Namco X Capcom

Monolith Soft creates the ultimate crossover title.


The Lowdown

Pros: Over 200 characters from a bunch of different games in flashy battle sequences.

Cons: Not enough substance to make this a strategy RPG and too much moving around to make it an action game.

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The Namco X Capcom (read as Namco cross Capcom according to the katakana) was a surprise announcement from Monolith Soft. We've seen crossover games with Capcom characters before. Marvel vs. Capcom and  SNK vs. Capcom were both fighting titles. Supposedly the next rumored project with Capcom was Sammy versus Capcom that never came to be. Instead the team that brought you Xenosaga and Baten Kaitos took on the challenge of the largest crossover game in video game history, Namco X Capcom. The game is really different from the Capcom versus series, first of all it's designed as a strategy RPG and it has packed inside it hundreds of different characters.

Yes, you read that right hundreds of characters from tons of games. On the Namco side you can play as characters from the Tales series, the furry Klona, and even Druaga from the lesser known dungeon crawling series. Soul Calibur stars Mitsurugi and Taki are around with Tekken fighters like Jin too. Since it is a monolith game you shouldn't be surprised that KOS-MOS, Momo and Shion from Xenosaga are playable too. On the Capcom side you have Chun Li, Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter 2. Darkstalkers fighters like Morrigan and Felicia can be played. Plenty of old school characters like Arthur from Ghouls and Ghosts plus some of the Rival Schools line up is around. The Namco roster has a lot more of their "popular" or better put well known characters, with the exception of Pac-Man. Namco's line up is top notch, but Capcom's line up may disappoint some fans out there. You're not going to control Leon Kennedy from Resident Evil 4, Viewtiful Joe or the ever popular Dante from Devil May Cry. Instead Capcom gives off some of its "lesser" characters like the star from Resident Evil Dead Aim and Regina from the Dino Crisis games. Even Rockman (aka Megaman) doesn't appear in the more popular X or EXE forms. Instead he's the Rockman from Rockman Dash (Mega Man Legends in the US). Can you wish for more? Always.

What is cool is how Monolith Soft pulled together the settings of thirty plus titles into one over arching story. Beginning in the year 20XX, new heroes Reiji and Shagamu get a sudden attack by the alien force known as the Gnosis. Now in the world of Xenosaga seeing the ghastly aliens is an everyday occurrence, but in the middle of Japan it's a bit unusual. Luckily Shion, KOS-MOS and Momo from Xenosaga teleport in to assist the duo. During the battle another surprise pops up, Cammy and the Shadowloo from Street Fighter 2 fame. A new enemy appears with a new heroine, Chun-Li. These cross appearances are happening all over the place. Klona appears just in time to save the day when a bunch of slimes are overwhelming characters from the Tales series. Tronne Bonne from Mega Man Legends pops in to assist Mitsurugi as he's about to claim Soul Edge. What is causing all of these appearances? In between cutscenes we can see legendary villains like the Red Reamer at work. They're gathering together and somehow have gained the power to move between the real world in 20XX and the fantasy game worlds.

The story is what pushes along the assigned battles. Combat takes place on a 3D isometric field like most other strategy RPGs. Also like other strategy RPG games you're given a set of AP (action points) that you can use to move around the field, attack or cast spells. Each character starts out with ten points, but you can end your turn at anytime. It's actually to the players benefit not to use all ten points. The game allows you to attack at anytime when you have 10 AP stored up, so by just attacking you'll conserve more AP than if you walked around then attacked. This means your AP would recover faster and you'll be able to attack more times in a row.

Outside of these simple rules is where the game deviates from the strategy RPG genre. Attacking requires players to be alert and execute commands by pressing circle and a directional button. Pressing circle alone will do one attack and pressing circle plus up might launch an enemy into the air. The goal of this system is to maximize the number of hits you can land on an opponent in a row. Sort of a throwback to Capcom fighting games you can do aerial raves and custom combos, if you get the timing right. Your moves are limited to how many "branch points" you have. Each branch point allows you to pull off one attack, which encourages players to carefully design their combos. As a final incentive there are certain combos that you can do to recover HP or super charge your super attack. The super attack meter charges with each blow dealt and each hit received. Once it's full you can press triangle to unleash your character's ultimate attack.

There is another attack, that is actually more powerful that the super moves, its a "crossover combo". These visual treats happen when you have a group of characters, normally from the same game, gang up against an enemy. For instance if you align Shion, Momo and KOS-MOS together you could bring up a devastating attack, that is really cool to watch. When you're not on the offense there is an interactive defense system to mess around with. By selecting manual defend players will need to press a directional button at the right time to block attacks. Doing this will relieve some damage, but more importantly boost AP levels so your turn will come up faster. Honestly the defense system is poorly implemented. It's usually not worth the hassle of watching the on screen animations for a little bit of HP loss. Most players will probably select "no defense" just to push the battles on faster.

That's pretty much the bulk of the gameplay in Namco X Capcom for all fifty levels. No complex tactics are necessary to win a battle. No hours leveling characters up. Most of the times characters make appearances and disappear for a long time. Plenty of strategy RPG fans are going to dislike the lack of depth to the system. It is more simplistic than the bulk of strategy RPGs out there and probably more repetitive. Even though you control different characters and see new attacks, you're essentially doing the same motions over and over. It's not a hardcore strategy RPG. It's more like an arcade strategy RPG.

Presentation wise Monolith Soft's design is solid. Hands down bringing so many game worlds in one title is already an amazing job. Each of the characters have a 2D sprite, albeit pixilated, for battles. For story sequences you have static detailed sprites that look nice even though if they aren't technologically advanced. Yes in some ways, many ways Namco X Capcom looks like a PS1 game. It's not the graphics that make the game amazing, it's the sound. Each character has a voiceover. This means way over 200 different voices are featured in the game. Monolith Soft also went all the way on the soundtrack, pulling themes from each game plus new ones. When you're controlling Mitsurugi his theme pops up, when it's Strider's turn the music switches to an orchestrated Strider theme. There is a catch to this, each time the music changes there is a bit of loading time to endure. Putting up with a few seconds of loading doesn't seem like much, but even after a few battles it's bothersome.

Fans of the two companies will really get a kick out of Namco X Capcom. The more you know about the broad history of games from Namco and Capcom the more you'll get out of the title. Even though you spend most of the time with the game on the battlefield that isn't what draws players coming back for more. Most of the enjoyment really does come from seeing favorite characters. You always wonder who will make an appearance next. Just because of this Namco X Capcom is a fan boy or fan girl's dream title.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 4

The story is extremely difficult to progress through, being kanji heavy and such. Another problem that importers need to tackle is that the gameplay is menus driven. On the other hand action / battle scenes are completely playable. Importers who can't understand Japanese will still enjoy the battles.

US Bound?

Perhaps the difficulty in localizing the title is what is going to leave it in Japan. There are plenty of characters that US gamers are bound to be unfamiliar with, a bunch of text to translate and over 200 different voices need to be recorded. At E3 Namco's booth staff hardly knew about the title. If this is any sign it appears that only importers and Japanese locals will get to play Namco X Capcom.

Overall

Namco X Capcom is a video game fan's dream. A bunch of characters from tons of games in one over arching story battling each other is pretty cool. However, repetitive battles, loading times and poorly paced gameplay limit the title's appeal.