Hardened Japanese strategy pushes me away, mere thought of Final Fantasy Tactics making me cringe. It is too much for my action-driven mind to process, and so deeply ingrained in a subset of strategy game knowledge as to be rejecting to a potential audience.
Project X Zone, on the other hand, opens its arms and wants people to enjoy its splendor. A mish-mash of Capcom, Namco, and Sega properties stuffs itself with 3D fan service in a tactical package, blended with the frenzy of a Marvel vs Capcom 2. X Zone is kinetic, wild, but most importantly, easy to grasp, even sans direct tutorial.
Years ago, Square tried something similar, although purposefully. Maligned SNES RPG Final Fantasy Mystic Quest was meant to broaden struggling appeal of story driven, distinctly Japanese affairs in the States after the likes of Dragon Warrior bombed. Taken for what it is, a simplistic approach that brings forth necessary tropes, Mystic Quest is a snappy piece of design that accomplishes what it set out to do: A tutorial in long established Japanese tropes.
Destroy Mystic Quest as you wish, but as die-hard gamers, we often lose sight of what it takes to “learn” the video game language. Dual analog controls, for instance, began on consoles with Turok. It used N64 C buttons as an artificial stick, cumbersome and confusing, but a breakout mechanic nonetheless. What is now passe took time to establish itself as standard (first-person shooters persisted horizontally like Doom for some time), so yes, even as hardcore gamers, we needed learn too.
Enter Project X Zone. When tactical RPG’s exploded with Final Fantasy Tactics, many of the expectations were in place; Ogre Battle would be a strong armed shot across the bow for the genre. Tactics further layered complexity, and in doing so, skipped natural progression in the vein of blossoming shooters.
As someone who has never been able to enjoy the genre, X Zone is a stupendously fun tutorial of sorts, and that’s okay. It’s not testing my mental might, nor is it purporting to, but I’m comfortable and in tune with how these things should work on a base level. Information gathered here opens doorways to dig into Tactics or even Ogre Battle.
I wish we did this more often, and didn’t sit back and revile simplicity or dumbing down when Mario institutes easy modes. Golf games were introduced to me via EA’s Tiger Woods franchise, which took the stuffy, complex nature of prior PGA Tour titles and condensed it into an arcade, ball smashing, leveling extravaganza. The series sucked me in, and so did all subsequent (and then past) golf games.
There’s something to be said for letting go once in a while, allowing developers experimentation and retooling in order to deliver something we can all play. Nothing changes: We still have Final Fantasy and its ilk – we always will – yet breaking down to visualize how best to open dialogue regarding gameplay norms as we grow benefits us all. Bring on the Project X Zone of every genre. Someone is undoubtedly waiting.