Project X Zone 2 Review
There are times in Project X Zone 2 where I literally had to set my 3DS down and take a moment to process what was going on. Times like when Heihachi Mishima from Tekken revealed he had hired Phoenix Wright to defend him in court, in conversation with Kazuma and Goro from Yakuza while under attack from Resident Evil monsters as Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine arrived to save them. Then they all escaped down an interdimensional manhole to meet the Darkstalkers.
If there’s one idea which Project X Zone 2 takes and runs all the way off the face of the earth with, it’s the crossover nature of the title. Coming from a line of similar titles like the Japan-only Namco x Capcom and the original Project X Zone, Project X Zone 2 combines characters from not only Capcom and Namco, but also squeezes in a bunch from Sega and Nintendo. You literally never know who you’re going to meet next as the game’s campaign progresses, as you might still be reeling from the appearance of Street Figther’s M Bison as a major villain, before Fiora from Xenoblade Chronicles teleports in, followed by that game’s antagonist Metal Face. There are some even better surprise cameos, that are best left secret, but the roster is impressively diverse and suitably nuts.
You’ll undoubtedly recognise faces from franchises like Street Fighter, Tekken, Resident Evil, Mega Man, .hack, Darkstalkers, Shinobi, Strider, Devil May Cry and Soul Calibur (to name a few), but many other prominent characters may stump you, probably because they’re more popular in Japan. In fact, while the game’s script has been admirably translated with a few cute jokes into English, the voice acting remains in Japanese, as do many of the on-screen graphics, and a lot of the game’s action takes place in Tokyo. The game is both proudly Japanese and proudly very weird.
You’d expect a collection of all these characters to result in a fighting game, like Marvel vs. Capcom, but that’s not entirely the case here. Project X Zone 2, like its forebears, is a Tactical RPG of all things – which makes some sense when you think about it, after all it’s a genre where having a bunch of characters on-screen at once is the norm, and where dialogue-heavy story sequences drive the action. And dialogue-heavy Project X Zone 2 is, to a fault. It spends a lot of time setting up each individual character, as well as their interactions with any new characters they happen to come across, and it does this every time a meeting happens. When the regular ‘team’ of characters starts to grow and you’ve got a roster of at least 20 people who’ve all got to get a word in during any encounter, it does make the story drag. A lot of time is spent, too, on exposition for the cross-world premise, about golden chains from the sky and warring factions, which can also get a little tiresome.
The actual tactical gameplay is simplified, with the emphasis seemingly placed on presentation rather than depth. Your objective in each ‘chapter’ of the story (of which there are over 40), is generally to move your units around an isometric map and take out all enemy units. You can be at an advantage if you attack an enemy from the side or the back, or choose to counter or defend yourself if an enemy attacks you (at the expense of SP or XP points). This is all fairly basic for a Tactical RPG, and it certainly doesn’t come close to touching the Final Fantasy Tactics games in terms of variety of units, strategy or objectives.
Units come in two types. Your main units consist of pairs of characters, generally from the same franchise but not always. Chris Redfield & Jill Valentine are paired together, as are Kazuya & Jin from Tekken, but Strider & Shinobi from two different franchises find themselves on the same team. Each of these pairs can also be augmented with a ‘solo unit’, which functions more as a ‘summon’ attack that can be called upon during battle for a special move. These include Leon S. Kennedy from Resident Evil and Phoenix Wright & Maya from Ace Attorney. Augmenting each unit with a solo unit is vital for keeping your combo counters high, but as for which unit matches with who – it didn’t seem to matter a lot during my playthrough, aside from dialogue differences. If it’s your dream to have Ulala from Space Channel fight alongside X & Zero from Mega Man, you’re welcome to do so.
However, where this game shines is in the attacks themselves – rather a simple sprite wiggle and ‘hit’ sound, you’re treated to an fighting game-esque battle screen. Here, your characters on the right face the enemy on the left, where you’re able to wail on them mercilessly without any counterattack (until their turn). You are limited to pulling off three combos per turn, so button-mashing will get you nowhere, although you can increase your combos via upgrades or by calling in support from ‘solo units’ or nearby units surrounding the enemy. Doing so can cause a huge amount of chaos on-screen that’s impressive to watch, as each character’s sprite work, while low-resolution, is meticulously detailed with all kinds of references to the series they are from. There are even small anime-like sequences that flash on-screen from time-to-time for each character that really sell the presentation. Building up your combo count will also earn you XP – this is used to pull off ‘special moves’ that are among the coolest to watch, as the pair teams up with signature moves to take a massive slice of the enemy’s HP.
As for what this is all like to play, it can get a little repetitive after a while. As Tactical RPGs go, this is a fairly easy one, and it doesn’t really pick up until towards the end. You’ll usually have enough cash to splash on as many recovery items as you need on field, and generally any deaths you may encounter will be from not understanding the chapter’s objective, or not keeping tabs on how much HP you have left (it’s easy to get lost amid the sea of stats on the 3DS’ bottom screen). You can upgrade and swap out attacks, find equipment and accessories, but it’s all rather workmanlike and uninteresting in and of itself. If this were any other RPG, with original characters, it would most likely go unnoticed.
Ultimately, Project X Zone 2 boils down to a healthy heaping of fan service for weebs, or anyone who’s familiar with the franchises included. While the story can be slow and plodding, it also has some decent gags and a lot of self-awareness that helps drive each crossover encounter. You’re really buying this game for the huge names included within it – to have Mega Man X shoot a BOW from Resident Evil as Phoenix Wright flattens them with an “Objection!”. To have three generations of Tekken’s Mishima argue while a Japanese-speaking American rabbit girl makes sexual innuendo-laced threats. It’s absolutely bonkers, quite lengthy and while repetitive, has a lot to see. If you think you can keep up with the chaos, then Project X Zone 2 may be the ticket for you.