Review: Project X Zone (Nintendo 3DS)
Project X Zone is video game fan service of the highest order, collecting over 200 characters from more than 20 different franchises and throwing them together.
A handful of the most iconic game series’ from top Japanese companies Namco Bandai, Sega and Capcom are all represented, and the result is a hectic, over-the-top experience any Nintendo 3DS owner just as to see for themselves.
The context for this monolith crossover is an incredibly muddled, over-written and utterly convoluted story which certainly won’t be winning any best-writing awards anytime soon. The basic gist is as follows.
Something called a portal stone is stolen, which causes a whole mess of trouble when rips to other worlds begin to pop up all over the shop. Original characters Mii Kouryuuji and Kogoro Tenzai set out to find out who’s behind the robbery, only to be sucked into a whole mess of inter-dimensional battles between heroes and villains from a bevy of different game franchises (Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Shining Force EXA, Xenosaga and Sakura Wars just to name a few).
Of course, the story is much, much more involved that this, though at the end of the day you really won’t be paying it much mind at all. After all, it simply acts as the vehicle to bring all these characters together in a believable (and I use that loosely) fashion. This isn’t to say it’s not enjoyable. Fans of each respective franchise will love, even giggle, at, the bevy of subtle reference peppered throughout. And really, isn’t that what’s important?
For how convoluted the story is, events thankfully move along at a rather steady pace and cover quite a lot of ground quickly. It’s this quick succession of events which keeps you hooked in, despite you not having much of an idea what’s going on. But that’s okay, because the real focus in Project X Zone is the crazy-amazing gameplay.
Though just like the story, gameplay can be equally as confusing at first. So, stay with me.
Gameplay is framed using a grid-based setup, and employs a turn system where you can either move your selected character ‘unit’ (or, pair unit) around a certain number of grids or attack an enemy unit. Still with me? Okay, so unit pairs are made up of two character, with the option of adding a ‘solo unit’, a single character who can aid you in battle whenever required. You can also call in ‘Support Attacks’ from nearby unit pairs during battle, meaning up to five character will be on-screen beating the life out of a single enemy.
As for actual battles, you shift away from the grid-system to a side-on screen where you’re free to input a button command to execute a number of stylish attacks. Attacks can range from standard, to crazy special attacks which use up a unit pair’s XP (Cross Power – which is filled by attacking enemies). It’s during battles the sprite-based visuals really shine brightest, with a huge amount of chaotic, over-the-top action taking place – especially when you’ve got a unit pair, a solo unit and a support attack all going at once.
For how complex Project X Zone‘s gameplay can be, the game does its best to teach you everything you need to know. But really, you’re simply better off just carefully paying attention for the first few hours until you’re intimate with the inner-workings of how it all works.
And really, you’ll have ample time to get acquainted with the gameplay mechanics as Project X Zone is by no means a short game, especially with many of the game’s stages (chapters) being more than an hour long. Though it’s not the overly long stages that’s the issue here, it’s the same formulaic setup of each and the sometimes unnecessary amount of enemies you’ll need to pummel just to advance to the next chapter. Luckily, gameplay is hugely addictive and so even if you find yourself groaning about a number of issues, you’ll still find the core experience enjoyable.
As mentioned above, Project X Zone heavily uses sprites in place of 3D character models. This is totally cool, and for a game of its nature is the perfect visual style, especially given the over-the-top action that takes place. There are, of course, more “realistic” portrayals of the characters during cutscenes and the like – where most of the female characters are shown to be presumptuous.
The soundtrack is a mash up of a number of iconic game tunes, from Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Tales of Vesperia, Mega Man X, Street Fighter and loads more. This is of course an extension of the fan service Project X Zone serves up in droves, providing a thick layer of icing to the already sweet cake its baked for fans of these Namco Bandai, Capcom and Sega franchises.
With so many characters, all from totally different franchises, thrown into the mix there was a lot of potential for Project X Zone to fail.
Thankfully, and for whatever reason, the game stands tall and delivers a thoroughly addictive experience, loaded to the teeth with a huge helping of fan service.