Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Retro Goat Reviews- Project X Zone

Project X Zone is a turn based crossover RPG, co-developed by Banpresto and Monolith Soft, and is a sequel to the Japanese only game Namco X Capcom. it includes characters from Namco, Capcom, and Sega, with characters from over twenty five different franchises between the three companies appearing in playable roles.

Story- 7/10
The story itself is nothing particularly special. While the plot makes enough sense- the characters want to return to their own worlds after they merge together and distort reality- it's mostly an excuse to have the characters fighting for a reason. The story was unfortunately pretty predictable, but it wasn't necessarily bad. It made sense, and the story did flow fluently enough, but it lost a bit of steam during the third act. The pacing wasn't as well done by that point, and that made the story less enjoyable. However, while it lacks a worthwhile story line, it does have great character interactions. The characters are often hilarious, playing off of each other very well without being out-of-character, and the interaction is what makes the plot less tedious.The amount of breaking the fourth wall jokes can take away the immersion at times, but it is at a decent moderation so it doesn't get too annoying. If the humor wasn't there, this game wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable, but it does thankfully deliver for the most part. They definitely get high marks for including special lines of dialogue for every possible character pairing, which makes experimenting more fun. The game does require a decent amount of video game knowledge to be enjoyed to the fullest, but the jokes are funny enough without a lot of context. There's also a database in the game to give a bit of back story without spoiling a lot of information. I can't guarantee it's accurate in terms of information or translation, but it details enough so you won't be left confused. While the original characters are relatively interesting, their lack of character development means they get lost in the shuffle of the more renowned characters like Ryu from Street Fighter or X from Mega Man. They have potential to grow, and the game makes it clear that the companies are open to making a sequel, so they may get more development in the future. For now though, they are somewhat lacking enough of a personality to leave any real impact. The story has room for improvement, but the dialogue is definitely one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game.

Gameplay- 8/10
The game isn't perfect, but there are many simple aspects that they do right. For example, you're rewarded for having higher attack combos and using multiple characters to attack gives you more opportunities to unleash devastating attacks. You get rewarded for doing fun things, and that takes away from the tedious nature of the game. That being said, the tediousness of this game can get to be a bit much. It's a surprisingly long game, so you'll be doing the same thing over and over again. Unfortunately, there isn't anything to break up the monotonous nature. There's no stores to slow you down in a positive way, the story doesn't take too long to progress between cut-scenes, so most of the game is battling monsters over and over again. it's fun for awhile, especially since you're rewarded for it, but with the length of the game it becomes less enjoyable. The fatigue didn't set in until near the end of the game though, so it was definitely tolerable. While the game gets many simple things right, it also gets a few basic things wrong. For example, pausing or closing your 3DS during a battle automatically ends the battle, when you'd instinctively pause if someone got your attention while you were playing. There's also no variety in play style. Almost all of the game is spent battling, which gets annoying in any RPG, but it virtually never stops here. The way the game is played is a lot of fun, but some change or a more in-depth story would make it more enjoyable. They also have a number of interface spoilers, so anyone paying attention will be able to guess when something isn't right. It's not a huge issue, but that does mean the game fails to pull a lot of surprises both in terms of story and gameplay. That being said, it is refreshing that there is a crossover that isn't a fighting game, and this is a very welcomed change. An RPG format is a good idea for crossovers, this one just has room for improvement. As a stand-alone game without the popularity power of the characters in the game, it's a good game. Not amazing, but certainly not bad, and the characters make the game play more fun due to the novelty of beating down foes with some of your favorite video game characters teaming up together.

Roster- 9/10
The main character roster is amazing. Many well-known characters are in the game, and they're balanced out by a few more obscure characters for the player to have new games to look into. Virtually everyone is aware of Resident Evil or Street Fighter, but Sakura Wars is less well known. It's difficult to explain, but having characters that not everyone is familiar with makes them more interesting, since you want to learn about these humorous personalities more and play their games. They also left their options open for future releases to include more, since they didn't use all of their resources. That means any future game could up the ante, and bring in other popular characters that weren't included in this installment. The current roster is a lot of fun, and each character gets enough screen time to leave an impression. They also don't take out any characters from games that never received international release, so there is as little cut content as possible. The only real issue is the lack of villain characters. There's only a dozen or so villain characters, and a few of them end up joining your team, so boss fights get repetitive pretty fast. The game makes it clear that characters who died in their source material can come back, so there's little reason why they couldn't have more characters to battle. The same goes for the peons. There's a bit of variety, but you'll feel like you've been fighting the same things over and over again quickly. However, the playable roster is incredible and makes the game a lot more fun. The three companies have enough reserves to add more, but they did plenty for this game.

Graphics- 7/10
The graphics aren't bad, but they fail to impress. The game barely utilizes the 3D aspect of the system it's on, and it's console exclusive so there's no real excuse for the that. There's also not a huge amount of stage variety, so seeing the same dozen or two stages multiple times can feel lackluster. There are also very few legitimate cut scenes, which makes it feel like a bit of wasted potential. Instead all cut scenes are character portraits speaking back and forth while their expressions change, similar to Fire Emblem. All walking is done by the battle sprites, so it seems the graphics went mostly overlooked in favor of the other aspects. However, the character portraits look accurate and pretty, and the moves are pretty cool looking, so it isn't all below average. The best part would be the finishing moves, which are nicely animated and give a sense of power that is warranted by moves designed to do excessive damage. Graphics don't make a game, but they had potential to be a high mark for Project X Zone. It's nothing special, but it's easy on the eyes.

Sound- 9/10
The background music is compiled of various songs from the represented franchises, so it didn't need to try too hard to come up with some spectacular, but they delivered nonetheless. There is a bit of original music mixed in, but it isn't as noteworthy as the themes from different games. It may be simple nostalgia, but hearing the Ghosts 'N Goblins theme while battling demons is seriously enjoyable. There is some music that had to be it for international releases due to licensing issues, but that's out of the control of the developers. As for the voices, the characters all use their most noteworthy voice actor from Japan, which is a nice little touch. There is one little problem with it though, and that's the fact that the database voices aren't subtitled. It's a nitpick, but I do want to know what the characters are saying instead of making a very rough guess with the portrait and no context.The sound definitely makes the game more fun, and the music will pump you up enough to get ready to take down whatever is thrown at you. As a bonus, you can unlock the full sound track in the game and set it to whatever stage you're playing on during subsequent play throughs, so you can enjoy whatever song you like once you beat the game.

Replay Value- Moderate
While the game is definitely tedious, it is also a lot of fun. The fatigue of doing the same thing multiple times doesn't get too noticeable until you're near the end, so the game remains enjoyable for the majority of the play through. While it's a game that can be played multiple times, it isn't one that would be played multiple times immediately. It's more like one of those games that you play and beat every now and then because you're bored. Many RPGs are like that, and the game is at a nice length, so it can be replayed every now and then.

Buy or Borrow?
If you're a huge gaming nerd like me, buy it. It's a great crossover, and while it has it's share of flaws, they aren't half as bad as they sound. It's a lot of fun seeing characters from different companies talk as if they've been friends for years, and it's amusing to see their reactions to certain things in the plot. If you don't have a decent amount of gaming knowledge, then this may not be your favorite title ever, but it's still worth a play.

Overall, Project X Zone is a lot of fun. As a stand alone title, it wouldn't be as enjoyable, but it would still be a fun game worth picking up. Add in the huge roster of playable characters and how much fun it is to have them fight enemies they aren't accustomed to, and the game becomes more enjoyable. It's certainly not perfect, but it's definitely worth checking out. It's a good game and it is great for gaming nerds, and it'll make the inner child in you have a huge amount of fun with the characters you grew up with.

Final Score- 8/10