Developer: Banpresto, Monolith Soft
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Platform: exclusive to Nintendo 3DS system
Release date: Jun 25th, 2013 (US)/ July 5th, 2013 (EU)
JRPG fans rejoice!
Namco Bandai teamed up with Capcom and Sega in order to bring the ultimate cross-over game in history with dozens of characters from all your favorite franchises. Devil May Cry, Tales, Mega Men, Dead Rising, .Hack, Tekken, Darkstalkers, they are all there! Just like we wished for.
Project X Zone tells the story of a young woman named Mii Kouryuuji, and her faithful detective Kogorō Tenzai. Mii and her ancestors guarded a portal stone in their mansion, but an evil group called Oros Phlox managed to steal it for their vicious cause. Now, with the powerful stone in their hands, Oros Phlox can control the flow of time and create portals between parallel worlds. Your mission is to retrieve the stone and bring peace back to all universes.
The main problem of the story is that it uses the same structure over and over again. Mii and her partners will get sucked into a portal, bunch of enemies will start showing out of nowhere, a new character from a familiar franchise suddenly appears and the battle begins. Take into consideration that there are 40 episodes (plus 5 prologues) in the game, so it becomes repetitive and boring very soon.
The story is most certainly not the strong portion of the game, but fans who wish to see their favorite character fighting each other will be satisfied.
As for gameplay, Project X Zone really surprised me at how well Namco managed to combine both action and strategy elements in one package. At the start of a battle, like most JRPGs, you will gain control of several units, with each able to move and attack in a given range. Once an enemy has been spotted in your range, the game will take you to the battle zone where you can cause damage to his HP bar. The unique thing about the battle system is that it doesn’t include the traditional, some say tired, options menu. It would rather focus in the action on the screen, by letting you hit the opponents with no delays and execute countless combos.
Every unit can use up to 5 combos by pressing the A button with one of the D-pad directions. Those combos differ from one character to another, and accompanied by a special set of animations. For example: Chris Radcliffe and Jill Valentine (Resident Evil) using both martial art and guns, while Dante (Devil May Cry) and Demitri Maximoff (Darkstalker) attacking with their demon skills.
The game also introduces you to a different resource management system, by using special XP points that can be acquired in battle. With those points you can either use skills or defend yourself when the opponent attacks. All units share the same XP points, so you will have to plan everything beforehand if you don’t want to lose them so quickly.
After completing an episode, the game automatically takes you to the customization menu. Sadly, each unit can only be equipped with two items: gears and accessories, which means that the player can’t do much to influence the battlefield. There are no weapons, shields, cloths or shoes to improve your stats, and even if you do change something, the character’s appearance will stay the same.
Customization is an essential element for every JRPG, therefore it’s sad to see that Namco implanted new things but forgot the basics mechanics.
Another thing Namco got right is the graphics. Instead of working on smooth textures, they decided to design it like a game from the SNES era. Somewhat similar to what Nintendo did with its Fire Emblem series.
In my opinion this was a great move because it gives Project X Zone the “retro feeling” fans always crave for. Same treatment was done with the soundtrack, so expect to hear many classic tunes from your favorite games.
+Bunch of characters from all Namco/Sega/Capcom franchises
+Challenging battle system
+Hours of fun
+Good design choices
–Story is way too complicated
Project X Zone is more than recommended for all Namco/Capcom/Sega fans. The gameplay is unique, there are tons of familiar characters and it’s packed with enough contents to keep you occupied until the (hopefully) next crossover.
Not convinced yet? Check for yourself the 2 demos that are available digitally through the Nintendo eShop service.
Score: 8 out of 10