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Project X Zone Review: SRPG Fans Rejoice!
Fans of classic Sega, Capcom, and Namco Bandai characters can rejoice. Finally, your dreams of watching Ryu from Street Fighter beat up a bunch of Reaverbots can come true. Project X Zone takes an absurdly large cast of characters from a variety of different games and forces them to work together in order to fight off a mysterious threat. When the game starts, you are only given a few pairs to work with, but your team eventually evolves to include a large amount of characters that you know and love, and even a few you may have never heard of, given their parent game’s Japanese exclusivity. The game blends the strategic maneuvers of a strategy RPG and combines them with a Street Fighter-esque battle system. Players will encounter enemies on a map much in the vein of Fire Emblem or Disgaea. However, the gameplay takes a more unique approach to combat once battle is actually initiated.
Each “character” that you control is paired up with another character, usually from their game, along with a third character of your choice. Once you initiate battle with an enemy, the screen switches into a 2D style arena similar to Street Fighter. You may then input simple button combinations in order to deal damage to the enemy you are facing. For someone who is terrible at fighters and tends to avoid them like the plague, Project X Zone’s combat is simplistic enough that even I could get into it. The button combinations that you are able to do are clearly listed above your health bar, as well as on the bottom screen of the 3DS. At first, you may get a little tired of the combat once you continue to see the same attacks over and over, but then you will notice the strategic part of PXZ’s combat: juggling. Once you initiate a combo, your characters will do their thing and either send the enemy high into the air or launch them across the battlefield. The enemy will begin to fall back to your position, and if you can time your next attack perfectly, your entire combo will become critical, dealing almost twice the damage it would have without the critical boost.
I am very fond of the juggling system, as it gives me a sense of power that other SRPGs do not. Whenever I nailed a critical combo it was satisfying and rewarding, as I would often defeat the enemy in that instance. However, there is another layer to the battle system that I have mixed feelings about, and that is the Cross Hit. Whenever you initiate battle when an ally is near you, they can aid you in the battle and deal damage to your enemy. If you and an ally strike the enemy at the same time, it will initiate a Cross Hit, and the enemy will be stuck in place as you wail on him. As long as both entities are fighting at the same time, the Cross Hit will stick and the enemy will be held in place. The problem I faced with this system is that I would send in my support unit and as we both struck, their attack would launch the enemy in the air, and mine would somehow hit it at the last second, initiating a Cross Hit too far up in the air for me to do anything further. So, both of the units would sit there until the enemy fell, and it would waste the support unit’s time limit. The fact that a Cross Hit freezes an enemy in place can be helpful, but also extremely detrimental at times. This is made worse because you have to memorize which attacks launch enemies and which attack them on the ground or else the Cross Hit will work against you.
However, with whatever minor flaws the battle system carries in itself, the game makes up for it with its cast of memorable and unique characters. In what other game could you control Ryu from Street Fighter, X from Mega Man X, and Dante from Devil May Cry, among many others? The characters act the same way as they did in their respective games, and watching two characters from vastly different games interact with each other is interesting. The characters are represented especially well thanks to the game’s solid graphics. While on the map, the game looks almost identical to a regular SRPG, but when battle is initiated, the characters are easily distinguishable and the animation is done in a way so that you can see every move that your characters pull off.
The soundtrack to the game includes several songs that, while perhaps are not the most memorable songs you have heard in a video game, is enough to get you ready for the battle at hand, and it helped set the tone in a number of ways.
If you are a fan of SRPGs, you may be a little disappointed with the difficulty of Project X Zone. Throughout my playthrough, I never had to restart a level, nor did I ever really have an incentive to switch my equipment around once I was happy with their original placements. The small degree of difficulty Project X Zone provides is found in the sheer amount of enemies that the game throws out at you. For example, a mission may start with an unique objective, such as to destroy a certain element on the field, or to reach a certain point in a certain number of turns. While none of these unique victory objectives are necessarily difficult, upon completion they almost always revert back to requiring you to destroy every enemy. Because of this, I had to backtrack through levels in order to kill an enemies I may have skipped in order to get to my objective quickly.
While slaying any remaining enemies may not seem bad, it is made worse by a plethora of boss characters in each mission. At mission start, a single enemy may be selected as a boss, but after every few turns, a new boss character will arrive with their own group of enemies to add to the fray. Because of frequent changes to the battlefield like this, some missions in the game took me over an hour to complete, making certain missions seem to drag on for far too long. There are a handful of prologue missions before the action really begins, and forty chapters afterwards. The game will take a veteran of SRPGs around 35 or 40 hours, which is quite lengthy for its genre.
Despite any minor flaws this game’s combat or enemy placement may suffer, I cannot help but recommend this game to any fans of SRPGs. If you only enjoy SRPGs for their difficulty, then you may not find much to love in Project X Zone, but if you love wacky character interactions and unique battle systems, I heavily recommend Project X Zone. Newcomers to the genre will also find themselves getting the hang of the systems while not at a huge disadvantage. If you are a fan of any of the big franchises that are owned by Namco Bandai, Sega, or Capcom, and you have the patience to work through a couple of extremely long mission, you cannot go wrong with Project X Zone.