The general rule of thumb with reviews is that you consume the media to a state of completion before writing them. Well, I’m pretty much breaking that rule, but only because I’ve given this game 60 hours and would prefer it to stop and not experience the final eighth. Some might call this laziness and a lack of devotion to a hobby, I call it my review of 60 blasted hours of a game.
Project X Zone Review
Release Date: 26/6/2013
Developers: Monolith Soft and Banpresto
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
The initial idea of Project X Zone, I presume, involved someone from Namco Bandai really loving the idea of crossovers to the point where a subseries that incorporated the letter X as representation for the word, “cross”. And after fumbling through what had to be an absurd amount of rights management between Sega and Capcom, voice actor hunting, characterization issues, they effectively tried to combine the lore and characters of 29 series, along with their own. With the disclaimer that I’m particularly familiar with only one of those franchises likely being part of the reason why I could not follow the story all that well.
The general idea of the overarching world is that several franchises crossing companies were themselves divided into pocket world that were some variety of alternate histories that existed simultaneously. An idea as familiar as how some big bad nonexistent in the other worlds but recruiting the villainous forces from them is trying to do some brand of universal compression. Though I haven’t a clue as to what that has to do with Frank West teaming up with a character from Darkstalkers and a little dual personality holding girl from a visual novel.
Perhaps I’m just being a bit close minded, due to how I did not feel like searching through a brick of bullet points about every faction and character within the game, but the sheer density of all the characters and worlds is hard to take in by itself. With the total number for actual characters being somewhere around 80 after taking the villains into consideration. And while they are gradually introduced through the perspective of two brand new characters, a cheerleader and detective who border on satire with their designs. The plot that is existent suffers from being really long and placed almost jarringly in between combat.
At the end of the day, Project X Zone is a turn based strategy title with a more engaging way of hitting foes. Move about your one to twenty men across the grid, making note of how close other allies are to you and whether or not a baddie is in your character driven radius, and try to not get overwhelmed. However, unlike a more traditional TBS, Project X Zone seldom relies on chance or numbers in your actions, because combat is pretty much performing a list of combos and hoping you hit the baddie with all of them. Although, that amounts to pressing A right, A left, and just A before getting another chance to use A right.
Now, there is some strategy to landing the blows at the right time and maximizing damage, but it is really just air juggling enemies at the end of the day. And while that can sound like fun, you do this for every attack, with every character, and the game is only battle scenes, story progression, and intermissions where you can customize your characters a bit. Said customization is equipping a group of two characters who are joined at the hip with two pieces of equipment and a third Solo unit, assuming they haven’t all been taken.
Said Solo unit acts more as a summon than anything, arriving for a few seconds with the L button in order to do a little animation that is ultimately static, as it is the same attack every time. And with that knowledge in hand, you need to synch up the pair characters’ A-based moves with the Solo unit in order to get more Cross Points, or XP as the game calls them. XP can be used for area wide attacks that hit up to four foes, a super move that amounts to watching the same 20 group based animations, and various buffs given out in the form of skills.
Skills are actually vital, or should I say a handful of them. Perhaps it is just me, but I would rather use a super move than devote some points into getting 15% more defense, especially when I would use that XP to either defend or counter enemy attacks. The only abilities I really took advantage of were ones that affected the entire group, or boosted the character’s range. With the hurdle of damage being half a concern due to how the game throws healing items regularly, and maxes them all out when they reach 20, so you’d need to use them regardless.
I suppose that my lack of creativity can be blamed more on my playstyle, but it seemed to be the easiest route to follow, because the game itself only got more and more dull as time went on. It is hard to care about taking down a specific unit when there are ninety more to go in a two hour long campaign, and even less so when you found a tactic that seemed to answer every set forth demand. Units seldom lost all their health, my items stayed close to their maximum capacity, and the only massive source of damage was from the boss characters’ mighty counter attacks. The system ultimately works, but it just made the scenarios dull after a while.
Said scenarios are usually absurd mixes of, say, Dante from Devil May Cry and Dimitri from Darkstalkers teaming up with an evil princess from a game called Cyberbots to bash an enemy from a visual novel that nobody’s ever heard of. While also calling in the two leads from Shining Force EXA to help juggle the piece of sprite based geometry in through the air, in some tree that is important in the world of Tales of Vesperia. It is a lovely homage to the absurd cross over, but it gets boring the sixteenth time you witness a very similar scenario.
Not that the game doesn’t give its all from a visual perspective. With lovely spritework for all the characters and lavish attack animations, the game clearly had a lot of work placed into it from many a sprite artist. From the characters I knew a fair bit about, they dug decently deep to get the techniques to feel appropriate, with the animations containing more than a few easter eggs. Or they would be, except for, as I’ve said before, you see them ad nauseum.
Repetitive is the best word I can attach to Project X Zone. While first impressions may leave people adoring the high octane thrill ride, after you’ve been on it for fifty hours, you kinda want things to just flat out stop. Despite being linear to the very end, Project X Zone managed to outstay its welcome in my cartridge slot, if only because I felt like everything I wanted to see had been shown to me hours before I put the game away, likely to never touch it again.
Fans of the genre or premise might enjoy the product. There is a kernel of goodness, but it’s still surrounded by some non-goodness, making the final product a bit “bleh”.