Project X Zone is a game that, by all accounts, should not have released in the US. It basically involves three of the biggest third parties in Japan- Capcom, Sega, and Namco Bandai- collaborating on a game for a Nintendo platform made by one of the latter’s own subsidiaries, using reams of characters and materials many of which never made it over stateside. The fact that it exists, and the fact that we got to play it, is a big deal to begin with. It also helps that the game, crazy as it is, is incredibly fun and one of the most bizarre (in a good way!) games on Nintendo’s handheld at the moment.
Nothing exemplifies this as well as the combat system. Project X Zone would describe itself as a tactical RPG- an SRPG in the wake of this year’s brilliant Fire Emblem: Awakening– but it’s actually a far cry from that game’s slow, methodical pace. Unlike Fire Emblem, or other tactical strategy based games, where placement of units is key, and the outcome of each encounter is determined using cold, hard stats for each combatant, Project X Zone throws you into combat, expecting you to fight your way out of each encounter.
Yes, you still move around a grid based map, but once combat is initiated, you have to actually fight, inputting commands. While you can always try to button mash your way out of an encounter- and sadly enough, that remains a viable strategy for a good chunk of the game- actually timing your commands and executing paired combos properly nets you bonuses like extra experience, so it is always recommended, even if not necessitated by the game itself.
Where Project X Zone lacks the slow and methodical strategy of other SRPGs, it does involve some unlikely strategic planning in the form of some resource management. No, you don’t have to collect resources like you would in an RTS. Instead, there is something called an EX bar, which is necessary to perform crucial actions in combat.
Things like blocking, healing, and moving beyond the predicated range for your character all use up your EX bar, so you need to actually plan ahead- would you rather use it to heal an ally this turn, or use it to move further next turn and take out an enemy? It’s some quick, on the feet thinking, but it adds necessary depth to the gameplay, and it also adds an incentive to actually try and battle properly.
Of course, not all is shiny and peachy with the game; for example, the story never quite works. I guess that’s a fallout of the game being what it is though. We are talking of over sixty characters from multiple different franchises from three completely different, disparate video game franchises made at different periods in gaming history.
There was no way such a crossover would work from a narrative perspective, and, well, it doesn’t. The story in Project X Zone, whatever there is of it, is absolutely nonsensical, and frenetic without justification. It moves from one major development to another without attempting to explain anything that happens or make any sense, and after a while, you just stop caring; you’d probably have better luck trying to understand what went on in the Subspace Emissary.
Thankfully, the story really is the only crack in the otherwise shining coat of paint this game presents us with, and even there, it does attempt it attempts to make it easier for us to at least keep track of all the characters (if not in context of their motivations and their place within the story) via something it calls a CrossPedia, an in game compendium of each character, and the franchises they come from. It’s great fan service, and the game is perhaps worth the price just for that alone. It is clear that the developers really did care about all the franchises and characters that they decided to throw together.
Indeed, fan service permeates everything about this game. In addition to the game’s very existence, and he CrossPedia, every character is self referential, and makes quips about himself, and the franchise he comes from. If you have had any investment at all in a few of these franchises that came together in this game, Project X Zone is going to be a treat for you.
And even if you didn’t, it’s fun to play it simply because of how bizarrely chaotic the game can get. Project X Zone is a wonderful, wonderful experience, an SRPG unlike any other, a crossover so unlikely that it’s a miracle they managed to get it all together to begin with. It’s not the best game on the 3DS, it’s not even the best game in its genre on the 3DS, but it is one of the more unique ones, and giving it a spin is definitely recommended for any and all fans of any of the franchises that are represented within it.
This game was reviewed on the 3DS.