Project X Zone 2 has a lot of really great things going for it; a huge cast of gaming favorites from various gaming franchises, some great dialogue moments between said characters, and some satisfying sprite based combat. While I enjoyed my time with the 50+ hour tactical RPG, it started to overstay its welcome about half way through.
A conspiracy of sorts between gaming villains from Street Fighter, Space Channel 5, Devil May Cry, Darkstalkers and more, threaten to rip apart the very dimensional fabric of space and time. Set after the events of the first game, many of the original cast members return, whether they like to or not, to stop this evil scheme and bring balance to each of the worlds threatened. Assisting our returning heroes is a new group of playable and assist characters, eager to stop the evil in its multi-dimensional tracks. It’s staggering to see how many characters are actually in this game, and your awareness of them and what series’ they come from will really help in your enjoyment of this game.
While some of the characters are returning from the first entry in the series, most of them have a different partner this time around, shaking up that dynamic in a few interesting ways. Each pair of units cannot be swapped out, but you can choose which assist character joins them, of which there is custom dialogue to support this as well. Here is a list of the paired units, followed by the assist characters you can link up with either pairing.
- Chris Redfield & Jill Valentine: Resident Evil – Capcom
- Dante & Vergil: Devil May Cry – Capcom
- X & Zero: Mega Man X – Capcom
- Ryu & Ken Masters: Street Fighter – Capcom
- Demitri Maximoff & Morrigan: Darkstalkers – Capcom
- Strider Hiryu & Hotsuma: Strider & Shinobi – Capcom / Sega
- Chun-Li & Ling Xiaoyu: Street Fighter & Tekken – Capcom / Bandai Namco
- Jin Kazama & Kazuya Mishima: Tekken – Bandai Namco
- Kite & Haseo: .hack – Bandai Namco
- Yuri Lowell & Flynn Scifo: Tales of Vesperia – Bandai Namco
- Ciel Alençon & Nana Kazuki: God Eater 2 – Bandai Namco
- Reiji Arisu & Xiaomu: Namco × Capcom – Bandai Namco
- KOS-MOS & Fiora: Xenosaga / Xenoblade Chronicles – Bandai Namco / Nintendo
- Akira Yuki & Kage-Maru: Virtua Fighter – Sega
- Ichirō Ōgami & Erica Fontaine: Sakura Wars – Sega
- Sakura Shinguji & Gemini Sunrise: Sakura Wars – Sega
- Kazuma Kiryu & Goro Majima: Yakuza – Sega
- Zephyr & Vashyron: Resonance of Fate – Sega
- Chrom & Lucina: Fire Emblem Awakening – Nintendo
- Captain Commando: Captain Commando – Capcom
- June Lin Milliam: Star Gladiator – Capcom
- Leon S. Kennedy: Resident Evil – Capcom
- Phoenix Wright & Maya Fey: Ace Attorney – Capcom
- Felicia: Darkstalkers – Capcom
- Ingrid: Street Fighter – Capcom
- Heihachi Mishima: Tekken – Bandai Namco
- Natsu: Soul Calibur V – Bandai Namco
- Aty: Summon Night – Bandai Namco
- Valkyrie: Valkyrie no Bōken: Toki no Kagi Densetsu – Bandai Namco
- Alisa Illinichina Amiella: God Eater – Bandai Namco
- Estellise Sidos Heurassein: Tales of Vesperia – Bandai Namco
- Axel Stone: Streets of Rage – Sega
- Hibana Nightshade – Sega
- Segata Sanshiro: Segata Sanshiro – Sega
- Ulala: Space Channel 5 – Sega
- Pai Chan: Virtua Fighter – Sega
- Leanne: Resonance of Fate – Sega
- Ryo Hazuki: Shenmue – Sega
One element of having all these characters that I was really impressed with is each of the paired units have animated special moves either as a special attack or as an area attack. For example, in the standard special attack, Lucina and Chrom are both featured, but in the area attack, Lucina has the cutscene mostly to herself. This makes for wanting to use each move effectively across the entire cast to see each and every cutscene. The assist characters have a scene as well, but it is less flashy compared to the paired units.
Visually the game is really nice. The detailed sprites are well done, animations are top notch, and those cutscene are just flat out gorgeous. Environments are 3D and you can swing the camera around to get a better view of the field, just in case something gets in the way. You’ll visit city streets, temple shrines, boggy swamps, a bomb rigged ship, amusement parks and more. The only issue I have with some of the environments you visit, is the same-ness that you can’t help but feel due to the same story sometimes being told from level to level. Even if the level is different from the last, you tend to go through the same motions and therefore; enjoying the level is sometimes not an option due to the title excessively repeating the same plot beats time and time again.
Each pair of characters has combos and special moves that you will unlock as you level up and learn new skills. These combos have attack values, so using the right ones at the right time can make or break the battle. When you build up your EXP bar to 100%, you can unleash one of the special moves, and depending on your stats, can one shot most opponents. The battles in game play out similar to a sprite based fighting game, the only difference here is you don’t have simple punch and kick attacks, this is where those combo attacks come in to play. During each battle you can tag in a nearby pair of fighters, as well as your assist character. Sometimes I would bring them all in at once to break down the shields of a boss and do as much damage as I could; each hit building up my EXP bar so that I can prepare to unleash hell. You can do more damage to your foes should you be to their side, or behind them, small icons will let you know if you are going to do more damage than a frontal assault.
If you have played anything from Final Fantasy Tactics to Fire Emblem, then a grid based battlefield should be old hat to you by now. You have a set distance each character can move around in, but special skills can allow you to either move further, cleanse any status effects or heal or refresh nearby allies. In one mission, I had to protect my teams’ vehicle from a 3 sided ambush. If a single enemy reached the car, it was game over. The only hero I had anywhere close was Mega Man, but he could only move 6 spaces towards the foe, which was just one space out of reach. I utilized a skill that boosted his movement, and he managed then to reach and destroy the enemy, winning the match. Some battles can get intense when a round timer or an instant lose mechanic is thrown your way. The final battle is one of those situations, and it took me a few game over’s to get my team set up in such a way that I could prevent my opposition from reaching the area I needed to protect. If anything, Project X Zone 2 has one intense final mission, where even the smallest mistake would cause your downfall. It is probably the best designed level in the game.The main issue I have with Project X Zone 2 is that it is a true case study on a good idea wearing thin. Each of the missions and the story structure within them started to repeat a lot of the same beats. Same groupings of enemies would show up and begin the same dance we had just a few missions back, albeit with some new dialogue, new hints at the plot and a joke or two about character cleavage, Jill sandwiches or characters wanting to spy on the girls in the sauna. X Zone 2 is a really enjoyable game that can get repetitive very quickly. Had the game been about 15 or so hours shorter with the story cleaned up a bit in terms of pacing and more variety in the battles, I think the title would have been far more enjoyable. After a while it really starts to get to you on how grindy this game can get, making you feel like you are going through the same motions and same battles over and over again, because, that is exactly what you are doing.
Project X Zone 2 is a very interesting game in regards to seeing characters from various franchises come together in one storyline that isn’t some traditional fighting game. Games like Marvel vs Capcom and Capcom X Tekken are really fun to play, but narratively they don’t offer much. You can have a great deal of fun here with the combat and the story, but it is the interactions between the characters that peaked my interest and entertained me far more than the mechanics of the game ever could. Seeing Ryu, Strider, Mega Man and the characters from .Hack interact is a dream come true, seeing all of them come together to smack M. Bison in the face makes the whole experience totally worth it.