Bandai Namco x Capcom x SEGA x Nintendo
Dream crossover games have become increasingly popular over the years, with franchises such as Super Smash Bros., Mortal Kombat, Kingdom Hearts, and Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games at the forefront of the genre’s success. In 2005, Namco teamed up with Capcom to produce a crossover tactical role-playing game for PlayStation 2, aptly called Namco X Capcom, that, despite modest sales in Japan, never received a Western release.
Some eight years later, Namco revisited this franchise with Project X Zone (pronounced “Project Cross Zone”), a Nintendo 3DS-exclusive green-lit for North American localization that rejoined the teams at Namco and Capcom, and added SEGA to the mix. The game proved to be a success, so not only did all three Japanese companies collaborate on the sequel—the newly released Project X Zone 2—they also added Nintendo into this mega RPG crossover party.
Just imagine controlling your favourite characters from hit franchises like Resident Evil, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, and Fire Emblem, as you take on some of the biggest video game baddies of all time in one epic tactical role-playing game mashup!
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: Monolith Soft
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Genre: Tactical role-playing game
ESRB Rating: T (Teen, 13+)
More franchises, more characters
Monolith Soft, the team behind last year’s Xenoblade Chronicles X and the original Project X Zone, is once again back at the helm for this latest tactical RPG adventure. Project X Zone 2 features over 50 playable characters from more than 25 franchises that span the Namco, Capcom, SEGA and Nintendo universes, including returning cast members Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine (Resident Evil), X and Zero (Mega Man), Demitri and Morrigan (Darkstalkers), Jin and Heihachi (Tekken), and the always adorable space reporter Ulala (Space Channel 5). There are plenty of new characters introduced in this version, including a pair of Yakuza members from SEGA’s hit franchise, and the welcome introduction of recognizable faces from Nintendo’s Fire Emblem.
Like in the previous game, much of Project X Zone 2‘s charm comes from the many hilarious interactions between this motley crew of characters swept up from various times and universes, all brought together into one uproarious story. Seeing Tekken‘s Heihachi relentlessly pursue Phoenix Wright because he’s in need of a lawyer is just plain funny, as is watching Summon Knight‘s Aty meeting Mega Man X and Zero for the first time and crushing big time.
The game focuses mainly on Japanese franchises that had their origins in the 1990’s and 2000’s, with a few characters from earlier generations such as Valkyrie from the Nintendo Famicon era, along with a handful of brand new characters made specifically for Project X Zone. Unless you’re a hardcore fan of Japanese RPGs, fighting games and action titles, you’re unlikely to recognize every character in the game, but with such a sweeping range of franchises some of your favourites are sure to be among them.
Mysterious Portals & Gold Chains
Project X Zone 2 begins with familiar Shinra agents Reiji Arisu and Xiaomu who have been given the task to visit Shibuya to investigate mysterious gold chains that have suddenly appeared out of thin air. In an almost identical manner as the original game, time-dimensional portals begin emerging that bring together characters from various video game universes into real-world Japan. Before you know it, Reiji and Xiaomu travel to other worlds also experiencing the same problem of gold chains, collecting new hero recruits as they go. As far as the story goes, that’s pretty much all you need to know, as the game doesn’t even begin to explain why these gold chains are popping up everywhere until more than half way through the adventure.
The game is divided up into 5 prologue chapters that introduce you to characters and the mechanics of the game, followed by 42 main story chapters, each taking about 30-45 minutes to complete. Each chapter remains remarkably consistent in its flow throughout the entire adventure, usually opening up with chit chat among your characters, crammed full of signature catchphrases and insider jokes, when abruptly a bunch of enemy rivals appear to ruin your day. Completing a chapter is done by eliminating all enemies, or defeating a boss, with the exception of a few objective-style chapters that you must complete within a designated number of turns. This formulaic approach adds a high degree of predictability to each chapter, so expect routine scenarios in every place you visit.
Pair and Solo units returns
The basic combat set-up in Project X Zone 2 is almost identical to the original. Your characters are divided up into two different types of units: Pair Units and Solo Units. Pair Unit always fight together on the frontline, and are usually characters from the same game world such as Chrom and Lucina (Fire Emblem) or Kite and Haseo (.hack). There are also a few odd pairings, including Strider Hiryu (Strider) and Hotsuma (Shinobi), which can take a little time to get used to. The other unit type, Solo Units, are characters that can join a Pair group and be called in for assistance during battles. Solo Units often have the most outrageous personalities or attacks, such as Axel Stone pummelling opponents in classic Streets of Rage style, or Ulala who looks like she’s conducting a live news broadcast as she inflicts heavy damage.
Combat in Project X Zone 2 is turn-based and takes place on maps that have been divided into a grid. In one of the biggest changes to the gameplay in this version, there are actual player and enemy phases, meaning you complete all your character actions and then the AI does the same, instead of the confusing countdown numbering system from the original.
Cross Active Battle System
The sequel once again uses the “Cross Active Battle System”, which is a fancy term that describes a real-time combat system that places a heavy focus on combining character attacks together. Basic attacks are performed by a combination of a Circle Pad directional push + a press of the A button. Initially, most characters will have two Basic attacks available, with more being acquired as they gain EXP and level-up. Each Basic attack varies in strength and the number of attacks, with most attack strings ending with your enemy being launched in the air to set-up a juggle combo. Landing your next blow the moment before your enemy touches ground will reward you with a more powerful Critical Attack, along with the continuation of your combo.
To aid in combat, you can call in a Solo unit that has been assigned to your current Pair with a simple tap of the L button. Help can also be provided by one neighbouring Pair unit (called a “Support”) by pressing the R button, for a maximum total of five attacking characters (2 Pairs + 1 Solo) in any given battle. Any time two different unit types attack simultaneously, you achieve what’s called a Cross Hit that freezes the enemy in place, allowing your characters to pummel them with a barrage of hits for some serious damage. Cross Hits also quickly raises your Pair unit’s XP meter, which is used to perform a variety of critical supporting moves such as revive KO’ed characters or blocking enemy attacks.
Notable battle changes in this version include the new Mirage Cancel, which allows you to cancel a move mid-way through to regain one bar of your attack gauge, and now individual attacks can be charged up for the next fight, so long as you don’t use the attack in your current battle. Both of these changes don’t impact combat in any significant way, but the fast and strategic combo system remains as elegant and polished as it was in the previous game.
Despite the incredibly deep cast of characters, range of combat options, and new battle systems, like its predecessor Project X Zone 2 still has surprisingly shallow strategic gameplay. Most common enemies can be defeated in one attack and when on the offensive, only deal an average of 10-20% damage, which can either be outright blocked by using some XP, or healed with items or XP after the fight. The only real threats in every chapter are the handful of boss enemies that appear, and even they can usually be KO’ed in a matter of four or five Special Attacks. Death is so infrequent, I played for over 25 hours before my first character Pair were killed, and despite that setback I was able to revive them the very next turn.
Project X Zone 2 is not the most strategically sound tactical role-playing game, but it is one of the most interesting out there. Seeing dozens of your favourite characters from among the best game franchises in the Namco, Capcom, SEGA, and Nintendo universes meeting and interacting in such hilarious ways still remains a joy. If you’re looking for a deep, strategy tactical RPG for Nintendo 3DS you’re better off picking up Fire Emblem: Fates, but if the thought of a character-driven crossover title suits your fancy then you’ll have plenty of entertaining hours with Project X Zone 2.
+ So many comedic moments
+ Gameplay is simple, and fun
+ Great soundtrack, and excellent Japanese voices
+ Tons of characters and cameos
+ New combat mechanics add variety
+ Lengthy campaign
– Nearly the same of the original game
– Lacks challenge
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5
Overall Rating 4/5 (80%)