This week’s marquee 3DS release, Project X Zone is a mash-up celebration of Namco Bandai, Capcom and Sega’s most Japan-centric franchises. Of course, the celebration doesn’t work so well when you haven’t heard of them! Here’s a profile of those protagonists who haven’t made a Stateside appearance.
Riela Marcellis, Imca and Kurt Irving (Valkyria Chronicles III)
Mii Kouryuuji & Kogoro Tenzai
Don’t worry about these two! They’re totally original characters to Project X Zone, meant to be the neutral parties tying everyone together.
“Hey, look, an excuse to talk about Valkyria Chronicles III!,” I said to myself.
The most recent entry in the franchise, it was significantly more popular than VCII was in Japan. It’s unfortunate that characters like Alicia and Welkin weren’t included, but it is what it is.
All three of these characters are members of “The Nameless,” a squad of military rejects operating at the same time as Welkin’s Squad 7. VCIII is a Back to the Future Part 2-like revisiting of the original’s events, with various meanderings here and there. Kurt leads the squad, and is a standoffish overachiever. After being framed for treasonous acts, he’s set with leading the least desirable soldiers into the most dangerous battlefields. Oh, and right: he learns the value of friendship.
Riela is the game’s Valkyria. Or, well, half-Valkyria, for most of the game. (Can’t you see that her hair is half-blue?) She’s in the Nameless because she’s the lone survivor from five consecutive squads, and considered to be involved in some way. (It was actually her supernatural self-healing abilities.) Imca is a Darcsen, and generally keeps to herself even more than Kurt, but she’s suitably fierce. Her village was wiped out by Selvaria and the Empire while she had wandered into the woods, so she’s focused on revenge. Kurt ends up with one of the two by the game’s end.
Sakura Shinguji, Ichiro Ogami, Erica Fontaine (Sakura Wars)
This support character made one Western appearance, but it’s his absence that’s most notable. Dynamite Deka was released in the West As Die Hard Arcade, so the protagonist was replaced by John McClane. (The sequel was just called Dynamite Cop here, with Bruno back in the starring role.)
Those who played Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love will recognize one of the game’s four Sakura Wars characters: Gemini Sunrise. She’s joined by three characters from earlier in the series. The first, Ichiro Ogami, was the playable protagonist of the first four games. (You may have seen him briefly in So Long, My Love; he’s Shinjiro’s uncle and commanding officer.) The important thing to know about him? His decisions were largely up to the player, so mostly you just need to know that he also has a big mech and generally inspires groups of people to save the day.
Sakura Shinguji is the namesake of the series, and is most prominent in the first two Sakura Wars titles. (In some other media, she’s the protagonist, and Ogami is written out almost entirely.) She’s shown up in almost every game since, though, so it’s no surprise at all to see her here. She’s paired with Ogami, as that’s likely the canon pairing in the series. She also has impressive fighting skills and a mech, which generally seems inefficient. Right? If you focused one way or the other, wouldn’t you be more formidable?
Erica Fontaine, the last of the Sakura Wars roster, joined the franchise in the third and fourth games. Set in Paris, those installments had a somewhat different feel than their Japan-based predecessors. As a friend pointed out, this is all you really need to know about Erica Fontaine. (Not kidding. It’s actually one of her special moves.)
All of these characters are used to tactical turn-based strategy, so their movesets aren’t exactly a stretch.
Reiji Arisu, Xiaomu and Saya (Namco X Capcom)
This character originated in a Japan-only PS2 visual novel, but it’s the anime adaptation that’s most popular. Yumeria was licensed and picked up for Western distribution, and featured this cat-girl-at-heart in a supporting role.
The PS2’s Namco X Capcom is basically this game’s spiritual predecessor, and it also had its original characters to tie everything together. Reiji wields both swords and guns in his fight to avenge his father. Crazy fox-god girl Xiaomu is almost 800 years old and was Reiji’s dad’s investigating partner, but she flirts a lot with Reiji anyway. It’s strange.
Reiji and Xiaomu serve as the game’s protagonists in the struggle against fellow fox-diety Saya and her rival organization. Now, at least eventually, Saya reluctantly helps the good guys in this even-more-disjointed struggle.
Valkyrie (Valkyrie no Boken)
Remember the Famicom classic Valkyrie no Boken? Of course you don’t. It was Namco’s take on the Zelda-style top-down adventure, starring Valkyrie on her quest to save Marvel Land from darkness. The one biggest difference between the original Zelda and Valkyrie is a scrolling world. We don’t know much about her, as the game was incredibly light on text. In that way, she’s a female analog of Link: a silent vessel to contain the values and personality of the player.
An arcade/PC Engine sequel saw her return with co-op help from an ally, but she was absent from the third and final game, a prequel on the SNES. Even so, Valkyrie has lived a long life through occasional cameo appearances ever since. There are references in many Tales games, and costume options in Soul Calibur II and III. In Project X Zone, she’s once again a cameo, filling one of the last few spots on the support roster.
Of course, even with these primers, you may get lost in the world of Project X Zone. It’s full of the weirdest properties, from Resonance of Fate to Shining Force EXA to Endless Frontier and more. But for those who’ve played the games, it’s a particularly special, unlikely treat to see them back in action.