Review by vyse_1986

"It's really good, but certainly not for everyone."

Cross Edge has one of the most interesting settings I've seen. This game claims that all the video game worlds, as well as our real world, actually exist in different dimensions and timelines. Now, in yet another parallel dimension, a new world is born and in order to populate it, its "god" needs to draw souls from all the other worlds to this one. This is the basic reason why so many characters from so many different games are showing up here. In addition to a whole bunch of original characters, you'll see characters taken from Darkstalkers, Disgaea, Spectral Souls, Ar Tonelico, Atelier Marie and Mana Khemia 2. If your knowledge of video games doesn't go past Halo or Final Fantasy, you've probably never heard about even one of these games, and in this case, I can say with confidence that Cross Edge is not for you.

Despite the big cast, Cross Edge is not focused on its story. You will see dozens of mostly unrelated cutscenes that usually focus on characters from the same universe and loosely cling together to make up the actual story. Compile Heart has done a great job capturing all the different character's personalities, and it's very obvious that they did some research on the source material. So, if you've played (and liked) at least a few of the games mentioned above, you'll find some welcome appearances here.

Now, on to the gameplay, which is also pretty unusual. This is not your typical RPG in that there are no towns where you can buy default equipment and no NPCs to talk to. Instead, your base of operation are the different safe points scattered across the game worlds. Here, you can buy items from a store (but its your job to fill the store's inventory). You can also visit the Atelier Marie, where you can make new equipment and items or upgrade your equipment in two different ways - and this is where you'll do all the stuff that actually makes a difference in battle. The third feature of safe points is the database, where you can trade bonus points gained in battles for new equipment that can help you tremendously, and claim the rewards for fulfilling certain, mostly optional tasks.

The other part of the gameplay consists of walking around on two-dimensional maps and searching for souls. To find them, you have to push the square button, and if a soul was in the vicinity, it will then become visible. Souls can be item souls (think treasure chests) or events, and events are either optional or required to progress the story. Some events also involve a fight that you have to win or at least survive (until the turn limit is up).

To win those fights, you fight random battles. From battles, you gain experience points, which are useless, because level ups do nothing in this game. Much more important are the items you gain from defeating monsters. You can use these to either create new equipment or upgrade your existing gear, and this will help you tremendously and can make all the difference from being wiped in one turn to winning easily. You'll still be farming items to some extent, but even on hard mode, you probably won't have to grind for several hours just to beat the next boss.

I haven't even started talking about the battle system, which is also pretty unusual (but very similar to Enchanted Arms). In this game, up to four of your characters can stand on a 4x3 grid and have a certain amount of AP per turn. Also, each character can be equipped with up to four skills, one for each face button. During the player phase, as long as you have the AP, you can press each button to perform the assigned skill or use items (which also costs AP). After that, you've got to watch what the enemy does. What brings depth to this system are the combos: Certain skills, when performed in any order, will lead to combos that can be exponentially stronger than the normal attacks on their own. There are huge attack chains that require you to spread them out among several characters, and setting up a party that can perform the strongest combos can be a challenge on its own. There's also many different strategies you can try to best the bosses, but going into such detail would blow this review out of proportion.

You should be aware, however, that the game is not kidding around when it says "The gameplay should satisfy any hardcore gamer" on the difficulty selection menu as an explanation of Hard Mode. If you select this option, you really have your work cut out for you. While I wouldn't go as far as naming this the hardest RPG I have ever played without giving it some serious thought, it's definitely up there with Etrian Odyssey, the earlier Suikoden games or 7th Saga. This game is HARD, but at the same time also very motivating and rewarding. You'll find plenty of things you can do to improve your strategy and eventually beat every boss in a reasonable amount of time. So, it's definitely one of the most enjoyable Hard Modes out there.

Another thing you should be aware of is the incredibly poor presentation. The graphics, while looking good in general, are technically very poorly done, and the game's lack of production values is the main reason for the low scores it receives throughout the more well-known review sites. It goes beyond just visuals, though: The game occasionally freezes for a second, even mid-battle, when it has to reload certain animations. The buttons can be very unresponsive - to the point where your input isn't recognized in time and the timer for the next combo runs out, making you lose the battle. This only happened once to me in dozens of hours, but the overall sloppiness actually bothered me - even though I don't care much about graphics. The soundtrack, by the way, is pretty average - some tunes stand out, most of them don't. The voice acting is acceptable, but not on par with better efforts.

In conclusion, all I can say is that, despite the fact that this game could have been done on the PS2, I really, really enjoyed its challenge. I know I warned you about Hard Mode, but the game doesn't have much else going for it, so I really recommend that you challenge yourself with it. It's the only way the game's many customization features can unleash their full potential. For the really dedicated gamers, there's also trophies that will literally take hundreds of hours to achieve and two bonus areas where you can fight level 800 bosses, if you really want to. All of that stuff is optional, and the game itself can be completed in about 50 hours, even on Hard Mode. It might not be what you'd expect on the PS3, but it's still very much worth your time.

Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/27/09

Game Release: Cross Edge (US, 05/26/09)

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