Today’s post is brought to you by the little voice in my head that doubts everything!
So what’s this game about?
Project X Zone 2 is a crossover title featuring characters from Capcom, Namco, Sega, and a few special guests from the Nintendo stable. This is ideal, as beloved characters like Mega Man X get to do something, hidden gems like Axel Stone get a little more exposure, and the Virtua Fighter cast gets to pretend they have personalities. A surprising amount of care went into balancing how these characters react to each other, so Erica Fontaine of Sakura Wars and Felicia of Darkstalkers have a lot to talk about, what with being randomly catty members of the clergy an’ all. Oh, and someone remembered that Resonance of Fate happened, and that’s always good.
So this is another crossover fighting game?
Well, no, this is a tactical RPG. Each “unit” is a pair of characters, usually from the same game (like Chris and Jill of Resident Evil), genre (like Chun-Li of Street Fighter and Xiaoyu of Tekken), or “theme” (Strider and Shinobi are ninja bros). Additionally, each unit may have a supporting “solo unit”, which is a lone character that may be randomly assigned. Want to have Captain Commando team up with Dante and Virgil? Go for it! Though he might be more at home with the .hack team…
Wait. I thought you hated TRPGs?
I do! I really do!
Look, I’ve got this theory about videogames, and it goes like this: I’m lazy. Wait, that isn’t a theory at all. Take two! My theory about videogames is that any game that takes too long to do something that would be really easy in another game is kind of crap. Easy example:
- Super Mario Bros: walk forward, see goomba, jump, kill goomba, move on.
- Super Mario RPG: walk forward, see goomba, jump, initiate battle, choose commands, defend against attack, attack, kill goomba, earn exp, move on.
- Super Mario TRPG (nonexistent, thank God): prepare unit, map route, move forward, see goomba, goomba advances, initiate battle, watch combat, hopefully win, kill goomba, earn items, move on.
See how there’s a lot more involved in the (J)RPG and TRPG than the basic action game? It is draining to get the same result (dead goomba) out of so many more steps. And don’t get me started on the fact that it’s impossible to have a “no hits” JRPG run. It’s all about minimizing damage, not avoiding it. How does that make sense!?
You obviously enjoy JRPGs, so why single out TRPGs?
Because they take forever! I can deal with the typical JRPG party of three to five dudes and dudettes fighting through a single battle, but a TRPG “army” of pieces traipsing around a map, waiting for enemy units to move, battling only when everyone involved is within proper ranges… it takes forever! Who has time for that!?
So it’s just a matter of time spent?
That’s a factor, yes, but the problem is tension. If a Super Mario Bros. level takes a maximum of 300 seconds, that means you can only, at absolute maximum, waste 300 seconds if you die inches from the goal. Meanwhile, in a JRPG, you’re limited by save points: you can lose all your progress thanks to a difficult monster mob, but every time you save, you’re “safe”, and that counter begins again. In a TRPG, you’re generally not allowed to save until the end of the battle, and, with every unit moving and fighting and whatever, some “battles” may take an entire hour. That means everything you do for a full hour could be for naught if you made some dumb moves during round one… and that gets pretty damn frustrating pretty damn fast.
So if you could save/undo every round, a TRPG would be fun?
No, because then there wouldn’t be any tension. Like calling a mulligan on every golf swing, the “sport” wouldn’t mean anything, and you’d be moving pieces around with all the anxiety of a game of The Sims. Frankly, I don’t enjoy TRPGs because I feel like I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. This isn’t to say I can’t identify good TRPGs (I pretty much have Ogre Battle Stockholm Syndrome), just that it’s the genre I’m pretty much least likely to get excited about.
So does Project X Zone 2 do something new with the TRPG genre to get your interest?
Not… really? If anything, with its pre-configured units and the fact that the different characters barely have dissimilar attack attributes, PXZ2 is easily one of the dumbest TRPGs out there. Like, say what you will about Wild Arms XF, but its variety of classes and configurations allowed for at least an appealing selection of options for combat. Here, you’ve got nineteen different chess pieces, but they’re secretly all pawns. Some units may be a little stronger, and some may be able to move a few more squares, but it barely matters anyway, because each level seems to randomly toss the pieces onto the board. Got Team Yakuza up to a powerful level? Too bad, they’re not involved in this skirmish, better luck next time.
So you can’t customize your units at all?
Oh, you can, but it’s horrible. You may purchase two equippable items for each unit, and, between rounds, you may powerup the individual moves of each unit, but… it’s just a pain in the ass. While there are all sorts of stat parameters for each item and attack, all that ever matters is your attack power (to make sure battles go a little faster) and your HP/DEF (to make sure you don’t die). These are stats that level up with every, ya know, level up, so the extra “go to the shop now to buy crap” step doesn’t enhance anything. It’s just one more time wasting chore to perform between stages. And, yes, if you ignore this “step”, you will be stomped into oblivion during your next battle. Joy.
So the gameplay sucks. Playing it for the story?
Oh, God no. The story is so damn stupid. The entire story could be condensed to “bad guys are doing bad guy thing”. Why are they doing it? That’s mysterious. Where did they get the ability to nearly destroy the world(s)? Nobody knows. Why is one of the villains a bunny girl that speaks in broken English? Nobody wants to know.
And every level starts and ends with, “Oh no, bad guys are doing bad thing, we’ve got to stop them… but how!?” And then every stupid issue is solved by beating thirty or so enemy units and a boss or two. Like, okay, I’m not expecting Shakespeare here, but this is the most pointless plot since Seymour the Slug Sloshes Through Salt. We knew what was going to happen! There was a picture of melted slug on the cover!
So it’s just the crossover aspect that is appealing?
Man, even that is a giant disappointment. It’s kind of fun when there’s a new enemy or ally every level, but even then, it seems like every dumb action has to get a reaction from about half the cast. I counted four different occasions when the party had to make a “scary jump”, and about half the players had to contribute some inane drivel about heights being frightening or whatever. Newsflash, there’s no tension in a TRPG when combat units have to do something during a cutscene, and pressing A over and over again is only fun for so long.
Then, past about Level 20, the game doesn’t introduce any new characters, and just recycles the same old scenarios and characters. It’s not a bad thing that your party is done and “complete” by that point, but the designers seem to revel in reusing the same old bosses continuously, and, frankly, that bunny with a tank wasn’t threatening the first six times he was defeated.
It stops being interesting at Level 20? How many levels are there?
I assume you quit well before the end?
Nope, cleared the entire game.
If I’m being honest? Because the game doesn’t try.
It’s a TRPG, but it’s on a portable system, so I can play it while watching TV. If I waste an hour on a failed mission, then at least I watched some Bojack Horseman while doing it. If I keep my equipment and abilities up to spec between battles, then I should have no trouble plowing over monsters during the campaign. If I keep an eye on my counter gauge and use items liberally, I should be able to stomp any rivals. Protect the areas that need protecting with my extra units, and send the big guns up against that big gun boss. Sure, I might not completely be paying attention to the scintillating dialogue, but I’ll keep an eye out for any time a favorite character it speaking. That X is the Abraham Lincoln of reploids.
And, in that fashion, I finish a 30 hour game I don’t even like. It… didn’t really bother me too much, so… hooray?
That’s kind of sad.
Hey, I’ve got a lot of videogames. They can’t all be winners.
FGC #166 Project X Zone 2
- System: 3DS. This would be unbearable on a television.
- Number of players: Just one. You’d think there’d be more two player TRPGs. I mean, people have been playing chess for years, right? It’s not that different, and now that we have online play…
- Favorite Unit: It might be the most boring choice, but having Jin, Kazuya, and Heihachi of Tekken all working together feels oddly satisfying. Three generations of kicking ass! Woo!
- Fashion Faux Pas: It seems like every other female character has an excuse to change into another costume during attacks. It’s to be expected with the cast of Sakura Wars, but it’s more than a little weird that Fire Emblem’s Lucina dons a bridal dress, or that KOS-MOS produces a sailor fuku. The men don’t seem to have the same problem, though a few dudes transform into demons because… why not?
- Popular Culture: The localization team obviously had a blast wedging as many eclectic references into the script as possible. You know that when a reference to Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom drops into the script that things have gone well and truly insane.
- Did you know? Star Gladiator is a game that happened, and Project X Zone 2 remembers that. Maybe that’s all I need to be entertained.
- Would I play again: God, I hope not.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Adventures of Lolo 2 for the NES! Blocks must be pushed, and there’s only one little blue guy to do it! Please look forward to it!