BADGP Reviews: Project X Zone
Project X Zone (Namco Bandai, Monolith Soft)
Released: June 25, 2013
August 12, 2013
Review: An Exciting Idea Paired with a Boring SRPG
Project X Zone is a game with untapped potential, and if I come across as entirely negative about my experience with it, it is due to the failure to capitalize on one of the coolest premises in video games. That premise being that characters from Namco Bandai, SEGA, and Capcom all come together in one glorious game. However, the game is far from “glorious” and without all the fan service and deep reaches from the three companies back catalogues it would not even be worth mentioning.
Project X Zone is a game very much like Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier; being from the same developer this should not come at a surprise. In Project X Zone, the player builds a super-like meter that is shared across all the characters on the SRPG grid. Once this meter crosses 100% (it can go up to 150%), the player can unleash that character’s special move. Rinse and repeat until all the enemies on the field are gone or complete a special objective. Do this for 40 hours and you have Project X Zone.
Over the last several years, I have been really getting into SRPGs. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 being the tops, but Fire Emblem, Jeanne d’Arc, Tactics Ogre, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and Luminous Arc all have something unique to offer the genre. I suppose the extremely simple “fighter-like” mechanics in Project X Zone are original, but they are so rudimentary and never evolve across the lengthy playtime. The intensely repetitive mechanics are accompanied by some incredibly lazy storytelling that became frustrating. Bosses were recycled every 2-5 missions and even the characters in the game eventually remark, “I wonder if ‘enemy x’ will stay dead this time.” Surprisingly, there is a narrative justification for the repetition and the story as whole closes out well enough, it just took way too long to get to such a little payoff.
There is a varied soundtrack suiting the compilation of characters. The remix of the Ghosts and Goblins theme is both immediately recognizable and enjoyable. The writing is generally average but there are some funny moments for example: Tron Bonne: “Who violated your cornflakes this morning?” Jin: “I don’t eat cornflakes.”
Games in the genre like Fire Emblem and especially Devil Survivor keep the core gameplay captivating by presenting new and interesting scenarios within the confines of the traditional SRPG grid. There is none of that to be found in Project X Zone and that is why it is so disappointing. The first thing I wrote in my notes about Project X Zone was “overwhelmingly average.” The experience was somewhat enhanced by all the nods to aging and obscure franchises I thought I would never hear from again (Resonance of Fate, Gods Eater Burst, Shining Force), but this is not enough for me to fully recommend the game. A cool idea squandered by no risk taking in the gameplay or story.
5 out of 10