“ Genre: Role-playing / Video Game for Nintendo 3DS / Release Date: 2013-07-05 / Published by Namco Bandai „
Project X Zone is a 3DS strategy RPG, featuring a host of famous gaming characters. The game stars Kogoro Tenzai (a ninja detective) and his partner in crime Mii Kouryuuji (a gun toting high school monk) who are embroiled in a grand adventure that will see them travel across numerous worlds that gamers should recognise. PxZ's main selling point, without a doubt, is its huge roster of playable characters that include notable names from Sega, Capcom and Namco. As the story progresses players will be able to assemble a small army made up of heroes from the Resident Evil, Tekken and Virtua Fighter series to name just a few.
As you would expect from a strategy RPG, player movement involves commanding tiny chibi versions of your fighters across isometric grid based maps. What distinguishes Project X Zone from something like Final Fantasy Tactics is the way in which combat is handled. When two units clash the action switches to a 2D view akin to what you would find in a 1v1 brawler, such as Street Fighter. In this mode players are able to execute a limited number of attacks by pressing the A button in unison with a direction on the circle pad. Many of the strikes you dish out will send opponents flying up into the air with the trick to scoring major damage comprising of juggling a hapless victim by punching them as they descend back down to earth.
The game pretty much revolves around executing combos. Chaining a series of uninterrupted attacks gradually increases your cross meter that powers your special abilities in addition to defensive manoeuvres such as counter-attacks or guarding, which negates incoming damage. Aside from timing your attacks, how much damage you dish out is dependent on your party composition. Most of the characters you recruit come in teams of two that can be paired off with a soloer who can be summoned mid-combat to temporarily freeze enemies in place. All this means that you'll need to experiment a bit to see what combination of characters work best at stringing attacks together.
As is the case with most role-playing games, defeating enemies earns you experience points. Once enough experience is accumulated your characters level up, which unlocks new moves for them to perform. Levelling up also increases a character's attributes slightly, but the benefit to their stats from growing in this manner is negligible at best. Any boosts your characters receive are negated by the fact that the enemy forces you face get tougher with each passing level. That's a shame as in RPGs I like seeing my teams develop from a squad of weaklings to a team of badasses. Alas I never got that sense of achievement when playing Project X Zone.
Much as it pains me to say it, I can only give Project X Zone two stars out of five. I really wanted to love this game, as it features some of my favourite video game characters of all time, but in the end things got too tedious for me to stomach. The combat system seems fun at first, but once you suss out the most efficient combos you'll pretty much be performing the same moves over and over, which gets monotonous. This wouldn't be too bad if the levels were short and sweet, but inexplicably the creators decided to drag out the latter stages by forcing you to fight waves of enemy reinforcements. Two hour long conflicts is way too long, especially when the game is severely lacking in the tactical department. Forget organising battle formations, all you are expected to do to win is dish out combos.
Perhaps I would be more forgiving if the story was decent, but it isn't. The plot is just a thinly veiled excuse to have Kogoro and Mii travel to alternate dimensions so they can team up with the likes of Ryu, Megaman and Dynamite Cop (aka Bruce Willis.) Given that the cast of characters is huge everyone is relegated to spouting one inconsequential line before passing the dialogue baton to someone else. After a while I started to skip the story segments as they were littered with puerile gags that I didn't care for. Although I am normally tolerant towards fan service, even I have to say that the featured female characters were overly sexualized. Bouncing boobs are the order of the day and even cartoony characters like Tron Bonne are not spared from having a mini-skirt that exposes her posterior. Don't get suckered in by the all-star cast on the box art. Save your money and give PxZ a wide berth.