It was a bit of a surprise when NAMCO Bandai announced they’d be releasing Project X Zone outside of Japan. We're happy for it and will gladly accept this new 3DS RPG, thank you very much, but considering how many characters from NAMCO Bandai, Capcom, and SEGA series are involved, it didn't seem like a safe bet. Still, it happened. And while we're happy about that, I can't help hoping it could lead to more.
After all, a game like Project X Zone had to have taken quite a bit of work. NAMCO Bandai had to make agreements with Capcom and SEGA due to all the character cameos. Granted, the companies all have worked together before for mashups, but it's still quite an undertaking. Still, the fact that NAMCO Bandai did put in that effort could at least spark some hope of Project Versus J being released outside of Japan.
If you haven't heard of it, Project Versus J is a fighting game that NAMCO Bandai is working on to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Shōnen Jump, the manga anthology magazine. It's going to be a 2013 fighting game for the PS3 and Vita that will allow players to pick their favorite characters from certain Shōnen Jump manga series and fight it out. Simply put, it has the potential to be one of the best fighting mashups ever.
A big key to this is that there aren't as many publishers involved in manga and anime in North America anymore. This was a big blockade to Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars getting released outside of Japan. The character rosters for both were huge, and there were a lot of licensing deals involved. Years have passed and things could prove much easier for Project Versus J if all goes well.
So far, four characters have been revealed. They're Goku from Dragon Ball Z, Naruto from Naruto, Luffy from One Piece and Toriko from Toriko. Viz Media is the North American publisher for all four of those Shōnen Jump manga series and is the license holder for the Naruto anime. Funimation Animation handles the animated series for the other three.
Of course, if Jump Ultimate Stars is any indication, Project Versus J is going to have a huge character roster. There were 41 Shōnen Jump series represented in that joint effort between Ganbarion and Nintendo; NAMCO Bandai knows people will expect something similar from their fighting game. I'm guessing they’re going to try to compete by offering a similarly awesome character roster.
The key is to look at the major series that will surely be represented in Project Versus J. Bleach and Reborn! (Katekyō Hitman Reborn!) characters will definitely be in there, and Viz Media holds the rights to both series' manga and anime adaptations. If Hunter x Hunter or Death Note characters were brought in, that could work as Viz handles their manga and anime adaptations as well. D. Gray-man and YuYu Hakusho could make it in, and those are two more series where Viz handles the manga and Funimation the anime. NAMCO Bandai is handling the latest JoJo's Bizarre Adventure game and Viz publishes that manga, so it shouldn't be a problem either. Most of the major series are handled by Viz and Funimation, which could make getting permissions easier.
There are a few problematic series, however. Fist of the North Star could be troublesome. It's currently in flux, though Gutsoon! Entertainment was the last publisher of the manga series. Gintama could be an issue as well since Viz handles the manga and Sentai Filmworks the anime. Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo has a similar problem, only replace Sentai Filmworks with S'more Entertainment.
Shōnen Jump has been around for 45 years, and there are a lot of series NAMCO Bandai could draw from during development. The more characters that get in, the more difficult the game gets to release outside of Japan.
Then there's the Sony factor. Project Versus J is going to be a PS3 and Vita game. We all know how the Vita is doing. Given the popularity of the characters in Project Versus J and the love for the distantly related Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars games, it could prove to be a system seller outside of Japan. Perhaps Sony would be willing to give a little extra push or assistance, much like Nintendo was when it got involved with the North American publishing duties of some Dragon Quest games.
All I can say is that Project X Zone's localization gives me hope. If NAMCO Bandai can take a chance on that, then maybe it can go a step further, show a little extra love, and bring us Project Versus J. If not, well, at least both the PS3 and Vita are region-free!
Date: February 28, 2013