One of the craziest video game crossovers, Namco x Capcom for the PS2, never made it to our shores--and that’s a darn shame. This grid-style, turn-based RPG might’ve had fairly typical gameplay, but it brought together characters we’d never thought we’d see in the same game, let alone teaming up. Now that we’ve played the game’s spiritual successor, Project X Zone, at Tokyo Game Show 2012, we’re desperately hoping that this Nintendo 3DS game gets the translation treatment.
PXZ ups the crossover ante significantly: Namco Bandai and Capcom properties are back, only now they’re joined by characters from the Sega stables. Above all else, know this: PXZ marks a game in which Akira from Virtua Fighter, Jin from Tekken, and Ryu from Street Fighter can all peacefully co-exist. That, in-and-of-itself, is amazing. You’ll also see party members from lesser-known series: Space Channel 5, Xenosaga, .hack, Die Hard Arcade, and Valkyria Chronicles III are among the many beloved titles that get shout-outs in PXZ, with many of those series’ heroes acting as central characters.
Underneath all the delightful fan-service, there’s a tactical RPG that might be the most fun we’ve had with the genre in some time. The battles take place on a grid, and the actions are a turn-based procession through your allies and enemies. But when you engage with an opponent, the gameplay switches to a 2D duel that plays like a mix of a typical turn-based RPG and a fighting game.
Each unit represents a pairing of characters from a given franchise, like Ryu and Ken or KOS-MOS and T-elos, who will attack in unison with a tap of the A button. There are also powerful assists that you can call in once you’ve filled a gauge by doling out damage. It’s utterly surreal to watch Space Channel 5’s Ulala walk into the frame and start blasting enemies, or see Ryu summon the aide of Cyberbot’s Devilot for some massively damaging robot-fist-and-fireball moves. You’ll have a set amount of commands that you can give to your multiple duos during combat, which will play out with some nice animations on their own--but in PXZ, your timing actually matters.
Like any respectable fighting game, PXZ uses a combo system that rewards you for juggling your target in a string of spells and attacks. Timing your attacks just so to create a 100-hit combo is addicting, and feels like the evolution of the turn-based action elements seen in RPGs like the Mario & Luigi series. The attack animations themselves are a treat; the appealing sprites strike just the right visual balance between the graphical styling of 32-bit and modern day RPGs. The 3D is also surprisingly satisfying: With the way the sprite layers are staggered onscreen, it feels like you’re holding a living diorama in your hands.
As with Smash Bros., Kingdom Hearts, or Marvel vs. Capcom, there’s always something magical about seeing your favorite characters from separate franchises mingling with one another. Sadly, the fact that the game hasn’t been announced for a US or UK release--and with the Japanese release date of October 11, 2012 drawing ever closer--it seems doubtful that this Nintendo 3DS game will make it to our handhelds. But there’s always hope; we’ll keep our fingers crossed that this mega-crossover will be considered for a global release.