Here’s a thought: take 50 some popular characters from the Capcom, Sega, and Namco Bandai universes, cram them in a strategy RPG and stir in a story so ridiculous, even the characters themselves don’t get it. That is Project X Zone for the Nintendo 3DS. Want to see Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter take on Nemesis from Resident Evil 3? Project X Zone does that. Want to team Heihachi Mishima from Tekken up with Mega Man X and Zero? Project X Zone does that too. As ridiculous as this sounds, it actually works well.
Project X Zone has a very easy learning curve. You control several teams on a battlefield that contains several enemies and an object. You move each team of 2 characters once per turn. Should you end up close enough to an enemy, you can choose to engage them in battle. Battles take place on a separate screen, similar to a 2-D fighter. Your team can perform a certain number of attacks that earn you XP. The attacks use one button and a direction. If you have enough XP built up, your characters can unleash a super attack that does big damage. Winning earns you EXP and can level up your team, granting additional skills and attacks.
The teams of 2 are predetermined due to the story. The only amount of team customization comes when you add a third support character. It’s unfortunate that Project X Zone doesn’t allow for too much customization with the teams. It would have been cool to mix and match the characters a bit more.
Even with the minimal team customization, the battles are a blast and never get stale. The action is fast and furious, and you have more control here than with other games like Fire Emblem, where your outcome is a more of a numbers game. There can be as many as 5 of your characters (your team of 2, the 3rd support character and the aid of a nearby team if available) beating on your opponent at any given time. And there will be a lot of opponents to beat on. Just when you think you’re near the end of a chapter, don’t be surprised if a dozen more enemies appear out of nowhere. The odds are usually never in your favor.
Even though the battles are entertaining, Project X Zone’s story is essentially non-existent. There’s a magic stone, time travel and inter-dimensional travel. Think of it like a double-sided puzzle, where you know the pieces fit, but good luck getting them to match up properly. Even the characters constantly talk about how confused they are, accurately mirroring the player’s feelings at the time. Of course, everything eventually gets explained. But, it’s definitely clear that Project X Zone is about the action.
While there are a few flaws, Project X Zone is still a fun game. It’s the Expendables of gaming: tons of star power and action, very little narrative. If you want a strategy RPG without all of the intricacies of a Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics, Project X Zone is a great choice. This is one of those oddball games that normally don’t make it across the pond. Let’s hope we get more games like this.