SNAG OR GAG:
PROJECT X ZONE
Originally released being released in 2012 in Japan, and then 2013 in North America, Project X Zone is a handheld title on the Nintendo 3DS. This was a cross-promotional release with characters from Capcom, Sega, and Namco-Bandai. It features an impressive roster of up to 60 playable characters, and over 90 total characters appearing from all of the franchises combined. But does such a huge roster a selling point, or is it merely fan-service fluff? Let’s find out.
So as I mentioned, yes, there is a huge roster in this game. And you can play as all of them in one play through….eventually. But there is no way anybody, at least in North America, knows who all of these characters are. For example: I have heard of Darkstalkers and I know who Morrigan is, however that is where my knowledge of the series ends. While there are several recognizable titles and characters, there are some that are unfamiliar simply due to them never reaching American shores, the majority of which come from Sega. This may seem nitpicky, but this will add to a later point. For now I actually have a much bigger gripe.
This game is long, like grindingly long. Now, it is by all accounts a JRPG and that comes with the territory, but you cannot tell me that increasingly longer levels are necessary. And how do they continually increase these levels you may ask? By having more enemies appear halfway through the level…on every level…every.single.freaking.time! Seriously, there are 41 chapters in this game, 46 if you count the 5 Prologue chapters beforehand. And by chapter 10, the chapters are averaging at least an hour to complete, which is insane.
What makes this worse is that you could possibly end these chapters a little quicker by going straight for the boss of the level. However the problem with that is that you will miss out on experience that you will absolutely need to make you stronger. So you have to grind, one monster at a time, through wave after wave of enemies. And at first this isn’t as bad as it seems, after all grinding is a typical RPG affair. But there are 2 major hindrances to this aside from the constant reappearance of enemies. The first is that when you actually fight enemies and pull off the ridiculous damaging combos, which are admittedly fun, 8 times out of 10 no matter well you execute a combo it always seems that there is just enough HP left on the enemy for them to survive for another round when they are literally one hit away from death, it’s just a constant that keeps being a pain in the rump. And 2: Because there are so many characters, you have to keep going down the entire list over and over to take out wave after wave of uninteresting enemies, which includes several bosses that just get beat, leave, and then reappear again later on. I get that they are trying to give you an opportunity to play as some of your favorite characters more often, but it just adds to the tedium.
In spite of this there are positives to this game. The combat is actually fun to do, most likely due to its over the top nature, ridiculous combos, and you can have up to 5 people attacking one enemy at the same time, causing massive damage, and you can even put a cherry on top with a sweet animated attack, with each one being unique to the duo that you are using. This is further helped by being able to mix and match solo fighters with pairs. For example you and mix up Ryu and Ken with Arthur from Ghosts N’ Goblins, which is pretty fun to do.
While the mixing of characters is fun, I mentioned earlier that certain characters are from titles that have never been licensed in America. Sure, it gave me some interest in a title like Sakura Wars, but it causes a big issue. Do I really care about all of these characters and their stories? The answer is, not really. In between battles, there is dialogue after dialogue that is basically this games way of trying to give every character their equal time on screen, which is perfectly fine to do, but with so many characters it just causes endless chatter I don’t particularly care for outside of fun lines from Dante and Frank West taking “Erotica” photos ( i.e. where the “fan-service” comes, ugh).
This leads the big question to being “What is the overall story?”. There isn’t really one, it’s “Bad guys are making the worlds merge so all 60 of our heroes better stop it.” Is such a poor story really worth all the fluff and repeated enemy tactics over and over again? Nope. And that is the main problem of this game. On surface it seems really cool. You get a bunch of characters and a lot of crazy RPG style combat. But once that shine wears off, you find that the core of this game is simply extreme tediousness. And when any game becomes tedious, it becomes the worst thing a game can be: Not fun. Sure I loved getting to play as Dante, X, Zero, Ryu, and Ken, but if I can’t enjoy my time playing as them, then why I should I bother playing this title when I can go back and enjoy the titles they came from? In fact, I actually picked up this game 2 years ago and got almost halfway through it and I was going to be a trooper and finish it…until my nephew got ahold of my copy and “accidentally” wrote over my save file, putting me back at the beginning of the game….they will never find the body….I’m kidding….mostly. But after that incident, I honestly just could not bring myself to go through all of that again.
I picked it up again recently because I figured enough time had passed and I could give it a second chance. And while I have found tiny things here and there to improve the gameplay, the majority of the problems still exist, tedium and unnecessarily long levels. I am hoping that the gameplay issues are fixed in the sequel that is coming out next month, because I kind of do want to play as Segata Sanshiro (Google him, you won’t be sorry). Right now you can pick up this title used at GameStop for $14.99. A semi-reasonable price, but as far as a Snag or a Gag goes, I think my call here is obvious: