The first sensation when Nintendo confirmed the presence of the region lock on Nintendo 3DS, was that of discouragement, due to the potential loss of Japanese and American stocks that often remain confined to their native market. Fortunately, however, even in contrast to the past, we have seen with the increasingly explosive success of the Nintendo console, the interest on the part of publishers (and Nintendo itself) to bring some purely Japanese and risky titles to Europe. In recent months we have seen the arrival of The Denpa Men, Code of Princess o Tokyo Crash Mobs, just to name a few of the most particular. Today it's up to Project X Zone (the X stra for “Cross), JRPG created by Monolith Soft in collaboration with Namco Bandai, Sega and Capcom, a title on which we would not have bet a cent on its arrival in our stores.
When two worlds collide
PXZ is one of those titles that since its announcement has attracted a lot of attention, given its nature as a "crossover" in which many of the most beloved characters of the titles of the three historic software houses are contained, and which in fact make it the ideal sequel to Namco X Capcom, a game that shares some mechanics. To make sense of PXZ and make it so digestible and sensible in its eccentricity, the writers have seen fit to set the game in a multiverse, where the worlds of their respective titles collide with each other, causing inexplicable phenomena and unscheduled invasions. After the disappearance of the Portal Stone, a stone that commands spacetime and all its rules, the protagonists will be pushed to investigate this series of phenomena with potentially devastating consequences and the mystery that lies behind the disappearance of the stone.
It must be said that the story itself is quite smoky and quite lacking, and never as in this case a simple pretext to bring up the various protagonists from over 30 games. Yes, because in the cast of PXZ we find some of the iconic faces of Sega, Namco and Capcom who will find themselves joining forces trying to understand what is happening. Ryu and Ken di Street Fighter, Jin Kazama and Ling Xiaoyu of TEKKEN or Akira Yuki and Pai Chan from Virtua Fighters will be only some of the well-known faces that we will be called to check during the game, also coming from the most famous series such as Mega Man X, resident evil, Sakura Wars, Dead Rising, Tales of Vesperia and many more, for a total of over 50 main and secondary characters.
In support of the plot it does not even help its development, which, full of a sometimes disarming slowness, will take longer than necessary to rattle off the few salient moments that dot the adventure, re-proposing the same narrative iter on several occasions.
Welcome to the multiverse
Fortunately, however, to glue this cast so difficult to place and a story without appeal is certainly the fanservice. Behind this simple word that is often assimilated by many as a negative element, the whole essence of the game is contained, making it transform into a product designed and created for the player. Not just any player, but the fan par excellence, the one who knows everything and more about the characters, who hasn't missed even a game from his favorite series and who finds here a concentration of situations created to satisfy him.
If on the one hand we have a lacking and tremendously slow history, in the eyes of the enthusiast everything will take on another dimension. Where certain dialogues devoid of meaning and disconnected from each other in some people will only create confusion, for the fan they become moments of quotation, of the subtle one that only a good connoisseur can fully grasp and appreciate. This referential form, so linked to the various games of origin, is also transmitted in the gameplay. In fact, every move reflects the typical actions of that character, who will do his utmost on the screen saying his famous phrases and the moves that characterize him, and then explode in the special (which will also involve the other partner of the team) that will celebrate some moments of the membership titles. Unmissable also the more modest fanservice and which will particularly concern the female cast and the intentionally erotic and sensual approach of the characters, focusing more on the prosperous breasts (above all the Kos-Mos "chest unclocking") during the aforementioned special moves.
Also thanks to the graphic design, which, while showing technical limitations in the development phase, still manages to give the player a noteworthy graphic sector. They range from the 3D of the settings, which in their simplicity evoke the most famous places of the various Namco / Sega / Capcom games, to do even better with the 2D component used to create the characters, here recreated with two-dimensional sprites worthy of the best pixel-art and stunningly animated. All the protagonists boast exclusive animations and will move in a fluid and coordinated way, pouring on the screen a real orgy of characters, especially when we activate the support character and the two assists. The redesign of the characters themselves is also good, never invasive or overwhelming but capable of unifying the always different style of the various series. The special moves, then, will also activate short animated cutscenes that blend perfectly with the models of the game. The stereoscopy is less incisive, which adds nothing really necessary.
On the other hand, the sound sector is encyclopedic, which for the occasion contains the most famous themes of the various series, all arranged and used both during the story and for the combat phases. And despite being faced with completely instrumental pieces, the quality of the arrangements is truly impressive. On the other hand, the choice of not resorting to a dubbing in English is interesting, leaving the original one unchanged, proposing only the adaptation of the texts (always in English) just as it had happened for the European version of Virtue's Last Reward.
Time for battle!
While the narrative part by choice was addressed to a decidedly niche and well-selected audience, the game system is open to everyone even though you are dealing with a tactical JRPG, thus making it also affordable to those who avoid the genre. . The game mechanics are quite simple and easy to learn. In PXZ we will find ourselves controlling some teams made up of only two characters who will combine their skills and attacks in the fight. It will not be possible to influence in any way the formation of the pairs that will usually be available according to the game of origin or, in the case of single characters, to the similar themes of the reciprocal series of origin. Each team will be able to support a third member who will only have the support function and will act completely autonomously once called on the field. Furthermore, the teams adjacent to our position on the game map will also be in support of us and will act as “assists”.
The fights take place very quickly, in turns, alternating our attacks with the enemy ones according to a very precise timeline. Each team can make use of a whole series of normal attacks, which can be activated by pressing the "A" key combined with one of the directions of the analog cross (or the Sliding Pad), to which a certain move will correspond. At the beginning, the actions that can be performed will be limited to no more than 2 or 3 per turn, while by leveling up we will get new attack slots and bonuses that will increase the number. Making the moves with the right timing and bouncing enemies off walls or preventing them from touching the ground during the combo will increase the chance of getting critical hits, which will inflict more damage. The use of the XP bar will be important, which will prove essential both during the fight and in the pre-battle. Basically it will be used in combat to activate the special move, as long as the meter exceeds 100% completion. Pressing "Y" at the end of a combo will unleash all our attack power, leaving room for the duo to perform a move that is as spectacular as it is lethal.
Outside our turn, however, it can be used both in the defensive phase, using the XP of the bar to defend or counterattack, paying the amount that will be scaled from the bar and which will be recharged by fighting. We will also be able to choose to use some special abilities to improve the results of the fight by increasing the attack and defense parameters or by concentrating our efforts by healing the companions in difficulty. There is also a third possibility, which can only be activated in the most advanced stages of the game and which allows you to perform a multi attack, thus increasing the range of action up to a maximum of four enemies at the same time. It is a less powerful move than the special but at the same time important in the attack phase and very strategic.
Even our intervention on the troops will be rather limited compared to other exponents of the genre as we will only be able to intervene on a couple of aspects of our equipment. No weapons or armor, but simple objects that will increase some statistics such as attack, defense or the life bar. This aspect is so much in the background, so much so that it is barely mentioned at the beginning of the game and for a good half of the adventure you will not feel the need to go and modify our equipment.
Game (Cross) Over
PXZ is divided into chapters, about forty to be precise, including the prologue and the epilogue. Each chapter will be set in one of the worlds taken from the various games and to complete it you simply need to defeat all the opposing troops. Here we feel the lack of a greater variety of situations, only hinted at with some timed mission or outlined by the destruction of certain objectives. Often then, to be completed, we will have to spend several hours making the player weigh the continuous repetition of the usual battles often ends in themselves.
Mind you, the battle system in its simplicity turns out to be fun, both in the initial stages when you discover all the special moves that can be activated, and in the more advanced ones when the move park expands, offering more possibilities to the player. Where a certain heaviness is felt is precisely in the carrying out of the missions themselves. For hours, you will find yourself fighting against enemies who will not offer you the slightest challenge, falling like dry leaves under our blows and giving way to others and so on, until we eliminate the last present threat. Even the morphology of the arenas offers little beyond an almost horizontal development, while the few differences in height and obstacles that we will find on the battlefield will not have the slightest strategic contribution to the cause.
Finally, the duration of the adventure, once exceeded a certain threshold of hours, takes its part to make you feel a certain heaviness, almost as if the developers had wanted to lengthen the soup, without however bringing anything tangible to the economy of the game. If you think that to get to see the coveted final you have to quietly spend about eighty hours reading all the dialogues and recovering the various chests on the map, one wonders why this stubbornness on the part of Monolith Soft so that the adventure lasts for a long time when some parts that are irrelevant for the purposes of the story could be eliminated or some passages speeded up.
✓ Pure and genuine fanservice
✓ Realization of the characters of incredible quality
✓ Fun combat system x Lack of history and terribly slow
x Simplistic strategic mechanics
x Difficulty level nonexistent