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Xenosaga Episode III Special 4: Beyond Xenosaga

Previously on Xenosaga: Xenosaga is over, folks! There are no more games left, I’ve said everything about the franchise I want to say, and I don’t think we’re going to be seeing Xenosaga HD in time for the Christmas season. It’s done, folks!

But just because a franchise ends, doesn’t mean it’s completely forgotten. Xenosaga has sent its tendrils far past its own release, so we’ll be spending this, the final update for this LP, looking at the games that Xenosaga, in some way, touched.

If you see a game’s title in bold text, fair warning, there are likely to be spoilers.

Now let’s start with the most obvious entry, the immediate sequel to Xenosaga…

Final Fantasy 13 (12/17/09 Japan, 03/09/10 USA) Playstation 3/Xbox 360

Wait… no. That’s… that’s not right…

Xenosaga Episode III Part 25: Let’s Review Xenosaga

Previously on Xenosaga: 10,229 pictures, 448 days, 2.74 gigs of data, and one curry recipe that no one ever seems to acknowledge.

Okay, it’s taken me a while to narrow down exactly how to approach this update. I’ve got it down to:

• Xenosaga Episode 3 is the worst game in the franchise.
• Xenosaga Episode 3 is the best game in the franchise.

You see my dilemma.

Eh, let’s take it one step at a time.

Worst Xenosaga Ever

First and foremost, the decision to hop over to boring text boxes over any other choice was… ill advised.

Xenosaga has always been all about that magical dream from the 80’s: the playable movie. It started back in Xenogears… hell, it started back in Final Fantasy 2… but Xenosaga was always, always more about the story than anything else. This was never a Kingdom Hearts situation where a vestigial “excuse plot” eventually grew to consume everything it could find; no, Xenosaga was meant to be an “epic” from its inception. Hell, it’s right there in the title: you don’t call yourself a “saga” if you’re focusing on the gameplay.

So it’s a major blow to the franchise when the presentation of that story takes a backseat. Yes, it was likely due to budget and time concerns, and, yes, I would argue that getting an Episode 3 at all is better than no Episode 3 because no one can afford to animate Allen stress-puking for the eighteenth time, but it’s still a blow to the audience. Sitting around reading a series of text boxes has never been fun, but it’s compounded by holy crap did you read that update that was 4,000 words just explaining what happened in the ending? Admit it, Xenosaga fans, you fell asleep when Wilhelm’s soothing voice started elucidating how rebooting the universe and cycle of rebirth and circle circle circle is this done yet?

In short, the episode of Xenosaga that required the most dramatic staging to keep your brain entertained got stuck with text box after text box. No. Bad, Xenosaga. Bad.

And it’s not like the gameplay rushes to fill in the gaps. The battle system of Xenosaga Episode 3 is the absolute most boring it’s ever been. XS1 featured a battle system that was kind of an evolution of Xenogears that focused on building strength for special attacks (remember death blows?), and the challenge was knowing how and when to upgrade those special attacks, and choosing which special attacks to bring to a random battle. XS2 introduced a radically different battle system that relied on “breaking” an opponent, and then using that window to pile on the weakpoint damage. The average fight took forever, but it was a new and interesting way to interpret a JRPG battle. In XS3, we’ve got… Fight, Magic, Item, and Run. Wow. Revolutionary. Maybe we’ll knock down Garland later.

And even the “variety” in this battle system seems entirely perfunctory. By about the midpoint of the game, you should never choose the “fight” command, because you’ve likely got a better spell or tech to use every round. Except… 90% of those spells and techs seem like Fire1-Fire2-Fire3 affairs, so you’re only ever using the most powerful spell/tech available, and the rest of your rapidly expanding “spell list” is superfluous. In a weird way, this entire battle systems feels like something that would be the ancestor of the XS1 special attack system (hey, why don’t we just eliminate all these useless level 1 spells and make the best attack level up with the character?), as opposed to its descendant. XS3 has the most boring, rote battle system in the entire franchise, and, were it not for the break gauge, it would be practically indistinguishable from 8-bit JRPGs.

And don’t think I forgot about XS3 being the only Xenosaga game that continually requires stopping at shops and upgrading everyone’s equipment. XS2 eliminated money (almost) entirely, and XS1 didn’t require store bought upgrades for some characters (like, say, the one-of-a-kind battle android that was just activated yesterday), but XS3 revels in requiring a daily trip to the local store for not only your characters, but their ESes as well. I know this is standard JRPG fair, but the lack of shops in XS2 really streamlined things. Did people think that was too easy? It wasn’t because the promise of shops in XS3 allowed for more options, because you’re almost always only buying a +2 sword to replace your +1 sword. There’s no thinking here, just mindless consumerism. You upgrade because thou must.

Only the Best

And all that said? This was my most enjoyable experience in the whole Xenosaga franchise.

Full disclosure: there were a few points in this complete LP where the whole thing nearly stopped, and I was this close to hanging up the controller. XS1’s Cathedral Ship? Terrible. Come to think of it, the only good dungeon in that game was The Song of Nephilim, and even that had a lot of same-y hallways at the start. And XS2 had that stupid dungeon that was the exact same dungeon, but, ya know, whiter. And those sidequests? Holy crap, I never want to see a sewer again in another videogame for any reason. And never mind that the average XS2 battle against anything stronger than a slime takes at least five minutes. That does not make for a happy Goggle Bob when a random dungeon has to be revisited for some stupid trinket. And it’s not just about “this part sucks”, it’s about “this part sucks, and oh God am I going to have to do this crap again because this is only the first dungeon noooooo I can’t do this”. You will note that, yes, I finished all these Xenosaga games (with only minor cheating!), but there were definitely some points where that completion was in question.

Xenosaga Episode 3? Not a single spot where I wanted to quit forever.

Okay, yes, Merkabah is a lousy dungeon, but it was bolstered by every other dungeon in this game being better than previous experiences. And, at the end, Merkabah revealed itself to be a plot-mandated waste of time. That’s clever! It’s like Xenosaga recognized the crap it put its audience through in previous games, and said, “Hey, yeah, sorry, we know a lousy dungeon when we see one.” This doesn’t mean Xenosaga Episode 3 has the best dungeons on the PS2, but it does mean, if I were somehow forced to replay one of the Xenosaga games again, I’d definitely choose XS3, no question.

Xenosaga Episode 3’s various systems might be rote and predictable, but they go down smooth. Couple this with the persistent feeling that you’re actually accomplishing something in this episode (as opposed to the all-prelude previous episodes), and Xenosaga Episode 3 winds up feeling better than every other Xenosaga experience. XS3, miraculously, is the first Xenosaga that begs for more content because the game is actually good, and not because you just need more answers to these unending questions.

Xenosaga: Was mißriert

So, the title of this LP has always been “Xenosaga: What Went Wrong?” We’ve just completed the entire franchise, so let’s answer that question as succinctly as possible.

Ratta tat tatThe most obvious culprit here is pacing. Xenosaga Episode 1 was intended as the first chapter in a six part series, and it drags its feet slower than my dear, deceased grandma. By the end of XS1, all of the characters have been introduced… and that’s it. Whole lot of set up, complete lack of resolution. Then came XS2, which continued the XS1 story, and, by and large, ended it. MOMO, Ziggy, Junior, Albedo, and even Shion all got pretty worthwhile story “finales”, and the series could have ended right there, were it not for some lingering KOS-MOS/chaos mysteries. This left us with XS3, a game that had to create new problems for some of the cast (Shion/PTSD & daddy issues, Junior/Yuriev & daddy issues, KOS-MOS/T-elos & her daddy issues), and then resolve those issues, and satisfactorily resolve every dangling concern that ever existed in the franchise. This would be a difficult task for a staff that was still receiving complete resources, as opposed to the reality of the situation, which seemed to be that Namco was pumping this one out apparently out of obligation more than anything else. So maybe that was the problem? Monolith Soft never knew how much Xenosaga was “left”, so we got an Episode 1 that assumed there would be five more sequels, an Episode 2 that played it safe and tried to wrap up nearly everything, and an Episode 3 that had to quickly reboot and close the franchise. That kind of thinking makes it easier to forgive a few hiccups.

But then again…

Let’s look at Xenosaga Episode 3 again. What we have is a pretty basic story about how Shion got her groove back: start off with the establishment of her depression, and then we get the band back together through her eyes. We’re then hurled back in time so we can explore our heroine’s tragic past a little more. And then… it’s the Junior show, and Yuriev is the main threat. Then Yuriev is off the board, and we’re back to… Michtam and Ziggy’s past? Canaan, where did you come from? Jin, you had a relationship with Pellegri? Or was it Margulis? No, wait, nevermind, we’re back to Shion again, and KOS-MOS is Mary Magdalene, and Wilhelm has an evil plan, and… oh, it’s over. Shion and KOS-MOS got to hug a few times, and maybe they’ll be reunited through the sequel hook. Thanks for playing!

Obviously, the game had pacing problems. Even the final dungeon had ridiculous issues. It starts off like a Mega Man X style “Sigma Castle”: a long series of “final challenges” punctuated with plot significant bosses that all have something important to say before exploding. But then there’s the KOS-Mary room, and suddenly there’s this entirely new plot thread that involves Jesus Christ. And then… another two indistinct hallways? And then we’ve got the biggest Shion emotional moment in the franchise that ties up three games worth of pining… and then the final boss and a plan that barely has anything to do with all that. And did I mention how long that entire area took?

We started the final dungeon at 19:41…

And cleared the game at 24:26? The final dungeon alone took over four hours. That’s, what, 20% of my entire playtime? How could that have been a good idea?

And I don’t want to consider how long it took on my original, less-informed playthrough.

Yes, I’m going to say it: Monolith Soft has no idea how to pace even one videogame (see also: Xenogears), so there’s no damn way a trilogy or sextology was ever going to come together properly. Don’t get me wrong, this franchise isn’t a complete failure, it just… has some issues, and those issues dramatically affect its message and “fun”.

And speaking of impacting the message, I’m going to call out the graphic changes here. I particularly noticed it going through the old chapters of this LP, but Shion, KOS-MOS, and the entire cast change dramatically from game to game…

And it gets distracting when you’re trying to reconcile character growth and changes. It’s one thing to ask the audience to accept XS3’s Cranky Shion as the same endless fountain of compassion that we saw in XS1, but it’s another thing entirely when it seems like she’s mutated into an entirely different person. It’s one of those subconscious things, but it’s a lot easier to claim character assassination when it seems like the old character doesn’t even exist anymore.

Also, it’s pretty clear that covergirl KOS-MOS got an upgrade every game to sell toys. Hey, whatever pays for more Jin/Margulis swordfights.

And, finally, (and likely related to the two previous problems), Xenosaga as a whole lacked cohesion. It seems like Xenosaga wanted to have its Final Fantasy and eat it too: we’ve got three games with three totally different battle systems, commerce systems, and mech systems. We’ve got wildly different character models from game to game, and, in many cases, a vacillating “star”. As I noted repeatedly, it seemed like there was some confusion over whether Junior or Shion should be the star of the show, and the two rarely seemed to work together. When Junior was leading, Shion barely spoke, and when Shion was the focus, Junior was basically there to act confused. And remember that glorious hour during the opening of XS1 when Ziggy was the lead? Good times.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it leads to a very jumbled experience. The whole of the ending had practically nothing to do with Junior, Ziggy, or MOMO, so if they were your favorite characters, I can see how you might quickly forget what happened. chaos might have been Jesus? Who cares? When I started this LP, I commented that I had forgotten much of the ending of XS3, and that was after years of pouring over XS1 data. Why did that happen? Well, I’m pretty confident in blaming the scattershot way the rest of the franchise covered… everything. For anyone that finished XS1, but then didn’t ever get around to XS3, I don’t blame you. It is, in many ways, an entirely different experience.

And does that work? Does Xenosaga work? Well, yes, but only to a point. This franchise does not feel like the original Star Wars Trilogy, or even the prequel Star Wars Trilogy. We’ve got all the same characters for three games, but there isn’t enough interconnection to make it all feel linked. Xenosaga seems like it would be a lot more comfortable being another Final Fantasy experience, where maybe the plots are related and some familiar terms pop up, but they’re largely independent. One way or another, Xenosaga the Saga falters at its biggest selling point. This is an epic, multi-part videogame, but only in the most superficial ways.

But is Xenosaga, the whole franchise that spanned six years, a bad experience? No. It’s a fun little (big) JRPG, and I don’t regret having played through this franchise twice in ten years. Assuming you can look past its foibles, and deal with its more… mind-numbing… bad sections, Xenosaga is a worthwhile series of videogames. It’s no Citizen Kane, but it’s no Ishtar, either. For a sequel to the most published book of all time, Xenosaga ain’t a bad time.

Final Xenosaga Rating: Hopeful MOMO

“Okay! Good job!”

Next time on Xenosaga: The Xenosaga FAQ to answer all your questions!

FGC #211 Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS

SMAAAAAASHSuper Smash Bros For 3DS is the most confusing, straightforward game I have ever played.

The Super Smash Bros. series is not at all complicated. Like Mario Kart, I’ve found that even videogame luddites can identify this series, and you can usually get a flash of recognition from “it’s that game where Mario punches Pikachu”. And it’s not hard to see why the game is popular among gamers and muggles alike: it’s a simple, fun experience for everybody. Here’s jump, here’s punch, here’s “special”, now go to work on blasting Jigglypuff into the stratosphere. Anybody can pick up and play Smash Bros, and that’s probably the main reason anyone bought a second (or fourth) controller for the Gamecube.

And speaking of the Gamecube, Smash Bros. has been practically unchanged from its original incarnation. Alright, yes, I know there have been all sorts of changes to the formula over the years, from wavedashing to tripping to some alternate universe where Donkey Kong is actually viable, but the core of the gameplay, and the basic, amazing concept (let’s you and him fight) has been unchanged through the console generations. Mario games are astounding, but if you’re somehow buying a new one blind, it’s impossible to know if you’ll be running around in 2-D or 3-D, or whether or not this will be a Mario that acknowledges powerups at all or is stuck gobbling coins to replenish a lifemeter. Smash Bros has been Smash Bros for four console generations, and there hasn’t been a Smash Bros: Spirit Tracks or Smash Bros: Federation Force anywhere in that lineup. From the moment a Smash Bros. game is announced, you know what you’re going to get.

DRILLAnd before Smash Bros. 4 (For?) was released, there was quite a bit of glee regarding what we were going to get. Mega Man! Little Mac! Pac-Man! On a personal level, the Super Smash Bros. 4 roster seemed practically made for me. I still remember when Super Smash Bros. Brawl (3) was released, and my greatest lament about the title was that it and Super Mario Galaxy were released too close together, so we were denied any references to Rosalina, Luma, or any of the pure joy that was emblematic of Super Mario Galaxy. And now here’s Rosalina and Luma! And a Galaxy stage with that amazing Galaxy music! Why more could I ask for? The Koopa Kids? The return of Ike? A Mega smash that featured multiple generations of fighting robots? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Super Smash Bros. 4 seems like it was made for me, practically from its first preview.

And Nintendo knew this. And Nintendo did its best to trick me.

Super Smash Bros For the Nintendo 3DS sounds like a wonderful idea. It’s a Smash Bros. game, and it’s portable. That should be all it takes! I want to say I committed roughly eleventy billion hours to Super Smash Bros. Melee. I didn’t play Super Smash Bros. Brawl nearly as much, but I did unlock the trophy that only appears after playing some ludicrous number of hours, so it certainly saw some usage. Even if Smash 4 3DS was just going to be Brawl again, I’d get it for that all important portability factor. But with the full roster we’d find on the console version, Smash 4 3DS was a no-brainer. I love Smash Bros! I’ll love it just as much on the terlet.

I want oneExcept…

I said I devoted hours and hours to Melee, but my own Melee save doesn’t reflect the “real” number of hours I’ve played the game. Why? Well, because a lot of hours I remember playing Melee took place at a friend’s house (and on a friend’s system). I had the “base” Gamecube when I went away to college, but in the local neighborhood, most of the playtime was spent on my buddy Sean’s ‘cube, because he had parents that were cool with us abusing his den until 2 AM. And, in thinking about it, I probably would have played Brawl as much as Melee, but even by Brawl’s release, I had gradually aged out of the “let’s play videogames until the sun comes up” demographic. Brawl saw a lot of play with my friends, but it was generally during previously unthinkable daylight hours, and before someone had to get back to feed the dog/kids/other walking responsibilities. Make no mistake, I did personally complete all one player challenges in previous Smash Bros. games, but that wasn’t what kept me coming back after breaking a few analog sticks; that would be the friends breaking my analog sticks.

So, when I really thought about it, I realized I didn’t need Super Smash Bros For 3DS. It’s a party game on a system that is party-adverse. Yes, there’s online play, but that was never the scene for Smash Bros; Smash is all about hopping on the couch and pummeling your friends until they start pummeling back in reality. Get there!“Quiet” Pokémon may easily be played with friends across the internet, but Smash deserves the big screen and few friendships broken through excessive shouting. I’m sure this is fairly old fashioned thinking, but Smash isn’t Smash to me unless I can see my opponent sweat those final thirty seconds. That is impossible on the 3DS.

So, naturally, Nintendo released Super Smash Bros. For 3DS about a month before Super Smash Bros. for WiiU. And, yes, I’m weak. I probably would have purchased six copies if Nintendo gave me a remotely valid reason.

And that’s when the weirdness started.

As you might expect, I happily played Super Smash Bros. For 3DS (again, a game practically made for me). The game contains a host of one-player content, and, more importantly, a reason to play the one-player content (must… unlock… more… characters…). Smash Run could be a mere distraction of a mode, but the promise that you might collect all those rad special moves and extra outfits is enough to keep my attention for hours. It’s been a long time since I felt I had to unlock every last bit of content in a videogame (… when did Lightning Returns come out?), but I knew, with Super Smash Bros For WiiU on the way, I may as well get in all my practice on the 3DS version now. Maybe I’ll even have a super-powered Dark Pit to transfer into the console release!

And that’s about when it hit me: I wasn’t playing Super Smash Bros. For 3DS like a Smash Bros game, I was playing it like a demo.

Complete with batSuper Smash Bros. For 3DS is a real game. It easily features more one-player content than Super Smash Bros. (N64), and I’m pretty sure there’s more to do than in Super Smash Bros. Melee. This is the largest Smash Bros. roster ever (even if you don’t count the “uncombined” characters), and just completing basic “smash mode” with each character takes some time (and skill). There’s a strangely robust final boss, and an innumerable number of minions lurking around Smash Run. And there is multiplayer (even if it’s not couch-based) that only requires the simplest of Wi-Fi connections to get out and smash the world. This is, in every way, a Smash Bros. game, and not even an incomplete one at that.

But… I played it like a demo. I played it thinking “yes, this is a fun technique, I will use this knowledge on the real game”. I played it taking notes on what might be useful when I’m fighting my friends in a month. I played it observing every tactic I could utilize when I tackle Master Hand again, during the actual game. There is barely any practical difference between one-player mode on the 3DS versus WiiU, but I beat the 3DS version’s challenges knowing full well that I’d be doing it again “for real” on the WiiU. Super Smash Bros. for 3DS was the appetizer, the WiiU version was the main course, and I never played either game without that (subconsciously) in mind.

chompAnd this causes me to get stuck in an infinite loop of sorts. The game is just as robust as every other Smash Bros! But I haven’t touched it since the WiiU version was released… But that’s just because you don’t play it portably! But I don’t play it portably because I feel like I’m not making progress on the “real” game. But that’s just a fabricated idea, it’s just as robust as any other Smash Bros…

This game should be a forthright, mindless experience.

But it leaves me… jumbled.

And I have no idea why I bought all this DLC for a game I don’t even play…

FGC #211 Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS

  • System: Well, you know what, I’m going to say Nintendo 3DS.
  • Number of players: Technically four! Though I will never see the other three players…
  • Oh, like you don’t have friends with portable systems: You know what? Most of my friends have console systems, but it’s their kids with the portables nowadays. And it just seems weird to ask an eight year old if he wants to play videogames tonight.
  • PLINKFavorite Character (conceptually): The fact that Mega Man gets his biggest showcase in the last decade on a Nintendo game is not lost on me. I can’t play as the character for a damn, but man am I just happy he’s here. Fight for everlasting pieces of that Dragoon, little metal boy.
  • Favorite Characters (for realsies): He might be DLC, but Roy is my boy (and, man, did I think I was never going to see that guy again). Something about beefy, fiery hits just gets my motor revving.
  • So, did you beat it? I collected every damn challenge trophy before Super Smash Bros. For WiiU was released. I’m pretty sure I mastered playing this “demo” while asleep to pull that one off. Though I think I did golden hammer that one challenge about collecting every special move.
  • Feel like anyone is missing from the roster? Nope.
  • Did you know? Including his Black Hole Bomb final smash, Mega Man has a special move from each of his adventures… except Mega Man 10, 5, and V. Though I guess Beat works as a Mega Man 5 rep. Still would have liked to see the Spark Chaser, though.
  • Would I play again: You’d think this would be a yes, but there is evidence to the contrary.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Tick for Sega Genesis. Get ready for a heaping spoonful of justice! Please look forward to it!

Does it count?

FGC #166 Project X Zone 2

Hi, everybody!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?

NOOOOOPE!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?

Also NopeNot… 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?

That's gonna stingOh, 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?

42.

Jesus Christ.

I know.

I assume you quit well before the end?

Nope, cleared the entire game.

WHY?!

And that's all!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!
  • Lucy on the battlefield with diamondsFashion 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!

So much fanfic