By Kevin Kauffmann on July 28, 2013 at 5:00pm
I did not finish this game.
I tried, I really did, but after 35 hours and just as many chapters, I could not keep going. Knowing there was still 10 more hours of the same bland, repetitive gameplay was just too much for me.
When I first started "Project X Zone," I actually had high hopes. I like strategy RPGs, and I loved the idea of getting over 60 game characters together in a sort of Valkyrie Profile mashup. It was going to be entertaining and engaging, it was going to be something that I couldn’t put down.
My first session lasted about an hour before I turned it off.
The gameplay itself should be rather solid. Many battles takes place in familiar locales from each of the contributing games like the mall from "Dead Rising," and you and the enemy takes turns moving each unit. Every one of the player units is actually made up of a pair of famous characters whether be it Dante from "Devil May Cry" and Demitri from "Darkstalkers" or Ryu and Ken from "Street Fighter." Later on, these pairs are complemented by solo units including other fighters like a young Heihachi Mishima from "Tekken" (why young?), Flynn from "Tales of Vesperia," and even Tron Bonne from the "Megaman" universe. In addition, a player can strategically place other player units in proximity, which can then help out during the actual combat.
When a player unit attacks an enemy, the combat zooms into the pair of fighters, who at the beginning of the game, have three or four attacks which are used by hitting the "A" button while holding a direction on either the d-pad or control stick, relying on timing for effectiveness. This is where it seems like combat has a lot of depth, as hitting an enemy right before it lands will cause a critical, and summoning your solo or assist units can freeze enemies in mid-air and build up the special gauge, which is absolutely necessary in boss fights. Hitting "Y" will unleash these special strikes, which are almost as powerful as everything a player can do with their normal attacks combined.
Again, it sounds great. However, the reality is that with all of these options, combat boils down to same exact routine with pretty much every character. Except for the smallest tweaks, I used the same exact timing with each pairing, each solo unit, and each support unit. I’m sure it’s possible to have fun with customizing your timing, but there is not enough reward to merit it, especially because enemies scale with you. There are no levels to grind or experience to allocate; your characters will be as strong as your enemies the entire time. With combat this stale, it falls to the enemies to make these confrontations more interesting.
You would think this is the easy part.
While many villains from all these different game series show their faces - Seth from "Street Fighter," Nemesis from "Resident Evil," Vile from "Megaman," etc. - the problem is that they show up too often. You can expect to fight these same villains at least a dozen times, running off to fight another day. To add onto the pain, it’s not even limited to the villains you know. There are so many villains and characters from games I’ve never heard about, let alone played, and I had no connection to any of their appearances. Even then, I can justify that, but the villains created for the game are so kitschy and obnoxious that they look like something out of a 90’s era cartoon made to sell toys. Just as annoying, each boss character will auto-counter each attack by hitting the player character for more than half their health. Luckily, there are plenty of items to recover all of that HP, and you can use as many as you want as long as it’s one of your character’s turns.
It’s not so terrible at first, but after the third or fourth time these boss characters are beaten and rise again, it clearly has become a tactic to merely delay the end of the game. Worse still, every chapter has a very predictable “twist” enemy reinforcement. If it was not every chapter, I could understand, but each stage begins with a reasonable amount of enemies, followed by a second wave of enemies with another boss character appearance (still reasonable), followed by a third wave of enemies with bosses that tip the scales and make each chapter take FAR longer than it should.
Still, I can almost forgive it. There is nothing technically wrong with how they made the game. If you’re a fan of all these characters, you want to be around them and enjoy the experience for as long as possible. To have a game end after just introducing all of the playable characters would be somewhat disappointing. So from that standpoint, I can understand.
What I cannot forgive is all of the painful, pace-destroying dialogue from every character all the time. With the introduction of a chapter, some new development occurs, which is always the same development of “we’re heading through a portal to a new world,” and what should be about three or four lines is turned into 30, because the game developers want each character to have an opinion. The problem is that it does nothing to advance the plot or even fully represent the characters who say the lines. And it’s not even just the beginning of the chapters! With each one of those enemy waves I mentioned, a boss will start talking, and then 30 of your characters will join in with what are essentially reaction shots. I ended up skimming through all of them, because nothing important was said.
Nothing important was ever said.
I wish I could have loved this game. When my friend told me about it, I practically started salivating. Thirty five hours in, I cannot find the energy to continue. If it had been half the length, if the game developers had not artificially extended each chapter, or if the combat had more variation, I could have justified finishing this game. As it stands, I cannot.
But hey, if you’re into shallow fanservice, go for it. It’ll be right up your alley.