Nearly 60 hours later and thousands of cross attacks, assists, and references are instilled in my mind in one of the most nonsensical but nostalgic-derived games of this generation. Project X Zone is a unique game for American tactical RPG audiences, and a treat for Capcom, Sega, and Bandai-Namco fans that love out-of-the-ordinary ideas. PxZ is full of them and is a great entry point in the genre of TRPGs, but aside from mildly funny referential humor and competent combat, there’s little else here to warrant some from crossing over.
Imagine a world where Akira from Virtua Fighter, Arthur from Ghosts ‘n Goblins, and KOS-MOS from Xenoasga are teaming up to dwindle HP from adversaries and monsters who continuously hop from universe to universe. That’s Project X Zone in a nutshell. It’s a ridiculous, anime-infused, weaboo’s wetdream nutshell. With 40+ characters vying to kick the crap out of the opposition, PxZ gives you the ability to do so while being strung along on a story that’s as ludicrous and pointless as someone’s fanfic concerning Jin from Tekken and Darkstalker’s Morrigan. It really doesn’t matter why anyone is here to fight and that’s clear within the first 5 hours as you’ve gathered a small army who have clearly just accepted their lot in life and joined the fight. It’s a shame there’s no rhyme or reason for this many famous characters to be here, but it’s mostly forgivable.
The real entertainment comes from the combat and visual beauty that explodes from initiating a fight. In a rather simplistic setup, you won’t be quarter-circle punching your way to victory. No, you’re limited to ‘A’ + d-pad inputs. When these inputs are timed correctly and linked you create opportunity for higher damage and critical hits. Time them just before a foe hits the ground and you’ll juggle them longer and extend your attacks. If that’s not enough punishment, call in your support attack and create the cross hit feature which freezes them and deals crazy damage. Still not enough? *SIGH* Fine! If you’re aligned onscreen with another team, you can then call them in too and absolutely dominate the fight. It still pays to be mindful of how you’re attacking, though, because, unless you’re really careful in timing, you won’t be getting critical hits this way. Project X Zone’s combat is a sensory overload at times, what with sprites zooming about, short animated bits initiating big attacks, and numbers and text popping up all over the screen. It can be overwhelming at first, but after your first few chapters, it’s all becomes second nature.
And, oh boy, the chapters; there’re so many chapters! This is a meaty game, and despite only (only?) having 40 chapters, each chapter can take 45-60 minutes to complete depending on your ability. PxZ is not a “difficult” game, but it’s no cakewalk either. Various parameters and requirements make it so you can’t simply dilly-dally about the field for treasures and XP. Some characters must reach certain spots on the map or simply survive until the end. Aside from the final conflict, none of the objectives are torturous and stress-inducing, but they can seem overwhelming at first. It’s usually best to keep characters that are marked for death as far from combat as possible. Worry not, even if you’re getting pummeled, plenty of HP- and XP-increasing items are gathered throughout, and a quick-save feature is there to prevent losing a good chunk of gameplay for one stupid mistake. Project X Zone is a more forgiving game that other games in the genre, so it’s easy to recommend for those not usually found playing TRPGs.
Monolith Soft is not new to this avenue of games as similar games – mostly centered around giant mecha – have been releasing in Japan for decades now. For US and EU territories, though, this crossover and referential idea is new. But it’s nothing to fear despite PxZ having zero plot aside from “bad guys discover portals” being the end-all, be-all explanation for why it’s all happening. Seeing all of these characters coming together in the same game, however, is remarkable. The licensing cost and clearance for this to be a reality outside of Japan is mind-blowing. Small touches like specific character music playing while they’re selected and in battle and an unlocked jukebox to enjoy the music are nice additions for the fans. Hearing the never-released-in-the-US “Namco X Capcom” theme play as you wander the battlefield as Reiji and Xiamou is amazing!
With a lackluster, nonexistent story to explain why any of this is happening, I can easily see the disinterested bowing out well before they reach chapter 20. While most can look past the silliness and be blase about the reasoning, some are a bit more fickle and like to know why; unfortunately, there is no deep explanation, so motivation will likely wane as time goes on. If you can look past that and see this is a perfect travel or road-trip game, you’ll enjoy it so much more.
I absolutely recommend Project X Zone to a variety of groups: those wanting to try tactical RPGs but fear high difficulty. It’s toned down, so fret not. Those that can appreciate silly, pointless crossovers and solid combat; PxZ is perfect for you. If you’re someone who wants a game that is perfect for chunks of gameplay and will last you for the cost, hop on-board! With nearly 60 hours (at least in my time spent with it), this is a game with a ton of first-time playthrough content. A new game plus options opens upon completion for the true sadist that want harder enemies, less XP earned, and an all-around harder game.
Don’t dismiss Project X Zone for its style, ideas, or premise. It’s a game that is very niche, very specific, and very minimal, but that’s the truly appreciative point. It’s not for the masses, but it’s a good game that can push some into the genre. Will we see more games like this in the future? Possibly, but only if we let our voices be heard and support the idea(s). Let’s just push for a more enjoyable, likeable story next time, eh? If you’re a veteran of TRPGs, maybe deduct a half to a full star for its dialed-back approach, but if you’re new to the genre and can handle extreme fanservice, maybe add half to a full star.