Apparently, nearly a decade ago, Namco and Capcom teamed up for the crossover, turn-based SRPG Namco x Capcom. Don’t ask me how they decided who would get first billing. A coin flip? A Japanese game show? Similarly, don’t ask me when we were supposed to figure out the “X” is pronounced “cross.” Not sure if Japan is too advanced for us, if we’re too culturally mired down in Christian iconography when it comes to cross, or if the whole trend is just stupid.
The point is, Namco and Capcom’s already unwholesome pre-marital coitus is reaching an entirely new level of damnation as newcomer SEGA joins the fray turning the twosome into a threesome that spans 29 franchises with Project X Zone. This leveled up debauchery, as we reported earlier, is coming westward this time around, presumably emboldened by all that kinky sexual experimentation. It definitely wasn’t SEGA’s doing, since the company can’t be arsed to bring me more Valkyria Chronicles games.
I’m still a bit bitter, but this game is fan service incarnate, so excuse my fan complaining.
Project X Zone (Nintendo 3DS)
Developer: Monolith Soft & Banpresto
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Release: Summer 2013
So, some wibbly wobblies in the quantum neutrino fields have led to worlds colliding, or something. Original characters Mii and Kogoro have the unique ability to ride these mystical space waves and jump between worlds, while everyone else is getting screwed with, being transported to and fro willy-nilly. Again: fan service. There’s a mild attempt to validate smushing these disparate characters together like action figures in a formative sandbox. There’s an ultimate, nefarious baddie pulling strings. But things are mostly about smushing characters together and saying, “Hahaha, Ryu is totally talking to KOS-MOS, ain’t that wacky?”
It’s not a bad thing, mind. My ears perked up just the same when I heard mention of Zephyr, Leanne, and affable Vashyron from the under acknowledged Resonance of Fate. I got a kick out of Ken Masters and Ryu palling around. When I read the full list, I even got excited upon seeing Valkyria Chronicles, only to realize the characters are apparently from Valkyria Chronicles III. If you remember, it didn’t get a US release.
There is a game behind this fan service, of course. It’s a mix of bog standard, grid-based, turn-based strategy and action. Everything plays out on your typical grid, but attacks take place on a separate screen that requires soft one to one button pressing. Your units operate in defined pairs (Ryu and Ken, Zephyr and Leanne, etc.) and have interchangeable support characters (Vashyron, Ulala from Space Channel 5, etc.) that can be called in with a button press. If the pair you’re controlling engages an enemy with an ally pair adjacent, it’s possible to get all five characters beating down on the poor chumps that decided to be henchmen against as many “heroes” they could cram into a game.
While I didn’t go hands-on with the all Japanese build, I think I was able to wrap my head around the combat, which has some depth beyond statistics and requires dexterity. It’s no fighting game, mind you, but different characters generally attack low, medium, or high, and things like that need to be taken into consideration; for example, you should juggle an enemy into the air if you’re getting ready to call in a support character who attacks high. There are other wrinkles; you can attack straight up and get an extra blow in or you can stun enemies to keep fists flying and meters rising. Filling one meter in particular allows scripted special moves by the pairs, which are generally reflexive of the coolest moves they have in their respective games.
In handling the licensing, Namco worked to ensure a westward voyage would go smoothly, so all the characters from the Japanese release are intact. So too are the bits of voiced Japanese dialogue that punctuate the text heavy title, which will undoubtedly be a treat for fans of these series. Mercifully, there is a huge database of all the characters and the like in the game, which will likely be particularly helpful in covering characters from games that never even made it out of Japan.
Speaking of fan service, Project X Zone’s long anime opening is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, a sprite-based SRPG doesn’t quite live up to that level of insanity -- though the combat does get pretty hectic and cool looking. Still, if you’re somehow finding yourself lacking in games to play this Summer, perhaps because you’re a wizard with the power to stop time, and you’ve already played Fire Emblem: Awakening, I suppose Project X Zone could be worth the novelty (and expected grind).