Chances are if you own a Nintendo 3DS, you know of Project X Zone. The big collaboration title got a massive following when it was announced for release in Japan, and similarly to Xenoblade Chronicles or Pandora’s Tower, hoards of fans begged for it to be brought over to the west. Well their cries were heard and their wishes granted, for Project X Zone has breached our shores for about a month now, so the question on your mind may be: “Is it really worth it?”
The story follows a cast of characters whose size would make the Game of Thrones cast look like as small dog, and that’s before R.R.Martin wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. The cast is comprised of characters from across numerous series owned by Bandai Namco, Capcom, and Sega, some of which never even made it stateside. As with many cross over games, the story REALLY follows a handful of original characters designed solely for the game, in this case it’s Kogoro Tenzai and Mii Koryuji. Mii is a cheerleader and youngest member of a rich family, and Kogoro is her tutor/private detective/ninja…yeah, I couldn’t make that up if I tried. A treasure of the Koryuji family, the Portalstone, has been stolen, and due to it worlds from across space and time, reality and virtual reality, are crashing together. Allies and Villains alike clash in a battle for the stability of the multiverse. Needless to say, the story isn’t the strong point of this game. It’s hardly enticing and really only picks up in the later chapters of the game, I didn’t find myself caring until 10 chapters away from the end, and only then I was wondering what the non-original villains were up to. And with a lackluster story comes similarly lackluster writing, while it’s still better than most of the fanfiction universe (a place where something like this would seem to fit right at home) and the entirety of the Twilight series, it still leaves much to be desired. Gratefully all the established characters talk and act similarly to how they would in their own series, and there are a number of little nods to their respective games. For example, when ever Frank West encounters a new, female character that is, how should we say, top heavy, he snaps a picture of her and the “Erotic!” label from the Dead Rising game will pop up over the female.
The battle system is really where the game shines. Project X Zone is a Strategy RPG with a battle system that focuses heavily on combos and special attacks. Each playable character is divided into pairs of two, such as X and Zero from Megaman X, Chris and Jill from Resident Evil, and Dante and Demitri Maximoff from Devil May Cry/DarkStalkers. Along with these pairs are solo units which you can group up with your pair units, and while you can’t control these solo units directly, you can summon them to deal extra damage and extend your combos. Examples of solo units include Tron Bonne from Megaman Legends, Ulala from Space Channel 5, and Totally-Not-Bruce-Willis Bruno Delinger (PS. It’s totally Bruce Willis). Battles are separated into two “phases”, there’s the over-world and the battle screen. In the over-world you have an isometric view of the whole battle field, where you’ll be able to see all enemy and ally placements. Everyone moves on a grid based system within a pre-determined range, and can attack any unit within a pre-determined attack range. When an enemy unit attacks one of your characters, you can expend some of their XP to either lessen the damage done to you, or counter your opponent with some attacks in exchange for taking full damage. When you choose to attack an enemy, your current active unit and any solo unit paired with them are pulled into battle, also, if you’re standing next to another pair unit, you can summon them into battle as well to extend your combo and deal more damage. The battle screen is set up on a 2D view similar to most fighting games, with the enemy on the left side of the screen and your controlled unit on the right. By using any combination of a directional button and the a button, you can unleash one of 5 attacks against your enemy, building up XP as you do so. If you use all of your available moves once, you’ll be granted an extra attack, so once your full array of attacks is available you can perform a maximum of 6 attacks. By pressing L or R you can bring in the solo or extra pair unit to attack, and if you land an attack at the same time as them you’ll perform a X-Attack. Once activated, your opponent freezes in place and you generate more XP than usual. Once your XP is 100% or greater you may press the Y button to perform a unique special attack which will do massive damage to your opponent. I absolutely love this battle system, it’s very similar to the system in a DS game by the name of Super Robot Taisen OG Saga Endless Frontier (in fact, some of the characters from that game make it into Project X Zone). However, as much as I can praise the battle system, it still doesn’t shine as much as one would hope.
The game offers very little in terms of difficulty, and reaches more the realms of frustration. Never was I really challenged by the difficulty of an enemy, since their all pretty much the same through out the game, just with scaled health and damage output. Most normal enemies can be taken out easily single battle with proper combo management (and some even improper combo management), while bosses are just a matter of ganging up on them with super attacks. Often you’ll start a level feeling as if there’s a proper amount of challenge, then three turns in the field will be swarmed by new enemies and bosses, often surrounding your current units and putting your team at risk. Even with that however I only ever lost a unit maybe three times, the cause of which being me just neglecting their health. When a unit loses all it’s health, it’s simply out for the rest of level and will be back in fighting shape next level, so there’s no fear of perma-death like in some other strategy games. Item management is also not a big issue, while I often felt as if I didn’t have enough of the items that heal greater amounts of my health/XP, I never found myself in a situation where I needed an item I didn’t have. Combine this with the bad story and lack luster writing, it doesn’t lead to a very favorable start. All in all the game is decent enough, in my eyes, but it’s not something I would recommend to everyone. If you really like the characters, then you should probably wait till it’s on sale before you pick it up, at least 50% off. If nothing really turns you on about the game, but you still might pick it up, wait until you can get it REALLY cheap, otherwise you’ll probably feel as if you wasted your money. I give Project X Zone for the Nintendo 3DS, a NUReviews rating of 3 stars.