A game originally released in Japan in September 2008 finally releases in North America in May 2009. Cross Edge is the game I’m talking about, folks. As PlayStation 3’s in need of RPGs, though more and more have been coming lately, we decided to pick up the latest from NIS America and give it a run-through.
York Neely, originally named Kannagi Yuto in the Japanese version, takes the role of main character in the game. He’s the guy you see on the box front and the guy you run around world maps and dungeons with. He’s accompanied by his female friend Miko Aiba, as well as characters from Capcom’s, Namco Bandai’s, NIS’s, and others’ games. They include Morrigan Aensland from the Darkstalkers series, whom you meet at the very beginning of the game, Lyner Barsett and Ayatane Michitaka from the Ar Tonellico games, Marlone from Atelier Marie, and loads more. Design-wise, all the characters look great, sporting anime-style artwork.
York and Miko awaken in a dream world created by absorbing the various souls of other worlds. Upon hearing knowledge from a young girl named May that this world could cause the downfall of their own, York, Miko and others who were also sucked into this dream world set off to stop this evil world before their worlds are gone. There are three worlds in total: the fantasy world, the real world and the demon world. York and Miko are from the real world when characters such as Morrigan are from the demon world. The world that York and pals end up in, however, is a completely different world.
The story’s bad. Let’s just get that out of the way. If anything, it’s just some crazy concept that had to be thought up in order to insert all these different characters into the same game. If anything will cheer you up about the story, it’s Prinny’s awesomeness and constant “doods”.
The game plays out very simply. You have your world map, your dungeon and the heart of every RPG, your battle system. Where Cross Edge goes wrong is with the game’s dungeons and maps though; they are one in the same. I’m not being literal, of course. The dungeons are 2D side-scrolling rooms where York can run and jump to get to the next objective. In dungeons, York’s team does not automatically heal after battle whereas in the map, they do. The map areas see a tiny York wandering a big world, also making his way to the next objective. On the map, you can do a soul search to find events or souls. What makes the map and dungeon elements play so similarly, though, is that there’s no unique element in either one. The dungeon is just the map minus the soul searching, and with a new coat of paint. Getting to your first dungeon in the game takes quite a while for being one of the essential RPG elements. The length of that first dungeon will just anger you more (it’s short).
The aforementioned soul search on the map can be described as a unique little annoyance. When tapping Square on the map, York will hold up a globe of light and a illuminated circle will shine around him. If there are any hidden events, dungeons or souls in the area the circle fills, then they will be revealed. Now, this is a cool feature to have as it can get players to put some more time into the game searching for souls, etc. However, the way Cross Edge uses this little feature is very damaging to gameplay. For every event that progresses through the story, you have to do a soul search, meaning you’ll be spending minutes upon minutes walking around the map pressing Square just trying to find the next area to go to.
When you reach an event on the map, it usually results in a cutscene that will or will not lead into battle. When characters speak, their anime style artwork shows on screen followed by a text box and voice over of what the character’s saying. Sometimes in the background of the scene, we will see the character sprites doing something related to the scene. The game gives you the option to go back into the scene and read or hear what you missed, pause the scene, put it on auto play so you don’t have to click X for every text box, or skip it. The only problem I have is with the skipping, as it’s not really skipping it, just fast-forwarding at the most.
Upon a couple of hours playing the game, I started to realize how repetitive it was. The whole game you’re basically on the map searching for the next event. When you get to that event you watch the scene and either continue making progress on the world map or go into a boss battle. On the subject of boss battles, most of them are incredibly difficult. The reason is that since you’re on the map basically the whole game with little dungeon time, there’s no means of leveling up in time for bosses. You can fight one boss who’s level is 8, defeat him, and literally immediately after, find the next event containing a boss who’s level is 14. There’s no in-game portion between that that will let you level up. Half the time I spent playing the game, I was off the story trying to level up and progress through the game. It’s overly time-consuming as well.
Onto the battle system. I like what they’ve tried to do with it, but it’s flawed. There are two phases in battle, the Player Phase and Enemy Phase. Sometimes, the enemy gets two phases in a row and sometimes the player does, for some unexplained reason. York’s team and the enemies are set up on a 4×3 grid, respectively. A maximum of four characters are allowed in battle, however, players have the ability to switch out characters in battle for other characters in the party. The whole battle system centers around AP; what’s used to power just about everything you do in battle, including moving your characters along the grid, using items and attacking. AP is given to characters for every Player Phase that passes. If an ally just dies and you’re last remaining party member is dying, and you don’t have the AP to use a Blessing Leaf or other healing item on your dead ally, then you’re going to lose the battle on the next turn. That’s how essential it is to the system.
Each character has a set of four basic moves that they can attack with using the X, Circle, Triangle and Square buttons and a set of stronger EX skills they can use by pressing R2 and using those same buttons. Of course, each move requires a certain amount of AP. For some odd reason, you can only use an EX skill every four turns. That’s probably to balance out the amount of damage it deals. However, when you’re fighting under level because the game doesn’t keep you in an even position against bosses, you’d want to be able to use them whenever you have the AP necessary (but you can’t).
Since you’re not able to use these EX skills whenever you feel necessary, you’ll have to discover combos. You have a timer that goes down on your HUD after every attack that gives you time to initiate another attack that could lead into a combo. However, after time, these combos become unreliable because you’re going to switch out characters for new characters and you’re not going to keep one weak character in just because they provide a combo for another strong character.
Graphics-wise, this game is certainly no Gran Turismo. The game uses sprites for the world map, 2D dungeons and in battle. However, you’ll sometimes encounter a set of enemies, some being sprites, and some being 3D models, which makes the look of the game uglier than it already is, basically because even the 3D models look bad and out of place.
The game has several additional features though, including three difficulty settings, character costumes that you may want to obtain for the fun of it, countless combos and titles to achieve, and more. There’s a lot you can do in the game to obtain everything, but actually having the ability to do so is a whole other thing. Let’s just say you’d have to be able to manage severe frustration.
I can go on and on about the issues presented in Cross Edge. I can say, however, that if you’re into running around a world map searching and searching for the next event in a bad story full of linear gameplay, then this is the game for you. For us, however, it is not.