First off, I was thrilled to get a chance to review Project X Zone. I know a good chunk of the characters, but don't really know the nuances of every single universe they come from. I figured this would give me the chance to see how well the game plays as a GAME, not just something to stroke my fanboy ego.
Project X Zone's characters humorously bypass all the crazy disbelief that someone could come from another dimension. All the characters that make sense in one particular universe conveniently live in the same world, even though to me it's baffling to think the companies behind the zombie outbreaks of Resident Evil and Dead Rising are one and the same. Imagine being a civilian in a world where not one, but two different horrible outbreaks of zombies have occured!
Characterization is balanced about as good as it can be. The characters come from their original game/anime with bare-bones background and then collaborate on an original, simple storyline that truly has nothing life altering (at least so far in my playthrough) in their original worlds. I feel that this is a wise design choice. Think about it: if my crazy dreams came true and portals opened to link the worlds of, say, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, and Trigun, it would be best to let the characters just be themselves rather than get too much into lore, or face the wrath of the fanboy. Those most in love with these characters would then revile the game for not sticking to canon. Instead, you are treated to blatant fanservice at every possible moment, reminding you of how cool the characters are, which is a bit awkward if you don't know them.
Gameplay is a combination of strategic unit placement and rote memory skills. There are primarily units of two characters, usually from different universes that fit a common theme, and single units that can be linked to them for support skills. Finding smart combinations of combat skills is integral, but knowing enemy attack patterns is just as important. An attack is never more than a two-button press, but if you know Attack 1 ends with the enemy bouncing into the air, and three seconds after you bring in your support character they do an air hit, timing your attacks to cross will deal more damage and garner more experience.
Diehard fans of any of these characters (pun intended--I do believe my favorite character is actually from a game that was licensed into Die Hard in America) will love the game, if only to see their number one character in a different situation. If you know nothing about any of them, and are coming into the game green on all lore, you may be a bit confused at the storyline. After a few battles, though, you start knowing the attitude of the characters and can grow to love them even if you are just meeting them. Combat boils down to memorization and patterns, but achieving a huge cross combo is worth all the practice.
The game is worth the price of admission. It does cater to the hardcore, as all voice acting is spoken in Japanese. The collector's edition comes with a soundtrack featuring snippets from a few of the crossover games and there is a full-color artbook with a one-shot of all the characters. If your anime/gamer friends are raving about this title and you don't know if it is worth your time, I can say you should at least give it a shot. You may even find yourself searching out the original materials the characters come from and enriching your entertainment experience.