Whenever a gaming event like Gamescom rolls around, I wait with bated breath for an action role-playing game with stylish combat, fashionable characters, and a litany of anime action sequences to make my head explode in excitement. And Gamescom, like Prometheus descending Mount Olympus, delivered just such a game unto me, with a trailer for a new upcoming open-world RPG that left me thrilled. The only problem is that I can’t tell that game apart from a conceptually similar urban RPG from Genshin Impact developer Hoyoverse to save my life.
The virtually identical video games in question are NetEase Games and Naked Rain’s recently announced free-to-play open-world RPG, Project Mugen, and Hoyoverse’s Zenless Zone Zero. While Project Mugen’s open-world setting sets it apart from ZZZ as evidenced by its characters swinging through cityscapes like Spider-Man and cruising (and Akira sliding) along streets like characters in Grand Theft Auto, I couldn’t help wondering if the trailer I’d just watched wasn’t me misclicking on a video for ZZZ. In my defense, the games are awfully similar.
Project Mugen is a free-to-play urban open-world RPG where you play as an Esper charged with investigating supernatural occurrences “that threaten the balance of this unique urban paradise,” according to Gematsu. Players must weed out the spooky specters in team-based combat with characters that fulfill nearly every anime archetype you could think of. You’ve got Dila, the sleepy-eyed mysterious woman, Bansy, the bubbly extrovert, and Mechanika, the tech expert.
In contrast (?) to Project Mugen, ZZZ has you play as a Proxy, a battle-hardened guide that assists industrialists on expeditions to acquire resources from Ethereals, dimension-hopping creatures that come from a rift called Hallows. Much like how Project Mugen has you take on contracts to exterminate “the Chaos,” ZZZ has you take on contracts to exterminate Ethereals. They’re like poetry because they rhyme, you see. But wait, there’s more! Even their respective websites share similar design elements, from their Jet Set Radio-esque auto-playing music to their interactive character bio sliders and the way they nestle their news and blog posts at the bottom of the page. These games couldn’t be more similar if they tried.
While I could very easily look at Project Mugen and ZZZ’s similitudes uncharitably as a case of the former aping the latter’s flow, I’m actually not that mad about their similarities because each game showcases enough distinctive wrinkles to their formulas that I’m equally excited to try them both out whenever they land release dates.
On the one hand, ZZZ will allow me to play as a giant freaking grizzly bear named Ben Bigger, who sports a gold chain and totes around a giant rocket launcher, as I string together sick combos with a debonair wolf boy named Von Lycaon. On the other hand, Project Mugen will allow me to Naruto-run across the sides of skyscrapers and vault onto unsuspecting goons loitering on rooftops or sucker-punch a kaiju lady. At the end of the day, who am I to pit two similarly dressed bad bitches against each other? My only wish is that, whenever they both come out, their gacha mechanics are merciful to my wallet.