You can really sum up Cross Edge's endless problems in a single sentence: It feels like it was designed in a Japanese boardroom. And that's because it likely was. When you've got a role-playing game featuring characters from Capcom's Darkstalkers, Nippon Ichi's Disgaea, Idea Factory's Spectral Souls, and Gust's Ar Tonelico and Atelier franchises (among others), chances are you're dealing with a lot of behind-the-scenes politics.
"Let's see... We need Disgaea's tag-team attacks, Darkstalkers' combos, Ar Tonelico's pseudo-real-time battles and sexy costumes for the ladies, Atelier's complex alchemy system..."
Sure, all those ideas work within the context of those individual games – and we actually love fan service, so no complaints there – but toss 'em all in the same RPG melting pot, and you've got a mess of a recipe. To be fair, it's a somewhat amusing mess when the story's progressing -- where else can you see Disgaea's lovably incompetent Prinny penguin-demons interact with Capcom's burly fighting-game superstars, after all? But it's an absolutely maddening mess when the time comes to actually play the game.
To start with, it's clear the developers wanted to satisfy every possible franchise fanboy who might pick up Cross Edge, so the game tosses about 10 playable characters at you within the first couple of hours. By then, you've got an army of sexy succubi, androgynous warriors, and randy robo-babes – and no clue how to actually use them in battle. Cross Edge throws you into combat with only a cursory explanation of its complex concepts, which revolve around a confusing series of buttons and meters representing enigmatic terms such as "Burst," "Break," and "Down." And you know a battle system's too complicated for its own good when you need to manually activate the option to display something as basic as hit points.
Maddeningly, despite the complexity of the battle system, the characters themselves have an extremely limited number of combat options, particularly in the first third of the game. For example, if you have Ar Tonelico's Aurica in your party, she can handle healing. No, that doesn't mean that you should direct her to heal instead of attack – that means that if you assign her to heal in battle, that's literally all she can do! Combat opens up a little more as the story progresses and characters gain more abilities, but few gamers will have the patience to stick with Cross Edge that long.
Exploration's at least gotta be a little easier, right? Surely it's simply a matter of traveling from town to town and dungeon to dungeon? No, that'd be too pedestrian. Instead, all story-related events and locales are hidden, which means that you've gotta spend your time wandering around the map looking for these locations with a horrifically inefficient search spell.
Thankfully, Cross Edge does offer a minor reward for all the headaches: the amusing interplay between the fish-out-of-water cast, helped by some clever writing and competent voice acting. If you're an RPG masochist, Cross Edge does allow for hours upon hours of replayability, with endless lists of costumes and alchemy recipes to complete, along with multiple endings. But you can find these elements in games like Ar Tonelico and Disgaea – the superior games from which these characters are borrowed – without the broken core of a game you'll find here. So why not just play the originals that inspired Cross Edge instead?
Jun 12, 2009