X is always pronounced as "cross." Duh!
Project X (cross) Zone, the tactical crossover role playing game from Namco Bandai, Capcom and Sega, is out and selling strong in Japan, and has more characters than you can shoot a hadouken at. Released on October 11, the title is actually a sequel to a 2005 PlayStation 2 game called Namco x (cross) Capcom, which is also a tactical RPG. While I haven’t had a chance to try that out for comparison's sake, I did get to sink an ample amount of time into one of the few tactical RPGs available on the Nintendo 3DS.
I’ll be perfectly honest: I’m usually not a huge fan of tactical RPGs, mainly because of the time commitment you have to put into the battles. Before delving into the game, I was a bit apprehensive about having to play through grueling battle sequences for more than an hour only to die and have to restart. Fortunately, after playing Project X Zone for about three hours, I didn’t find this a problem. Most battles I played through were relatively short, maybe between 20-30 minutes in total. You can also save mid-battle, which is definitely helpful for on-the-go gaming. On an unrelated note, with such a huge cast of characters, even though I’ve put three hours into the game, I’ve only just finished the game’s five prologues (no, I’m not joking). The relatively reasonably paced battles and uncomplicated gameplay definitely work in the game’s favor.
The battle grid
Project X Zone harkens back to games of yesteryear with isometric, sprite-based graphics for characters, with 3D environments. It’s not something out of the ordinary for the genre, but it definitely gets the job done and doesn’t look too bad either. The game also has a unique, anime-like style, which slightly changes how some of the characters look from their original game. For example, Chris Redfield from Resident Evil looks like an anime character but is distinct enough that you can tell who he is. This style is conveyed during in-game conversations with beautifully drawn character artwork. The game’s opening cut scene is a great look at the artwork in action as it showcases most of the characters you interact with. The stereoscopic 3D effect is also used well, giving depth to various menus and the character artwork laid out over the battle stages.
As James Charlton mentioned in his impressions from the Tokyo Game Show build of the game, the game’s controls are relatively simple. When you aren’t reading through the events happening in the insane story, you battle enemies on a grid-based stage. When you get close enough to an enemy, you can then press the A button to initiate the attack sequence, which plays out like a 2D fighter to some extent. No matter what character you choose, the attacks are all done by pressing A in combination with a direction on the Circle pad. You are also able to perform a special, more powerful move with Y and a direction on the Circle pad, and even a special cross move by pressing R. You have three attacks you can perform during the phase before returning back to the grid. The attacks can be made up of using any of the A or Y attacks, while the special cross move can be used in conjunction with the other attacks. If you hit the Y button coupled with a direction, it gives you a really cool animated sequence that places the animation directly over the battle screen, rather than in a letterbox view. That, coupled with the stellar voice acting, made for a great experience.
The Y button animated sequence
Project X Zone is an uncomplicated game that offers quite a bit of depth for 3DS owners, giving them a chance to play with combinations of characters that would usually never happen. From what I’ve played, the game isn’t perfect, but is a great marriage of what tactical RPGs should be on a handheld platform. Unfortunately, there are currently no plans to release this game outside of Japan.