I’ve been through every generation of video games, witnessed exciting new graphics, improved technology and controllers, and increased processing power for more complex games and better AI. With each generation, game developers are quick to adopt new hardware, often looking for the latest technology to try and excite gamers. Think of the 32-bit era, when Sony and Nintendo struggled to move from classic spiral 2D games to a 3D polygon experience. There’s no denying that the future of games is in that direction, so it made good business sense to put resources into it.
That’s all well and good, but we have such a wide range of players these days that the loop had to be closed, and the indie scene has indeed given a real resurgence to mind games over the past decade. Lots of these classic 8-bit graphics, but I think the most fun for many players is the detailed and colorful 16-bit sequence. We seem to have fewer of these games, probably because of the higher cost. Every time I look at these games, my heart races as I am instantly reminded of my teenage years and the heyday of the SNES, Genesis and TurboGrafx 16 games. Not all of these games live up to the hype (how could they?), but occasionally there is an outing that not only looks great, but raises the bar for them. Crosscode is one of those games.
At first glance it looks like a very nice 16-bit game, although I’d say it’s closer to some PlayStation games, like Alundra or Lunar :. Silver Star Story with more color and action on the screen than was possible in a 16-bit world. But beyond the presentation, you’ll find a game full of clever puzzles, addictive gameplay, and a unique world to explore. Oh, and if long games are your cup of tea, there are a lot of side quests in this game that will give you dozens of hours to complete. But what is crosscode and why should you care? I’m glad you asked!
At first glance, the cross code looks like Zelda or Secret Mana clone. While it borrows some basic gameplay ideas, it’s interesting to note that the game offers a variety of moves and combat and unlockables through a rather fun skill tree that improves by earning points as you level up by defeating monsters. You have melee attacks as well as energy balls that you can throw at enemies to try and put some distance between you and them. What makes this word so interesting is that you play in a virtual space. It’s actually kind of an in-game game, as the world you explore is actually an MMO set in the future. That is, you play the role of Lea, an avatar of this world who has lost both her memories and her ability to speak. The programmer in her ear manages to squeeze a few words out of her as the game progresses, but for the most part she has nothing to say. And that’s probably a good thing, because everyone around you is a talker.
I’ll be the first to admit that the game starts off a little slow. There’s a lot to unpack for the first hour or two, and I wasn’t particularly impressed with the game until I passed the sections on the ship and entered the world of the MMO itself. Once I got out of the first town and started exploring the grassy areas and killing monsters, the leveling game really started to appeal to me. Fighting is fun, but also challenging from the start. These enemies are not easy to destroy with just one or two hits, some require serious work to kill them. What’s really interesting about exploration is that, just like in Chronicles of Xenoblade, there are tons of areas to discover and secret paths to follow. Many areas of the game are actually puzzles in themselves, simply because of the layout of the terrain. You’ll often see a treasure chest on a rock, and you’ll have to find a way to get to it. These additional challenges are built into the game throughout the adventure, and I found them very fun to solve.
Talk about solving puzzles: There are many, not only around the world, but also in cities and dungeons. These are sensitive issues, but they are very satisfying. Many of them (especially in the beginning) revolve around your ability to jump on different platforms, as well as throwing your energy balls and bouncing off walls and other objects, so they connect to a button to raise or lower platforms, doors, and walls. The tutorials section really focuses on this aspect, so you realize the importance of solving these puzzles as you progress through the game. Unfortunately, that’s where the scourge of my existence (time issues) comes in. I’ve never been a fan of them in a game, but I understand why they exist. One of the interesting features is that you have the ability to change the difficulty of the game on the fly, and the developers even allow you to customize certain elements. For example, if you find it too difficult to solve certain time-based puzzles, you can move the cursor to get more time. Or, if you die too often, you can make sure enemy attacks don’t do as much damage. These settings are welcome features that should allow more players to complete the story.
The battle system works in real time, as you would expect from a Zelda game. You can see the amount of damage caused by enemies in numbers when you launch an attack. By improving your skills and mastering new ones, you gain the ability to capture several monsters at once and cut them down as you go through them. Elemental attacks play a role, just as you work your way through history. Patterns can be quite tricky and downright frustrating at times, so make sure you remember the attack patterns and don’t be afraid to go on the defensive instead of constantly attacking. I liked the whole combat system, but it can be relentless with the difficult spikes that pop up everywhere.
CrossCode is absolutely stunning with pixel art of breathtaking precision, simply incredible. There are many different environments that you will explore during the massive quest that takes over 40 hours to complete. The bosses are often huge, and the enemies and NPCs are very colorful and animated. I love the extra work that has been done on some of the character portraits that appear in the conversations, which gives the game a sort of Phantasy Star feel. The game is super colorful and small effects like rain and snow only add to the presentation. Oh, and the soundtrack is absolutely remarkable! There are so many good songs to listen to, and some remind me of Phantasy Star Online with some great influences.
I really only have a few minor complaints about the graphics. The first thing that can be difficult to determine is the height of the property. There were many times when I thought I could jump on another piece of land, but I fell or missed the jump. By pulling your energy in this direction you often know if the ground is above or below you, but this was a problem for playing in certain areas. The other problem is a little more serious, and that is the SPF drop on the switch. I’ve heard that other systems may work a little better, but the switch definitely has some flaws that can be a little annoying. There is also a strange charge that occurs when you open certain menus. Although I have technical issues, it often happens that if I put the button to sleep and go back to the game, there is an audio problem that often doesn’t go away until I stop and restart the game. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, it was super annoying, and it will probably all be fixed in a future patch. None of these issues make a difference, but I would say recruitment will be the biggest problem for some of you.
Since CrossCode takes place in an MMO, other characters may join you in quests to help you along the way. You can set them up to follow your lead and attack the same enemies as you, or let them do whatever they want. You’ll often see non-playable characters running all over the place, and suddenly the developers are using them to steer the player in the right direction. A few times I wondered where I was supposed to go, then another character walked past me, and as I followed him, I understood the path I was supposed to follow. It’s also true that the MMO style forces you to do a lot of quests. Many of them are completely optional, but you can do them to please yourself. I didn’t mind the work, but I know it’s kind of a trope that some players don’t like.
I ended up having fun with the crossword puzzle. I’m not a big fan of MMOs, so the set didn’t impress me much. Also, since I play a lot of different games (often for critical purposes), the ones that take so much time to pass (I’m looking at you, Hollow Knight) sometimes stop encouraging them a bit, even when I’m having fun. I had this feeling when I reached the 8 o’clock mark, only to realize that I still had a lot of work to do. Don’t get me wrong, longer games give us more for our money, but sometimes I like to take a game and be done with it after about ten hours. I think it has a lot to offer and most players will enjoy it. I didn’t fall as much in love with him as I had hoped.
Revision of the cross code
- Charts – 9/10
- Sound – 9.5/10
- Gameplay – 7/10
- Late Call – 8/10
Final thoughts : GRAND
CrossCode is a great action/RPG movie with beautiful graphics and a great soundtrack. The setting and story are unique, but didn’t excite me as much as I had hoped. Fighting and puzzling are fun, but some aspects of the game may seem too difficult. That said, there’s a lot to love here, and it’s a great game for Switch!
Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published in various media. He is currently an editor and contributor to Age of Games.
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