Title: Project X Zone
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Do you remember Namco X Capcom? If you don’t, I don’t blame you. Released as a crossover between two giant game developers for the PS2, it was never officially released outside of Japan, leaving non-Japanese fans looking wistfully over the border.
Project X Zone is something of a partial sequel to Namco X Capcom, that luckily got localized. It wouldn’t be wrong to call it Namco X Capcom X Sega, because that’s what it is. These three favourite developers take a bunch of their characters and throw them together into a game where the lines between the video game characters’ worlds are blurring after the theft of the Portalstone, a mysterious stone containing mysterious powers which have always remained a mystery, is stolen from the Koryuji mansion.
Characters from franchises such as Tekken, Devil May Cry, Resident Evil, Virtua Fighter, Sakura Wars, and my favourite, Valkyria Chronicles are hurled into each others’ worlds and have to find a way back to their own worlds. Characters from Namco X Capcom and Endless Frontier also make return appearances, and there are characters from lesser-known games such as Yumeria and Zombie Revenge as well. There are two original protagonist characters: Mii Koryuji and Kogoro Tenzai, and a group of original antagonists called Oros Phlox. The huge cast is impressive and most of the characters are instantly familiar and likeable. The developers went out of their way to make sure these characters came from different games – their combos and moves from their original games are their attacks in this game; recognizing their moves is satisfying in itself.
Project X Zone is an SPRG, but it is a lot more accessible for those who aren’t familiar with such games. You can move around as much as you want or use items without using up your character’s whole turn. There is no ‘player phase’ or ‘enemy phase’ in this game – characters move according to their Speed/SPD attribute, so characters with higher SPD get to move first; considering the huge amount of enemies there are in the levels this way works well so it doesn’t get frustrating because the AI doesn’t get to move all its characters at once. Once you’re within range of an enemy, you press A to engage them in battle. Unlike simpler SPRGs, you control attacks directly. Using the Circle Pad/D-Pad and the A button, you attack your enemy until the number of attacks you have runs out. You start out with three attacks at the start of the game, plus a special attack. As characters level up they learn more attacks and a multi-attacks which lets you deal damage to multiple enemies at once.
You can have five characters attacking an enemy at once: two that are always there, and then two sets of assists – Solo Units and Support Units. Solo Units are single characters that are placed with other character pairs and can assist them in battle by pressing the L button, which Support Units are character pairs standing near your characters when you attack and can be summoned by the R button to assist you. If your characters and their assists hit an enemy at exactly the same time, a Cross Hit occurs, which deals slightly more damage and causes the enemy to be frozen in mid-air allowing you to chain your hits without fear of missing or breaking up your combo.
Project X Zone substitutes the MP/SP gauges for an XP gauge which allows you to use skills that up your stats or heal you, or when it is at least 100% full, allows you to use a Special Attack for massive damage. The XP gauge can usually only be filled up to 100%, but Cross Hits can fill it up to 150%.
Project X Zone goes a long way to show how much the 3DS can handle on screen.
Boss characters have an EP gauge, which is their own XP gauge, and can also execute special attacks. Other enemy characters do have EP gauges but can’t execute special attacks. If an enemy attacks you, you can use your XP for countering (which lets you land a few attacks of your own on them), defending (which lessens the HP you lose), and using Full Defend, which uses 60% of your XP in exchange for you not taking any damage. Player and enemy characters alike can cause four status ailments: Bind (which only happens to player characters making them unable to use items or skills), Down, Stun and Poison.
The graphics may not impress those who were looking for highly detailed 2D visuals and the like. That’s because the game forgoes detailed graphics for an art style resembling Metal Slug: a dot pixel animation for the characters that is endearing to look at. The 2D cut-ins for special attacks and assist attacks look brilliant. The battles are fast and flashy and really show how much the 3DS can handle on screen. The 3D environments are also not very detailed, but still look good. A lot of the environments are taken from the characters’ worlds, so recognizing areas and having the characters confirm it is a small joy as well. Just about the only thing to criticize is the lack of animations on the battle map for enemy characters.
The game takes music from the franchises it took the characters from, with the result that the soundtrack in this game cannot be disliked by anyone who likes video games. Just like the characters and the attacks, it’s satisfying recognizing music from the franchises you love. The voices are in Japanese, which is good or bad depending on your own preference.
All in all, Project X Zone is awesome. It’s fun, humorous and satisfying. There is fan service in the game, of course, but it treats it as fan service and not the major part of the game. The game takes around 50 hours to complete, which is the right length for an SRPG. There aren’t any extras apart from being able to listen to the game’s soundtrack after beating it the first time, which is slightly disappointing for a crossover as huge as this, but it is after all an SRPG. Whether you play it for the crossover cast or as just another RPG, Project X Zone is fun, funny and overall excellent.
Overall Score: 9/10