Combining scores of characters from a range of Japanese video game series, themselves pulled from the back catalogues of three major publishers, tactical RPG Project X Zone is perhaps the best-populated fan service game ever made.
Its multitude of stars are bright and favoured. Where else might you see Colorado's zombie-bothering photo journalist Frank West pull a fire extinguisher from the roomy sleeves of Darkstalkers' Hsien-Ko and then hurl it at V-Dural, the cyborg from Virtua Fighter? Where else might you witness Space Channel 5's aerobics instructor-cum-astronaut Ulala team up with Ghosts 'n Goblins' underpants-wearing Arthur to defeat Resident Evil's alpha-zombie Nemesis? If a fan service game's appeal is the humorous juxtaposition of myths and fictions, Project X Zone is an excellent joke.
But there are also many pitfalls when attempting to shepherd multiple protagonists, antagonists and worlds into a cohesive storyline and, when it comes to plot, Project X Zone falls fully and irredeemably into each. In any story filled with poster boys and girls, each star jostles for attention, straining to communicate all that talent and personality in the few lines of dialogue they're afforded, and Project X Zone is predictably awash with noise and sludgy characterisation. The plot lacks clear goals and obstacles, flitting from location to location without rhyme or reason, and dialogue soon degenerates into a parade of catchphrases and insider gags.