Being a European who adores wacky and obscure RPGs from Japan, I have had to live with 30 years of disappointment as game after game failed to arrive on these shores. Thankfully Bandai Namco Entertainment has been excellent in their localisations as of late, and you can only imagine my delight when they announced that they would be bringing over Nintendo 3DS exclusive Project X Zone.
It’s a follow up to 2005’s Namco X Capcom, another game that regrettably didn’t see a European release on PlayStation 2. I always looked on enviously at that one.
Project X Zone can most easily be described as a strategy RPG which brings together characters from Bandai Namco, Capcom and SEGA. You’ll likely recognise a large number of the characters on offer, but don’t be surprised if there is a lot that you don’t get.
The story in the game is outright insane and makes very little sense, but the localisation is absolutely fantastic. I always find that a plot can be weak if the dialogue isn’t sharp. Project X Zone is a great example of making the most out of what you got. There are a lot of self-referential jokes in the game, and whilst some may pass you by completely if you don’t know the franchise that it’s coming from, fans of those games will be grinning from ear to ear. I don’t want to spoil which characters appear as I went in fresh, and each new introduction was a genuine surprise.
Project X Zone is a real fan service experience, the music has remixes of classic themes from their respective series and they are wonderful, as are the original pieces in the soundtrack. Characters are brilliantly designed in gorgeous sprite form that is some of the very best sprites in many years. Every little touch feels like it was made to make fans smile.
For a self-confessed strategy RPG there ironically isn’t much strategy, at least in the early stages of the game. Chapters start with objectives for the player, and the early chapters can be completed fairly quickly by boss sniping as a simple objective is usually ‘Defeat Boss.’ But don’t get fooled into thinking this tactic will last as later chapters mix things up a bit. By deciding to boss snipe early on, you could back yourself into a corner later on as your characters won’t have a chance for combat and in turn not gain any experience to level up with. The game is pretty easy once you get the hang of the combat, it’s fast, fluid and fun.
After each chapter, you are presented with all your characters, and it is here where you can equip new items, equipment and also change your parties around. Each party is made of two main characters and then a third character whom can be called upon for special attacks. If you are close to other parties on the battlefield they can be used as support in addition to your special attack. Having five of these characters on screen is extremely cool, but also a bit much on your eyes as the combat is so fast.
I know I sound really positive about this game, that’s because it ticks all the right boxes for me, but the difficulty is far too lenient and the depth for things like customisations just isn’t there, making it feel rather shallow. It’s one that will last you a long time though, as I finished the game with 35 hours on the clock, so there is a lot of value in this package. If you come into this expecting something along the lines of Fire Emblem: Awakening then you will be disappointed, but if you want something fun and full of nostalgia you have come to the right place.
Bandai Namco needs to be applauded for bringing this over, it’s got such niche appeal and usually, these sort of games are left to the Japanese audience to enjoy. But here we are in 2013, and getting more localised Japanese RPGs than we can handle. For that, we can be very happy indeed.
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Bandai Namco Entertainment