Project X Zone 2 can perhaps be seen as the greatest fan service to have ever come to fruition. The surprise sequel to 2013’s Nintendo 3DS exclusive crossover strategy RPG, it presents the perfect excuse to bring together legendary characters from Bandai Namco Entertainment, Capcom and SEGA’s rich history.
Nintendo characters enter the fray for the first time, too. That sees Fire Emblem: Awakening’s Chrom and Lucina muster for battle, but even their appearance doesn’t help to make sense of a nonsensical plot. The misalignment of such an important cog in any game would be enough to derail the experience, but Project X Zone 2 only ever seems to gain in strength the more ridiculous it becomes. In fact, it smugly basks in it.
The narrative that it loosely treads around takes place after the similarly ludicrous events seen in Project X Zone. When an uncontrollable portal between different worlds opens, the heroes, villains and monsters from their universes collide, clashing in chaptered scenarios. It falls to Shinra, an organisation that has been entrusted with protecting humanity from inter-dimensional conflicts, to restore order to the world. Which makes it the gaming equivalent to S.H.I.E.L.D. Kind of.
It all serves as being a vehicle to spark encounters and interactions that would never have been possible outside of such a game, with you eventual goal being to discover the cause of the rifts that are emerging. Seeing such high-profile characters gathered together will largely be the impetus behind your purchase decision, but, Project X Zone 2 is able to go far beyond that. While much of your time will be spent reading through reams of text, these are interjected by battle scenarios where players will have to take down foes that litter the stage map.
It’s simple in approach, with characters placed either as a Pair Unit or Solo Unit under your command. Pair Units are formed of two characters, think Resident Evil’s Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine or Tales of Vesperia’s Yuri Lowell and Flynn Scifo, that are present in battle. These can be moved as you wish, but, once positioned near an enemy, you can choose to strike and enter combat.
There are two types of battle modes that the game refers, cited as Normal Attack and Multi Attack Modes. While movement across the stage map is turn-based, these play out as more action-orientated instances where players choose between different button combinations to unleash normal and special attacks. This is referred to as the Cross Active Battle System, a dramatic name by any means but one that relates to the button combos that you can perform.
Where Solo Units come into play, such as Shenmue’s Ryo Hazuki and Space Channel 5’s Ulala, is that they can be summoned in these sequences to heighten the damage dealt to your opponent with their own attack barrage. In short, you will want each character to hurt your selected for as much as possible in the time window given.
That’s because, once all your moves have been made, it will then shift to the enemy turn. They will respond in kind, in moving to attack. Players can choose to respond to their threat in different ways, whether that be a Counter, Defend, Full Defend, or simply doing nothing. This lets you reduce or nullify any damage taken, but comes at the expense of your SP gauge.
Tougher enemies will take a concerted effort by multiple Pair Units to bring to their knees, but there is a lack of challenge that makes Project X Zone 2’s gameplay continue to feel second fiddle to the storyline that drives it. That being said, the battle animations are a wonder to behold, and I always found them to be a highlight in the grander scheme of the adventure.
An intermission separates each chapter, letting you shop for equipment and items before upgrading your team. Gained experience will see them level over time, with gear and accessories presenting a chance to improve their statistics which fall across Attack, Defense, Technique and Dexterity. Whereas Customize Points can be spent to enhance your offensive techniques or set Auto Skills.
Meanwhile, a Crosspedia presents reference material in learning more about the assembled characters, and the games that they have appeared in. This feels part promotion, but will help you to delve into each character’s history and explore any that interest you.
But it’s the localisation effort that holds everything together, a witty script that will raise a smile and prompt a chuckle in equal measure.
As convoluted as it is, Project X Zone 2 presents a memorable experience that embraces the madness that it soon descends into. Some flaws persist from the first game, but those looking for more of the same can take comfort in that it readily delivers.
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment