When Project X Zone was originally announced, the news came somewhat out of left field. The massive crossover was an RPG lover's dream, featuring characters and content from three popular and prolific companies. The final result was a success, though there were some complaints to be had with the basic gameplay structure, particularly its repetitive nature. While it may be that Project X Zone 2 is still more of the same, gameplay seems to have been made more approachable, while additional strategy techniques have been thrown in.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the gameplay, it's something of a mixture of turn based and real time combat. Enemies and allies are all out on a grid – Fire Emblem style – yet engaging enemies takes players to a battle screen where direct input is required. The player is given three or four attacks here, with the goal being to time them right so as to juggle the enemy and deal additional damage. It's easy to pick up, yet there's depth here for more advanced play, as hitboxes and delays must be taken into account when deciding which attack to use.
In terms of how things have been tweaked this time around, unused attacks can now be 'charged'. What this basically means is that not using, say, the Left-B attack for a character will enable it to do increased damage on the next turn if the player chooses to use it. This adds in an extra layer of strategy, as it's a viable option to reserve certain attacks for use at a later time when they can be considerably more effective against a more powerful enemy. Another new addition is the Mirage Cancel, which (for a considerable sum of XP) allows players to slow down the falling enemy and make it easier to do additional damage. Additionally, properly timing the strike can result in the previous move being cancelled, allowing you to get in an extra attack.
Just like in the first game, the visuals are a major selling point. All the characters and enemies are rendered as extremely detailed 2D sprites, and the animation is absolutely spot on throughout. It can be entertaining in its own way to initiate an attack, call in support characters, and just watch the figurative fireworks as the screen is filled with multiple characters all shooting, punching, and thoroughly destroying the lone enemy they face. Make no mistake, there is some serious eye candy to be enjoyed here.
Of course, the character roster has been expanded, too, though the lineup is still a bit niche. While it may be that very few people beyond hardcore RPG lovers will be familiar with several characters, the cast is diverse and entertaining enough that newcomers will still find plenty to like. Also, there are a few Nintendo characters added in, with Chrom and Lucina representing the Fire Emblem series, and Fiora representing Xenoblade Chronicles.
All in all, it seems like Project X Zone 2 is shaping up to be more of the same, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The visuals are just as pretty to look at as they were in the first game, and though the tweaks made to gameplay – such as Mirage Cancel – may not be game-changers, it's good to see that Namco Bandai and developers Monolith Soft are building upon the ideas that were laid out in the first game. Fans of the original will find plenty to love here, though it doesn't seem like there's too much changed that'll entice those who weren't interested in the original release.
These impressions are based upon a press event and related preview time in San Francisco. Nintendo of America paid for our writer's flights and hotel stay.