Project X Zone is a weird game. I guess you could say this about a lot of Japanese games if you are looking from a Western perspective. This isn’t to say the game is bad, quite the contrary, but the entire game as a whole is something I’m not sure you’d see from any Western developer. With that being said I’m sure glad the game exists, as it’s one of the 3DS’ best titles.

PXZ is an interesting mix of genres fueled by characters from many major (and minor) Japanese franchises. I certainly had to look up more than a few of the characters overall. To give you the PR, the game is a tactical RPG on the 3DS developed by Banpresto and Monolith Soft that features characters from Capcom, Sega, and Namco Bandai franchises big and small. This interesting mix of characters is part of the game’s charm, and is accentuated by the awesome X-Com meets RPG style of gameplay and beautiful cutscene art that delivers the serviceable story.

The plot of Project X Zone is just that, serviceable. It seems to exist to create a reason for characters from these multiple franchises to co-exist and interact and to allow these characters to show up at recognizable locations from those franchises. The base of the story revolves around all the characters (and villains) being sucked into other dimensions (or back and forth in time) through seemingly mundane water fountains. As the story unfolds through the multiple prologue sections and chapters the characters and villains try to unravel why the jumps are happening all while battling each other any time they meet. This isn’t a game you’re going to be playing for story, and that’s perfectly fine. As long as you enjoy enthusiastic Japanese Anime style cutscene dialog and awesome characters you’ll be content with the story as a whole.

The gameplay (and gameplay visuals) in Project X Zone is where the game shines. The game plays like X-Com (or recently released Fire Emblem) on a high level while in battle where you move each group (2 characters are always grouped together, sometimes 3) on a grid each time they have a turn and use moves like “defend” to block enemy attacks when they have their turns. When you move close to an enemy and attack the game turns into an RPG of sorts. You select moves using a single button, or a direction and a single button and the moves are acted in beautiful (almost fighting game-like) visuals on the screen. There is some timing involved as juggling the enemy seems to do more damage too, so it’s not as hands-off as a lot of JRPGs can be. The cool thing about the game is if you have your pair situated next to another pair when you attack an enemy you can call them in once you get into the battle screen, and use them to do extra damage. You also have a meter that powers up to 100, and once it hits the top you can do a special move. Defending (in the grid screen) takes points away from this 100, so you want to form a strategy around how to best use your characters’ points. As you go you’ll sometimes even get third characters to add to your duo, whom you can call in once per turn for extra damage. On top of all this your characters level up and you can use/equip items on them for bonuses and health. Overall the gameplay is a lot of fun and watching it unfold on-screen is mesmerizing, especially when you have two duos next to your team and a third member on your team and call them in all at once.

The thing I liked most about Project X Zone, aside from the awesome-looking battles, was seeing characters and locations I know (as well as researching those I don’t) interact with each other in their own, and others’, worlds. Playing as Chun-Li while on a mission in Frank West’s Willamette Mall from Dead Rising was pretty awesome to behold. I won’t list the characters I ran into because it’s cool to be surprised, but there are a lot of well-known characters along with some pretty obscure ones in the mix. This is a long game, so you’ll be more than satisfied with the character and location list, even if the game is missing a few key personalities from some of the larger franchises.

Overall Project X Zone is a game that I had no perception of initially but ended up really enjoying. I own a handful of 3DS games to date but this is one of the few that made me even forgo console gaming time to play (along with Animal Crossing). The story serves merely as a platter to serve up the outstanding gameplay, action, and characters on, but that’s just fine by me. My only hope is that the game does well and warrants a full console sequel. Seeing a game like this on the Wii U might give more people reason to own the system, and would be a great fit for the touchpad controller. If you own a 3DS and enjoy a nice nostalgia trip mixed with fun gameplay and exciting visuals Project X Zone might just be the game for you.

Project X Zone Official Trailer