WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the following games:
Project X Zone 2
Tales of Vesperia
As I wrote in last week’s review, Project X Zone 2 has an arguably stronger cast of characters than its predecessor, with a healthy mix of familiar and not-so familiar faces. For some players, this game is the first time even seeing some of these characters, which means they need to make strong first impressions – they need to make us want to know more about them. And I’d say they certainly succeeded.
So, just because I did this last time, here are my personal ten favourite characters from the game. My one rule is that they have to be “new” characters, so no characters that also appeared in the first game.
1. Azure Kite (.hack//)
The second I saw this guy, I immediately wanted to know what his deal was. While I’ve never played any of the .hack// games, Project X Zone did introduce me to protagonist Kite, a friendly young boy that did what he did just because it was the right thing to do. So imagine my surprise when I saw this twisted version of him.
From a design perspective, Azure Kite (or Tri-Edge as Haseo calls him) is already creepy as sin, with his patchwork-like clothing and dead, soulless eyes; even the large collar that hides his mouth somehow adds to it. Oh, and the few voiced lines he has are provided by Kite’s voice actress, who does a much more strained performance, as if the very act of speaking is taking a toll on him. His zombie-like nature and appearance are chilling on their own but the fact that everything about him resembles Kite makes him all the more unsettling.
Azure Kite’s deal might not have been fully revealed in PXZ 2 but he definitely leaves an impact, even if you’re only familiar with .hack// via Project X Zone. Some people enjoy characters that make them feel dread whenever they appear and Azure Kite is easily one of them.
2. Zagi (Tales of Vesperia)
Sometimes you don’t need a super-complex villain. They don’t always need to be relatable, believable or even that deep. Sometimes, it’s nice to have a villain who’s just a big ol’ ball of crazy, and that’s Zagi in a nutshell – a psychopathic assassin who, even in his home game, served no other purpose than to just give the heroes trouble. He exists purely as an obstacle. All he cares about his murdering people, especially Yuri Lowell, his self-proclaimed arch-nemesis.
Some people would argue that makes him boring but I personally love these kinds of chaotic characters, mostly because they’re weirdly fun to watch and listen to. Zagi’s voice actor certainly helps, delivering every line with such wild glee and cackling like a madman every chance he gets. There’s even a neat filter put over his voice; I’m guessing a side-effect of having modified his body with an artificial arm.
He’s also part of an interesting and enjoyable bromance of sorts with Mega Man X‘s Vile, who encourages him to embrace his inner demon to grow stronger. Considering the parallels between them, it’s one of those cool interactions that I’m always banging on about in regards to crossovers.
Plus, I love how, while shocked by his return, Yuri doesn’t regard him with fear or malice. He finds Zagi more annoying than anything; it’s surprisingly fresh to see a hero treat their “arch-enemy” this way. And what’s more, Zagi isn’t even killed again. During their final battle, his Blastia malfunctions and he gets sucked into a gap between dimensions, leaving the door open for him to possibly return in a sequel. And I won’t lie, while not the most interesting of villains, I hope we see him again if only to hear that sick laugh of his.
3. Metal Face (Xenoblade Chronicles)
If you know me and my love for Xenoblade Chronicles, you’re probably not surprised to see one of its characters appear on this list. When I found out that my favourite game ever was going to be represented in Project X Zone 2, I prayed that Metal Face (my favourite villain from that game) would appear too. And he did. And I was happy.
Metal Face, much like Zagi, enjoys just hurting people and causing misery, but he also craves power, and he sees his resurrection as the perfect opportunity to explore new worlds and obtain a power greater than even the Monado, and use it to finally defeat Dunban. As great as it is to see him back, the fact that he’s still so intent on getting revenge against Dunban is almost tragic; he hasn’t learnt anything.
What’s really cool about his appearance, though, is that he’s not facing against Dunban in PXZ 2 or even Shulk, Xenoblade Chronicles‘ main hero. For this game, his main opposition comes in the form of Dunban’s younger sister Fiora AKA the girl who he seemingly killed at the beginning of Xenoblade. Considering Fiora never actually fought Metal Face in their own game, this marked a great opportunity – a chance to get back at the one responsible for briefly robbing her from her friends and family and protect them from Metal Face’s insidious schemes.
My only real gripe is that there’s no English voice acting, meaning there’s no hammy British voice-work on display. Metal Face’s Japanese performance is so vastly different to his English one that it’s almost jarring for me; it almost didn’t feel like the same character. But that’s only a minor thing. It was still a joy to see him back and then be able to kick his ass all over again.
4. Sheath (Project X Zone 2)
As one of the new, original characters for the game, I was naturally curious as to what Sheath’s deal was going to be. While it was neat to see a new villain working alongside recurring baddie Saya, everything about her seemed too familiar. Even though she worked for the American branch of the chaos-causing organisation Ouma (which was admittedly interesting), she ultimately just seemed like another Saya; right down to the skimpy clothing (what is it with female villains and their aversion to clothes?).
Then I actually played the game and Sheath immediately won me over from her dialogue alone. In the original Japanese, as an American, she would speak Japanese but throw in random English phrases. In short, she spoke a lot of Engrish, and who doesn’t love Engrish? For the Western release, however, her text dialogue was altered so, instead, she spoke incredibly broken English with the occasional random Japanese thrown in (e.g. she would sometimes end sentences with the word “desu”).
This alone makes Sheath an absolute joy whenever she’s on screen. She’s like a teenager going through a phase where she’s obsessed with the Japanese culture (something that I’m sure some people have done in real-life). Not to mention she has so much energy (again, props to her voice actress) that it’s almost contagious. But, despite her seemingly flighty personality, she isn’t stupid. She does a good job of looking like she is but she repeatedly displays intelligence when it comes to duping the heroes and, by the end-game, she makes it clear that she takes her job seriously and actually displays a more threatening behaviour.
While I can imagine some would find Sheath annoying due to her manner of speaking, I find it oddly endearing and, as unlikely as it is, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing her come back in a future game. Hey, if Saya and her two cronies can come back from the dead twice, what’s to stop Sheath?
5. Sylphie (Forgotten Worlds)
If I had to pick a favourite between the three shopkeepers, I would probably go with Sylphie. Don’t get me wrong, Chizuru Urashima is a fine addition to the main cast and Miyuki is enjoyable for her own reasons (specifically the fact that her sweet-as-sugar personality can shift to a dead-eyed, borderline ominous one if you say you’re not going to buy anything from her), but I kind of love just how unapologetically greedy Sylphie is.
As a dimension-hopping provider of services, she doesn’t pick sides. While she does help the heroes out at points, it’s always at a price. Not to mention she also assists the villains too since bias would be bad for business. Every time she’s on screen, she’s got that innocent-yet-deceitful smile on her face and is always pleasant with the heroes, even when they call her out and sometimes threaten her. It feels like she’s always in control, probably because she knows how helpful she can be to the heroes. She’s arguably the perfect businesswoman.
Plus, it’s clear that she’s not a bad person, despite her neutrality. When push comes to shove and all of reality is beginning to crumble, she’s more than willing to help the heroes, and for free at that. After all, how can she do business if the worlds all fall apart?
As fun as Sylphie is, though, I think we can all agree that it’s a good thing not all shopkeepers are as ruthless and smart as she is. We’d all probably be a lot poorer.
6. Natsu (Soulcalibur V)
From what little I know about the Soul Calibur fan-base, a lot of people aren’t especially fond of Natsu. I remember when she was confirmed for PXZ 2, there was some disappointment, with many wishing that a more iconic character like Mitsurugi or even Taki, Natsu’s teacher, had been picked (which could’ve been possible since both of them were in Namco X Capcom).
While I can’t speak for how she’s presented in her home series, I’ve got to say, I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed Natsu’s prescence in this game, and that’s mostly down to the writing. Despite travelling from the distant past, she talks like a modern-day teenager; her dialogue peppered with “likes” and “whatevers;” she even speaks in text lingo at points i.e. WTF, FTW etc. Does it make sense? Not at all but the idea is weirdly hilarious and lampshaded to hell by the other characters.
She’s a great contrast to the four other ninja characters who are more traditional in presentation; a loudmouth who, while maybe not as ninja-like as she could be, is dedicated to her teachings and only wants to make her master proud. I don’t know if she won over any of her detractors in this game, but I’m sure she at least gained some fans of her own.
7. Leon S. Kennedy (Resident Evil)
In case you didn’t check it yourself, I actually put Leon on my wishlist of characters for Project X Zone 2, but I didn’t expect it to be his more recent Resident Evil 6 portrayal, especially considering how popular he was in Resident Evil 4. Fortunately, while he may look more haggard, this is still the same Leon people fell in love with to begin with.
Unlike his Resi co-stars, Leon isn’t used to the kind of mad-cap antics that come with being in a crossover game. Every weird sight he comes across has him rolling his eyes at how ludicrous it all is; he’s just deadpan the entire time which makes it very entertaining to watch him rub shoulders with magic swordsmen, cyborgs and samurai. He’s also not as bitter as he was in Resi 6 (which I think a lot of fans weren’t happy with). As dumb as he thinks a lot of this is, he’s perfectly friendly enough with his new allies and isn’t above taking part in some slightly more goofy antics (one of my favourite interactions is his copying Ryu’s “Hadouken” and “Shoryuken” cries).
Also, this marks the first time Chris, Jill and Leon have all appeared side-by-side in a game together. Seeing these three legends working alongside each other is bound to have any Resi fan giggling like an idiot, especially when they’re punching, stabbing and shooting mutants, demons and, of course, the Nemesis in the face.
8. Captain Commando (Captain Commando)
One of my favourite character archetypes is the justice-loving superhero. Think Superman at his most cheesiest. Well, Captain Commando is essentially that. Nearly every line that comes out of his mouth is some kind of glorious speech about how justice will always prevail over evil. It’s one of those portrayals that’s played so straight that it becomes funny but, at the same time, it’s not to the detriment of the character.
As over-the-top as he can be, the Captain is still a good, just individual. He wholeheartedly believes in what he says and always has a witty response to his enemies’ vulgar insults. He is generally respected by nearly the rest of the party; I don’t think any of the heroes have a bad thing to say about him. He’s very much the epitome of a perfect superhero (you know, before they all had to be miserable and be morally questionable).
Captain Commando never wavers or shows worry, because he knows/believes that his unwavering faith in justice will win out. He’s a lot like Ghosts ‘n Goblins‘ Arthur from the last game; an all-around bad-ass that is admired by his allies and feared by his enemies. And, in my opinion, it’s always great to have a character like that on your team.
9. Phoenix Wright (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney)
I remember when I read that Phoenix Wright and his plucky assistant Maya would be appearing in PXZ 2. I was so shocked by it that I actually thought it was fake until I saw official images. At that point, my hype levels kind of skyrocketed. Despite Ace Attorney being one of my favourite series, I never considered the possibility of any of its characters appearing since, well, none of them are exactly fighters.
Phoenix may be an incredible defense attorney (and surprisingly durable) but when making an army to travel dimensions and battle robots, demons and gods, he’s not going to be at the top of the list. Despite that, he got in and I couldn’t be happier with his portrayal. Finding himself with a target on his head, placed by Street Fighter‘s big bad M. Bison, Phoenix (along with Maya) is forced to travel with the heroes simply so he doesn’t get assassinated. He spends nearly the entire game wishing he could just go home and, much like in his home series, is quick to point out how God damn weird everything is.
It’s just so much fun to see him so exasperated, especially when dealing with the many larger-than-life personalities he’s forced to hang out with. But, he also manages to show off his deduction skills multiple times. He’s able to figure things out before everybody else and even gets the drop on Saya by working out a major aspect of her plans. To make someone as unflappable as Saya mildly shaken is impressive.
Plus, it’s just a treat to see him “fight” by throwing documents, using the Psyche-Locks and ending things with a big ol’ “OBJECTION!” They even justify it by having Morrigan from Darkstalkers work some magic on him and Maya, which is appreciated. Even if we never see him return to the battlefield in a potential sequel, I’ll always love Project X Zone 2 for gifting me with the sight of seeing Phoenix Wright defeating monsters by shouting at them.
10. Segata Sanshiro
I had mixed feelings when this guy got confirmed for the game. For those not in the know, Segata Sanshiro isn’t a videogame character. He was the mascot for the Sega Saturn console and appeared prominently in Japanese advertising for it. Most of them would be about Segata tracking people down who weren’t playing the Sega Saturn and beat the living shit out of them. Words don’t really do them justice so go and look them up on YouTube. Seriously, he’s like the Japanese equivalent of Chuck Norris – an elite badass with an almost infinite amount of superpowers at his disposal (and minus the homophobia).
Segata’s basically become something of a meme character in the West, which is why I was unsure of his inclusion in PXZ 2. Sure, it was unexpected and weird (which, for this kind of game, I like) but was he there to basically be one massive joke? Like, would his appearance just boil down to “Look, here’s that guy you like coz you think he’s funny. He did the thing and said the other thing that you like.” All style, no substance.
Boy, was I wrong. Segata’s inclusion is more than just acknowledging a meme. It’s actually a massive love letter to Sega’s history. See, in this universe, Segata is apparently an acquaintance with every Sega character, despite many of them coming from different points in history. And how does he know all of them? To quote Segata himself:
“Segata Sanshiro will live forever in your hearts!”
Not only that, but almost all of his interactions have some neat references in them. He refers to X and Zero from Mega Man X as Rock-men (Rock is what Mega Man is called in Japan), he and Sakura re-enact an advert for one of the Sakura Wars games, and he straight up demolishes the fourth wall by thanking Katsuhiro Harada, director of the Tekken series. It’s like he’s transcended to a state of mind that can’t be comprehended by mortals, which fits his personality somewhat. He treats the Sega Saturn as an item of worship and constantly encourages people to master the art of play; outright attacking Yuri for saying that he doesn’t have time for games.
Goofy, intense, kind, bad-ass and just chock full of references; Segata really is a worthy inclusion despite not being from a videogame and, hopefully, his appearance here can help ensure his legacy will be forever fondly remembered.