Project X Zone 2 proves the one thing that we all knew: We love crossovers. From X-Men vs Street Fighter, to Marvel vs Street Fighter, to Marvel vs CAPCOM, to CAPCOM vs SNK (No? I’m the only one who enjoyed this? Ok then) and so on an so forth. Crossover games work, however Project X Zone is really showing it;s wear by being only about the crossovers and fan service pieces. There’s a lot of fluff but not much substance; and it’s a shame.
Game Name: Project X Zone 2
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Publisher(s): Bandai-Namco Entertainment
Developer: Monolith Soft
Release Date: February 12th, 2016
Disclosure: Review copy provided by Bandai-Namco Entertainment Australia. Screenshots from Bandai-Namco Press site.
If you love seeing characters from all sorts of video games interacting with each other (Usually with the line “What’s going on here?” being their main go to line) and showing off a single flashy animation over and over and over and over again, then this is for you. Hell, a lot of the enjoyment of Project X Zone 2 comes from your knowledge of the characters from CAPCOM, Bandai-Namco Entertainment, SEGA & Nintendo franchises that appear in this game. If you’re like me and don’t know the characters and history of the characters from Sakura Wars or Summon Night 3, then you tend to lose something. A game with a roster this huge and strong needs to keep up that connection or it loses everything enjoyable.
The story, from what I’ve been able to piece together, is that there’s a gate in a dimension that is sending golden chain anchors into the worlds of Tekken, Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Shinobi and a bunch of other franchises from CAPCOM, Bandai-Namco Entertainment, SEGA & Nintendo… All of which end up looking like stock-standard Tokyo in our world. There’s a couple of evil groups from many different games coming together for their own means to try and control this linking of worlds, as you do…
All of this hubbub brings all of the good guy characters together over time to battle the evil characters in order to set things back into the natural order…. And that’s it. There really isn’t a deep plot (or at least thus far, I’m still grinding through the game as we speak) so it just relies on your ability to go “Oh wow, that’s Kazuya from Tekken talking down to Pheonix Wright!” more than develop any of the characters and create a connection to you the player. Not that this is a bad thing. With a playable roster of 19 teams of 2 people each, with 19 interchangeable solo characters it is extremely hard from a writing standpoint to develop that many characters or even give them equal screen/play time.
But what you do get is something that while lacking in an overall plot and narrative, is some of the best banter that a crossover game can produce. Characters will reference their own universe, other company games or even pop culture too. To hear the Mishima boys talk smack to Ken & Ryu is funny as hell; to hear Pheonix be worried about having to clear Heihachi Mishima for the murder of Kazuya makes you gasp in amazement; to be told that the worlds of Strider and Shinobi are connected is mind blowing.
I will say this though, if you are not a fan of Japanese voice acting, then Project X Zone 2 is not going to be for you. The whole game is voiced in Japanese only, which is how it was able to get put out in the first place. This is becoming common place with Bandai-Namco Entertainment published games for the 3DS. Would it have been nice to hear an English dub? Maybe, but personally I’m fine with Japanese.
Project X Zone 2 at it’s heart is a strategy game. You are presented with a game board where your fighters are on one side and the enemy is on the other. You move towards each other bit by bit till you face off and then you change into the battle screen. The battle screen in Project X Zone 2 is extremely simple: You juggle your opponent with a selection of attacks which use a directional button and the A button together. You press, watch the animation, and press again before they hit the ground or else your turns ends. One of the other options is your super attack. This is a longer single attack that ends with a nicely animated finish for maximum damage. You also have the option to call in other teams if they are close enough for a tag team (or X-Cross attack as they call it) attack, or you also have a third solo unit that has their own combo that you can add into the mix. Adding all these together can easily one shot an enemy. Defensively you have 4 options: Counter an attack, defend half an attack, all of the attack, or just do nothing and take full damage. Boss characters however do not give you any option, usually going instead for their super attack for maximum damage at all times.
Everything else is standard RPG style fare. You have healing items, mana style rechargers, weapons and armour to help enhance a bunch of stats which really doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things. I think the developers wanted to give this game a sense of depth, but Project X Zone 2’s game mechanics are so easy and broken that you’ll forget to upgrade your moves or items half the time since on just raw stats alone you can destroy just about anything.
At the end of the day, Project X Zone 2 is pure fan service, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. As someone who has wanted to see characters from CAPCOM, Bandai-Namco Entertainment, SEGA & Nintendo franchises face off in a collaboration game, something I wish the industry would do more often, Project X Zone 2 is alright. The banter is well written enough to cover the flaw in the plot, or lack of plot. The sound is dead on, with all the main pieces you expect to hear being included at such a good bitrate that I’ve spent much longer than usual in a scene just to hear them play. My personal favorite, the main Tekken theme, makes me smile every time I hear it.
However, the overwhelming nature of the characters relying on your personal knowledge of each franchise, coupled with a plot that is razor thin, makes Project X Zone 2 lack substance. A game like this deserves to be bigger and better than it’s previous iterations. Project X Zone 2 doesn’t innovate, expand or anything else a sequel should do. Hopefully if they decided to go to a third game, they are willing to do more than give us the same fan service that they’ve already given us.
Project X Zone 2 is more of the same. There isn’t enough innovation to warrant a purchase without giving the demo a go first. The simple graphics are amusing and look great on the 3DS screen, but the minimal animation repeating over and over wears you out quickly. It’s disappointing to see a game that was such a smash hit just give us more of the same.