Project X Zone‘s international release was a pipe dream. Considering Namco Bandai’s previous entry (Namco X Capcom) never made its way to the States, it was reasonable to think the same of this increasingly-rights-tangled successor. Surprisingly enough, the game has been released outside of Japan, and the fans rejoiced. However, would Namco Bandai be able to handle localizing all the material in a way that made sense?
While the crossover is nice, it occasionally leaves more to be desired.
Project X Zone, at its core, is probably one of the most fanservice-filled games I’ve ever played. Capcom, Namco Bandai and Sega took some of their characters and tossed them in a salad bowl of mixed greens and veggies. While the flavor is a little forced, they still make a reasonable meal to eat up. The story: a Portalstone is stolen, and Kogoro and Mii, the game’s original characters, enlist the help of the various crossover characters to get it back. As the story progresses, it grows needlessly complex. To make matters worse, several characters in this game are from games that haven’t seen an international release or are from obscure games that people have probably never heard of. You can check the in-game Crosspedia to fill in the gaps, but you may want to check out our guide to the import-only characters first.
Despite the lack of a compelling story, the dialogue between characters is done surprisingly well. The game pulls out every stop, making sure you can at least enjoy the characters even if you can’t necessarily follow the story (to be fair, neither can the characters themselves!). The game itself is a tactical RPG, in which characters move along a grid to attack enemies. Unlike most tactical games, this one is much more action-oriented, as timing of attacks and deciding which ones to use in sequence is important.
One of the important aspects of battle is the EX bar. On offense, it’s used to build meter for a powerful special attack. On defense, it plays its most important role of how to handle your opponents, from either countering or defending (by taking away a fifth of your EX bar) to completely negating the attack (by using three-fifths of the bar). The maximum you can reach with EX bar is 150%, but that can only be achieved when teaming up with other pairs in range of the target or attacking with a solo unit.
To help streamline the gameplay for PxZ, each chapter follows a simple formula: characters are dropped into a setting, then suddenly there’s a wave of monsters that come out of nowhere. Take a turn, and suddenly more enemies appear, but another set of roster characters appear for your own team. Beat enemies, and repeat the process in the following chapter. Occasionally, there will be some sort of win condition needed to clear the chapter. While the game lacks a little variety as far as chapter progression goes, the chaos of battle never seems to lose its luster.
The game’s spritework in-battle is top-notch and incredibly fun to watch, as each character is individually animated and seems to flow on-screen as the fighting takes place. The animation reaches a high point when pairs pull off their specials, where the game blends the spritework and hand-drawn animation sequences. Each character pair has their own unique sequence, so watching them becomes a treat.
Project X Zone falls into a unique territory. I’ll never be able to follow the plot no matter how hard I try, but seeing a bunch of my favorite characters collectively in one action-packed game seems to be enough for me. If you can forgive the story and enjoy the battle mechanics, you’ll probably have a lot of fun with this game as a whole.
Pros: Tons of characters, fun battle sequences, amazing graphics, top-notch writing
Cons: Confusing story, chapter formula grows stale quickly