Project X Zone (3DS) Game Review
Project X Zone is a notable title because it is possibly one of the biggest game crossovers ever. It was a collaboration between Bandai Namco, Capcom, and Sega. I only just found about this game last week while looking around on the 3DS virtual store.
I saw Megaman X on the cover and immediately checked it out and downloaded the demo. When I asked people about it, they had either never heard of it or thought it was a fighting game since they are the most common crossover titles. Once I started playing the demo I quickly learned this was not a fighting game but rather a tactical strategy RPG. While RPGs have been big in the US for over the past decade, Japanese strategy RPGs have not really been that big. Which is why it is rather surprising that this game saw an international release at all.
After the playing the demo, I was hooked and went out to Gamestop and picked up a copy and was able to get the limited edition, which came with an art book, mini-poster, and soundtrack. Playing through the actual game has been full of ups and downs for me and sadly, it ends with a down. This has been an odd experience as many things that I usually find to be positives in games these days are negatives in this game. But it’s not all bad. Let’s take a closer look.
Mii Koryuji, a fiery young girl of the Koryuji clan in Japan, has hired the help of the suave detective Kogoro Tenzai to help investigate the disappearance of a mysterious rock known as the Portal Stone that has been guarded by her family for ages. They are unable to find anything till some strange creatures appear in their garden. They battle them off only to have a portal from in the garden’s fountain and send them into another time and place. Similar portals start opening up in other worlds, dimensions, and time periods sucking some of our favorite game characters head long into meeting each other. As they gradually team up and try to discover why this is happening, they learn many of their arch villains have a hand in this escalating mystery.
From there, the story is like trying to explain quantum physics in 30 seconds… in fact; some of it is quantum physics. As in any crossover story, it has a crazy plot in order to get all of these characters together but that is the main attraction to this game. It is a who’s who from the Namco, Capcom, Sega universes.
You’ll play as and see characters from Street Fighter, Tekken, Darkstalkers, Dead Rising, God Eater, Endless Frontier, Sakura Wars, Resonance of Fate, .Hack, Devil May Cry, Xenosaga, Megaman X, Virtua Fighter, Resident Evil, Valkyria Chronicles, Tales of Vesperia, and many more plus cameos and references to other characters and franchises.
Sadly, it’s only humanoid characters that make the cut. No Sonic the Hedgehog or Pac-Man, though it is disappointing to not see Bayonetta in the lineup since she’s technically under the Sega label. The majority of the story is given through conversations between the characters as they go from world to world trying to figure out what is going on. What’s great about the story is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously all the time. In fact, many of the characters point out just how ridiculous this plot is. There are a lot of tongue-in-cheek in jokes that fans of these game series will probably grab and find hilarious. One example is Chris Redfield making a joke out of the infamous ‘Jill Sandwich’ line from the Resident Evil remake, to which Jill replies with ‘Oh, cram it!’ There is another line that makes reference to Rainbow Road from Mario Kart. In another line, Ken from Street Fighter sarcastically points out that Seth from S.I.N. is trust worthy and ‘not RIDICULOUSLY OBVIOUSLY EVIL or anything.’ The dialogue is surprisingly witty and well translated. By the way, I hope you enjoy reading because you’ll be doing a lot of it in this game. Don’t think that the game’s self-referential humor is the only good thing about the story. There are some surprisingly epic parts and powerful moments in the game.
That said, we come to one of the game’s biggest faults: this is a very long game, a little TOO long.
This is odd since I usually complain about games these days being too short. Project X Zone has over 40 chapters and from start to finish it rubs between 55 to over 60 hours. Maybe I’m just too conditioned to the average 6 to 10 hour length you see in most games these days? But this game’s length does lead to two big problems: First problem is that many of these chapters really just feel like filler and takes forever for anything of true significance to happen. They seriously could have cut some of these chapters out of the game and it wouldn’t have affected the story at all. More than once I thought I was nearing the end of the game when it turned out I was far from it and it just kept going. Each chapter lasts from 20 minutes to 2 hours depending how the battles play out. By the way, if you’re expecting to see X and Zero, you’ll have to wait till about 20 hours into the game before seeing them. The other big problem with the game’s length I will cover in gameplay.
The gameplay of Project X Zone starts out stupid easy but as the difficulty ramps up it becomes very strategic and addicting. The actually gameplay can be broken up into two sections: board movement and combat. You move your teams around the board like a grid. Each team has different walking ranges and attack ranges. To engage enemies you simply walk up to them and attack, however, it is smart to try and position yourself with another nearby team so they can help in the fight. Some boards have items and breakable objects around that you can collect but that’s the extent of exploration in this game. Remember, this is a tactical RPG, not an adventure RPG. On the board overview you can pull up items which will be your life blood in this game, view enemy stats and your own, whoever’s team you have selected set of skills, and quick save. Be aware that this game does not have autosave. You can save between chapters and quick save whenever it is your turn. If you’re the cautious type of player, you’ll probably be saving each turn you get. But if you’re careless this can lead to a sudden game over and there are no continues. Whatever your last save point was, that is where you’ll pick back up. You have set requirements for winning and failing during each chapter. This usually requires defeating all the enemies or a boss but sometimes requires you to complete a certain task before a certain number turn is reached. The requirements for failure are something you should pay attention to as sometimes it will require you to keep a certain team alive. If they die, it’s game over so keep that in mind.
Combat can be both really simple and very strategic.
When you enter the fight screen you have a limited amount of times you can strike your enemy. This is represented by a red segmented bar under the blue XP power gauge. It starts at 2 but eventually becomes 6 segments as you level up. The attacks are listed on the bottom screen and preformed with simple combinations of the A button and D pad plus Y being your ultimate attack move which is a necessity for taking out bosses. You use your XP gauge for ultimate attacks, special skills on the overview screen, and how to handle attacking enemies on the over screen. You can fill it up from fighting or by using special items. Each team gets a solo member who can be called in with the L button and if you’re positioned near another team, you can call them in as support with the R button. The key is to maximize the amount of damage to an enemy by the end of a turn. This does require timing as enemies will bounce and fly around as you beat the crap out of them and this can lead to misses if you’re not timing your attacks well. And that’s about it for the gameplay. Like I said, it starts out very easy and repetitive but as the difficulty increases; it becomes much more strategic, addicting, and fun. Pulling off these coordinated attacks becomes extremely satisfying.
However, this is where the game’s length becomes a boon to the gameplay.
There just isn’t enough variation in the gameplay to warrant such a long game length.
If there was actual exploring to be done in this game, it would be a different story but there isn’t. You also find yourself fighting the same bosses and enemies over and over and over again. The boss fights are not easy either. They will require you to attack with multiple teams, multiple times using their ultimate attack powers. It gets annoying having the face the same bad guy repeatedly even after you ‘officially’ killed them. The challenge is balanced well throughout the game up until the last boss when things become insanely and almost unfairly hard as he can take out multiple teams with one hit and throws every boss in the game at you at the same time. Have mercy, Japan! It feels like a grind making it to the end and like I said, it really didn’t need to be this long or have all these chapters. The cartridge space could have been better used for unlockables and/or a multiplayer type mode which is something I never thought I’d say. There is zero content outside of the main game and it is sorely missing extra content and hurt by a gameplay time that over stays it’s welcome.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND:
For those who grew up during the 16-bit age, you will probably find the sprites used in the game to be awesome. They are animated very well, especially when attacking which leads to a flurry of action on the screen with lots of flashes of light and explosions in an anime style like assault on your enemies.
The ultimate attack animations are a lot of fun to watch as your characters unleash punishing and well animated attacks on your foes.
The enemies are also nicely designed though are less animated. Many of them come from various games from the franchises featured in this game. The opening cut scene appears to have been animated by Gainax and has a very Gurren Lagann feel to it. The cell drawn stills of characters that appear during dialogue scenes are very well drawn and give the characters lots of personality with different stills for different emotions. However, I will point out that this is a lot fan service in this game with many of the female characters showing off cleavage or their butts in some way in these stills. Granted, many of them were already full of fan service with the way they dress in the games they come from but the artists went out of the way to get boob and ass shots for some of these girls. Stay classy, Japan.
The music in the game is just awesome. It has a lot of covers of themes from various games featured as well as some great original music that makes this game feel like an RPG classic from the SNES days and gives it a lot of charm. The Devil May Cry, Street Fighter, and Megaman X tunes always get me pumped for battle but the song Stairs of Time from .Hack takes the cake for best song on the soundtrack. It is absolutely gorgeous. All of the voicing in the game is in Japanese which leads me to think that releasing this game to an international market was an 11th hour decision and there was no time to find English voice actors which is fine. The Japanese voice actors do a good job and I only assume they have their respective talents reprising their roles.
Overall, Project X Zone is an interesting game with some big flaws that some might be easier for some to over look while others might get easily get bored with in within a few hours. For me, the game does a have a lot of charm to it and some might find the charm as well, especially if they are big fans of the franchises featured in this game and are fans of old school J-RPGs. If it wasn’t for the game’s extremely long length and lack of any real game variation, it would be getting a much higher score from me. If you’re curious about this game, I highly recommend playing the demos on the 3DS shop and if you still like it, go for it. I don’t recommend paying full price for this though. I got it for $17 but that was after a few trade ins. Thanks for reading! Look out for my upcoming summer review of Catherine. Also, unless I find it for a super low price or someone donates it to me; I will not be reviewing Deadpool. You’ll have to look elsewhere for a Deadpool review.
- Strategic and addictive gameplay
- Beautiful art and soundtrack
- Really cool seeing all these characters together
- Lacks gameplay variation to support the game’s length
- Sorely missing a multiplayer or extra content
- Over uses the same bosses over and over