Nintendo 3DS

Project X Zone 2’s Story Bounces From One Dimension To The Next


imageIt’s tough to judge the story in Project X Zone 2. On one hand, it’s bad. It’s bad in a lot of really obvious ways. The heroes spend the entire game bouncing from one dimension to the next for reasons that are entirely random and often even accidental. The villains are literally just an organization dedicated to creating chaos in the world – they’re being evil for the sake of being evil. The moment to moment conversations drag on three times longer than they should because there’s a pressure to give every character a chance to contribute.


But on the other hand, what else is a crossover game like this supposed to do? Provide detailed character arcs for characters that all have their own arcs fleshed out in their own franchises? Is the game supposed just going to retell those arcs all over again? Except they’re all going to be worse because instead of having an entire game (or more) dedicated to them all these characters are competing for screen time with all the other protagonists thrown into the pot. Plus you’re spoiling those stories for anyone who hasn’t already experienced the original games. And very few people have experienced all of the stories this game references.


imageBut on the other hand, you don’t want to create whole new character arcs either. Because these characters have fans and are invested in how these characters turn out. If you just start adding new conflicts and dimensions to, say, Leon Kennedy then you aren’t really dealing with Leon Kennedy anymore. It’s a new character existing only in the X Zone universe that looks like Leon Kennedy. The point of fan service is to present the characters people love, not to turn them into whatever your story calls for (and the quality of the original content that does exist makes me very grateful that nobody got rewritten).


So again, what do you do? I guess you just have all the characters take turns chiming in and giving reactions to whatever random world they’ve been warped to. That’s what X Zone 2 does anyway. The vast majority of the game follows a rigid formula. Team gets warped to a new world, everyone says a thing about that world and makes a connection to their own lore if possible. Then a new character shows up and everyone says something about that character – making a connection to someone similar in their own lore if possible. Then that character joins you and you clear the map of all the bad guys and warp to the next world.


imageAnd the plot certainly isn’t going to pick up any slack. There are a ton of portals between different words which are causing heroes and villains alike to get warped into random locations. There could be some potential for sparks between different competing factions of good guys or bad guys with this premise, but that doesn’t happen really. The good guys (and particularly marketable bad guys) all join into the playable squad and the bad guys all end up working together with the shared goal of beating all the good guys. The conflict never gets more interesting than heroes vs. villains.


It’s almost like the game knows that there’s nothing of substance here – there is no opportunity passed up for a gamer culture in-joke or anime girl fan service. So that’s there to distract at least.


But for all that this is not good storytelling, I find it hard to get up on a high horse and condemn it. What are you supposed to write when all your characters are static, picked for marketing purposes, and have nothing to do with each other? Maybe this is just the nature of the crossover beast.