Project X Zone 2 developed by RPG powerhouse Monolith Soft for the 3DS is the follow up to the original Project X Zone and third in the Namco X series which started with Namco X Capcom. Zone 2 once again sees familiar characters from Capcom, Namco & Sega battle it out in a cross dimensional war which now also includes some familiar Nintendo faces from Fire Emblem and Xenoblade Chronicles!
Over 40 characters are included in this title from the wildly popular Resident Evil’s own Chris Redfield & Jill Valentine, fan favorites Kiryu Kazama & Goro Majima from Yakuza to the forgotten classics like Kite and Haseo from .Hack// & Zephyr & Vashyron from Resonance of Fate, the major appeal of this title is just who the characters are, how they come into this tale and how they interact with each other, I found myself giggling at some of the interactions between the Yakuza team and Ryo Hazuki (Spoilers Thar be sailors).
The story is passable if not easy to forget, the main gist of it involves an inter-dimensional war between two forces which basically works as heroes & villains. Within the prologue you are introduced to several key characters like the BSAA (Team Resi), the .Hackers (Haseo & Kite) and even Chrom and Marth from Fire Emblem, each character gets a very brief introduction but there is the Crosspedia should you want to learn about some of the more niche characters. Overall the writing is better than in the original which at times barely passed the grade, the character interactions are still the shining point for the game but I did find myself getting into the main story with how well they used some of the bad guys like B.B Hood, developing an obsession with a certain lawyer or the evil and mysterious Shadaloo taking a more than a just a side role this time.
Graphically Zone 2 is more of the same, you have familiar looking areas for your tiny team members to traverse which start off looking nice but soon develop into the same generic bland battlegrounds. The battle sprites for the main characters are all stunning and perfectly animated, the quick animated scenes for special moves are also brilliantly drawn and an absolute pleasure to witness. Enemy sprites though are often repeated and tend to be generic grunts from various games rather than actual unique characters, this helps to convince you that you are actually in that dimension but don’t be too surprised when you start seeing Servebots every other map.
The music in this title is fantastic, with it being a cross over you get exactly what you expect in that a lot of the songs come from various games either in their original forms or remixes. The only drawback is that the characters are often representing games more than franchises, for example the Resi team have a Revelations track rather than one of the better known ones, same with Yakuza as that is actually representing Yakuza: Dead Souls (urgh) but you’ll be pleased to know Ryu’s SF theme is still there although there is no Guile’s theme though and we all know that goes with EVERYTHING, as a final note the voice acting is done well but it’s the original dub so it’s entirely in Japanese which may throw some off.
Much like it’s predecessor the bulk of Zone 2 is spent looking at an isometric map with tiles, you move your units across them much like any standard SRPG, there is a slight advantage for maneuvering your units to either the side or behind the enemy but nothing such as environmental advantage or the like. On this screen you can use items to heal the various status effects like poison and use skills like healing or buffs. Unlike the original you directly control unit movement rather than just selecting the tile to move to, it’s a change but if i’m honest it didn’t really improve or detract from the game play in any meaningful way.
Battles are done on a 2D screen with detailed sprites, characters are paired up into Pair Units with Solo Units able to assist them. In battle, players use attacks and combos to do as much damage to the opponent as possible before their turn ends. This is done by a single button press or a combination of a button and directional press, the key to hitting hard is to keep the opponent in the air just like you would juggle someone in a fighting game, if you hit them just before they land you get critical damage on them so timing is key here. Another nuance of the system is the Cross Hit, if you have your team strike at the same time as a solo unit or any unit placed near your active team you’ll activate Cross Hit, what this does is not only suspend the enemy in the air but any attack fills your XP bar quicker which allows you to perform special attacks or defensive options like Defend, Full Defend or Counter.
The aim of every level is to the standard defeat every enemy on screen, this isn’t too bad at first but can become quite a grind in the later stages where you have an upwards of 30 enemies to defeat in each stage. Most levels have the same flow in that they start, you fight a few enemies, reinforcements arrives, new characters for your side appear with a little story, defeat all bad guys and job done. It’s consistent but not in a good way, fortunately Zone 2 does feature a few levels with gimmicks to help ease off somewhat but ultimately it falls into the same trap as the first. At the end of the level you are taken to a menu where you do all your customization, it’s here you’ll equip stat boosts and use points to strengthen your team, it helps break it up somewhat but once again it’s just a minor distraction and requires a little thought and effort if you really want to max your damage output.
Project X Zone 2 is very much an incredibly safe sequel, sadly much too safe in my honest opinion. I was a huge fan of X Zone 1 but I will be the first to admit that towards the end it became such a grind to get through, fan service and interesting writing can only float a title for so long and this is exactly the same problem here. The core game-play is far too basic for a title of this magnitude, the lack of strategy and difficulty means you’ll leisurely slog through most of the game on autopilot waiting for the next charming bit of writing. I feel Monolith Soft really could of done something special with this series but unfortunately have squandered the chance by making what is essentially Project X Zone 1.5, if you’re a fan it’s more of the same guilty fun but newcomers may not have that same appeal and may want something a little more from one of the biggest cross over events.
Who should buy this
- If you loved Project X Zone 1
- Just love fanservice
- Fancy something simple enough to pick up and play
Who should avoid this
- If you hated the original
- Like any kind of depth in your SRPG titles
- Have low tolerance for performing the same objective over and over
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