Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Year of Australian release: 2013
Typical crossover games in the modern era have all being about fighting games. Street Fighter vs Tekken and Marvel vs Capcom are at the top of the heat when it comes to recent crossover games. Therefore, when Project X Zone was released for the Nintendo 3DS in Australia in late 2013, it seemed like a breath of fresh air. A turn-based strategy game with an eye for series in-jokes and running gags appealed more to senses of humour than video game mechanics and it showed.
If you have played Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem, then you know what to expect. In Project X Zone, you control units of two to three characters from Sega, Capcom and Namco franchises. Resident Evil, Tekken, Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Dot Hack and Sakura Wars are just some the individual franchises represented in this game but they don’t battle against each other. They battle alongside each other to fight major villains from the same franchises to give the gamer some familiarity.
The player navigates the map screen like a regular strategy game. The units are moved around the map depending on speed stats and their individual move stats. When they enter battle against an enemy character, the player must input one-to-two-button combinations to chain attacks for maximum damage. Defending is disappointingly simple and lacking, with the player only having the choice of counterattacking or trying to absorb as little damage as possible. That aspect comes down to luck more than anything else. Items and skills can be utilised to give you an extra edge. As a response to that, enemy numbers are often overwhelming and their health is often through the roof. A five-unit assault will still need three attack phases each to eliminate one boss character, especially during the later levels. Expect 90-minute slogs per stage at least as the game comes to an exhausting end.
The music is arguably the best aspect of this game, although the 3DS hardware leaves a lot to be desired. It isn’t possible to plug in earphones and drown yourself in the pumping tunes of Ryu’s theme from Street Fighter or Arthur’s Theme from Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts. However, what do come through the speakers are faithful renditions of classic tunes. The voice acting — all in Japanese with English subtitles — is crisp, expressive and often humorous. You will usually appreciate the effort gone into the dialogue, especially during battle. The dialogue used during the regular cut scenes, on the other hand, can usually be forgotten.
The same goes for the plot. Focus on the gameplay and one-liner quips and you will be better rewarded. The graphics are definitely worth a mention. The cartoony images and sprites are bright and clear. The battle animations can sometimes be incorrect when compared with the series from which they were taken, but you usually won’t care. Character profile images often portray the right emotions during dialogue sequences but will typically repeat so appreciate them for what they are worth. The special effects aren’t the greatest but the 3DS does what it can.
The gameplay is where the game will fall over more often than not. The strategy aspect is usually lacking and you will find yourself falling into a routine. It isn’t the most comfortable or exciting routine, however. Since stages can last for over an hour each time you will be glad for the quick save feature. No one deserves to go through an entire 90-minute slog in one sitting. This game is all about the in-jokes and game series references. If you appreciate those then you can probably tolerate the rest. Otherwise you might as well find something more substantial.
Project X Zone final evaluation:
Longevity: 3/10 or 8/10 (depending on your enjoyment of the game)
Final score: 7/10 – It is definitely a flawed game that depends on style more than substance. But what it does, it does well. The decision on whether that is enough will be made by the individual.