Project X Zone

by bhayden
9. August 2013 16:58

“This is the most Japanese game I’ve ever seen.”

That isn’t something I said, my friend Watts said that as I was showing him this game on my last trip to Chicago.  We were sitting in a suburban sushi restaurant – one of those places that you only know exists because of the magic of Yelp.  We were getting ready to swap Fire Emblem armies and then do some multiplayer Fire Emblem (which deserves a post of its own).  I was playing X Zone at the time so I showed it off to him.  In the moment it didn’t actually register the full impact of what he meant.

It didn’t take long for it to sink in.  This is a game of pandering.  It panders to what, and I’m likely overgeneralizing here, must be the inner Hentai fan in every male.  There are jiggling breasts, suggestive quips between members of your party and innuendos galore.  There’s even sequences in the game where one of the characters snaps pictures of the females and the sub label Erotica is slapped over them.

This is  a fan service game.  It brings characters of all different games from several different companies into one universe and tries to meld it all into something coherent.  Normally I prefer not to delve deeply into mechanics but it’s important here.  Rather than the traditional strategy RPG mechanic of having a single unit, you’re given a pair of characters who can then optionally be backed up by a solo character.  Further, instead of having set attacks (they do have those some to an extent) when you fight an enemy you’re taken to a Street Fighter-esque  screen where you execute D-pad combos to perform damage and build up XP (not to be confused with EXP).  EXP gives you levels, XP unlocks your more powerful, unblockable attacks.  This is fresh at first but eventually becomes a mundane routine and by the end devolves into a chore.  In addition to this your units get AOE attacks, which makes combat more tolerable.  Unfortunately they have a high cost of When the enemy attacks your units you then have the choice to counter, block (reduced damage), full block (no damage) or do nothing.  Each one of these options takes XP.

I’d like to say there was coherence in presentation here but the story line was all over the place.  You’re dimensional hopping and picking up and losing characters and picking them back up again at a breakneck pace.  Still I fist pumped when KOS-MOS joined my party because she’s one bad ass motherfucker.  When Mega Man trotted out and joined my group I smiled.  This is the fan service and it is awesome and confusing and hard to keep track of.  There is at least consistency of presentation, if not coherence.  Meaning that each map plays out roughly the same way.  Your units appear, some bad guys appear, after a few turns the real boss for the level shows up and then the battle is on.

Despite all this, I found myself quite hooked.  Despite, or perhaps because of, the flaws I felt like this was a group of devs that just wanted you to have a good time.  It might also be because it’s part of my favorite genre and I’m willing to give those a bit more of a pass than other games.  X Zone delivers a solid, if not spectacular, experience.

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