Review: Project X Zone

How does one start a review of a game that has over 25 main characters, scores of enemies and pretty much any and all references to game series from the NES era to modern day?

Seriously, how do you start a review for a game this insane? A game that somehow manages to get over 20 series combined into a single game. A game that boasts a HUGE character roster and yet still leaves out key people. A game that has a plot that takes “making it up as we go along” to new levels. The only way I can start this off is by basically saying that Project X Zone is what happens when you let fanfic writers create a game*

Project X ZoneProject X Zone is a pseudo-sequel to Namco x Capcom, a game that threw together characters from some of Namco and Capcom’s biggest franchises. Only this time, we have the addition of a hoard of Sega stars to throw into the mix. This game is a collaboration between the three companies in a game that, to be honest, never expected to leave Japan. However, given the sheer…uniqueness of it, it gathered enough interest abroad that it was eventually released internationally.

The game is a turn based strategy/action hybrid, with shades of RPGs and a little madness. How can it not be when you have Tron from Mega Man Legends existing in the same game as Ulala from Space Channel 5 or Yuri from Tales of Vesperia. But, I digress. The game says it’s a strategy, but plays more like a more child friendly version of Fire Emblem, where it doesn’t matter if a unit is KO’ed or even where they are. What matters is if you survive both the mission and the sheer brain-melting insanity of the game.

The plot… Good grief, the plot. What plot? It is pretty much a series of events thrown together in such a way that it kinda makes a story. However, in a nutshell it is as follows. In it, a shadowy organisation has stolen a mystical MacGuffin** that allows world dimensions to slowly collide with each other and cause major problems to the people within them. At the same time, they are targeting a cheerleader and her bodyguard (the original owner of said MacGuffin) as well as pretty much anyone they can find. And, well to cut a long story short, they meet a demon hunter, a succubus, a knight, some princesses, many people with swords, avatars from a video game, Street Fighters, robots and Frank West***.

The game boasts over 40 missions; of which you’ll be doing the same thing: survive the many enemies that’ll be thrown at you whilst preventing key people for that mission being killed, or getting to specific points on the map. Your team is comprised up of units of two fighters, who can also have a third support unit assigned to it for extra damage and bonus attributes. Upon a unit’s turn, you can move them to an enemy unit to attack (using combos and bonuses to try and inflict as much damage as possible), use an item, or spend your magic-like XP (NOT experience, as that’s called EXP in this game) for skills or defence. If any unit hits 0 HP, that unit is out of action, and you’ll need to revive them via an item or by spending XP.

Attacking is split into your main attacks (using the D-Pad and A buttons) and sub-attacks (with only activate if you have a third party member or if you’re near another unit. Or more than likely; both). You start off with only 3 main attacks, but you can grab more as you level up. And you’ll need them, as the enemies can hit hard in the latter stages of the game. But unlike other games, it pays to vary your attacks, as it can gift you an extra attack. This is ideal for inflicting stat penalties or to get the last XP to unleash your ultra-move. Each unit has their own one, often combining the signature move from the characters in that unit. This keeps combat from getting stale, but doesn’t stop it from being a little basic.

You can also do traditional RPG actions too in-between the movement of your units. You can use an item (of which you can only carry 20 of a specific brand of item at a time) or spend XP to perform a special action. This can allow you an extra attack, or to increase your movement by a set number of squares. These are always useful, but they have the caveat of not only reducing the likelihood of unleashing a super move, but it also prevents you from spending XP to either reduce damage, perform a counter or even null all damage on an opponent’s turn. So you do have to think ahead as to if it is wise to spend XP or to hoard it for a future attack. This is a very clever way to preventing you from spending XP all the time, especially on the more insane maps. The only thing is that these sections of the game have less than intuitive controls. The isometric viewpoint is sometimes a hindrance, and it is so here. You’re never 100% sure if your cursor is going the right way. Combined with some subject button choices for menus, and it can cause some frustration.

What is apparent is that the missions go very over the top very quickly. Which to the games credit, it does very, very well. Enemy units warp in and out seemingly at random, with boss units appearing in nearly every mission at the most inappropriate times. It’s lucky that you can exploit a few things to make this experience go better. Combos with other units can be given if a unit is next to another one, and spending XP can allow you to perform super or area attacks. Conversely, bosses can also readily use these special attacks too, so best stock up on all those powerful healing potions and such.

One thing the game does really well is the mix of styles from all three companies. There are enough tunes from each game series to keep everyone entertained, and it can be a case of nostalgia for some of the more classic themes. However, the clips they use are over so quickly, it never says consistent. You see; different tracks play depending on which unit is currently active. So you might switch from Street Fighter to Sakura Wars, and then to Ghouls and Goblins. It can get very disorientating and it stops the game really using the very well orchestrated pieces to their full advantage.

But, I’m being really picky about these flaws. Project X Zone is a love letter to Namco, Sega and Capcom, involving series past (Sakura Wars) and present (Tekken). From titles that have many years left in the tank (Devil May Cry****) to titles that their parent company believe have no future*****. It’s so much fun and there is a lot of joy that is evident. It seems like it is made by fans for fans, and to be frank, it is a game any fan of Namco, Capcom or Sega should play.

Overall, this is a game that knows full well that it’s a ridiculous concept and not only runs with it, but also manages to win gold medals and break numerous world records. It’s stupid. It’s repetitive. It lacks any form of deep strategy whatsoever. But those same things make it a highly playable game. It knows the flaws it has, and manages to set up the game in such a way that you don’t notice it often. It’s not a perfect game by a long shot, but it’s a solid game that has a lot to offer. So long as you leave your brain by the door with your copy of Fire Emblem Awakening.

A beautiful looking game full of life and energy. Monsters are well designed, if a bit generic at times.
3.5
There are some really good tracks here from the classic games, but they can get a little repetitive. The fact that they are also played so shortly and so randomly does make it jarring at times too.
3.5
Responsive (albeit limited) controls during the action stages, but could be a little better with the menus and character controls. But it’s nothing that you won’t get used to very quickly.
3.0
A solid length of a game with a couple of extra things available once you clear it. Whether you’ll want to, given the madness that happened in the game, is another matter entirely…
3.0
An interesting and unique game that’ll keep your interest going for as long as the insanity prevails.
3.5

 

* Albeit pretty good ones

** A plot item that pretty much has no purpose other than to drive the plot forward

*** Ladies and gentlemen; I think we can call this “Operation WTF”

**** Or as it’s now called; Bayonetta

***** I’ll give you three guesses as to which blue robot series I’m on about here…

 

T.A Black

Author: T.A Black

Currently LMC's resident reviewer, I also take a huge interest in anything from Nintendo to Square-Enix, and beyond. My interests are certainly random, as are the games I review and enjoy.

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