Come for the fanservice only.
Project X Zone is an odd game to release outside of Japan. Its predecessor, Namco × Capcom, never made the trip and many comparable crossover titles haven’t either. The few crossovers that have seen release in the West have mostly been fighting games—Super Smash Bros., Marvel vs. Capcom, and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom—to name a few. And while Project X Zone may look like a fighting game with its flashy 2D animations, the relation is minimal at best. At heart, it’s a tactical RPG that’s more style than substance; nevertheless, fans of the included titles should find a lot to love. After all, it isn’t every day that Ryu and Ken of Street Fighter fame fight alongside Yuri Lowell from Tales of Vesperia.
In terms of its story, Project X Zone is more than a little confusing. The plot is spread out over 40 missions and relies heavily on dimensional portals that whisk characters away to worlds from various Namco Bandai, Capcom, and Sega titles. If you’re familiar with these characters and worlds, you’re sure to have a better time understanding what’s going on; however, if you’ve not played at least a few of the games included in Project X Zone, the story isn’t going to hold your hand. There are several references to the source games, as well as mentions of the previous title, Namco × Capcom. Luckily, the latter seems to be relegated to a vague memory that some characters have of them already meeting once before. There is an in-game encyclopedia, but it doesn’t fill you in on every detail of a character’s backstory.
Of course, the story isn’t really the hook of crossover titles. What’s really interesting is the character dialog and interaction. Seeing Frank West from Dead Rising ask big-breasted heroines if he can snap their photo can be pretty amusing, and there’s no shortage of other comical interactions between characters. It also helps that most of the game is fully voiced, albeit in Japanese. This allows for the characters to convey emotions that wouldn’t be as noticeable if you were simply reading the text. If you’re a fan of any of the included titles, you’re sure to enjoy at least some of the dialog; it is after all the second best aspect of the game.
The best aspect, obviously, are Project X Zone’s wonderful, sprite-based animations. The fighting game-esque animations are a treat to behold. They initiate each time you attack an enemy on the map. During these segments, you command your characters to do one of several attacks listed on the touch screen by pressing the A button and the desired direction on the D-Pad. You can also use as many as two support characters by pressing either of the shoulder buttons. Timing each attack so that one comes immediately after the other is important and ensures that you do as much damage as possible, as well as keep your enemy from going into a defensive position. Layering attacks also help fill up your XP gauge, which you can then use to perform special attacks, use skills, and counter or defend from enemy attacks. Adding support characters into the mix also increases the accumulation of XP and triggers what is called a “Cross Hit.” A Cross Hit basically freezes the enemy in place, allowing you do to huge amounts of damage.
While the normal attacks are nice to watch, they become quite chaotic and hard to follow—especially when you’re focused on timing them along with your support characters. The real visual treat are the special attacks. These can be performed by pressing the Y button when your XP gauge reaches 100 percent. These are essentially a short cutscene of your two characters beating your enemy senseless. They’re the best thing Project X Zone has to offer, so just sit back and enjoy.
Sadly, the rest of the gameplay doesn’t quite live up to the beautiful animations. Most of the game is spent playing a rather non-strategic, tactical RPG. There’s really no need to plan out character placement or anything more complex than moving your characters to the closest enemy. This isn’t Fire Emblem. There are a few obstacles and objects on the field, but they don’t really do anything other than affect your movement range. Hell, you can break most of them by simply walking up to them and pressing the Y button. The biggest obstacle is the size of the field and the huge number of enemies in later chapters. While most chapters can be completed by simply defeating the enemy commander, the number of grunts is still pretty overwhelming. If you want to stay on equal footing as far as your level is concerned, you’ll want to fight as many of them as possible. This wouldn’t be so bad if you could kill them in one turn, but many enemies take at least two or three turns to kill. It doesn’t help that you have to watch the same animations every time you attack. They’re not skippable, as you control them in real time. Later in the game, your characters will learn attacks that than can affect multiple enemies in one turn, but it doesn’t come soon enough, and it depletes your XP gauge.
Project X Zone is a great game if you’re a fan of the Namco Bandai, Capcom, or Sega characters included in it. The dialog and character interactions are funny and heavily reference their source material, and the animations are polished and fun to watch. That said, the game can get quite repetitive at times, especially since there’s no real strategy to be had. Don’t come to Project X Zone if you’re expecting another Fire Emblem-like experience; there are far better tactical RPGs to spend your time on.