It seems like the Nintendo 3DS is slowly becoming the home of cross-over video games, with titles like Return To PopoloCrois: A Story Of Seasons Fairytale and Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney providing gamers with their fix of enjoyable cross-franchise gameplay. There’s an infinite charm to be found from some of these cross-over titles and when the gameplay of each franchise works so well with one another it actually helps create what is often the superior title of each series.
Of course, you can’t talk about Nintendo 3DS cross-over titles without mentioning Project X Zone – the tactical RPG series that amalgamates the many franchises of Bandai Namco, Sega and Capcom into one, ultimate video game. The original release saw a decent amount of praise when it hit these shores back in 2013, so it’s no surprise that a sequel was eventually unveiled. Now, Project X Zone 2 is upon us and this time it even introduces a few Nintendo characters into the mix. There’s a lingering question though – does the series still provide a fantastic cross-over experience or is this a title that relies on fan service a little bit too much?
For those who don’t know, Project X Zone 2 is a tactical RPG that features characters from a wide range of Bandai Namco, Sega and Capcom franchises. Bandai Namco fans can play as the likes of Tales Of Vesperia hero Yuri Lowell, Tekken’s Kazuya Mishima or perhaps .Hack’s duo of Kite and Haseo. Capcom fans on the other hand may want to wreak havoc with Street Fighter’s Chun Li, Resident Evil’s Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine or even the ferocious duo of Mega Man X and Zero. Last but certainly not least is Sega’s strong showing featuring the likes of Shenmue’s Ryo Hazuki or even Mega Drive ninja Shinobi. There’s a huge showing of characters from each company’s portfolio of games, so there’s sure to be plenty of characters that you’ll recognise. Nintendo are even getting in on the action this year with characters from Fire Emblem and Xenoblade Chronicles.
The story begins with the slightly unfamiliar duo of Reiji and Xiaomu, members of the paranormal investigative Shinra agency, as they look to investigate the strange appearance of mysterious gold chains throughout the world. Of course, that’s just scratching the surface – the game explores travelling between space and time to justify the appearance of characters from such a mixed range of franchises, so at least everyone isn’t just thrown into a cross-over for the sake of it.
To Project X Zone 2’s credit it actually does a good job of working the characters from each franchise together and having them share a universal narrative. I never found myself completely lost as to what exactly was going on, and the game does a good job of keeping everything on track given the diverse range of characters on offer and their often unusual back stories. The game features some great writing too, setting up some often humorous and insane scenes between some of your favourite video game characters. These sort of interactions aren’t just exclusive to the narrative though; you’ll find that party members that feature similarities will often share quips with each other when working as a team on the battlefield, regardless of the different franchises that they represent.
Gamers familiar with tactical battle systems will recognise the style that Project X Zone 2 adopts. Each member of the player’s party is represented with a sprite on a tiled battlefield. The player is able to move each character on their turn with the objective typically consisting of wiping out the enemy team. To attack, you simply have to move your character’s sprite next to the enemy and use the attack option, though it isn’t always that simple – you’re only able to move a certain amount of tiles with each character per a turn. Once you’ve completed your turn the enemy gets to move around their party and try to wipe out your characters. You’re given the opportunity to defend or counter each enemy’s attack, though this uses up XP of which you only have a certain amount. Whoever manages to vanquish the opponents party first is the winner. Simple.
In an unusual but welcome twist on the tactical RPG formula, each attack you use plays out like a 2D fighter, albeit one where your foe doesn’t offer any resistance. You’re given a selection of attacks to use that follow different button combinations and unleash hell on your opponent. Like 2D fighters though you’ll achieve better results if you don’t just button mash and actually put some thought into your attacks – proper timing and move selection can result in lethal combos that’ll eat away chunks of your opponent’s health. There are other typical fighting game traits that play into battles too, like energy bars that offer more powerful attacks and even cross-over attacks with other members of your party. There are so many different things to take into consideration with each battle, and they can certainly mean the difference between a quick success and a drawn out encounter that’ll go right down to the wire.
These fight scenes are one of my favourite features of Project X Zone 2. They offer a much more exciting change to the simple battle animations that typically make up a tactical RPG – you aren’t limited to simply watching an attack animation, but instead dictate exactly how each attack plays out. These attacks manage to look gorgeous too – each characters battle sprite looks phenomenal and it’s great to see 2D depictions of what might usually be 3D models. Character’s special moves are re-created in these battle too, so fans with a keen eye may recognise some very familiar attacks from their favourite characters…
The battles of Project X Zone 2 are enjoyable, though they don’t require much tactical prowess to complete – it’s more often than not just a case spamming attacks and seeing who defeats who the quickest. This makes the game much more accessible for a wider audience, though those seeking more in-depth tactical battles may want to look elsewhere.
The level design itself leaves a lot to be desired too. Whilst environments are attractive enough, they just lack any sense of diversity. You’ll become so familiar with a lot of landscapes and level layouts that you won’t help but to tire of them. To its credit the game does send you across the globe battling enemies, but certain locations simply outstay their welcome.
Project X Zone 2 features remixed versions of some of the best tracks from the franchises features in the game, offering not only some banging tunes but also a real blast to the blast. There were plenty of occasions where a tune would start and the recognition would kick in, evoking memories of good times spent with that franchise. It was a nice feeling, but akin to many features that Project X Zone 2 offers is mostly one only going to be appreciated by fans of the relevant franchise. Those who do recognise the tunes may find it stuck in their head for the rest of the day though.
Project X Zone 2 offers a ton of content with a full play through of the story easily lasting around forty hours. There’s a more difficult ‘New Game Plus’ mode to lure gamers in for a second play through, but it wasn’t enough to entice me back into the world for a second time.
Anyone who picks up Project X Zone 2 will be content with the game – there’s nothing particularly bad about it and the 2D fighter elements of each attack certainly add a breath of fresh air to the formula. The biggest difference to your enjoyment with the game will be your affinity with the franchises featured – those who feel nothing for the characters you encounter may be disappointed with the lack of depth to the tactical aspects of the battle system or perhaps the slightly lacking level design.
On the other hand, those who love the franchises featured in the game will have a blast. Watching your favourite gaming characters work together to take down your most loathed enemies is fantastic. There’s great chemistry between characters and the remixed music tracks are the cherry on top.
As a gamer with history with the many franchises involved in Project X Zone 2, my time spent with the game was accompanied with a smile on my face. There’s definitely flaws with the game and it’s far from perfect, but in the end it doesn’t matter – who needs perfection when you have Phoenix Wright working with Heihachi Mishima?!
– Fans of the franchises will have a blast seeing their favourites characters interact with each other
– The 2D fighting elements of each attack are a breath of fresh air and look fantastic
– Great remixes of classic tunes from each franchise
– Accessible gameplay that is easy for non-tactical RPG fans to pick up and play
– Lack of challenge in battles could be off putting to some
– Level design is a little lacking