This review was originally posted on Nintendo Scene on 19th February 2016.
In my first review of the year, I exclaimed that 2016 was the Year of the JRPG and I was not wrong. They’re actually coming faster than I can review them, but I’m making sure that the biggest titles will be spoken about and have the attention they deserve. So, next up for critique is the ultimate mash up title; Project X Zone 2 on Nintendo 3DS. When I say mash up title, there is a tremendous amount crammed into this game with franchises from Bandai Namco, Sega and Capcom all making an appearance. So with franchises like Tekken, Tales of, .HACK and many others you would expect the plot to be a bit of a mess, right? However, the writing of Project X Zone 2, much alike its predecessor, is remarkably clever and utterly insane.
After the events of the first game, in which the antagonistic organisation Ouma broke down the barriers separating the different dimensions, we again join two of the original characters created for Japan-only game Namco X Capcom (and who featured heavily in the first game); Shinra agents Reiji (the calm and undeniably edgy leader) and Xiaomu (his half-fox partner who is obsessed with pudding and being spanked – because reasons). They are investigating mysterious golden chains that have appeared in Shibuya, Tokyo and enlist the help of BSAA agents Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine before the barriers break down once more bringing other worlds, and therefore characters, back together.
The most impressive thing about all of this is the ease with which links between disparate franchises are made; Phoenix Wright is Heihachi Mishima’s lawyer in a court case, Valkyrie knows Tiki from Fire Emblem: Awakening owing to both of them having roles as overseers. The links are almost always made with a box or two of dialogue and almost always make sense, even if in a bizarre way. In fact, the only problem I see with the story of Project X Zone 2 is that it relies quite heavily on the player having played the first title. This isn’t a problem for me personally, having completed the original, but players that are starting with this game might struggle with some of the concepts or characters that are original to this franchise and aren’t part of the other franchises that make up this title.
In terms of gameplay, the turn-based action-RPG play style returns, with sets of paired units moving across various grid based maps dispatching enemy units. Once again the battles are played in 2D, comic book-esque epic battles with moves mapped to certain button presses. With other pairs nearby, or with a solo unit attached, the L or R buttons can be used to summon either, or both, to aid in the battle. These functions all combined result in racking up combos (achieved by not letting the enemy touch the ground), increasing your Cross Power (XP) gauge and allowing for incredible super attacks (complete with brilliant little anime sequences).
Returning also is the ability to counter or defend against enemy attacks, at the expense of either SP or XP depending, meaning that you can either mount a full and devastating counter attack after taking damage, or negate some or all of the damage you would receive. Even this adds strategy to the fight because you simply cannot spam these manoeuvres and sometimes you just need to “Do Nothing” and take the hit to avoid being damaged by stronger enemies down the line. It’s these strategic elements, along with each pairing having Skills that can be activated (serving purposes from healing, to buffs and de-buffs), that make this game feel fresh and unique in amongst the its kin in the various genres it contains.
Aesthetically, this title is stunning. The beautiful chibi style sprite work of all of these pre-existing characters is both instantly recognisable and yet simplistic. The animated snippets that play during special attacks and supports really work to bring all of the disparate franchises which make up Project X Zone 2 into the same art style and therefore give the game a significantly more “packaged” feel, much like the original achieved. The opening animated sequence is just as fantastically well done as the original, and arguably even more epic. The music is mostly made up of wonderfully nostalgic remixes of the music from the individual franchises which make up the game, so it’s not unusual to hear recognisable music in the heat of battle. The only problem with this is that the original music, by comparison, falls a little flat and gets lost amongst the nostalgia.
So, should you get Project X Zone 2? If you loved the first title (like I did), it is a resounding yes. However, for those who haven’t played the original, my recommendation is to get the demo first from the eShop. Although I personally think that this is a fantastic game, some of its mechanics might be irksome for non-players of the JRPG or strategy genres. As a final point on Project X Zone 2, it is pretty much more of the same as its predecessor and this is (for once) absolutely no bad thing.
Project X Zone 2 is out now on Nintendo 3DS eShop.
Thank you to Bandai Namco Entertainment for supplying the review code for this article.