Some of my favorite mash-ups like The Expendables, Collision Course (the Jay Z/Linkin Park collaboration) and Street Fighter X Tekken, prove pop culture loves mash-ups as much as I do. New to the list, I present Project X Zone, a strategy RPG combination of some of Capcom, Namco, and Sega’s biggest characters with a few originals mixed in for good measure.
Initially, I was apprehensive about how these big-name companies could cohesively bring all their characters together. They managed it, but with such a cast, they were left with little choice but to use the cliche “shattered dimension” storyline. Essentially, some grand evil is hopping around time and space, dragging our heroes along for the ride. It almost feels like a cop out when you think of the years of creative genius amongst these companies, but you will quickly get the feeling the story was not the main focus to begin with.
The focus in this game is in the characters and the off-the-wall combat. Yes, the combat in a strategy RPG is the highlight. Now to be clear, the strategy is fairly bland, but when you cross those 5-8 hexagons to clash with an enemy, you will be treated to a mad medley of mayhem. The button inputs are quite simple, but the joy and skill of battle is in timing and juggling. No doubt due to Tekken’s influence, you can knock enemies into the air and juggle them with well-timed combos and even bounce them off the walls with certain attacks. Catching an enemy just before they hit the ground results in a critical, but missing and allowing them to touch earth cancels your current combo. Support characters can be summoned once per turn to really crank up the combo numbers and gives you the opportunity for cross hits which result in higher damage. Although you are allowed to mix and match these support characters, the base two-person teams come as is and cannot be altered, which is kind of a let down. I enjoy having Chun-Li and Morrigan teamed together, but I would love to be able to have a solid Darkstalkers team with Morrigan and Demitri. The static nature of the teams is understandable though; it allows for team-centric banter and the super combos are very team specific as well.
For the graphics lovers out there, be prepared for a let down. I am personally all for the sprite life, but this game is definitely not up there with a title like Fire Emblem as far as graphical prowess. The backgrounds are just static backdrops and lack any real pop. The foreground does feature some variety though and the developers did a good job of recreating memorable locations like Willamette Parkview Mall from Dead Rising. And as a final parting shot to the looks, the 3D is useless, as usual.
Now, when it comes to any game, I feel it is a major point if I can leave the game idle or paused without the music driving me insane. Kudos to Project X Zone for nailing this one. Not only do I enjoy the menu music, but during gameplay, the music switches depending on which character’s turn it is! Yes, that means when Ryu and Ken step up to beat someone down, they do it with classic Street Fighter tunes backing them. Even now, I want to turn the game on just to hear it. And, true to the roots of the fighting franchises incorporated into the game, every punch, kick, slam and fireball sound is on point. However, there maybe be a bit of an issue for some when it comes to the voice overs; although, I suppose it is more of a matter of preference. Project X Zone comes fully voiced over in Japanese with no option for English voices. As a huge fan of anime, I traditionally enjoy subtitles for my overseas entertainment.To me, the Japanese voice overs are awesome and make the game feel much more genuine to its source material; however, I can definitely see how this could aggravate some people to no end.
All and all, this game is solid. Even with a lackluster story, as a fan of Sega, Capcom and/or Namco Bandai, seeing so many timeless characters in one place nearly brought a tear to my eye. For the more serious strategy RPG fans, be ready for a cakewalk. There will be little challenge for you here coming in with the skills you have learned from Final Fantasy Tactics,Tactics Ogre and the like. If you are looking for some over the top mash-up madness, this was made with your happiness in mind. 7/10