Project X Zone 2
The original Project X (pronounced Cross) Zone brought together the worlds of Namco, Capcom, and Sega in an action and tactical RPG mashup. It followed up on the gameplay style that debuted with the PS2 Japan-only Namco X Capcom, only it gave the franchise a worldwide release instead of a limited one in Japan that left English speakers to either struggle through it in Japanese or rely on an iffy fan translation. Story-wise, a rift has opened up and wouldn’t you know it, evil forces are invading various universes.
The worlds of all of those companies come together in bits and pieces to fight the collective evil. For long-time Xeno fans, this is probably going to be the only official project with both Xenosaga and Xenoblade Chronicles characters in it. The latter is especially interesting since it has Nintendo-owned characters in the game and this is one of the very few third-party games with a fairly healthy and logical lineup of Nintendo characters. Both the Xenoblade Chronicles and Fire Emblem franchises are represented here and fit in very well.
With Xenoblade, you’ve got an action-heavy franchise that fits the core battle system, while the Fire Emblem characters feel like naturals in a game that uses a tactical RPG setup for character positioning. The roster as a whole is fantastic, and it’s surreal to see the worlds of Virtua Fighter, Shenmue, Tekken, Street Fighter, and Yakuza come together. It’s truly spectacular for long-time fans – especially with things like Yakuza and Shenmue being so similar, but not really making sense for a crossover in their mainline games. In the case of Tekken and Virtua Fighter, it’s surreal because 20 years ago, they were huge rivals in the arcades and on consoles – and now they’ve come together in a different form.
That’s one of the best things about this franchise – it allows for dream matches and crossovers to take place, even if they aren’t quite going to solve the “what if” questions. You’ll never know who would win in a battle between Kazuma Kiryu and Ryo Hazuki, but you can see them in the same game and wonder. The game is great at sparking your imagination while also reminding you of just why you became a fan of some, if not all of the franchises, contained within the game.
The game’s core formula is that you’ll go from franchise universe from one to the other and then play as new characters within the adventure. An argument breaks out between the good and evil characters, and it’s up to you to ensure that good prevails. You’ll engage in a battle and position your troops around the stage. As per the norm in anything with an SRPG setup, that is a key part of success. If you do that badly, then you’ll doom your team. You want to either be behind or beside your enemies, and make sure that they can’t jump you and deal out extra damage.
If they do get an edge, make sure to select counter attacks from your menu because that will enable you to possibly defeat that enemy in one shot. So while they gained a brief upper-hand, you can win that particular battle and then move on to the next enemy. The combat more closely resembles an action RPG/fighting game hybrid, with d-pad movement and button commands allowing for huge solo combos and even bigger double team attacks.
Juggling is going to be your best friend, alongside trigger button usage. By juggling enemies with both characters in a constant rhythm, they won’t hit the ground – and your turn goes on until that does. Hitting a trigger button will enable a super attack and dole out more damage. This is handy for taking out the leaders of the various groups of enemies in as few turns as possible. This action-heavy style makes the game a perfect gateway game for people who don’t usually enjoy either RPGs or SRPGs since the bulk of your gameplay time is spent fighting. Project X Zone 2 doesn’t radically change much about what made the original game work, but it didn’t need to. The core gameplay was just about perfect, and now, you just have more ways with which to dispatch enemies. The controls are slightly tighter now as well.
Visually, the sequel doesn’t do anything all that new. The character art looks a little bit more crisp, but that’s about it for changes. Fortunately, that doesn’t really hurt the game much because it already looked fantastic. Character portraits were lush, as were attack animations on the battlefield. The old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies here, and at least on the 3DS’ screen, things look really good. The only downside to playing this on an original 3DS screen is that the text can be a little hard to read, and with this being a subtitle-only game, that can be tricky.
The Project X Zone games being Japanese language-only has been a point of contention, but has never bothered me. English dubbing for games is still very hit or miss, and I would much rather have the Japanese-only audio than hear awful English voiceover work and be taken out of the experience. The Japanese acting seems appropriate for the lines, and you can’t go wrong with the soundtrack. Many of Sega’s best songs are featured in this game, and new tunes get the blood pumping during battle while also keeping things subdued during the dialogue sequences.
It may not reinvent the wheel, but Project X Zone 2 keeps things rolling along for the series. With two prior entries each delivering a satisfying blend of action and strategy RPG mechanics, any fans of either genre that haven’t tried the series out should give it a shot here. It moves the franchise’s story forward and makes it even more of a dream game with the addition of new Sega and Nintendo characters. The subtitle-only approach isn’t going to be for everyone though – so while it does make for a more authentic experience, it could make for a less fun game for those who want to hear the dialogue in English.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Bandai Namco
This review is based on a digital copy of Project X Zone 2 for the Nintendo 3DS provided by Bandai Namco.