It’s time for another installment of Keep It Or Trade It. This time I’ll be putting the spotlight on Cross Edge for the Playstation 3. The question is, can it handle the heat? Cross Edge came out in North America on May 29th of this year, published by NIS America on the Playstation 3. There is an XBox 360 port in the works that they are titling Cross Edge Dash, but I don’t have any experience with that. I believe it has some extras added in, but maintains much of the same gameplay and storyline.
Cross Edge is a cross-over game that combines characters from the worlds of Darkstalkers, Ar Tonelico, Spectral Souls, Atelier Marie, Disgaea, and Mana Khemia 2 with characters that were created for the game. Being a cross-over game, I didn’t expect much from it story-wise, and it didn’t exceed my expectations, either. The game starts with York and Miko (two original characters) waking up in an open field with a castle in the background. As they come to their senses, they are ambushed by wolves. York fights off some with his gun (I don’t know why a fairly normal teenager is carrying a gun to begin with) but Morrigan from Darkstalkers comes to their aid when they get overwhelmed. During these early battles, the game does some basic tutorials of how the battle system works, but it isn’t the best explanation. I found that only by experimenting with the system myself, did I really get a feel for how to effectively combo your moves. The early game progresses on with basic character introductions, both good and evil, and you collect many of your party fairly quickly. The basic plot is that characters from all of these worlds have been pulled into a new world and most of them have lost their memories. Your goal is to liberate enough souls in this world to weaken its hold, and the hope is that by doing so, they can regain their memories and return to their own homes. You uncover bits of information about the world you’re trapped in and your characters through various events found on the world map. These events can lead to cut scenes with conversations or battles. Unfortunately, with these snippets, the game’s story does not develop that smoothly. There are large gaps of time where, while you’re getting character interaction and development, nothing is really happening to progress the story itself. Then, suddenly, near the end of the game, the developers remembered that there was a story to tell, and hurriedly closed as many chapters as possible. In my playthrough, I only missed a few story events that kept me from getting 100% completion and the “True Ending”, and I still felt like there were some gaps in the story. Since quite a few of these points are optional, I couldn’t imagine trying to play through while only hitting the necessary points.
In a game where the story isn’t so great, one can hope the gameplay itself is enough to redeem it. Traveling around the world map, you have a very small sprite of York and an indicator for when you are about to be attacked, similar to the ones used in the Ar Tonelico series, but not exactly. Personally, I found that the random battles happened a little too frequently for my liking, especially when you consider that performing a search on the map is the equivalent of quite a few steps. All of the souls you need to liberate, and quite a few of the events are invisible on the map until you perform a search, and there aren’t many clues as to where souls and events are found. So, you’ll be doing a lot of searching, and thus, a lot of fighting. There are also points on the world map where it seemed like there was a path but for some reason, York wouldn’t be able to cross, or the path would be much narrower than it seemed, causing you to get hung up in the middle of a path.
Once, you enter battle, you get to enjoy a pretty fun battle system; perhaps the highlight of the game for me. Your battle party can consist of up to four members, each with up to four skills that are linked to controller buttons. On top of that, there are EX skills that can be used when you deal or receive enough damage, or kill or be killed enough times during a given battle. Each of the skills requires a certain amount of action points from the character, which refill at the start of each of your party’s turns. You perform “Branch Combos” by performing certain skills in a particular order. These combos can be performed by a single character or by switching between characters as your action timer counts down between moves. By the end of the game, you can perform combinations that are hundreds of moves long without trying very hard. Your other characters that are not in the party receive a fraction of the experience that their active counterparts receive; so, they do level, just not as quickly. However, you’ll want to stop and level your other characters occasionally since some of them will be required for story battles.
Graphically, Cross Edge is lacking, and I’m not the type who needs beautiful computer-rendered graphics to enjoy a game. I love Gust games, they are not graphically intensive, and they use cute, anime-style drawings, but they’re usually of decent quality. The York sprite on the world map looks tiny, terrible and grainy, and there are not many background pictures used when your characters are have a cut-scene conversation. The character portraits themselves are alright, but the sprites used in battle show up a little pixellated at times, which is unnecessary on a PlayStation 3. Musically, the game is average. Outside of the theme that plays during the title fmv, none of the songs really stuck out. Most of the songs fit well with their environments, but a few of them, including the battle theme, got kind of tiresome by the end of the game, as well.
Since Gust had a hand in the making of this game, there is the old Ar Tonelico and Mana Khemia standard of synthesizing new items. You collect synth recipes from treasure chests and by unlocking them via the “Database.” The Database lets you unlock new costumes for your characters based on the number of souls you’ve freed, and if you have seen certain character events in the game. Since the game caters to the male demographic, only the female character portraits change with the costumes. The Database also lets you get items and money for achieving certain things in the game, such as a 200-hit combination, 100,000 damage, or collecting 20 of a healing item. For the completionist in you, the New Game+ option carries over many of the things you’ve unlocked in the database, as well as your beastiary and synth recipes.
Edited 8/20/09: One thing I intended to mention initially but forgot was that I liked how Cross Edge handled DLC. They have provided a few items or dungeons for free each week and one or two packs that cost $1.99 on the PlayStation store. I think it is a good way to keep people adding new things to the game and keep them visiting the PSN store. I would like to see more RPGs do something like this in the future.
In summary, I’d say only buy Cross Edge if you can find it for cheap, otherwise, rent it. It’s not a terrible game, but they could have done so much more with it. There were times where I genuinely enjoyed it, but other times, it could have been a lot better.
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