By Bryan Smith on October 11, 2015 at 1:18pm
WARNING: “Project X Zone” and its content will be spoiled.
Everybody loves crossovers! You get to see your favorite characters meet other characters, which may or may not be more favorites. The only thing better is when a whole slew of characters not regularly involved with each other get together for shenanigans. We have games such as the “Super Smash Bros.,” “Marvel vs. Capcom,” and “Kingdom Hearts” series at the front-runner of crossovers. Then there’s “Project X Zone,” which is pronounced "cross", not "x."
First let’s get the positives out of the way. In terms of crossovers and interactions, this is probably one of the best crossovers with characters meeting other people. There’s so many in-jokes and hilarious banter that it’s staggering. As far as the game mechanics go for a strategy RPG, they work well. I was eased into them without a problem and I flowed right through the first few chapters.
Unfortunately, once you get deep into the game, you’ll start to notice “Project X Zone’s” biggest offender - it’s length. Oh goodness, this game will test your patience on how long you’re willing to keep going. Chapters can get to the hour mark at the very least, enemies keep getting reinforcements without any hint that there would be any, and the rather small unit deployment makes things become tedious quick. I really wanted to love this game. In concept, I do, but with the execution, there is a lot left to be desire. So with “Project X Zone 2” making its way to Japan first and then an international release, how about we take a look at what could make “Project X Zone” and any sequels a better game.
Fix #1: Cut Down the Chapters' Lengths
The biggest complaint I find with this game is that chapters’ lengths are far too long. Sure, the chapters at first started off as decent lengths, which could range from ten to thirty minutes. Then you start to get to later chapters. Soon the shortest that you can finish these chapters happens to be an hour. Enemies just keep coming, and winning conditions keep changing. I’d like to remind you that this is a 3DS title, meaning that making short pushes to beat the game harder to do. I have an easier time completing playthroughs of console RPG games than I do with “Project X Zone.”
You may think, “This is a strategy RPG game, though. It’s supposed to be long.” Hey, I can get behind these kind of games being long- I’d hope so. But the chapter lengths are just brutal. Compare to “Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance” or “Awakening,” you’ll be more warn out from “PxZ” before trying of “Fire Emblem.”
The best fix for this problem is to shorten the length of the chapters. I clocked in over twenty hours of game time when I got all of the pair units, and there are still solo units that I have to get after that. That means there’s still a looooot more fighting hordes of enemies and bosses before something critical to plot happens. We don’t need to spend an hour on each chapter.
Fix #2: Alter the Pacing of Events
This may seem like the first fix, but this is more in terms of changing the events as opposed to outright cutting things. The pacing in the beginning was really good. I was introduced as what I could do with the pair and solo units and what enemies could do for the first few chapters. The story also acknowledged that something funny was going on, thus causing the crossing over.
Then we get to chapters where characters slowly meet another and building up to the big team of heroes. There were chapters that, while having the funny banter and nice dialogue, felt more like padding than they actually added to the plot. “Hey look! You are new! Help us fight these monsters and we can chat and figure out what the hell is going on!” That happens a lot until everyone joins up and has a general idea of what is going on with people popping out of different worlds.
I think the best way to fix the pacing is to mash the pair and solo units together faster and figure out a better way to deal with their enemies. Like I said, it takes a long time to get all the characters. Take Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine for example. Though show up rather early, yet disappear for a long while. In terms of getting the whole team, Chris and Jill are one of the last ones you get to be part of the big team. I know you can play as them, but I don’t know when they return fully. Between the time you first encounter them and get them back, you’re going to play for a long while.
Fix #3: Lower the Hordes of Enemies Thrown at Players and Balance the Fighting
There was nothing more aggravating than getting to the boss character that I had to defeat with two enemies left and then the conditions changed, loads of enemies and more bosses showed up, and I may get a few pair units to help fight the waves. The enemies certainly make the length of the chapters much longer than they should be, and the number of pair units is usually outnumbered considerably. You have a grand total of 20 pair units, meaning you can only have 20 people who attack, if ever. Solo units cannot do anything since they are always required to be paired with the pair units. Keep in mind, that max number for you comes later in the game. Enemy numbers could be in the thirties easily… well before you get ten pair units to fight.
Comparatively, “Fire Emblem Awakening,” a different strategy game that is more universally acclaimed, has a much better balance in terms of your units and the enemy units. True, there would be a few points where the enemies outnumbered you, but the number of enemy units doesn’t make the chapter a grind. Characters also have strengths, weaknesses, skills, and weapons that have to be considered before going into battle. “Project X Zone” treats that more or less with “hey, here’s your pair and solo units. They have very few differences so they are basically the same. Go nuts.” “FEA” also doesn’t have a way for your enemies to outright demolish your units because you are doing great.
The Cross Power gauge, otherwise known as the Limit/Overdrive/Super attack move, lets you perform a super attack on one enemy or a group of enemies. While that’s good to whittle down bosses’ health, the problem comes when the bosses can fight back with the same super attacks. When there are only grunts that don’t use the super attacks, then it isn’t much of a problem. When the bosses come around, however, they can wreck your pair units.
Another game that lets bosses, and enemies too, perform super attacks that comes to mind is “Riveria: The Promised Land,” a more traditional RPG. The difference being, however, is that the five characters you control can easily defend and heal themselves. “Project X Zone” is rather limited on that front, however. There are even points that you are required to kill enemies fleeing or you lose, forcing you to give the opposing forces the super attack to wreck havoc on your team. Then there are the sudden reinforcements that come unannounced. Say you are down to the last boss, let’s say Seth here. You’re about to take him out, no fear of him using a super attack on you, when BOOM. Random goons and two other boss characters pop in, thus suddenly making the decision to defeat Seth a risk that shouldn’t be a risk.
The obvious fix is to better balance the enemies in conjunction to you and lessen the number of enemies/bosses. The enemy number is too high as it stands, and cutting down the size would certainly help with the chapter lengths and make fighting others less aggravating. Also, adjust how quickly the bosses get their own super attacks so killing the grunts standing in front of them doesn’t hand them a free kick to the groin for the pair units.
Fix #4: More Character Representation and Usefulness
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a crossover. That means characters are going to meet old and new people they either met before (ironically in another crossover) or for the first time. The fact that Jill Valentine appeared in this game and was going to meet others was more than enough reason for me to hop on board. However, you can’t ignore the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a large number of characters to work with than you’d think. You only have 20 pair units, like I said. Sure, the solo units puts in a quite a bit of characters like Ulala, Batsu, Sanger, and Devilotte, but they don’t do much in terms of gameplay. Heck, Arthur and Valkryie, two rather important characters in both “Namco X Capcom” (this games prequel) and “Project X Zone,” really don’t do much with gameplay.
There’s also the fact that there are characters that are just not there for whatever reason. Mega Man Volnutt, the protagonist of the “Mega Man Legends” series, appears in “NxC” but disappears for “PxZ” while… Tron Bonne has no problem appearing (but is suspiciously absent in “Project X Zone 2.” Logic- where did it go?) in these two games. Strider Hiryu starred in “NxC,” disappeared from “PxZ,” than comes back again in “Project X Zone 2.” I would like some consistency here with these appearances, guys. This is just as frustrating as not having Mega Man in “Marvel Vs. Capcom 3” as a playable character.
I mean, really guys. It’s a crossover. Stuff as many characters in there. That’s the best advice I can give. People want Klonoa back in, among other fan favorites. No one likes to see a character not appear for some silly reason. Having more characters should also fix the length of the game. If the long chapters can’t be changed and the enemy number remains the same, than having more characters to help ease the game in not feeling repetitive and be more manageable. Seeing Ryu and Ken punt an enemy and ricochet off the wall the hundredth time gets old, and I’d like to see more characters get love.
Length, Gameplay Flow, and Characters/Enemies Seem to Be the Hiccups
Basically, the biggest problem is how long chapters can be with ridiculously large numbers of enemies and little pair unit diversity. “Fire Emblem” games usually have at least thirty characters (all of which are original characters to begin with for the main story) to work with that have large differences in skills and weapons that lend to the strategy element. “Project X Zone” isn’t as strong in that nature, which makes the low enough number of characters for usable pair units feel mundane as they function basically the same with very minor differences (such as ability to walk a bit further).
The best way to ultimately make “Project X Zone” is to change that pesky length of making chapters shorter and/or speed the plot along faster, adjust the enemy numbers and how easily bosses can harm you, and flood the game with usable characters. I’m going to question why an important character from before isn’t here now, and that spans back to “Namco X Capcom.”
Will “Project X Zone 2” fix these problems, or will the problems still be there? I guess we’ll see when it comes out sometime next year for us in North America and Europe. In that case, who do you want to see in the game? The cast may be winding down in terms of announcements, but I bet there are a few left in there for surprises.