The 3DS family of systems, rather like its DS predecessors, has gradually accumulated a highly impressive library of RPG titles, with that library representing varying styles and approaches. A few of these are hitting the market this year, especially in Europe where some 2015 releases are playing catch-up. One title that is having a near-unified release in Europe and North America, however, is Project X Zone 2, with Bandai Namco keen for gamers in the West to enjoy the next step in the franchise.
The first game set pulses racing due to its crossover nature - published by Bandai Namco is also featured a host of characters from the Capcom and SEGA stables, with the universes colliding in a chaotic storyline. Those that settled into its mix of turn-based strategy and input-based attacks could enjoy a wild ride. It wasn't without its flaws, though, with Bandai Namco and developer Monolith Soft - yes, the studio much loved for Xenoblade Chronicles and Xenoblade Chronicles X - taking fan feedback on board for the sequel.
Well, the new title is now out in Europe and arrives in North America on 16th February, and we've been fortunate enough to pose some questions to key figures that brought the game together. Bandai Namco Producer Kensuke Tsukanaka and Monolith Soft Development Director Soichiro Morizumi answered some of our questions on the development, fan feedback and the potential future of the franchise.
The first Project X Zone was largely considered a commercial success; was the decision to work on a sequel taken quickly in light of those sales?
Kensuke Tsukanaka: We were really pleased that many people played the original Project X Zone in both Japan and overseas. After we released Project X Zone in Japan, it took about half a year until the localized version was released in the West; and so 'Project X Zone 2' was a project that was launched right after the localized version of the original game. Therefore, the characters and game system concepts which are in the sequel reflect a lot of feedback from the users who played the localized version of the first game.
Was it a notable logistical challenge to collaborate with both Capcom and SEGA in crossing over their respective IPs? And in terms of this sequel, has including Nintendo and developer Monolith Soft's characters added to the challenge when producing this game?
Kensuke Tsukanaka: We put as much care as possible into the IPs from Capcom and SEGA, and also had a lot of communication with them on how to handle their important characters and titles. Of course, Project X Zone 2 is a title which could not have been realized without their kind support. Moreover, characters from Nintendo titles join the rest in this game, which meant we had to be even more thoughtful - but including such great franchises from these three publishers gave us many possibilities and helped us realise this fantastic crossover in Project X Zone 2. We're really happy about this, and I believe this is one of the great cross-overs in recent years.
Including such great franchises... gave us many possibilities and helped us realise this fantastic crossover in Project X Zone 2. We're really happy about this, and I believe this is one of the great crossovers in recent years.
The cast is such an integral part of the experience, so can you talk about some of the new inclusions and the thinking behind adding their inclusions?
Soichiro Morizumi: From the beginning of development, one of the major motivations behind our selection of characters and franchises for Project X Zone 2 was that if any player worldwide discovered through playing the game a particular character from a franchise they were interested in, they could then access the game that character originated from. In the original game, we found that many overseas players were a little limited when it came to playing certain games in their respective countries – so with the sequel we have tried our best to focus on games/characters where localised versions are available.
'Segata Sanshiro' is maybe an exception to this, as he is not a character from a game. However, his memorable character is recognised not just in Japan, but a number of overseas gamers know about him too.
Can you talk about the new abilities to 'charge' attacks for future encounters and the Mirage Cancel's role in helping with real-time attacks?
Soichiro Morizumi: 'Charge' will increase the attacking power of a skill when it has not been used in the previous battle encounter. This means the player has the option to not use certain skills and then use those in the next battle with an increase to attack power. The Player can choose to use the same skill or they can use a variety of different types of skills in each battle.
'Mirage Cancel' will make the battle enter slow motion for a few seconds: which makes it easier for the player to land supporting attacks from characters and increases the aim of a critical hit. So 'Charge' is an easy to use power-up system and 'Mirage Cancel' is a more technical system for advanced players.
Has it remained a major challenge to provide strategic depth and also a level of accessibility for newcomers?
Soichiro Morizumi: We think Project X Zone 2 will be of interest to players who enjoy strategy, but are less concerned with particularly difficult strategy games. The majority of players have said that they enjoy seeing and playing as their favourite character in the game. So during development, we wanted to make it more accessible by concentrating less on more severe strategic elements, difficult controls and complex parameters and make it more about fun tactics with great characters.
Are there any particular design aspects that have been adapted or changed, in this sequel, based on fan feedback?
Soichiro Morizumi: When we made the original game, it was made as simple as possible – but some players complained about this. So for Project X Zone 2, we have added some elements that don't complicate things, but give it more of a sense of fun strategy: such as giving direction to attack the enemy, unit customization and adding an SP parameter. Since the launch of the game in Japan in November, we've had a lot of positive feedback about these adjustments.
For Project X Zone 2, we have added some elements that don't complicate things, but give it more of a sense of fun strategy: such as giving direction to attack the enemy, unit customization and adding an SP parameter.
How important have the views of fans been in terms of influencing Project X Zone 2, and in seeing a relatively quick localisation to territories in the West?
Kensuke Tsukanaka: We decided to develop a localized version of Project X Zone 2 from the very beginning of the project as we saw that overseas players very much enjoyed the first game. We've also added more languages to the game too.
Of course, it was quite a tough schedule for the development team to handle multi-language versions at the same time, but we felt we had a great opportunity to release such an interesting crossover game to everyone in the world. We therefore adjusted schedules and also strived to release information about the game simultaneously worldwide and hopefully succeed in releasing the game to everyone in the world again.
In terms of the storyline, is it standalone for those that haven't played the first game, or do the stories intersect?
Soichiro Morizumi: The title name may include the number '2', but the storyline is standalone and separate from the first game. There are some characters like Ryu and Akira that know each other from the previous game, but this has no effect on the current narrative so players can fully enjoy the game even if they have not played PXZ1.
As a company Bandai Namco issued statements regarding the commercial success of the first entry, and its sales surpassing your expectations; are you confident of a similar result with the sequel?
Kensuke Tsukanaka: I feel we received good feedback overall about Project X Zone 1, but I understand that achieving the same feedback and success as the last game is really up to how the players feel about Project X Zone 2.
In order to achieve similar success with Project X Zone 2, we have all strived to enhance various points of the in-game features; such as the battle cut scenes, new battle systems, the strategy on the stage maps and other new scenarios. We're confident about the above improvements and any other features will give a fully fun gameplay experience to everyone: including players who played the original game.
Also the game itself has been adjusted for people who have never played the series before, so we want everyone to play and experience the ultimate crossover game.
Is this crossover franchise a series you hope to continue for years to come, or is there a finite plan for this run of games?
Kensuke Tsukanaka: I personally would like to continue such a cross-over series game even though this kind of game is not that easy to realize each time. Additionally, I would really just like all players to try the game and hopefully enjoy playing it – and as a result of Project X Zone 2, if players demand another crossover game, we're happy to start planning the next one!
We'd like to thank both Kensuke Tsukanaka and Soichiro Morizumi for their time; Project X Zone 2 is out now in Europe and arrives in North America on 16th February.