Greetings Internet! Ever had one of those games, you just couldn’t be objective about? No matter what, it all came down to your completely subjective opinion, and even when perfectly good arguments could be made against the game, you never ebbed in your complete enjoyment of said game? I had one of those experiences with Project X Zone for the 3DS.
Released in the states on the recent date of June 25th, Project X Zone is a grid-movement, pseudo action combat rpg, developed by Banpresto and Monolith Soft, and released by Namco Bandai. It’s main appeal is that it features well and not well known characters from franchises owned by Capcom, Sega, and of course, Namco Bandai themselves. It was released to fairly high interest due to the recognizable characters, and has since been reviewed as pretty mediocre… I love this game, alot. So what’s the difference between those opinions, and my own? Time for a history lesson!
PxZ is not, ostensibly, a brand new game in it’s own right. It’s a spiritual successor to a game called Namco X Capcom (the X’s are all said as “cross” for reference) which was released in Japan for the PS2 May 26th 2005. That game also featured a collection of characters from many different franchises together, as well as the grid movement and action combat system. That however is not the only game in PxZ’s pedigree, Super Robot Wars OG Saga: Endless Frontier (now THAT’s a title) for the DS, which released in Japan May 29th 2008 and in the US April 28th 2009 is also part of the game’s origins, and two of that games’ characters appear in PxZ. But we’re not done yet! Let’s go even further back!
All of those games are an extension of a long running, and very prolific franchise (in Japan) called Super Robot Wars, the first game of which was released for the Game Boy on April 20th, 1991. The main draw of the SRW franchise is that it crosses over many different mecha franchises from video games, anime, and manga. Ever wanted to see Wing Gundam fight with a berserk Eva–01? Your welcome. The SRW games are also tactics rpg’s, though they are generally much deeper in mechanics then PxZ and it’s predecessors, and do not have interactive combat. The SRW franchise is still being made to this day, though due to the incredible amounts of licensing involved with any given games’ creation, only three SRW games have been brought state-side, those three only featuring original Banpresto characters.
So why bring all that up? Aside from wanting to tell people about all that stuff because I’m a huge fan? It’s true that at the end of the day a game has to stand on it’s own merits, and not it’s pedigree. In this case, if I had to rate this game entirely on the big three of gameplay, story, and presentation, I would actually totally agree with the reviews I’ve read; the game is mediocre. It suffers alot from a repetitive combat system, and for people looking for a deep engaging story… you’ll not find one here, the story here is very simple. The graphics and sound are one of the places where the game does shine, the sprite work is detailed and has lots of animation going on, no repeating motions to save having to draw more sprites here, and this is one of the few games I would tell people to jack the 3D up as high as you can handle and leave it there all game. I’m completely serious, the 3D makes the already great sprite work really pop, it adds that extra layer of detail that the sprites alone couldn’t reach. The sound is great if for no other reason then all the great music pieces from all the different franchises represented, get this game with the soundtrack if at all possible. But at the end of the day the presentation won’t stop the game from being repetitive and lacking story, so why do I love it?
Because I’m a huge nerd. No really. I already knew most of the franchises that were going to be appearing the game, and am a straight up fan of a good handful of them as well. The one thing this game has that cannot be replicated by anything except it’s immediate predecessor is having those characters, and having them interact. The game is, really, a comedy, and I was left rolling and slack jawed more then a handful of times at the dialogue. This game barely has a fourth wall to break as well, dropping references to Mario Kart, Doom, friggin’ OUTRUN. I bet some of you don’t even know what Out Run is. The dialogue is to die for, the characters routinely make fun of their own franchises, modern gaming tropes, and just itself as well, never taking itself seriously. This game is not for objective playing, it’s for fans, fans of the series’ in it, fans of SRW, of Banpresto. For people who knew that history I just dumped on you, reader.
As a result, we get to talk just a little about intent. A game’s intent, and how you review a game with a very specific intent. If a horror video game was a great play, but never scared you, how do you grade that? Should a failure of main intent, but success of all surrounding pieces create a high rank or low? Then there’s the reverse, this games’ intent was to tickle the fanboy bone, to be funny, and as far as I’m concerned, it nailed it through about four pieces of concrete. But stepping back and being objective, the game is lackluster, and I wouldn’t ever lie about that no matter how much love I have. So this review will end on a shrug, if you can throw yourself into the games’ comedy, then you should totally pick it up. If you can’t ignore the games’ weaker aspects, then I do not recommend it… maybe if you can find it for very cheap somehow, but like alot of modern quirky Japanese titles, it had a limited run here, so good luck.
Well, I can only hope that I’ve represented both what this game is, and how and why I feel about it as honestly as possible. Sometimes we have to let ourselves enjoy games based on entirely subjective, unjustified reasons. It’s from that perspective that I love this game and would gush about it at a moments notice, but here I have attempted to temper that with a fair critique. Never let yourself get too critical friends, happy gaming!