Project X (pronounced cross) Zone 2 is back in a big way. Big cast of characters, big guns, literally and figuratively, and big butts. The only thing bigger than the action in this strategy role playing game from Monolith Soft is the chiropractor bills the female characters will have as they age.
Project X Zone 2 stands out from the strategy RPG crowd in two major ways. To start with it includes a diverse cast of characters that number in the 50s from developers such as Nintendo, Capcom, Sega, Monolith Soft, and Bandai Namco. Secondly combat scenes take place off the battlefield when you attack an enemy unit. During combat you are transported from the tactical battlefield to a screen that looks more akin to what you would see in a side scrolling arcade fighting game. Here you will select which attack you will perform. The fighting is frenetic but requires very little button input. This is not a button mashing race. While in this fight scene you can also call in assistance from adjacent units on the battlefield. You’ll also be able to draw from a support character assigned to your unit. That’s a lot of potential help in just one fight. While these scripted scenes are eye catching too many units on the screen can cause the 3DS to slow down and not as part of a pseudo slow mode effect either, which they do have.
Besides the combat draw PXZ2 is a solid strategy RPG. It forces players to make tactical decisions in and out of combat scenes beginning with unit composition. In PXZ2 units will traverse a square grid battlefield. Each unit is comprised of two base characters. These two base characters can then take on a third member that will be called in for support. The two base characters will always be together, like Jill and Chris from Resident Evil, or Demitri and Morrigan from Darkstalkers. It’s the third supporting cast member that you can revolve amongst the different groups.
Like most good strategy games resource management is an important feature. Besides worrying about your health and experience gains there are different resources that units are dependent on in combat. One resource will let units counterattack, defend, or completely defend. If you completely defend you will take no damage but burn the resource faster. If you counter attack you will take damage but also be able to deal as much damage as if you had attacked. This turns into a balancing act of taking and dealing out damage. Do you want to push it or play it safe? There are also cross points you earn that allow you to do additional attacks in the combat scene. If the combat wasn’t fast paced enough performing a cross combo managers to take the energy up another notch with fists, feet, and bullets flying all around on the screen. This attack allows you to extend fighting combos and deal even greater damage to your opponents. You can also find items to provide temporary buffs or debuffs as you navigate the tactical battlefield. While proximity and location adjacent to your enemy does affect combat elevation does not. This adds another layer of strategy to think about as you are maneuvering.
While the core gameplay of PXZ2 checks all the strategy RPG boxes it really stumbles right out of the gate. With so many different franchises to introduce that contain multiple protagonist and antagonists PXZ2 spends too much time with exposition setting up the myriad of backstories and as a result stymies the flow of the game. Much of this superfluous dialogue is groan inducing flirtation from immature males, and females, to overly endowed females. At one point early on Reiji reminds himself to pinch his partner’s butt more often. At a certain point you get stuck reading page after page of innuendo instead of actually playing the game. What was already destined to be an overly complex story because of the different warring factions across space and time present in this game is made even more convoluted by the immature flirting that really only takes away from the overall narrative. It would be one thing if the flirtations were cute and charming but after a while they are just crude and obnoxious.
If the developers went back to the drawing board and designed a strategy RPG from the ground up and implemented the systems present in PXZ2 they would be off to a great start. However an overly long introduction that becomes boring after a few hours distracts from what is otherwise a decent game. If this game had a tighter story, trimmed up the dialogue, and improved upon its technical performance by reducing slowdown, it would be something special.
We were provided a digital review key by Monolith Softs’ PR firm.
Gameplay: 7 | Solid strategy elements. The camera is functional enough items aren’t hidden behind blind corners on the map. Managing different resource systems provides additional layers of strategy besides positional.
Visuals and Sound: 7 | All of the VO is in Japanese. It’s interesting to hear what they sound in the game’s native tongue but it sounds out of character to hear Chris and Jill from Resident Evil fame to speak flawless Japanese. Character combat animation is frenetic.
Polish: 6 | Even with the “New” Nintendo 3DS XL some of the character animation chugs along. Too many characters on the screen cause the game to noticeably slow down. English VO would have been a nice additional feature.
Longevity: 7 | While there is a large cast of characters too many of them are reduced to nothing more than a cameo. The story becomes muddled and doesn’t lend itself to additional play through.
Value: 7 | $39.99 is the going rate for a 3DS title. Doesn’t have the replay ability that other titles do in this genre.