Originally Posted 21 June 2010
Over the weekend, I finally beat Cross Edge. For those unaware, Cross Edge is a tactical(-ish) JRPG for the PS3 published in the US by NIS America–the Disgaea people. It’s primary selling point is that it is a big crossover of various other games, notably bringing in characters from Disgaea and Darkstalkers. Less notably, it brings in characters from series that I’d never heard of before (Ar tonelico, Spectral Souls, Atelier Marie, and Mana Khemia). None of that matters though because everyone starts with amnesia, so you don’t need to worry much about the backstory of the characters.
The game itself is segmented into four main “modes”. The first is the overworld “wandering” mode. On the overworld, you are tasked with finding “souls” and releasing them. What this means in practice is that you wander around the overworld map, periodically mashing the square button. If you are lucky, there will be a soul or event within the area of effect of your search. If, as is much more likely the case, there isn’t, nothing happens. Of course, the game includes random encounters, so during this combing effort, you are periodically subjected to fights.
The second mode could best be described as “event” mode. In this mode, you get to watch a short cutscene of various party and non-party characters interacting. Unfortunately, almost all of these are scripted together using perhaps a dozen different still poses of each character in an attempt to convey some action. Rarely, they will use some sprite-based animations to show something more important happening. Events also sometimes have battles in them when you wander across threats and the like
The third mode is the “dungeon” mode. Dungeon mode differes from wandering mode in two ways: your 2d-grid is now oriented like a platformer (complete with jumping puzzles) and your characters don’t auto-heal between battles.
The last, and most important, mode is that “battle” mode. In battle mode, you take your party versus a set of enemies (Hey, its a JPRG, what did you expect?). The “tactical” part of the game comes into play here most. Both your party and the enemies are assigned a 3×4 grid on which characters are placed. The PC party is, generally, made up of 4 characters. Each side gets to take turns wailing on the other with perhaps the most important parts being making good use of the combo system to string together long and deadly attacks.
The game, unfortunately, shows many failings. First and foremost, the plot doesn’t matter. In fact, one of the characters even says as much about two-thirds of the way into the game. Even setting that aside, it isn’t a very strong plot anyway. More egregiously, the game basically ignores the last decade of development in the JRPG genre. Pacing could be best described as horrible with level grinding routinely required even between events which are nominally supposed to occur immediately after one another. The game eventually gives you upwards of 40 possible player characters, but rather than having everyone be at the same level, the “current” party gets full experience with reserve characters getting less. This quickly leads to a huge power disparity between the “main” party and your other characters. This could be ignored, but the game insists on periodically forcing characters into your active party for certain plot-related battles. There is even one event battle (where failure, luckily, has no effect) where your entire party plus your starting formation is chosen for you. Also, the game explains the combo system to you, but fails to stress that mastering it is the entire point of the battle system. In fact, once I had finally grokked it, I was able to beat the final 4 or 5 bosses in two turns each and did the same for the first 5 post-game bonus bosses.
As if these issues weren’t enough, the entire game seems to be build out of guide dang it moments. For instance, there are events which are on the world map and discoverable. Periodically, some events will unlock others. Of course, the game doesn’t make any mention of the newly unlocked events in any way. Since they only show up when searched for, even a map doesn’t necessarily help. To make matters worse, many events disappear after key events if you haven’t found them yet. And woe be to you if you are trying to get the “True Ending”. In order to get it, you basically have to do every optional event in the game (a feat in and of itself). Additionally, you have to do arbitrary, unclued things in various battles. For instance, some characters who are outright hostile to you, you aren’t allowed to attack in battle. Other characters must be completely defeated (getting them to zero hit points) rather than allowing the battle’s turn limit to expire.
Underlying all of this is a layer of creepy Japanese otaku appeal. For instance, one of the things that you can do is change character’s constumes in order to change their stats. Ok, sounds reasonable. The character who describes the system to you informs you that when females characters change, you “get to watch them, so its a bonus to the player” or something similar. Incidentally, said explanatory character is like an 8 year old girl. Oh, and the game also includes hot springs scenes. So yeah.
Ultimately, I can’t say that there is much here to like: bad pacing, weak story, unclued puzzles, and endless random encounters. Honestly, I thought the best part of the game were the handful of post-game events. Since the main story was over, there were many instances of the PCs breaking character and being somewhat hilarious. Unfortunately, those handful of scenes aren’t worth the investment.
Cross Edge: 0