Saturday, July 27, 2013

Crossover RPGs

So, I was playing "Project X Zone", which is Capcom's massive crossover strategy RPG.

It's really weird to see a strategy RPG that's based around crossovers - it doesn't really work as well as a tournament fighter like Street Fighter vs Everything for two big reasons.

The first is that the plot has to be excessively contrived and convoluted to bring everyone together. It's like "oh, look, the first four hours of the game are every character just randomly happening to gather in the same places!" In a tournament fighter, there's no need for that. Not only do you not have to bother to explain, even if you choose to, you only have to explain a few people coming together, not dozens.

The other big problem is drowning. Project X Zone is a strategy RPG with dozens of units. So many units that I am literally unable to keep track of them all. The worst part is? Those units aren't characters. They're pairs or triplets of characters.


Of course, I recognize most of the characters. But even though I recognize the characters, there's no feeling of connection to them because they play such a teeny tiny role due to the sheer number of them, and because they all have more or less identical capabilities. Well, aside from their out-of-combat abilities, which can be used from anywhere to anywhere, so it doesn't matter where they are or who they are fighting.

That isn't to say the game is boring. Sure, the plot is stupid and the cut scenes are bogged down by the requirement to allow dozens of characters to get a line in. Sure, all the units only differ by having a small amount of range difference or getting their advanced techniques one or two levels earlier or later... but it's actually a pretty interesting game when you get past the incredibly dull, easy first four hours.

However, when it comes to crossover RPGs, I really think these sorts of things have it backwards. Why try to include every character in a balanced way? It just annoys people who want to care about specific characters only to find you keep intruding with some other ones.

For example, I can't stand the one-strap rich girl from this game. She's one of the characters I don't know, but she's the centerpiece of the game. She's got the hoopty powers and the villains are after her, specifically. Everyone else is basically just along for the ride. She's not really an interesting character, either, so I have a hard time even caring about her in the slightest. Just let me team up Chun Li with Dante and cut my way through everything with them.

Yeah. Instead of limiting me and forcing me to accept all the characters, why not do it like a fighter? Let me choose who I want my main character to be. Then take me through a bunch of stock encounters which are only different by what my character mumbles at the beginning and end. Just like a fighter.

Except, unlike a fighter, I don't fight everyone in every encounter. Instead, I gain and/or lose party members and take on a battle map.

Lower the amount of time the game takes - maybe it only takes 3 hours to get through a character's "story". So what? It's very replayable. Now that I've gone through as Megaman, I'll try again as Jill. Maybe on a harder setting.

Why poison the game by cramming everything into one session? Just let it be sleek and fast. Give it replayability so that I may revel in each character in turn.


This is only recommended for big crossover games, though. If your characters are all new to me, I won't have any real preferences and should probably be taken through a more rigidly defined story so I can be introduced to them and made to care.

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