As more details are revealed about Project X Zone 2, it’s poised to become as successful, if not more so, than its surprisingly well-received predecessor. For those unaware, Project X Zone was a massive crossover game for the 3DS featuring characters from Capcom, Namco Bandai and Sega. The game pairs two characters, either from their games or combining two from different games (with interesting combinations like Dead Rising’s Frank West paired with Darkstalkers’ zombie girl Hsien-Ko).
Naturally, the fan in me is giddy with excitement to see all the new character pairings, inclusions, and ways they’ve changed up the old pairs. But it got me thinking about crossover games and why they don’t appear more in the AAA industry outside of a handful of tournament fighters (Mortal Kombat vs DC universe, Marvel vs Capcom, Tatsunoko vs Capcom, and even Smash Bros).
Every fan likes to fantasize about what it would be like if their favorite characters squared off or teamed up with each other. It’s why Screwattack’s Death Battle series is so popular. And if the movie industry has shown us anything, it’s that a massive superhero team-up is extremely profitable; so why hasn’t the game industry gotten onboard?
What makes something like The Avengers work is that even if you’re unfamiliar with some of the characters, you’re bound to see it for the characters you do know (I never really knew much about Thor, but I wanted to see it for Hawkeye). Project X Zone worked in the same way, and what I found interesting was how much the characters I didn’t know began to intrigue me, and how I found myself actively looking for their games.
Also, not unlike The Avengers, a lot of the charm from Project X Zone is seeing how all these different characters from different genres and universes interact with each other. It shows versatility in the characters themselves; that their own worlds are already so strange and fantastic, so why should other characters from other universes be any less weird? There’s a self-awareness to these games that makes them very enjoyable.
This kind of tactic can only be beneficial to the games industry as it creates awareness of other games and genres, and helps to players toward them. It’s no secret that the only reason Shulk was included in Smash Bros 4 was to raise awareness for the 3DS remake of Xenoblade; and it worked! Shulk was an interesting enough character in Smash that I wanted to see what the game he was from was about.
The element best adopted by the crossover is the ‘why not?’ attitude. It’s an attitude that throws caution to the wind and opens up more avenues for creativity. Why not have Batman fight Scorpion? Why not have Professor Layton help Phoenix Wright in court? Why not have Dante fighting demons in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne? Crossover games have the potential to be a lot of fun if developers don’t worry about whether players will buy the legitimacy of why these characters are all together, but instead construct a world where their being together is interesting and enjoyable.
This is exactly what makes Project X Zone so popular. At its core, it’s silly and completely over-the-top; and that makes it fun. There’s a mechanic in the combat where you can call whichever team you’re standing beside to assist you during a fight, and it’s something as simple as character assistance that excites the player’s imagination. It delivers a game that most fans could only dream of, and allows them to enjoy not just the story, but the gameplay as well.
My hope is that the success of Project X Zone 2 inspires the games industry to consider more crossover games. I’m still waiting for a Mario X Sonic adventure game. They put their past behind them for the Olympics, why not for an actual adventure? Make it happen, Nintendo!