X Zone, as even a number of the in-game dialogue references various events spread throughout the games, though obviously nothing here is canon in any video game story. However hearing Tron Bonne mention her frustration at having her rocket delayed, seeing Frank West taking “erotica” themed photographs of any female character he comes across and listening to the various interactions amongst the cast is beyond delightful and will make any fan of these franchises giddy with joy.
It is worth noting though that with all of the characters that eventually join your group, a few do end up being pushed into the background and thanks to the main storyline being rather standard, the story unfortunately lacks polish. But when Hsien-Ko partners with Frank West, a little cat-like girl named Neneko meets up with Ryu and Ken and more characters make their appearances and interact with one another like the everything simply makes sense, there is little to complain about when there is so much on offer here.
Project X Zone is a SRPG title game which means that as one would expect, the characters are all given sprite character models inside of combat and on the battle map. These character models are wonderfully handled and look absolutely wonderful in battle. Many memorable moves that these characters have used for years now look wonderful in action on the 3DS, even when we’ve already seen them on consoles, that shows the dedication that went into creating the sprite work for Project X Zone.
Whenever the player triggers a special finishing move, the paired fighters will unleash an impressively animated special attack that culminates in each character having an anime style appearance as they unleash a finishing blow on their opponent. Outside of combat, each character is given a wonderfully handdrawn character portrait with a number of different facial expressions and poses to match the discussion, similar to what is seen in standard JRPG dialogue sequences.
With over eighty different characters that appear throughout the game, and as I mentioned earlier, a number of which haven’t appeared in the West, it should come as no surprise that Project X Zone only features the original Japanese voice track. While a bit annoying for some, the Japanese voice work is admirably done and honestly most gamers who would buy this title would likely be choosing the Japanese voice track anyways. That being said, it is unfortunate that while everything is given English subtitles in event sequences and in special attack animations, the battle dialogue is untranslated leaving players to guess as to what the characters are saying as they execute their basic attacks.
With such a vast library of characters to choose from, it is my pleasure to say that Project X Zone also draws upon those vast characters’ theme songs. The background music will always shift to a theme song related to the character you are currently playing as. If you have a third fighter attached to a group? It could be their song, or one of the main pairings’. For example, pairing Tron Bonne with Frank West and Hsien Ko sees not only the Dead Rising theme play, but also a chance for a Mega Man theme song or Hsien Ko’s own song to play while using that character. These audio tracks only make the fact that all of these characters are gathered together under one title all the more surprising and even more enjoyable.
Project X Zone has gathered all of these characters under one title to create a strategy RPG and those who are familiar with them will already know what they are in for. Project X Zone features battle maps that places the players characters on a grid based map where they must attack and defend and complete certain conditions to complete the level. These conditions always end up involving defeating either all enemies or specific enemies but there are loss conditions as well and these can sometimes shift mid-battle.
Project X Zone features your standard, higher speed stat moves first, type move system but an XP, not to be confused with basic EXP, system requires the player to gauge exactly how they want to react to various events that happen to each character.
You see, whenever the player enters combat they are given a set number of attacks that they can unleash on opponents and whenever these attacks land, a certain number of XP is added to a meter with 100 being the basic limit, but 150 being the true limit. These XP points can either be used to unleash a powerful special attack which can elimate smaller enemies in one blow and deal massive damage to bosses, but can also be used for defense as well. Whenever you are attacked by enemies, you can either choose to do nothing and take the full hit, use 20 XP to counter, giving you one or possibly more attacks to strike bake at the enemy but taking full damage, or defend which halves the damage you receive, or use 60 points to block all damage taken.
On the offensive side of things, you may have seen my mention of trio groups and various attacks before and herein lies another interesting mechanic in Project X Zone, timing. The main pair of fighters will always attack together and when timed correctly, you will rarely miss your blows, however when some attacks send enemies launching into the air or ricocheting off of a wall, timing the return blows is crucial to landing full damage on an opponent.
But how about the 150 XP bar I mentioned? That is only obtainable through the use of Cross Attacks that are completed by having either your third fighter jump into battle to perform a pre-set attack sequence or having a pair close to your battle jump in for assistance as well. Anytime one of your attacks lands while a partner’s lands will trigger a Cross Attack which will push the XP bar past the 100 limit, but timing these attacks can be very difficult since it is entirely possible to call in allies only for them to either miss multiple attacks due to poor enemy placement or your fighters to miss due to their interference. That being said, it is also entirely possible to have not only your initial pair, but your third fighter and an adjacent pair dealing damage all at once, creating a whirlwind of havoc that can tear apart almost any singular enemy.
Unfortunately while Project X Zone has a lot going for it in almost every category, there are a few drawbacks as well. The main one being is that even being an SRPG, it is rather easy. Now I’m not saying that it isn’t challenging at times and it can be difficult to win a battle that may push you to your limits, but even then there isn’t too much difficulty once you get the timing of attacks down. While it is worth noting that there is no place to buy items and equipment and they are only obtainable from defeated enemies or battle-map chests, there is little customization or necessity to these things as they are simply adding more to the experience in a very shallow way that only makes things easier as the game goes long.
It is also worth noting that while Project X Zone is certainly a long game and the third fighters, or “solo units” as they are technically called, can be switched between pairs for additional dialogue, there really isn’t much to be had for replay value in Project X Zone. There are a few twists in battle here and there where new enemies appear, but this becomes predictable to the point you can almost call out when new foes will appear and since every battle plays out the same way, the lack of much replay value outside of different combat dialogue between new trios is a shame.
Project X Zone is a game that fans of either Sega, Capcom or Namco Bandai should be cheering for since it has been released in the West and for good reason. While it does have drawbacks, Project X Zone is a game that is nearly impossible to put down at times, not only because some of the fights can take well over an hour, but also thanks to the number of characters from numerous franchises appearing, addictive combat and just pure enjoyment. If anything, being a bit of an easier SRPG may be a good thing for some as it creates a more accessible title that will allow more gamers to enjoy the wonderful title that is Project X Zone.
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