Project X Zone Review

The hype surrounding Project X Zone leading up to its release centered almost entirely on its extensive list of playable characters. Familiar faces from Capcom, Namco, Sega, and others all converge in one turn-based strategy game, and fans of all of these games should flock to the game to see them, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Unfortunately, a lot could go wrong.

Outside of the impressive character list, Project X Zone offers little else. The turn-based strategy is limited in scope, obviously toned down for casual players who will play for the characters. There is a story, but damned if I know what the hell is going on. The game’s structure is repetitious to the point of nausea. There’s just not a lot to like outside of the all-star cast, and unfortunately an all-star cast doesn’t mean squat if the rest of the game doesn’t hold up.

I can explain the entire structure of the game in four easy steps: start a mission, complete mission, edit party, repeat until finished. There are no branching storylines, no consequences for failure other than restarting, no perma-death, nothing of interest. Project X Zone is the “pick up and play” of strategy RPGs: boot the 3DS up, start the game, fight the next mission, save, turn it off again.

Perhaps if the narrative served more of a purpose than “loosely tie these characters together,” I may want to play it for more than one mission at a time, but it doesn’t. I’m still not quite sure just what the hell is going on in this game. Even more absurd is the fact that the characters are somehow all familiar with one another, even if they hadn’t starred together in a game before. How exactly does Pai Chan know that Chun-Li is an Interpol agent, hm? When did this happen? These are things I’d have liked to see fleshed out, instead of just “well they know each other, let’s move on.” Those facts are better served out in the open, not swept under the rug.

For all of its presentation issues, Project X Zone does a hell of a job introducing new characters into the fray. There’s almost a WWE quality to the reveals, but rather than hearing familiar entrance music, I see a disembodied quote spoken by “???” before the character shows his or her face. A few times I actually yelled in delight for whichever character finally appeared, as I never really knew who to expect next.

Of course, presentation means nothing compared to how the game plays, but unfortunately Project X Zone isn’t strong in that department either. Repetition is the name of the game, each turn moving down the line of everyone on screen until I hear “TURN END” and it repeats. Sometimes, completing certain tasks will add enemies or allies to the screen via cutscene, lengthening the already long battle process. In a few instances, the “chapter” didn’t officially begin until I had already cleared the battleground and more villains showed up. I should have been happy, but it just felt like a cheap extension.

I will say this: though the battle may be long, actually fighting enemies is damn cool. The amount of insanity one attack can cause is unreal; so long as all of the parameters are set, I could control five characters at a time, all at the same time, doing damage to whichever enemy I selected. Granted, I only had direct control of two of the characters and the other three were support called upon with the shoulder buttons, but I still had to make sure the timing of the attacks was correct in order to reach the turn’s maximum potential. The team-specific super moves are a delight to watch as well, the attack animations overlaid by brief anime-quality animations of the characters close up.  As beautiful and fun to watch as these battles are, it’s a shame they’re surrounded by so much uninteresting stuff that getting to them is a chore.

I really wanted to love Project X Zone, but I quickly learned that fan service can only take a game so far. The rest of the game has to measure up, and if it doesn’t, no amount of familiar faces will fix it. When battles are slow to the point of boredom, the lack of depth is an obvious plea to casual turn-based players, and the narrative is impossible to accurately explain, the game just doesn’t hold up. Fire Emblem: Awakening and Shin Megami Tensei IV will whet the hardcore turn-based gamers’ appetite; Project X Zone is just a all-star group of faces in the crowd.


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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