Over time, memories are created. And people live extraordinary lives. But what happens when those people, and those memories, are forgotten? They end up in a “magical land.” Or rather, they’re thrown into a cheap crossover RPG.
I was paraphrasing the prologue sequence to “Cross Edge” there. Apparently, the premise of the world you end up in is that “forgotten” characters, like those in the Land of Misfit Toys, find themselves stuck in this world together. And they’ll have to find their way back out.
Cross Edge combines franchises from Capcom (Darkstalkers), Idea Factory (Spectral Force), Nippon Ichi (Disgaea), Gust (Atelier), and Gust/Banpresto (Ar tonelico) in one ridiculous game. And by “ridiculous,” I mean it in the original meaning: “worthy of ridicule.”
RPGFan’s policy regarding reviews is that we beat the game (reach the end credits) before putting pen to paper… or, in our case, fingers to keyboard. The corollary to this policy is that, if we cannot finish the game due to extenuating circumstances, we at least reach a “halfway point,” some significant milestone in the game, or, at the very least, 10 hours of play. Coming with that corollary is that, if you didn’t finish the game, you say so in the review.
This Cross Edge review is coming to you one year after publication. The game was tossed back and forth between RPGFan editors, and few of us could stomach the thought of having to play this game. Eventually, it fell to me. I played 15 hours in the first month of 2010 and stopped. After playing through Final Fantasy XIII and some of Record of Agarest War (with all its striking similarities), I put another five-hour stretch into Cross Edge, just to see if I could force myself to take it to completion. In this case, the extenuating circumstance is that I think this game sucks and I have other more important RPGs to play. So, no, I did not beat Cross Edge. I refuse to. Putting in 20 hours is more than I wanted to do, but I think it’s enough to tell you why you’ll want to avoid this game. Not that there aren’t dozens of other reputable sites who have told you the same. But in case you only trust us, well, I guess this review is for you three crazies standing in the back.
Have you ever read a fanfic? Better yet, have you ever written one? Years ago, RPGFan used to host a “Fanfiction” section, a repository of people bringing Aerith back to life only so she could marry Zell from FF8 or some other ridiculous plot.
Okay, so not all fanfiction is that inane. I’ve read enough of it to know that some people have had some good “non-canonized” ideas for the characters of popular RPG and anime. But for the most part, the World Wide Web’s fanfiction is inundated with really bad (and really naughty) writing. With this in mind, let me give you a one-sentence summary of Cross Edge’s plot and character interaction:
Cross Edge is a bad fanfic.
The game opens with a red-haired boy and a green-haired girl (where have I seen that before? *cough* Chaos Wars). These two generic characters become the protagonists that will weave their way through a strange fantasy world that is sucking up characters from three primary places: “magic world” (Atelier characters come from here), “demon world” (Disgaea and Darkstalkers), and “normal/modern/technological world” (the generic protagonists). Some strange, nameless villains are trying to suck up everything so they can bring life and goodness to their master, whose identity I never found. But it was probably just some other Misfit Mascot. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a final boss design left on the cutting room floor from a previous Idea Factory game. That would be fitting.
There are a few moments where I did actually find humor. Since Etna and Prinny are the chief representatives of the Disgaea universe, they’re always good for a laugh or two. And Morrigan, one of the first members of your party, is always ready to make you feel aroused and creeped out at the same time. So that’s all fitting. Marie (of Atelier Marie) gets old, the Mana Khemia 2 characters are too new and too unlovable to be worth having in the game, the Ar tonelico characters act nothing like they ought to based on past games, and the Idea Factory characters? Well, we Americans don’t know who many of them are. But in short, they’re more generic anime characters.
As to why some characters acted out of character in this story, apparently a lot of the people who show up in this magical crossover-world are suffering from amnesia. Morrigan only barely remembers some of her fellow Darkstalkers, and while the Ar tonelico cast remembers one another as individuals, they cannot remember much of anything specific. If they did, they’d probably show animosity towards certain characters and Lyner would probably be hitting on all the ladies more than does already.
It’s appropriate that NIS America localized this title. Having also done some Spectral games, all the Gust titles (Atelier / Mana Khemia / Ar tonelico), and of course all NIS games (Disgaea), they already knew how to translate the text and voice the characters. But I still have to wonder why they even bothered bringing the game here. Not just because the game is a bad fanfic, but also because it’s not a terribly fun game to play.
EP SP AP XP HP TP PP BP (BP? Oil Spill?). Anyone who plays RPGs is used to juggling different points which are gained, lost, and managed through a variety of interacting mechanisms. I don’t really remember what all the “P”s are in Cross Edge. All I know is that the system is terribly irritating.
The key in-battle points are those that allow you to act, those that are built up to perform special attacks, and of course your HP for health. After battle, you earn gold, exp, EP (for enhancing equipment), and TP (for a variety of functions). After leveling, you gain points to build character stats. Unlike Record of Agarest War, exp is awarded to party members outside battle, though in a diminished capacity. And since team members can be swapped mid-battle in this system, you can build exp for groups far larger than the four-at-a-time found in combat.
The game’s shopping system(s) and currency is a little wild. If characters die in battle they have to be healed at a rest point, and the cost of healing is their current level times 100 (standard Idea Factory rules). Fortunately, even if you break the bank, you can revive everyone, you’ll just go into negative money-zone, and that means you can’t buy anything until you’ve repaid your debt to the medic (in this case, Morrigan herself).
Buying and selling equipment, mixed with being able to upgrade items (from level 1 to level 5) is a bit of a mess. Well, it’s a big mess actually. See my review of Record of Agarest War for more details. It’s the same system.
Cross Edge is a pseudo-Strategy RPG. We’re calling it a mix of traditional turn-based and strategy. Battles take place on a grid, but not like in Agarest War. This grid draws a line in the middle to separate ally and enemy sides, and never will one cross the other. So this is a battle system akin to the original Rhapsody on PlayStation, or Enchanted Arms. The grid is specifically a 3×8, with the line in the center creating two 3×4 boxes. Moving characters, switching characters, and performing attacks all consume AP which is replenished from one turn to the next. As usual for Idea Factory games, combo attacks are key to taking down enemies.
I played this game on Easy mode, and I dare not think about what it’s like on Hard. I avoided any opportunity to “grind” battles on the world map. I fought the bare minimum of fights. So when I reached a major event boss fight, I usually lost half my total party in the process. I’d have fourteen characters total, and nine would be dead by the end of the fight, so only a few would benefit from the experience points. If that’s “Easy” mode, all I can say is that this game has balance issues. That or I’m just really bad at Strategy RPGs (and my experience in Fire Emblem would suggest otherwise).
One significant convenience to the game is the ability to disable or quickly skip battle animations. The button-mapping for this is a little better than what I saw in Chaos Wars and Agarest War. Holding an R button down instead of having to repeatedly tap circle to skip through battle animations is pretty handy.
Other than that, though, there are some really weird button mappings. The L and R analog sticks have certain inputs that act as “hot keys” for particular menus in battle. If you memorize that, you can make battles go a lot faster… but it really does take some getting used to.
Unfortunately, I found little reason to want to master the battle system. Why? It’s boring. It’s painfully boring. I know that’s a relative term, but keeping in mind that this game was swapped among multiple RPGFan staff members, all of whom couldn’t stomach playing it, before it reached me… I think that says something.
Quick history: Record of Agarest War came out in the US in 2010, Cross Edge in 2009. But in Japan, Agarest was 2007, and Cross Edge 2008. So Agarest came first.
With that in mind, note the following points of recycled images. The world map design of Cross Edge is just like Agarest, except that you can now free-roam instead of walking set paths. The environmental backgrounds (for dialogue cut scenes in towns, fields, etc.) include some taken from Agarest and Chaos Wars. The character art, obviously, comes from all their respective games. The original “art” for this game comes in the form of sprites, the ugly 3D environments for the tower dungeon exploration zones, and the ugly 3D enemies. If I can be totally honest, I want Idea Factory to stick to what they’re good at, and what they’re good at is 2D. Just make it high-res, throw in more animation, and develop a challenging but balanced battle system. I’m still waiting for this!
As far as battle effects go, I think our image gallery shows what you’ll see: a lot of colorful expanding spheres. Paying attention to the little details goes a long way. Idea Factory doesn’t seem to get this, and as a result, we are even getting palette swaps on skill and spell effects. Let’s work on our diversity in this area as well, please.
So the big draw with this game was supposed to be that you can change characters’ costumes, and that would drastically alter their base stats and play style. For those who have played Ar tonelico, think about the outfits for your Reyvateil. Of course, in the case of Misha, Aurica, and Shurelia, those are exactly the costumes they’ll be wearing. But everyone else? Okay, there are some original costumes here and there. But unlocking them is a bit of a challenge, particularly early in the game. Besides, it takes a little too long to get what was advertised as one of the key “features” of this game to get started. Of course, other PS3 games of late have been making this same mistake.
Per the NISA standard, this game offers dual-language audio. The Japanese voice acting is decent at all times, and the English voice acting wavers between really good and mediocre. It’s never Chaos Wars-embarrassing, but there are some poorly acted characters and poorly-acted moments. I generally switch to English before entering any event that involves Etna and Prinny, because NISA does such a great job bringing these characters to life. I know some gamers are tired of it, but I’ll never ever get tired of prinnies saying “Dood!”
The soundtrack to Cross Edge is, in a word, weak. It occasionally borrows from “source material” (more recycling), but the original music did not impress me, particularly in the context of the game. As a soundtrack collector, the import Cross Edge OST was somewhat worthwhile, and is more enjoyable than the OST for the upcoming crossover “Trinity Universe” (publisher NISA, developer Idea Factory / Compile Heart, i.e. more of the same).
Regarding Crosses and Edges
I keep a list of RPGs I want to play, or think I should play, or have to play for the sake of writing a review. Cross Edge was right on the bottom “edge” of the list. Now, I happily “cross” it off the list.
Crossovers aren’t known for having interesting plot arcs; their strength in terms of story is supposed to be interesting character interaction. But the conversations here are usually insipid and boring. Marie tries to cook something and fails. Shurelia whines about her frailty. Morrigan and Etna compare bust size (okay, that part had me letting out a few laughs, but they’re cheap laughs). And then there’s the entirely unlikeable male protagonist, something JRPGs love to specialize in. I can’t take it anymore. Give me Zidane over Squall any day of the week, right?
If you think you could somehow, possibly, enjoy this game, either because of its large cast of characters or because you think you might like the battle system, I’ve given you my warnings. If I can’t convince you, then go check it out. As a perpetual optimist, I still believe Idea Factory can make better games than this, and I also believe NISA can put their efforts into localizing more interesting titles than this one. So I’m not going to gripe anymore about the companies behind this game. But, as a stand-alone product, I offer this game little more than the condemnation you’ve read heretofore.