Something has to be said for a game that has over fifty playable characters, of which only two are unique to the game. Though if the title of said game is Project X Zone (pronounced Project Cross Zone) then there’s really no other way to have it.
Project X Zone is like a tactical, semi-turn based version of Super Smash Bros. Except instead of Nintendo characters, you’ve got Sega, Capcom, and Namco characters coming out the wazoo. The game dips into 29 different franchises, pulling out the most recognizable fighters from Street Fighter to Sakura Wars, God Eater to Dead Rising. Austin Keys, one of the producers at Namco, expressed pride in how much fan service is provided in Project X Zone. The story’s nothing to write home about, the appeal seems to be more in the camp of ‘what would Mega Man and Jin from Tekken talk about if they met?’
The gameplay is one of those that sound complicated until you sit down and play it and things become simple (perhaps too simple). Each of your turns you control one unit that actually represents a pair of characters, moving around on a grid based system and attacking nearby enemies. If you’re close to another pair of characters, they can support you in battle. Each pair can also carry around a ‘solo’ support with them. So lets have a quick example. Your pair is Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine from Resident Evil. The solo support who you’ve chosen to put on their team is Ulala from Space Channel 5. You move over to attack one of the baddies and, because you put yourself next to them, Kos-Mos and T-elos from Xenosaga help you out. In battle you get to attack with Chris and Jill three times and each of supports once, at least in the beginning. Their attacks are pre-rendered combos that juggle the opponent, launch them off the wall, or otherwise move the enemy around. You choose when to call in your supports to attack. That’s pretty much it. Enemies don’t attack back until it’s their turn.
Some complexity comes in when you realize that if the pair hits the enemy at the same time as one of the supports, it gets locked in place in air and is more susceptible to damage. After an enemy is juggled, if they’re hit right before they land they’ll take critical damage. Each pair has a super move, that takes signature moves from their respective games, only available when a meter, built up by comboing well, is full. Though you can also utilize the same meter to defend or counterattack when enemies decide to beat on you.
In the short amount of time I spent playing the game–in spite of my last paragraph–it didn’t feel like the combat had much depth. Learning which pair attacks and which support attacks work well together seemed to be the only facet of the game that I really had to learn. You can’t customize the pairs themselves and there’s no equipment or anything like that to make your Frank West and Hsien-Ko pair any different than another player’s. I’m glad that Namco chose to put Project X Zone on the 3DS, it seems like the kind of game that plays best when played in bursts. Still, the animation looks great and it’s neat seeing all these different characters fighting and chatting together.
Look for it sometime during the summer this year on the 3DS.