Right off the bat, this game is not for you if you have never experienced some years of gaming or have no recollection of 50% of the cast or crossovers mentioned in this mega-sized collaborated project. Project X Zone (pronounced Project CROSS Zone) is the latest of many other turn-based strategy RPG crossover games developed by Monolith Soft and Banpresto, and published by NamcoBandai, all whom are known for various series like Super Robot Taisen, Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier (Developed by ATLUS in NA), and Namco X Capcom. If in case you’ve never heard of Namco X Capcom, it’s because it was never localized in America. Whatever the reason Project X Zone almost suffered the same fate if, not for the help of public outcries and (majorly) famed Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada. History lessons aside I’m here to dissect the strengths and flaws that make Project X Zone.
(Disclaimer: I will refer to Project X Zone as PxZ in this review.)
PxZ, released in 2013, is the supposed sequel to Namco X Capcom and takes place about a few X amount of time after the last game, where characters from Sega, Bandai Namco, and Capcom will later join forces. The story starts with detective/ninja bad-ass Kogoro Tenzai assists the other main protagonist Mii Koryuji in order to help her in finding her missing heirloom, the Portalstone. As they continue their investigation, they’re ambushed by monsters by the evil Oros Phlox gang, who have taken the Portalstone. Aaaaaaaand that’s as much as you’ll get for concise storytelling. The story doesn’t begin to mold until a few hours in, as the Oros Phlox claim to rip portals and cause calamity to various worlds as you go to said worlds to stop them. And even that doesn’t go into full explanation as to why until near the end of the game. It’s not even a great storyline anyway, you just go into it jumping into other worlds, fighting with and against some of your favorite franchises. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. With crumbs of story given here and there, but no background whatsoever.
I am thankful for the character interaction in this game. Most of these characters are fleshed out from their respective games and give to the player much needed enlightenment aside from the gameplay. Characters will interact with each other before and after every other successful battle, and it’s interesting to hear (as well read, since voice acting is all in Japanese) their banter. Unfortunately, and it’ll be a recurring theme, the characters of PxZ will occasionally repeat themselves as you go along the whole game, so it’s likely that you’ll skip those dialogues. And some of these characters come from obscure, possibly never heard of games, like Bruno Dellinger from Dynamite Cop, or Valkyrie from Adventures Of Valkyrie. “But this is a crossover game!,” you might say. “Who cares about story if I can team up MegaMan X & Zero with Heihachi from Tekken and blast fools with fists and go pew pew?” Well, let’s talk about that.
PxZ’s levels are featured on a grid-based plain, using the 3DSs sometimes clunky Circle Pad to maneuver your character(s) to where you want them to go. Like Namco X Capcom and other Super Robot Taisen games, there is no overworld, so after completing one grid-based level, you’ll eventually be taken to another. You can deliberate you character movement, chose to start a battle with an enemy opponent if you are in attack range, hit standby if strategy permits it necessary, use items, and use character skills which uses up your earned XP(not to be confused with EXP, short for experience points).
In battle mode however, the game changes into a 2D plain, and becomes sprite-based nirvana. Every character you control is a two-man team, working together to take down enemies one by one. Battle starts whenever you make an input, where at the beginning pressing A, Left+A, and Right+A on the D-Pad in any order with correct precision, commands your character to perform a flurry of combos per input. Pressing all those commands without repeating will land you an extra attack to extend you combo. Repeating a command before that will shorten your number of attacks to just the amount you have. Solo and Support characters can aid you in combos if available (or equipped for Solo characters), and when added into your team’s combination correctly will freeze your opponent in place creating Cross Hit combos. Cross Hit combos, like your regular combos, will fill your XP bar faster and further from 100%, the max being 150%. And if you happen to have 100% or more in your XP bar, you can use your character team’s special move. When it’s best applied is up to you, as you may need that same XP for your character’s skills before battle to heal or defend yourself and others. In time, as you gain enough experience from each fight, your characters will gain more attacks and skills to use to aid your fight.
From the start, it becomes intriguing to develop your time with your characters. Seeing their attacks, seeing how they work, what’s the best way to apply skills and moves, and being in awe at how the sprite-based movement looks better than most modern 3D games. And seeing characters like Akira & Pai from Virtua Fighter support Jin & Xiaomu from Tekken, or Ryu & Ken from Street Fighter perform combos that might’ve been in EVO at one point, got me giddy. But as time goes on, it just started repeating over and over and over again. My playtime finishing this game was at around 70 hours, and trying to experience the game and rush through it at the same time to make this review was no bueno. And there wasn’t really much of a difficulty to this game. The game chooses to make things harder by just adding more enemies on the screen. Passing on more time of your life through the game just by plowing fields of enemies doesn’t make a game harder, just more annoying, especially when every chapter almost starts in that same manner later in the game.
Its like, “Hey, check out this world.”
And they’re like, “Oh no! Plot device!”
And then you’re like, “We’ll stop it!”
But then the bad guy’s like, “Aha! have a taste of my Filler Plot device!”
So more bad guys pop in.
And you’re like, “Dangit!,” because all of this would be fine, albeit really repetitive, if the story were intriguing enough to pull you in. In fact, it only gets harder at around the 30th chapter and up, where you have to manage your troops, items, and XP more methodically.
Apart from a less than stellar options menu, lacking story, longer than necessary gametime due to said story, a rather abrupt ending with the final boss, and some of the other stuff I didn’t mention like your normal yet almost unnecessary RPG two-pronged equipment system, this game was still fun. Yeah, wouldn’t expect that word out of all this negativity huh?
There are many crossover games out there in Japan, and almost all manage to do pretty well. Sure, they may have the same problems as this game might, and someone whose picking up games for the first time would never touch this. But this was made with the gamer’s fantasies in mind. The gamer that grew up with these characters and games. The gamer that would love to see a grand what-if scenario with these characters. The gamer that just wants to see their favorite character kick butt in a way never portrayed before. For me, I was sold not only by my favorite characters being in this game, but also for the in-game battle system that cemented said reasoning. Even with its faults, I felt a little hole inside me after I was done with the game….even though I’m not touching New Game +.
When all is said and done, I dub this game “Worth A Look,” because if you’re interested in at least the majority of the characters introduced in the box cover or trailers, or you happen to like the flashiness that is the combo system and special finishers, then PxZ might be for you. Those that adore this type of game franchise should definitely go for it and get some heavenly sprite-based ass-kicking goodness.