What's more important in a role-playing game -- story or character? That's an interesting question, to say the least. Some of you would easily state that the story is the way to go, but without any genuine characters to drive it, what's the point? With "Project X Zone," the latest crossover role-playing/action game from Namco Bandai, the team forgoes telling an enriched story in favor of meshing together a universe of characters from its own world, along with Capcom and Sega's, to create some of the finest crossover battles you'll find on a 3DS this year. It's chaotic, yes, and you'll be scratching your head over folks like Ulala and Mega Man arriving out of nowhere, but it's a chaos you'll easily come to embrace.
This game plays similarly to "Fire Emblem Awakening," to an extent. You guide players in a grid-like system, facing off against enemies, breaking objects that might get in your way and picking up items scattered throughout. However, if you're within reach of an enemy, you can launch a super-sized attack. The game shifts to a side view, where you execute actions depending on what's available for each character. There are a variety of moves you can pull off, using the analog stick and certain button presses, and they're fun to watch, with multiple hits leaving an enemy devastated.
That's not all. The game also features the ability to call upon solo and dual partners at just the right time, which can continue your attack in a very cool way. They'll come running in to get off a few hits, like Heihachi from "Tekken" delivering devastating ground pounds, or "Dead Rising 2's" Chuck Greene going overboard with an exploding grandfather clock (and screaming about his deteriorating wardrobe in the process). Being able to mix these characters together to see how they play out in battle is part of the fun -- and some of the teams you'll create are truly bizarre but always entertaining to watch.
"Project X Zone's" story does drag on a bit for the first hour or two. However, some of the encounters are truly epic, and the multi-hit combos you'll create will keep you drawn in, even longer than you might've expected. Just understand, you won't get the greatest of conclusions here, and you'll probably wonder throughout where anyone would get access to a transdimensional portal to begin with. Have fun with it, and try not to let logistics get in the way.
Banpresto did a pretty good job capturing the look of all three publisher universes in one crazy world. You'll see locations taken straight out of "Dead Rising," "Space Channel 5" and more along your journey, each filled with strategic points that you can lead your party to. The character design is superb, with everyone -- from Frank Castle to Chun Li to Akira from "Virtua Fighter" -- fitting in without losing any hint of their details. The battles are a lot of fun to watch, even if you've already executed your attacks. And the little touches - like Arthur from "Ghouls n' Ghosts" losing his armor with a final lightning blast -- show the company's dedication to the franchises. Bravo.
The music is good, too. Not incredible, but you'll hear nostalgic tunes taken from Sega, Namco and Capcom games. The sound effects are good, too, even though most of the dialogue is in Japanese. Hey, no problem there -- it's better than hiring a cheesy English voice cast to bring these characters to life.
While "Project X Zone" can't top the sheer brilliance of "Fire Emblem: Awakening" -- its lack of worthwhile storytelling may leave some gamers confused -- it's a strong second place finisher. Being able to create and define your own battle team is something else, and the gameplay offers plenty of variety, even to those who normally wouldn't touch an RPG. No matter what company you're a bigger fan of (no sense getting into a "Capcom vs. Sega" argument), this "Zone" is well worth hopping into. You should be able to find a transporter, right? They're everywhere here.
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