One of the more curious games that was on-hand at last week’s Namco Bandai Global Gamers Day was the upcoming localized version of Project X Zone. For those unfamiliar, it’s a tactical, strategy RPG that stars a cast of cherry picked characters from three different game publishers: Namco Bandai, Capcom, and Sega.
Some of the franchises that are tapped into are instantly familiar, like Resident Evil and Mega Man X. Whereas others are remotely obscure, like Sakura Wars and Valkyria Chronicles. And then you have Resonance of Fate and Yumeria, hardly household names.
Over 30 different franchises are represented, and it was not easy brining everyone over, according to the Namco Bandai rep that walked me through the demo. Every character’s rights had to be re-negotiated, but everyone from the Japanese version is accounted. Even John McClain, of Die Hard Arcade fame, though he’s referred to as Bruno Delinger, from the non-Hollywood licensed version of the game, Dynamite Deka.
The game is quite clearly fan service for all devotees the aforementioned publishers, plus a chance for Monolith Soft to play around with other company’s characters (it’s worth reminding folks that it’s owned by Nintendo these days). But, will unfamiliar players be totally lost in the shuffle? No, though all explaining will be primarily done in the accompanying art book that’s part of the limited edition package. Thankfully, the limited edition package is the default offering.
Namco Bandai clearly knows who will be purchasing Project X Zone, hence the limited edition being the only way to go, and why very little has been meddled with. The game retains all its original Japanese voice acting, plus all its original character art remains untouched. Including a very risqué looking Morrigan, who has always been known to show some skin, but it’s particular ridiculous this time (enough to perhaps single-handedly warrant the "partial nudity" note in its ESRB rating). Again, fan service to the max.
Project X Zone is for the hardcore fans, plain and simple. The same people who know about its predecessor, Namco X Capcom, which was for the PlayStation 2 and never left Japan. The spiritual successor is more or less the same game: again, it’s a tactical role-playing game, which itself is a very hardcore genre. But if you have any familiarity with similar titles (Atlus’s Devil Survivor is perhaps the best comparison), then you’ll do fine.
Adding to accessibility is the manner in which confrontations play out. The bird’s eye view switches to an up close view, similar to a fighting game, and the fights closely resemble them as well. All actions are achieved by pressing the A button in some combination with the circle pad, though it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Meaning no dragon punch combinations, at least that I know of.
Combat worked pretty much the same way in Namco X Capcom, but it feels much faster in Project X Zone, as well as more fluid, which is a definite bonus; the biggest complain about Namco X Capcom was the pacing, plus the constricting field map navigation. Pretty much the only thing that Namco X Capcom has over the new game is a deeper roster. Sorry fans of Klonoa, Strider, and Dig Dug. But at least Mega Man fans who are still reeling from the cancelation of Mega Man Legends 3 can enjoy another dose of Tron Bonne.
Project X Zone arrives in America on June 25th.