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Project X Zone review

Stuff strategy: let's kick inter-franchise, inter-dimensional arse

The Hollywood ensemble piece is a shaky thing. For every Oscar-winning study of racism with Don Cheadle in it, there's a gaudy crime caper sequel with Don Cheadle in it. Project X Zone strides carelessly over that unstable ground and somehow, despite the weight of its 200-odd Namco, Sega and Capcom characters, never falls through. And it doesn't even have Don Cheadle to support it.

The in-game reasoning for assembling this many characters in one place is flimsy at best, but the decision makes much more sense looking from the outside. Seeing characters you recognise meeting, swapping in-jokes and battering fresh hell out of familiar enemies is a base thrill, but thrilling is undoubtedly what it is.

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Virtua Fighter characters rub shoulders with Tekken and Street Fighter rivals, Devil May Cry's Dante forms an uneasy partnership with Dracula's nephew and Space Channel 5's Ulala performs dances of laser-speckled death.

The Odder Couple

Peculiarly, this is ostensibly a strategy RPG. Nabbing the genre's character-stuffed toybox grids and populating them with pairs both matched (Ryu and Ken) and mismatched (Dead Rising's Frank West and an 18th-century Chinese zombie), Project X Zone's battles play out in customary style. Speed stats determine how many tiles can be moved over, items and activated skills can be used once per turn and engaging in battle triggers a perspective shift to a 2D, side-on scrap.

During the shift you finally spot the difference. Where SRPGs normally play a canned animation (think Fire Emblem's battle scenes), Project X Zone hands you some agency. Each pair has up to five standard moves, all of which are themselves ostentatious combo strings - it's effectively 'press button to have EVO champion take over'. Status effects and damage totals are affected by how well you chain together each one; learn to juggle an enemy well enough and a completely unremarkable attack could be a 60-hit combo.

Then there are the Support Characters, lonely types who can be appended to any pair like pieces of equipment, offering them an extra attack, not to mention the ability to freeze enemies in place, eliminating any need for timing and allowing for prolonged pummelling.

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Add to that the fact that, much like Fire Emblem: Awakening, attacking within a tile's distance of a friendly pair offers you yet another attack, meaning you can have up to five characters onscreen. It results in the following fights being both completely spectacular and utterly incomprehensible.

While you're doing all of this you're building up the aforementioned Cross Points, which can be spent to unleash a devastating special attack, usually around 10 seconds to resolve and guaranteed to finish all but the steeliest battles with a satisfying K.O.

It all looks incredible, too. The sprite art is the most accomplished we've seen in years and the reverence for the characters it depicts is clear throughout. Virtua Fighter's Akira and Pai perform intricate tag-team kung fu routines, Resident Evil's Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine show scant regard for their survival horror heritage by unloading every weapon you ever desperately prayed to find ammo for and Arthur from Ghosts 'N' Goblins always loses his armour. You'll even get interested in the characters you've never heard of, of which there are many.

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9 comments so far...
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  1. bigterence Thursday 4th Jul 2013 at 13:47

    Loved the demos.Waiting pre-order on this one,but will go digital for Dream team.Also went digital for the brilliant Animal Crossing.

  2. K-tet Thursday 4th Jul 2013 at 14:24

    80% seems a little low. I'd say high-80's minimum, though personally I'd definitely give it 90%, even if you guys are reluctant to give it that. It's an extraordinarily good game. Mind you, having played Namco X Capcom on the PS2, I kinda have a bit of bias to this anyway. This is the kind of TBS game you want to take at face value, as the character combinations you have are large. It whets the appetite nicely and rounds it off with that same level of fun from start to end. It also looks very pleasing on the eye even with the 3D effect on.

    Definitely one if you enjoy your crossovers, and definitely one if you enjoy these kinds of strategy games. It's no Fire Emblem Awakening (that was a masterpiece), but this isn't far off from cult status. It's a real gem among the bay of plenty (and trust me, the 3DS has some amazing games out), and worth every penny.

  3. Legendary Thursday 4th Jul 2013 at 17:38

    Is this game really racist, just the part at the begin which is mentioned in this review?

  4. Amethyst Link Thursday 4th Jul 2013 at 19:56

    I don't really 'get' srpgs, they're not really my thing, but I certainly enjoyed my time with the two demos. This review pretty much convinces me that this game is what I thought I was, so I reckon I might get it.
    Something I did notice in the demos is that some assist characters (both solo and dual) can be used more than once in battle, such as Imca or Dante and Demitri (just thought I'd share that as I haven't seen anyone else mention it).

  5. imbusydoctorwho Friday 5th Jul 2013 at 11:21

    Really enjoyed both the demos,so hopefully I might it.

  6. toffeeman30 Friday 5th Jul 2013 at 12:15

    seems hard to believe that it didnt do well in japan

  7. martynm Friday 5th Jul 2013 at 12:50

    I got the game yesterday. You have to take a little pinch of salt with it for sure..

  8. Layton link Wednesday 10th Jul 2013 at 17:35

    Oh god I cant wait until I get to play this..I mean for gods sake its just amazing.

  9. bigterence Tuesday 16th Jul 2013 at 16:25

    Received my copy of X Zone on release day.My son tells me it is great.

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