After a long development cycle, CrossCode has finally made its way onto consoles. This top-down action RPG is buttery fluid, features a massive amount of content, and scratches a nostalgic itch for fans of the 16-bit era.
At its heart, CrossCode is an action RPG but also melts bits and piece of other genres into its gameplay at almost every turn. The exploration, combat, and even visual style is reminiscent of something of Secret of Mana, has some dungeon puzzle elements that feel a bit Zelda-ish, and has a huge world with a staggering amount of side quests almost like a top-down Skyrim. This is a meaty campaign that is actually intimidating due to the sheer amount of places to go, things to do, and objectives to complete. In fact, the first few hours act as one giant tutorial, explaining the many facets of gameplay as well as introducing the player to this strange open world.
Connecting everything together is the narrative that is self-aware, full a troupes, and the game uses this as an excuse to make fun of itself. Playing as a blue-haired anime babe with amnesia, the player is left to wander as a digital avatar in a MMO video game. The more quests you complete, the more your memory is restored. This means the campaign is not only filled with NPCs in town HUB areas, but random characters will run through your screen at any given time, even when venturing the enemy filled overworld. The gameplay ties directly into this narrative, which it deserves applause, but making jokes about the quality of the gameplay when NPCs constantly say things like “man, that dungeon sure had some challenging puzzles, huh?” is a bit of a cop out for lazy design and storytelling.
Combat is also deep and challenging. Dubbed a Spheromancer that specializes in “ball” based combat, the player can throw projectiles or fight with melee based attacks. It starts simple enough but eventually becomes complex as players can charge up attacks, stun foes, equip elemental buffs, and even jump all from a twin-stick control scheme. Layered with a substantial skill tree, there is always something new to learn in the ways of combat. Fighting common enemies can also provide a challenge as the player can easily get swarmed or out leveled. Although the difficulty remains high, traveling around the overworld respects the player’s time as most enemies will only attack the player when shown aggression. In other words, just walking around, or even bumping into an enemies, will not engage a fight. It is an intuitive but subtle system more open world games should incorporate.
The major hurdle with CrossCode is the vast open world, its objectives, and mapping system. Simply put, this is a really large game filled with tons of side quests. So much so that the player can easily become overwhelmed with the amount of choice available. Mission objective markers are also vague too. Instead of leading you to that one NPC inside that one building in that one town from two hours ago that you forgot about, there is just a general indicator on your map where you need to go. Some players might like this focus on exploring but I found it to be tedious and time wasting. With a game this big, not having a better waypoint system can make backtracking, grinding, and completing missions tedious. This is also emphasized when it comes to solving environment puzzles, figuring out how to jump to that one ledge that holds a secret, or when trying to complete many side quests.
It is easy to distinguish this is a labor of love. As if the amount of content wasn’t impressive enough, the 2D sprite work is gorgeous and the soundtrack just as amazing. The animations are also fluid and carry weight making everything look and feel like a forgotten, late 16-bit game. There is no questioning the high presentation values and attention to detail.
At the end of the day, CrossCode makes me feel torn; for every one thing I like, there is one thing that annoys. I love the art style and the fluid combat, but couldn’t shake the tedium with the lacking mapping system and uncomfortably high levels of being overwhelmed. It is easy to see the Secret of Mana, A Link to the Past, and even Chrono Trigger nods but just misses the mark even though it is a charming, deep experience.
Also available on Switch, PS4, and PC. CrossCode is currently available for Xbox One GamePass subscribers too.
Not As Good As: I wanted it to be
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