Project X Zone 2 sets out its fan-service stall with aplomb, right from the moment the hyperactive guitar-infused theme kicks in behind the anime-class intro. Drawing together some of gaming’s most recognisable characters, taken from the stables of Sega, Capcom, Namco Bandai and Nintendo, this is an RPG wholly targeted at video game enthusiasts, and its light tactical gameplay is married to some of the flashiest 2D battling on the 3DS, making it well worth checking out.
Project X Zone 2 certainly has star power. Over the course of the bonkers narrative, you’ll take control of 19 teams including Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine from Resident Evil, Ryu and Ken Masters from Street Fighter and Chrom and Lucina from Fire Emblem. The game’s then packed with even more solo characters – any appearance of Ulala from Space Channel 5 should always be celebrated – as well as enemies taken from the various series and even a few cheeky cameos.
As with the first game, the plot is full of time travel and hopping between dimensions, and it spends a great deal of time setting itself up with “What are you doing here?” and “That can’t be you!” style exclamations, despite many of the returning cast having already experienced much the same thing mere weeks before. It’s a shame that the dialogue is generally be a bit wearisome, as the rest of the game’s presentation is simply stellar.
Project X Zone 2 is, at times, amongst the most attractive of 3DS games, and it’s one of the few titles where the 3D actually enhances the viewing experience, overlaying menus and read-outs over the action. While the tactical gameplay’s isometric viewpoint is clear and characterful, it’s the 2D battle scenes that are the stars of the show.
Each encounter begins in the grid-overlaid world, and as with many other similar tactical games, you move your characters around depending on their range and abilities. There’s very little concern needed over character placement, beyond being in range of an enemy for when you attack, and the system is incredibly forgiving, allowing multiple item uses that don’t use up a character’s turn. Getting in range and launching an attack is when the game shifts to its 2D viewpoint.
The key element here is timing, as you’ve got a range of attacks to launch listed on the bottom screen, which will fill the screen with action from a single button press. The aim is to time each subsequent attack to maintain your combo and to maximise the scalable damage.
As you progress, you also gain solo support characters that you can add to your two person team, and who can join in with a press of the R button, while positioning yourself close to another team also allows you to call on them with a touch of the L button. Combined, it means you can have up to five characters attacking at once, but it’s very easy to have them firing or hacking away at the same time and completely missing the target, making your timing utterly crucial.
It’s a fantastically meta game, from characters asking why there aren’t more mini-games during loading screens to the Club Sega arcade appearing as a location. For anyone that has been playing games for the last twenty years there’s a huge amount of content to revel in. Themes from the various franchises are remixed, though the Project X Zone style may not be to everyone’s taste, and I was occasionally left hankering for the original piece minus the hyperactive J-pop additions.
One thing that is clear about Project X Zone 2 is that its age rating is bang on – rated 12 in the UK and Teen in the US. It’s definitely not suitable for younger gamers with some classic Japanese female character design, innuendo, and adult references.
Taken from the other side of things, it’s the kind of title there are too few of on the 3DS, and with the Japanese-centric gaming nostalgia spread across the last few decades, older handheld owners will likely get a kick out of the whole experience.
Project X Zone 2 is a videogame for videogame fans. It’s not likely to present you with a huge challenge, nor does it take an immense amount of skill to be any good at it, with the tactical gameplay a far cry from genre greats such as Fire Emblem or Shin Megami Tensei. However there’s a vast number of characters and content for fans of a particular ilk to revel in, and the spectacular battling is a highlight that never fails to amuse.