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Project X Zone (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for Project X Zone on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

When Project X Zone was revealed last year, many believed that a localisation would never happen. After all, it's a follow up to Namco X Capcom - a PlayStation 2 game only released in Japan - and contains dozens of characters that most gamers in the West have never even heard about, let alone played their respective games. Despite all that, a localisation was confirmed earlier this year and the game was released on June 25th in North America and on July 5th in Europe. Now that it's finally here, how does it hold up? Read on to find out…

The fact that this is a crossover game pretty much makes the story nonsensical as there is simply no logical way to explain how all these characters from completely different universes can meet up. Based on the reactions of the characters to what's going on, though, it seems that the writers were fully aware of this and instead decided to simply have fun with it all by putting lots of innuendos, in-jokes and other references into the game. All that makes for an entertaining and amusing story that shouldn't be taken seriously.

The story aside, the game is divided into a lot of separate chapters, many of which take place in locations from the included franchises. After the beginning of the game, a base can be accessed between each chapter to check characters' stats, equipment, skills, and more. It's also a good opportunity to check out short profiles of newly-obtained characters to find out what series they're from.

Screenshot for Project X Zone on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Once all the preparations are complete and a chapter starts, players will usually find themselves on a battlefield filled with enemies. The tide of the battle and objectives can change several times each chapter, though. For example, enemy reinforcements might suddenly arrive. Sometimes they get to move immediately, leaving the player with no time to adjust their strategy, so it's a good idea to never play too recklessly to avoid sudden reinforcements wiping out several units. Upon defeat, a unit is disabled for the rest of the chapter until an ally moves next to them and sacrifices their turn to rescue them. Some chapters will end in an instant Game Over if certain units become incapacitated, but for the most part, death is pretty inconsequential unless the enemy manages to wipe out a majority of the small army all at once, leaving little room to recover.

The gameplay is grid-based and similar to a game like Fire Emblem: Awakening in that each unit has a certain movement and attack range, but that's where the similarities end, as the movement order is determined by a Speed stat. This means that enemies will move between player character turns and don't have their designated turn where all of them act consecutively. The first few turns are conveniently displayed on the touch screen while every unit has a corresponding number above their head, making it easy to plan ahead. Once every unit has had their turn, an overall turn will pass. Each unit can use as many items as they like during their turn and while healing items are very commonly obtained from enemies, the better ones should be saved for tricky situations.

Screenshot for Project X Zone on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Once an enemy is in attack range, a battle can be initiated. Two characters - that are typically from the same franchise - form a pair unit which acts as one. Each pair unit starts off with three different attacks and can gain up to five via level ups. The amount of times a pair unit can attack is based on the number of different attacks they know but an additional attack can be gained by performing each attack once. These regular attacks are performed by pressing the A button in combination with the Circle Pad. Despite its flashy looks, the combat only requires single, timely button presses and it's far from a fighting or an action game. Most attacks will lift the enemy into the air, making them susceptible to even more punishment. Fighting with just one pair unit isn't desirable, though. Each pair unit can have a separate solo unit accompany them. They can be called in once during each battle along with an ally that's standing next to the attacking unit. Timing is key, here, as the Solo and Support Attacks combined with the first units' attacks create Cross Hits. These freeze an enemy in place and are ideal to dish out a lot of damage. This is particularly useful for enemies that can block attacks, as it disables them from recovering after the initial guard break.

Each battle grants a certain amount of experience that's boosted by the highest combo of dealt Hits, Cross Hits and Critical Hits. Critical Hits are performed by attacking exactly before the enemy touches the ground after being launched into the air. Some regular attacks are very easy to get Critical Hits on, while others are a bit trickier. Thankfully, the included Training Mode allows the player to conveniently practise the timings for each particular attack and the boosted experience as well as the increased damage makes it worth that extra effort. Not to be confused with regular experience are XP - also known as Cross Points - that are accumulated by successfully attacking enemies. XP are used for activating certain skills outside of a battle as well as performing Special Attacks in combat. These Special Attacks are incredibly powerful and it's possible to perform Critical Hits with them, too, making them even deadlier. They are also a joy to watch, with special music based on the franchise kicking in while the characters obliterate the enemy in the most stylish and over the top way possible. One would think that the spectacle would wear off eventually, but even after hours and hours of playing the game, watching these Special Attacks is still entertaining, even more so with a Critical Hit.

Screenshot for Project X Zone on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Skills and Special Attacks aren't everything XP are used for, though. When an enemy attacks, the player has to pick a response. Defend halves the damage received, Full Defend completely nullifies the attack, while Counter allows for a short counterattack. All of these actions cost certain amounts of XP. The regular maximum is 100% and beyond that it can only be increased by performing Cross Hits with Solo or Support Attacks. XP will also diminish over time if they aren't used, so it's important to use them up fairly quickly. Bosses have their own special meter that increases as they take damage, meaning a boss can quickly dish out a lot of damage to multiple surrounding characters in return. Speaking of which, Multi Attacks can be learned by allies, as well, and are very handy when it comes to quickly dispatching a lot of grunts that are stationed next to each other. Much like Special Attacks, they also use up XP.

Each pair unit can also equip a weapon and an accessory. These can be found in treasure chests on the battlefield or obtained by defeating bosses. Most of them don't provide significant improvements on their own, but combined with the ability to assign a Solo Unit with specific abilities to a pair unit, it gives players the option to customise their units to a certain extent. The right combinations can make a difference but it's not critical as the game is already relatively easy.

Screenshot for Project X Zone on Nintendo 3DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

The game mechanics themselves lack some depth and while there is some potential for clever strategies, it's not really required to come up with any as the difficulty is fairly low. Playing well both strategically and in battle with lots of Critical Hits and seamless combos is still satisfying and rewarding, though, as it enables the player to dispatch the massive amounts of enemies much more efficiently. Overall, the gameplay is a lot of fun and only further enhanced by the brilliant presentation of the battles.

Graphics

Stunning sprites with extremely fluid animations and a lot of attention to detail make the battles a joy to watch. Special Attacks in particular are a visual treat and contain a lot of clever references to the source material. The stage environments can't match that incredible charm but they still look very good with a lot of details.

Sound

On top of some original music, the soundtrack contains a lot of remixes of popular themes from all the included franchises. Much like the graphics, it's a labour of love and a very enjoyable soundtrack, particularly if one happens to be a fan of some series that are in the game. The Japanese voice acting is excellent and appropriately over the top.

Value

Completing this game is a daunting task indeed, with an average playtime of around 40 to 50 hours. On top of that, there's a harder New Game Plus mode to tackle. There are no traditional side-quests that are found in many other RPGs but it still holds up very well with its extremely lengthy main game.

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

Project X Zone shows how crossover games should be done, celebrating the rich history of Namco Bandai, SEGA and Capcom, while making all the included characters shine. However, despite all its qualities, it's a hard game to wholeheartedly recommend because of its niche appeal. That said, those who are invested in at least a few of the included franchises or the companies behind them in general will find an addictive strategy RPG wrapped in a ridiculous amount of fan service, over-the-top action and light-hearted humour. Everybody else will, quite frankly, ask themselves what the point to all this madness is and move on.

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24.07.2013

9

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Developer

BanPresto

Publisher

Namco Bandai

Genre

Strategy

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Great review, and certainly a toughie to grade. I for one adored this game, and on a personal level woulda given it a 9 too (objectively an 8 perhaps) it was just so full of fanservice and brilliant fun character interaction that it was possible not to enjoy, and the battles, while simple and not the most thought provocative battle system ever, are far more addictive than I expect. Like.. Tetris levels of addictive. Battle I found myself saying "just one more battle before bed!" or "just one more cutscene before bed!"

I finished the whole thing after around a week of solid playing, my playtime was over 60 hours, and I wasn't really taking my time, it's bloody long.

Such a shame that the game is only really one that fans of these series' would really enjoy, because man it was a blast for me even though I didn't know all the series'.

Incidentally, playing the game has given me interest in a lot of the represented series'.. I suddenly felt like heading onto the internet to see if I could pick up the likes of Sakura Wars or Gods Eater for cheap, and it's largely thanks to this game that I decided to finally get into MegaMan.

So thanks for the great time, and the wonderful tribute to gaming icons of old, Project X Zone. Smilie It makes me sad that most of the franchises represented in this game are long gone.. but if Namco decide to make another of these to further the excuses to make great remixes like this and allow the Darkstalkers to live once again, I certainly wouldn't object. Smilie I'm practically begging for a sequel with even more characters already! (Sonic next time? Smilie )

Also you can probably tell I have a lot to say about this game, I accidentally gushed about it. Smilie

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Staff Member

Oh man, you HAVE to get Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love on the Wii, SuperLink. It's really high on my list of favourite Wii games and I think it would be right up your alley. I hope you can still find it at a decent price somehow, it's totally worth it.

On that note, I did buy Resonance of Fate but I had my eye on that before seeing Zephyr and Leanne in the game. I might look into some other franchises too like Devil May Cry. Yuri and Estelle are so painful to play as though, as I really want Tales of Vesperia but that's like the only game I want on the Xbox 360. Smilie Seeing the characters from Valkyria Chronicles 3 is sad too, since only the first two got localised (incidentally their Special Move is called "Localised Assault", what a tease!). The first one also happens to be one of my favourite PS3 games.

Uh yeah, I think we're two good examples why I stated that you should be invested in at least some of the franchises to really enjoy Project X Zone. Smilie An open mind would do too though, after all I was only familiar with a handful of franchises and never had anything to do with all the others.

Cubed3 Reviewer/Feature Writer | Twitter | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I think it must be sold out here in the UK. In its first week it shot into the Top 20 All Format chart and this week it isn't even in the 3DS specific Top 10! Dedicated fans must have snapped it up quickly.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Staff Member

Oh wow, I had a look on Amazon Germany where I bought it from and it already says 2 to 4 weeks. I had a feeling this would happen, I'm glad I pre-ordered. At least there's the eShop version for people who missed it but it's great to have a physical copy of what's bound to become a pretty rare game.

Cubed3 Reviewer/Feature Writer | Twitter | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I heard Sakura Wars was a tactical RPG and I usually suck at those, plus it was very expensive, but if I ever find it cheap I'll snap it up.

Tales of Vesperia is right up there in my favourite games of all time list, and easily my favourite Tales game (especially concerning characters and story) Smilie and I feel the same about Valkyria Chronicles 3, I can't help but wonder if the "localised assault" attack was a cruel joke from Namco, or if it was some horrible coincidence. Smilie

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Staff Member

SuperLink said:
I heard Sakura Wars was a tactical RPG and I usually suck at those, plus it was very expensive, but if I ever find it cheap I'll snap it up.

Fear not, it's really more of a visual novel/dating sim than a tactical RPG. Heck, how you perform in the rather infrequent battles is more dependent on your dating skills rather than your strategic skills. Smilie I bought it when it was only 20€, presumably Amazon was trying to get rid of its stock. Now it's really hard to find at a decent price, unfortunately.

Cubed3 Reviewer/Feature Writer | Twitter | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

In that case I'll keep my eyes open, I thought Gemini was really cool so I kinda want that one.

But man it's sold out already? That's both great and bad news, I guess Namco had low expectations understandably but, it sucks that the lack of stock has probably ultimately prevented it from doing as well as it could have done. What it we could have seen it in the Top10 if stock was better? That woulda been something Smilie

It deserves all the success it can get, imo. The more chance there is of a sequel coming west, the happier I'll be. Smilie

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Staff Member

At the very least Namco Bandai will see that the game didn't bomb over here and sold pretty much all copies it could. I would love to see more of these cheaper localisations (English text only, with the original Japanese voice acting) with low print runs and an eShop version if it's the only way for some games to come over at all. It would keep the die-hard fans who want to play those games (and have a physical copy) happy while not presenting a big risk to the publisher.

Cubed3 Reviewer/Feature Writer | Twitter | Backloggery
ArsonistZombie (guest) 25.07.2013 19:30#9

I walked into Gamestop, and saw the poster with the familiar characters on it that a 90's child would know. Seeing MegaMan, Dante (Him especially. Devil May Cry is in my top 3 favorite series), Chris, Ryu, Jin and Frank West, my nostalgia immediately told me to buy the game. So, I did, and I don't regret picking up the limited edition with the awesome CD Soundtrack included. As a consequence of having played the game though, I too am getting closer and closer to the breaking point where I just go buy all the games that the unfamiliar characters are from. 9/10, without a doubt.

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