Cross EdgeCross Edge; an unfavorable title to the masses. Judging by the cover, it’s no wonder. It's covered with a lot of Japanese shit that is just so easy to diss on. Then again, it's only really the "tough" "cool" guys that make fun of anime, because they're always so goddamn insecure about their sexuality, that they feel the need to make others feel insecure to make up for the fact that they were probably constantly *bleep* by their dads at age 6-11. But enough of those dickwads. I'm not reviewing jocks with daddy issues; I'm reviewing a game that's meant for those who love their RPGs big and cheesy.
The game begins with two teenagers dropping into a whole new world. Turns out that souls are constantly being sucked in, but some souls are so strong, that they don't leave the bodies, so the bodies are sucked in. These two, along with a hell of a lot of characters from games like Disgaea, Darkstalkers, Ar Tornelico and other more anime-inspired RPGs have to destabalize the new world by harvesting all of the souls. This sounds like something right out of a Soul Calibur game, but for what it is, it's a serviceable story that keeps you coming, if only to meet up with more and more characters from certain franchises... by the way, no, you do not meet up with Final Fantasy or Grandia characters... that's reserved for Kingdom Hearts.
What makes the story really stand out are the characters constantly point out the absurdity of RPGs, like when one of the characters asks Morrigan how she fights in those clothes (think purple tights and a black tight one piece with her cleavage showing.. it barely contains her big boobs, by the way). That happens very early in the game, by the way, so just let that set the scene for a good amount of parts where characters break the 4th wall and just plain don't make sense. It tries to be funny more than anything else, and I got into it finely. In fact, alongside the battle system, that's what kept me coming back.
Before diving into battle, let's get down a few things. What you can do in this game is run around a world map, randomly encounter enemies, grind your heart out, and create items and shit using alchemy. The world map is fairly non-descript if you've played an RPG in your lifetime. You just run around, meet more characters, release souls, and run into enemies you can't see until you're in battle. What else is there to day?
Alchemy is very important, because most items and equipment can't be bought without being created first. It sounds pretty annoying on paper, and that's because it kind of is. You think you can just buy items from the get go, but computer says no. You can get a lot of items from battles to use to create more items... It's refreshing how important alchemy is in this game, since most of the time, alchemy is usually optional. The only exception is Final Fantasy X, where you're required to add stats to weapons so that things can be made easier, but other than that, alchemy and shizz is usually optional, and usually an option we respond with big, loud NOs! That, and it'll kind of make the inevitable mega grind fests a bit more interesting, since we're gunning for more items...
Let's dive into the battle system... at first, it's a tricky son of the bitch to get into, but after some time and experimentation - because those *bleep*ing tutorials don't teach you shit except the bare basics, which is actually no good here due to the intricate detail in this system - it's not all that hard to get the hang of.
Essentially, you have to align four characters on a 4x3 grid. It's not as simple as that, though. You have to position them for the best effect. Thankfully, you can open up the menu and have practice matches against some dummies until you're happy with your line up and positioning. Some characters can attack from a distance, while others need to be stationed at the front to deliver the big blows. It all a matter of testing different characters at different positions for the best strategies, and bonus points if you can cause chain reactions, since cooperation attacks and combos can really do some damage. Furthermore, damaging enemies well beyond how much HP they have can net items rarer than the holy grail.
Of course, all of this costs AP, and running low or even empty means no attacking, no running, no playing, no switching, no fun, and the worst of them all, no item use. Okay, seriously, no item use? What if I'm in a tight jam and accidently decided to waste it on a cooperation attack with another character? Nope. Cross Edge gives you the middle finger and expects you to like it - Jesus, it's like being in North Korea!
There is a catch to all of this, though - this game gets mighty hard. If you haven't synthesized the best equipment and you haven't grinded all that much, prepare to be slaughtered, regardless of strategy. This becomes a problem when you're travelling along, as you have to grind often, and it gets stale as *bleep*. Haven't developers learned from Dragon Warrior that EXCESSIVE GRINDING IS NOT FUN IN THE SLIGHTEST!? Even with the best systems, an hour and a half - minumum - of grinding is boring. This is a fine battle system, but even then, it gets boring. The lamest thing is that leveling up your characters a few levels only strengthens them up a little. You know what that means, kids? MORE *bleep*ING GRINDING! Cancel your plans, set up the answering machine, and lock the door - it'll be a long time before you'll be beating this next boss. I like RPGs that are actually challenging, not just time consuming wastes of time!
The graphics are pretty damn mediocre. I appreciate the effort in the hand painted backgrounds and sprites, but the end result would have no trouble fitting well in a PS1 game. In fact, nothing about these graphics makes me want to sing out loud. The "cutscenes" have very well drawn models, but goddamn, where's the animation? I know anime tends to have limited animation, but Christ, limited =/= zero! The scenes without voice acting make me weep for an actual cutscene, that's how crappy they are in the long run. They're all low resolution and the PS3's HD processors don't make it look any better, and while they're not a complete eye sore, the graphics don't rock my jock, or make me cum, or melt my face, or anything.
The music isn't bad. It manages to fit the mood finely, though none of it is memorable or anything that'll make you want to buy - oops, sorry, download - the soundtrack. Nothing that melts your face or makes your dick explode. It's just there to set a mood. The voice acting is alright, but nothing to set your PS3 on fire, though nothing to make all but the super nerdiest switch to the Japanese voice acting either. Basically, the audio aspect is a whole heap of nothing but average sound and shit.
Cross Edge is the best example of how to appeal to RPG enthusiasts and only the RPG enthusiasts. Newbies and American RPG fanatics who don't like Japanese RPGs simply won't get the jokes and will find the battle system too complicated - the guy at IGN who reviewed Cross Edge sure didn't! It's definitely worth checking out if you love Japanese RPGs and anime... and have a PS3, obviously.
Story: 3.5/5. If you're expecting the next big thing in storytelling, keep looking. This is for people who just want a fun storyline with their favorite anime RPG characters, despite incomprehensibility.
Gameplay: 3/5. Degenerates into a grindfest as it progresses, but until then, it's a fairly cool system, and it's tricky enough to get the hang of to interest you.