Developed by Monolith Software and published by Bandai Namco, Project X Zone 2 (PXZ 2) is a tactical RPG that draws its roster of characters from some of the most beloved franchises in gaming history. Capcom, Sega, Namco Bandai, and Nintendo all contributed their licenses to the project, with the result a remarkable tribute to these iconic creations. It also had me questioning how exactly I missed the original 2013 effort, given how much I enjoyed my time with PXZ 2.
The basic plot of the game involves a series of supernatural events taking place around the globe tied to the emergence of gigantic gold chains. Within this, there is also some of the most mind-melting time travel and dimension jumping in the history of storytelling; with the characters involved existing in vastly distant timelines and places, Monolith resorted to a great deal of creativity to pull them all together. In truth, the story makes just enough sense to follow, and is about as bizarre and zany as can be expected from a game which allows Phoenix Wright to do battle simply by objecting to his enemy’s existence.
Alongside the iconic lawyer is a very impressive cast of characters, beginning with Namco x Capcom’s Reiji and Xiaomu, who act as the main characters. Each fighting unit consists of a pair of characters, with the likes of Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, Chrom and Lucina, and Jin and Kazuya teaming up to battle evil. Each duo can become a trio with the addition of a solo unit, such as Shenmue’s Ryo Kazuki, Soulcalibur’s Natsu, or Dalkstalker’s Felicia.
One of the few gripes that I have with the game emerges from the numerous and regular additions to this rag tag crew of fighters. The game features cutscenes to begin and end each chapter, as well as frequent chatter throughout battle with winks and nods to character histories. The issue emerges when a cast of more than forty characters are popping into conversations on a whim. I found myself wishing Monolith reined things in a little, as these moments would be all the more enjoyable if small sections of the cast had their time to speak when most relevant. It becomes dizzying, and I enjoyed these moments less the larger my army became.
At its core this is a standard tactical RPG where you need to move your units about a map to take out enemies, with additional damage is dealt for attacking from the side or the back of an adversary. This means that choosing how to position a unit is just as important as where you move them to in order to minimise damage taken when taking a hit is necessary.
In contrast to the grievance I have with cutscenes, missions become all the more enjoyable with more units to play with. Early on while learning the ropes, the game was quite straightforward, with a few enemies dotting the map that need to be wiped out. As I got deeper, battles became marathon struggles where enemy numbers can swell mid-mission. More than once I got a little cocky at dispatching some small foes, only to be required to resort to some extensive alterations in my strategy after multiple boss characters appeared out of the blue.
There is also a light fighting game interlude that occurs when attacking an enemy. As opposed to simply selecting a unit to attack, player input is required to determine how much damage will be dealt. Each unit has a variety of attacks to choose from with each given a damage ranking, while some have a chance to stun or poison.
Critical hits are given for precise timing of attacks, normally when striking a falling enemy before they hit the ground. There are also cross breaks which keep enemies in place when multiple units are attacking at once to allow for maximum damage. Defending or counterattacking when targeted are also options, meaning damage can be minimised, eliminated altogether or avenged immediately. All in all, this is an amazing combat system that kept me engaged throughout.
It doesn’t hurt that attack animations look amazing as well. Each character utilises their own signature attack style, retaining their individuality in the game’s charming sprites. Seeing Chris and Jill blasting M. Bison or Tekken’s Jin and Kazuya executing combos on Vile are amazing moments that deliver gratification in spades. To top things off, the game’s soundtrack pulls together the theme tunes from each franchise. I got nostalgic whenever I selected Kiryu and Dojima as that distinct Yakuza guitar riff plays. PXZ 2 truly delivers on the promise of fan service with all of these small touches that contribute greatly to the overall experience.
My minor gripe about cutscenes aside, PXZ 2 is a game that combines disparate characters and game licenses tremendously well. From the opening moments it balances being both ridiculous and entertaining with a story that packs in more time travelling than perhaps any story in history. Gameplay is excellent, mashing together tactical RPGs with a combo system that I couldn’t get enough of. While I missed the original Project X Zone, this sequel has more than grabbed my attention. I certainly won’t be missing a potential third instalment.