Crossovers kick ass. Period. I’ve loved crossovers ever since The Battletoads and The Double Dragons deemed the Earth worthy enough of their combined presence. A good crossover can really get my inner fanboy going. Hell, even a bad crossover can get me a little giddy if it’s at least humorous or campy with a cheesy after-school message.
Just say “No” to drugs, or they will find you!
And what’s not to love about crossovers? Crossovers have the unlimited potential to be both hilarious and badass. It’s funny to watch how your favorite characters’ personalities mix with new characters and environments. It’s also fun to watch two of your favorite characters battle it out in order to settle some drunken bet you and your friend made in college. Crossovers are just an all-around good time.
The only problem with crossovers is you have to come into the mix with a lot of knowledge about the universes that are crossing. Without prior knowledge of ALL the universes being represented you risk missing subtle references or major plot points and jokes. That’s why I sometimes ignore crossovers with universes I’m not too familiar with. Who wants to invest time in something where you feel like you’ve been left out of the loop? I can achieve that kind of awkwardness outside of video games, thank you very much! So you can only imagine how hard I ignored Project X Zone, a game that combines 20+ universes spanning 3 different video game publishers. But since PXZ is a strategy RPG (my favorite genre) and I’m profoundly gay for Sega and Capcom, I figured 2 out of 3 ain’t bad and decided to give the game a shot.
Let the ultimate crossover begin!
Developer: Banpresto & Monolith Soft
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Release Year: 2013
Project X Zone was on my radar because it’s one of those “miracle” games, by which I mean it’s a miracle it was localized for the West. Gamers in PAL and NTSC regions have looked enviously as Japan enjoyed previous installments to the Cross franchise, namely Super Robot Taisen games and Namco X Capcom. So when PXZ was revealed in Japan, we westerners – though excited – kept our expectations in check and only stayed cautiously optimistic about its localization. This fleeting hope was eventually squelched when the game didn’t sell too well in Japan, receiving an embarrassing 85% price reduction at some retailers just to get rid of it. Understandably, western gamers began to lose hope. Why would a company risk sending a game abroad when it did so poorly at home?
Well, for whatever reason, Namco Bandai did bring it to our shores! And gamers rejoiced! But the critics did not. The game was panned largely for being tedious and for lacking difficulty and strategy, two components that are kind of important for an SRPG. With mediocre reviews, a poor reception in its homeland, and about a third of its universes unfamiliar to me, I became apprehensive about playing PXZ. The game just kind of chilled on my shelf for awhile until I said to myself, “Bygjuce, why are you letting outside sources influence your enjoyment of this game? You loved Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier! This game looks just like it, only better! Just pop that shit in and get on it!” And, since I’m the raddest person I know, I popped that shit in and got on it! But did I love?
Of course I loved it! I couldn’t put the damn thing down! And I swear it had nothing to do with the constant and gratuitous female jiggling. Honest!
Umm… what were we talking about?
Some critics didn’t much appreciate PXZ‘s pandering to its male fanbase. I can understand that, considering everyone who plays video games isn’t a straight dude. But since I am, it didn’t bother me at all! So I say, “Bring on the fan service!”
Step One: Hypnotize Enemy with jiggle physics.
Step Two: Shoot enemy with giant lance laser.
Step Three: WINNER!
Exploitation aside, these close-up animations of your characters are pretty sweet for both male and female characters. They happen each time you do a special move. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
As mentioned before, PXZ is a traditional Strategy RPG. You’ve a team that fights enemies on a grid, and turn order is dependent upon characters’ and enemies’ speed rather than player/enemy phases, which is my preferred way of determining turn order in SRPGs. You get objectives at the beginning of skirmishes that can (and, most likely, will) change during the battle. Objectives can range from defeating all enemies to saving allies. It’s all pretty simple and far from mind-blowing… until you get to the combat. Then prepare to have your mind blown.
“WHAT IS THIS EVEN!?” -Everyone during their first fight.
To the uninitiated, battles in this game look like a combination of a clusterfuck and a fireworks display. There’s always so much going on, making it easy to feel overwhelmed at first. But I can guarantee, after you’ve played the game for an hour or two, you’ll start understanding how the combat works.
When you attack an enemy on the grid the screen fades to a 2D plane that’s much like a Capcom fighting game, combo hit counter included. Referencing the above pic, the object of a battle is to deplete the enemies life bar found in the bottom-left corner. To do that, you have to hit them. To hit them, you have to hit buttons.
Whoa! Slow down, now!
Every character has 3 standard attacks and a special attack, and leveling up can give characters up to 5 standard attacks. Each attack is executed by pressing a D-Pad/Circle Pad direction and the A button: Neutral+A, Left+A, Right+A, Down+A, and Up+A. Hitting enemies increases your XP bar, and XP are needed to do character skills like healing and buffs; counter attacks; and performing those flashy special moves that inflict a ton of damage and are accompanied by the aforementioned close-up animations/bewbs.
Attacks are less like attacks and more like attack animations. With a simple touch of the D-Pad and a press of a button, your characters will unleash a multi-hit combo that will juggle the enemy in the air and bounce them off the side of the screen. And I say “Characters” because each of your units on the grid can consist of 2 preset fighters (there’s no mixing and matching, unfortunately) and a support character that can jump in and attack as well as provide additional supportive and passive abilities (these guys can be moved around). Add in the fact that an adjacent unit can also jump in, and now you have a total of 5 fighters that can be on screen at one time beating on an enemy. It can get a little hectic. The best thing to do is just to ease yourself in by watching and learning how your characters attack. In the following demo, the player shows all of X’s and Zero’s attacks, including their special and multi-hit attacks:
Attacks look complicated, but really you’re only hitting a couple buttons. But if you stick out your tongue while smashing buttons, onlookers will think you’re doing it all yourself and be impressed. Or they’ll avoid eye contact with you. Forever.
But that’s half the fun of PXZ. Trying to memorize your characters’ attacks is key to playing effectively. To best dominate your opposition and receive EXP and XP bonuses, you need to perfect juggling, the act of keeping your enemy in the air with your attacks. You juggle by attacking again before they hit the ground. Sounds simple, but then you have to factor in Critical Hits which give you even more growth bonuses as well as increased damage. To get Critical Hits, you’ll need to strike the enemy at the right time, so knowing how your characters attack is a must. Then enemy weight eventually becomes a factor, which further demands the knowledge of your characters’ attacks as well as knowledge of Cross Hits. Before you know it, this is a game less about strategy and more about timing.
Success in PXZ is determined by strategy, timing, and jiggling. I mean, “Juggling!”
Battles make up a bulk of the game, which is fine by me. The game’s very streamlined and consists of 1.) a prep menu where you can equip items/support units and save your game, and 2.) the battles. That’s it. And the battles can last anywhere between 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. So be prepared to fight. A lot. Because there are a lot of enemies to take out on each field. It’s not uncommon to fight 40+ enemies in a single fight. Considering you can have all your units on the field at once (around 20), you’ll be seeing lots of on-screen sprites.
Although some fights can wear out their welcome, they all felt epic, and not just in length. You’re always outnumbered, but never overpowered; in fact, your characters seem pretty damn invincible as they fight through waves and waves of enemies. The only real downside to these long fights is when you lose. Losing can set you back about an hour, and that always sucks. Thankfully, you don’t need to worry about losing too much because this is a very easy game. The only time I lost was when the game arbitrarily decided that certain characters weren’t allowed to die in certain fights. You’re told which characters need to stay alive before the fight, but after about an hour of fighting I always forgot. Another major enemy in the game is the stage Turn Limit. In the last few battles, I was winning with only a turn or two left. That kind of pressure can be intense! PXZ‘s saving grace is the fact that you can save at anytime, so as long as you remember to do that every so often you’ll be fine.
Surprise! Zombie boobs!
Another large chunk of the game goes to the plot, which is okay. The story won’t blow you away, but it’s there to move the characters towards a goal, and that’s all I need. Unfortunately, in order to progress the plot, the characters have to talk to each other, and they do this by bookending battles with dialogue. There are a TON of characters you get on your team, and every single one of them has something to say about everything. As you can imagine, these sections can take awhile. To combat the tedium, there’s referential jokes – some funny, some not, some over my head – strewn throughout the dialogue. Plus, it looks like their crotches are talking half the time.
Good point, Penis!
To get a better grip on how many characters you get, it took me about 55 hours to complete this game, and I was still getting new characters in my party 30 hours in. It was pretty cool because I was always anticipating who I’d get next. And, of course, X and Zero – the reasons I got this game – are one of the last characters you get. But freaking John McClane joins your team, so I wasn’t worried!
I feel like the roster, though huge with great characters, could have been stronger. Each company has a very rich history full of memorable and iconic characters. This game could have been a nostalgic tornado! Instead, the companies played it safe and stuck to more recent IPs, probably to get those characters and franchises more time in the spotlight. That’s fine, but just not what I expected. I haven’t played Gods Eater Burst, Resonance of Fate, or Valkyria Chronicles, so I didn’t really click with those characters like I did with Ken and Ryu or Chris and Jill. I mean, where was Sonic and Pacman? How sweet would that have been? I can only guess they were too iconic and the publishers didn’t want to overshadow the other characters.
For a game with so many characters from multiple publishers, each having been in the business since the nascence of console gaming, I really didn’t geek out as much as I felt I should have. There were only 2 instances when I screamed in delight like a little school girl. One instance being the first time I watched Ulala’s attack because it had Space Harrier, Opa-Opa, and the robot from Alien Storm. The other instance was the Gain Ground level. Allies were frozen like in GG, and the music sent me straight back to the early 90s. For you Sega kids out there, you got to get a warm feeling when you listen to PXZ‘s arrangement of the first level theme:
This is exactly the soundtrack needed to remedy combat atrophy!
Speaking of music, this game’s soundtrack is pretty sweet. There’s a lot of familiar tracks that get the ol’ “rearranged” treatment, and Characters’ themes play during their turns, which I found to be a nice touch. Original tracks can best be described as “When the SNES and Electronica Collide!” It’s not bad, and the soundtrack (along with a poster and a tiny art book) came packed in with the game’s Limited Edition for all to enjoy!
I said “Enjoy it!,” dammit!
Though I didn’t know every single character in the game, I still had a blast. I found PXZ‘s combat to be fun and highly addicting. There were several times when I said “just one more turn,” only to find myself playing another 10 turns and finishing the entire fight. I just couldn’t get enough of my characters juggling the enemy. I can’t explain it, but the combat never got old to me. I never got tired of the characters’ repetitive fighting dialogue either. The game’s voice work is completely in Japanese with English subtitles. Mostly, the subs were good, but there were some questionable lines here and there that may have needed a bit more massaging during translation. But it’s all good because we’re given nuggets like this:
Anyone remember Fighting Vipers? Anyone?
Project X Zone isn’t perfect, but what is? The battles are overlong, the pre- and post-fight dialogue can be grating, and some might not like the too-flashy, hard-to-follow combat. But I ultimately liked the game despite its flaws. Though there are better SRPG offers on the 3DS, don’t miss your chance to try out something new in PXZ. If you go in with the right expectations, you may have yourself a really good time.
Thanks for Your Playing! So what did I learn from PXZ? Well, I’m glad I didn’t listen to what others were saying about it. If I had, I’d have missed out on a great game! Have any of you ever steered clear of a game because of what others were saying about it? Did you play it anyway and discover you actually liked it? Let me know in the comments! Until next time, breasts.
All right, even I admit this is a bit much… Still not complaining, though.