Project X Zone - 3DS Review

Well, this is my last post to go up before my extended Independence Day weekend. For all of you here in the States, I wish you a great few days as you hopefully get a chance to rest, relax and enjoy the extra day or two off. For my other readers - here's hoping you enjoy this review, get to play plenty of games over the more traditional weekend, and as always: thank you for taking the time to stop by and read. I really do appreciate it. Now... on with my latest review.

On the surface, Project X Zone sounds like everything I could look for in a title. I love strategy games, and have played enough Sega, Namco Bandai and Capcom games over the years to appreciate most, if not all, of the over 200 characters drawn from 27 different gaming franchises.

Still, I admit I was at least a little concerned. I am generally a big story guy in my RPG and strategy titles, and something with so many characters from different games (Shining Force, Dead rising and Virtua Fighter for example?) seems like it could turn into a mess. Also, Fire Emblem Awakening set a really high bar for strategy on the Nintendo 3DS, which I scored a 9.5 out of 10 in my review, and was only released a few months ago.

Still, I had to make this an immediate acquisition. The handful of concerns I had were pretty small when weighed against what I hoped would be a good tactical game glossed up in tons of fan service. I got what I had hoped for.

Graphics - 8:

The 3D effect looks pretty good - not as pronounced as a lot of games, not even quite as good as Fire Emblem's, but the sprited, pixelated characters really look good. The maps themselves are okay, but it really is about the characters, and when you consider how many different ones with distinctive appearances we are talking about, making them stand out from one another is a pretty solid accomplishment. The combat screens are crazy busy, but fun to watch. They sort of remind me of when you do a team attack in the Marvel vs Capcom games, with lots of large characters moving about while things explode all over the place.

Sound & Music - 7:

So the audio is all in Japanese. For some people that is a perk, for others it is a negative. I would prefer English myself, but have played enough JRPG titles that it does not really bother me either. The sound effects are there, and somewhat minimal, but I kind of expect that for a title like this. The music is often pretty cool, with remastered mixes of original tunes throughout. One moment in particular that caught my ear was some Street Fighter music playing when Ken and Ryu entered one of the chapters. That made me grin.

Gameplay - 8:

This is not the deepest of tactics games - you get more depth out of something like Fire Emblem, but there are some cool systems at play here too. There is a shared bar that powers up through combat, and you can spend it on things like special skills to power a unit up, revive a fallen unit, make defensive counter attacks or unleash some pretty slick-looking super attacks. Units consist of two to three characters, and the basic combat is pressing a, pressing a and to the left, or pressing a and to the right. But, if other allied units are in close proximity, you can call them in for a quick assist, and the same can be done once a battle if you have a third character as part of the unit. This control scheme combined with the side-view 2D combat gives the combat a decidedly fighter-like look and feel, despite the fact that it is all very numbers driven under the hood.

You can interact with parts of the map, destroying impediments, rescuing a fallen unit and sometimes finding hidden objects. These items can do things like heal one or all of your characters, for example. Thankfully there is a single quicksave slot available during gameplay, because maps can take some time to beat - which is a bit of a bummer when you lose a longer fight because you have to start over again, and also does not lend itself to portable, on-the-go gaming, but it's a fairly minor complaint. There is only one difficulty level, but I never felt like it was overly challenging.

Intangibles - 9:

So for me, this would have been a solid strategy game even without the myriad of characters being dropped into it. I feel like the strategy element is good, and you gain experience to level up, giving you a nice sense of persistent progression. There are a ton of levels, and it is a lot of fun to try and see as many special attacks as possible with the huge cast of characters. That being said, this is a an excellent tactics game that DOES have a large cast of notable characters. The fighting fan in my loved seeing Jin, Akira and Ryu all talking, and many of the dialog moments are funny, if cheesy. Unfortunately, the story itself is basically throwaway, and keeps this score from being a 10. I said at the beginning of this review that I liked good tales, and this one lacks on that front. It is understandable, how do you coherently weave the tale of Mega Man in with characters from Shining Force?

Another item of note is that the characters are all pretty similar to one another. Not visually, mind you. They all look great and are well differentiated. However, they all function more or less the same way in combat. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you want to look at it. Unfortunately that means the tactics are lacking some of the depth found by having different classes in games like Fire Emblem, but Project X Zone is all about fan service, and no one should feel slighted because their favorite characters from their favorite games feel underpowered either.

Overall - 8:

A lot of companies have been taking to these kinds of collaborations lately, and I for one love it. This game is a huge shout out to fans of Namco Bandai, Sega and Capcom. It does not do everything great, but it does enough things really well to make Project X Zone a fun play - especially if you are a fan of strategy games. I am pretty much the target audience for this title since I know most of these games and characters really well from over the years, and am also a huge fan of strategy/RPG games.



  1. "It is understandable, how do you coherently weave the tale of Mega Man in with characters from Shining Force?"

    Hard to say, really, but I'm sure there are ways if you're willing to strong-arm it a bit. Strong relationships between the characters and acknowledging the idiosyncrasies between them and their worlds would be a good start, if you ask me...but I'm assuming that stuff like that is already in the game, so the next step would be putting them through the paces, one way or another. I'd bet that a few fanfiction writers have done crossovers pretty well, so my guess is that it's not impossible. Just super friggin' hard.

    Well, whatever. I'm a guy that appreciates sprites in action (just look at my avatar! Look at it!), so it's nice to know that the 3DS is still a safe haven for the visuals of old. Of course, I wouldn't mind seeing them elsewhere -- i.e. in bigger games than this -- but again, there are fans who've put out some genuinely amazing content on that so:

    In any case, good review. But then again, it's a foregone conclusion that a game featuring Mega Man X in his first appearance in years HAS to be good. The people would expect no less -- unless Capcom hoped to brave a torch-laden riot.

  2. I liked the image you linked to - I spent a lot of time playing w/ sprites back when I was working with the RPG Maker games. Of all the things I worked on, graphics was probably my weakest points in those programs, so I have a high respect for people who can do some excellent sprite work - because I am most assuredly not one of them. :)

    Without a doubt, I *am* the target audience for a game like this. I have played and adored most of these franchises, and I am a huge strategy game fan. I know this title has been a bit divisive for people, but I hardly slept the 2 nights after getting it, because I was up ENTIRELY too late playing it those two nights (seriously, I was going into work with like 2 hrs sleep, probably looking a bit too much like Keith Richards or something during those meetings).

    Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Do you happen to know any pixel artists, possibly looking for work? Or, a good place to look for some?

    I am creating a few right now for some apps/mini-games I'm working on, but I'm not very artistic (though, I do try to learn!), and wouldn't mind seeing what someone else could do.

  4. "I spent a lot of time playing w/ sprites back when I was working with the RPG Maker games."

    Exactly why I'm experimenting with them now. I like them, because they're 2D and something I can do quickly, and with programs now lots can be done to make them look nice and have cool effects.

  5. Hmm, not off of the top of my head. I used to know quite a few back when I was bigger into the RPG Maker community. You could probably find people in there who might be game, though usually those community forums like to keep things about RPG Maker projects.

  6. Sorry, but other than randomly stumbling upon pixel artists on DeviantArt, I don't know any by name. You can try looking there, I suppose; there may be groups there that'll lead you to the artist you're looking for.

    Alternatively, you might want to try looking around The Spriters Resource; I haven't been there much myself, but if you take a look at the site you'll find a community there. It's worth a look; maybe there's someone you could reach out to.

    Alternatively (alternatively), you could consider looking into Gamasutra. From what I can gather, there are game-related job listings posted fairly regularly; I don't know the exact process for making a call for artists, but like the other two you could have a look around the community if all else fails.

    Wish I could be more helpful, but that's about as much as I can offer. It's a scattershot approach, but here's hoping that you can find something or someone that can lend a hand.


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