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When Namco Bandai, Sega, and Capcom announced that they would be teaming up to create an RPG starring many of their popular characters, the only thing I thought was that there was no chance of the game leaving Japan’s shores. While this isn't the first joint project to exist, games such as Jump Superstars and Namco X Capcom were next to impossible to localize. Other than games like Super Smash Bros. where most of the properties came from one company, it was incredibly costly to localize a game like Tatsunoko vs. Capcom where each Tatsunoko property had a different license. Now that the demo is on the American Nintendo eShop, I’m finally coming to terms with reality: Project X Zone has been localized.
Developed by Nintendo’s own Monolith Soft (Xenoblade, Baten Kaitos, Project X Zone is set up like a grid-based strategy RPG not unlike Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics. Each friendly unit on the field is comprised of two characters, dubbed pair units, with most of them in the same series, such as Jill and Chris from Resident Evil or Yuri and Estelle from Tales of Vesperia. Each pair unit has the ability to have a “solo” unit for an extra hit. In addition, any nearby unit can also interfere for support. What’s neat is unlike most SRPGs, characters can use special powers or items without sacrificing you ability to attack.
Each pair unit has three attacks to choose from and while your characters attack, you have the ability to unleash your solo and support units with the shoulder buttons. This is where the game’s visuals shine with lovely animation and anime pop-ins. While three attacks may not seem much, the point is not just defeat enemies, but to juggle them in order to gain some bonus time and XP (which is not experience, but more like energy, or AP in other JRPGs). Earn enough of it within the battle itself and you might be able to launch a special attack; otherwise they can be saved for other out-of-battle uses (like blocking or countering an enemy attack).
The demo has you using six pair units: Ryu and Ken (Street Fighter), Kite and Blackrose (.hack), Soma and Alisa (God Eater), Gemini and Erica (Sakura Wars), Ichiro and Sakura (Sakura Wars), and Kurt and Riela (Valkyria Chronicles) fighting Ayame (Sakura Wars) along with some random enemies, with some being the Morolians from Space Channel 5. It really gets you in the mood when you switch to a character and music from their respective game starts playing. All of these characters seem to be given much love with well-executed attacks and/or animations. Although due to the large quantity of characters, Namco couldn't possibly deliver English voices in such a niche JRPG, but all the Japanese voices are all intact and the perform just fine. Even consumable items were taken from these games, such as the Green Herbs from Resident Evil or the Gels from the Tales games.
The game was extremely fun when I got the hang of it, which took two playthroughs. I for one cannot wait for it, and any JRPG fan would be doing themselves a disservice by missing out of this collaborative effort. These games do not get made very often and it’s such a rarity for them to leave Japan (I’m still waiting for Namco X Capcom!). One last thing I need to note: the demo can only be booted five times, which is far less than most eShop demos, so make sure to not exit out of it unless you really want to start something else.
Project X Zone arrives on June 25th, and first edition copies will get the limited edition equipped with the game’s soundtrack and a poster of the playable characters.