Cross Edge is a game from Idea Factory and Compile Heart that demands a lot from the player. Like most games from these companies, especially Idea Factory, Cross Edge requires you to grasp every game mechanic, witness every event and fulfill every minor detail in order for you to reach the game’s best ending as well as survive the gruelingly difficult bosses that inhabit each corner of the game’s various worlds. Most folks will tell you they either love or hate Cross Edge. As evidenced by my score and by review tagline, I was one of the few that enjoyed the game. In fact, I’m still playing through it as of this writing. Gamers who enjoy odd RPGs will be the most likely to find some enjoyment with Cross Edge. Still, I have a hard time recommending the game to most folks because it’s such a bizarre experience and most people will get frustrated with it before long unless they follow a guide.
The story of Cross Edge stars two youths from Japan named York Neely and Miko Aida. While walking home from school one day, the two friends pass out and before they know it, they’re awake in a strange new world with monsters, memory loss and mysticism. After taking care of these beasts, they meet a woman named Morrigan Aensland (yes, the succubus from the Darkstalker series) and following that, they meet a young girl named May. May informs them that she has been waiting for their arrival because this new world is in danger. In order to return home, they need to assist May in releasing Souls. York and Miko have their work cut out for them as they ready themselves to encounter faces from five various worlds, as well as devious villains and some questionable characters. Character development is one of Cross Edge’s better features. York is a brash jerk and Miko is a caring matriarch type, but they get along and interact very well. People who are fans of Disgaea, Ar tonelico, Darstalkers, the alchemic world of Gust and the Spectral series will be happy to see a variety of characters join up with York and Miko. The best part of is that all characters get an equal amount of screen time and act the way they do in their respective games. As for the reason why they all ended up in this strange world, it’s kind of a farfetched idea that will get explained to you all at once. Those who wish to know the truth need to follow a guide so you can witness the route’s events and it’s satisfying conclusion. Otherwise, you’ll be left disappointed with the way the story plays out on the bad and normal routes.
You’ll need a guide to achieve the true end, and chances are you’ll need a guide to understand how to play Cross Edge. Even simple things like menu navigation and story advancement will take time and patience to learn in Cross Edge. Most people will be put off by all the game’s complex nature, but those who stick with it will be rewarded with something fun and different. As you move York around the world map, you can use the square button to search. Without a guide, you’ll be pressing the square button everywhere, but with a guide you can use the search function to find what you need to. You’ll find Souls (which are basically treasure chests), events and Safe Spots. You can save anywhere, but these Safe Spots are places where you can replenish supplies, upgrade your equipment, make new equipment, revive a KO’d ally, and investigate the map for clues regarding where to proceed. It’s a lot to take in, and it doesn’t stop there. Menus appear easy at first, but there is a lot of stuff to do beyond equipping weapons and using items. All characters learn unique skills that can only be equipped depending on your weapon’s slot attributes. This means that a skill with a Down attribute cannot be equipped to a Burst slot, however it can be equipped to a Down or All slot. To add to this confusion, various skills have elemental properties and can only be used depending on where your character AND the enemy is located on the 3X4 battle field. Armor and accessories are more forgiving, but chances are you’ll be scratching your head. Luckily, within the menu screen, you’ll find some in-game tutorials and a practice battle option to see what does and does not work.
But, it’s usually not enough for first time players. After the first battle, chances are you’ll be scratching your head, confused with what the hell just happened. Battles are another facet of the game that will require you to consult a guide so you can understand how to battle the numerous monsters that want to kill you. Your team is on the right side and the enemy party is on the left. Usually, you get the chance to go first. The moment one of your characters acts, a countdown begins. You need to get ready and perform the next action, and the next, and so on until all of your team runs out of AP, you’re done killing the foe, or you prematurely cancel your turn. As attacks get used, the countdown refills. To switch between characters, you’ll use the shoulder buttons. When certain skills get used with each other, they will create Branch Combinations, which are as over-the-top as you’d expect from Idea Factory. I won’t even begin to get into Break Arts, Down Arts, Guard Breaks, and Overkills. Just know that Cross Edge’s battle system involves your team exchanging blows with the enemy team until one side is finished. It’ll be confusing and unforgiving at first, but eventually…
…it clicks and you’re having a blast. Seriously, once you realize that Cross Edge is basically Valkyrie Profile on steroids, you’ll understand why the game has such a small but proud following. Battles become more and more intense as you unlock Arcane Tomes, which reveal new combos. Overtime, you will learn EXE Skills which can easily turn the tides of battle in your favor. Like everything else in battle, EXE Skills have your characters flying back and forth, up and down, and side to side as they massacre the enemy party. Cross Edge’s battle system requires patience and practice, but once you get, you’ll have a hard time going back to regular turn-based combat.
It’s never easy to describe complex battle systems, but I can mention something a bit easier: the presentation. Cross Edge is a 2D game with vivid sprites and portraits. While the portraits tend to become stale over time, a neat thing is that you can unlock outfits for them change their appearance. Unfortunately, this only applies to females. So, you won’t be able to see Lyner wearing a funbun kimono. I know, I know…tragic. Aside from that, the graphics do a good job at showing off the fantasy world of Cross Edge. Downsides? Well, York’s sprite on the world map is tiny and it’s not always clear regarding where he can and cannot travel. Really, the graphics shine the most in battle. Like I said, there are some crazy attacks you can watch. As for the music, I think it’s wonderful. The battle anthems rock out with electric guitars and drums, and the various worlds have their own unique overworld theme. The voice acting can be in English or Japanese. Either option works, especially since you can hear Sam Regal swear over and over again as he voices York. To sum up, Cross Edge has a great presentation but it does have a few hiccups.
No matter which ending you get, Cross Edge will probably take you about 20 to 25 hours to finish. I’ll say it once more: use a guide if you want to obtain the true end. You don’t have to prove anything; you NEED a guide to get the ending you deserve. Without the true end, you have no access to the post-game content which opens up the world even more. Furthermore, you’ll need some insight on how to do battle, as well as how to make use of all of the options available in the shops. For those who are brave, or perhaps foolish enough to hunt for the platinum trophy, you’ll have to buckle down and get ready to obtain all of the titles. Titles grant you items and cash, but to earn them you have to perform various tasks that will span well into the post-game. I could praise Cross Edge all day for it’s unique take on combining various characters from various worlds, and throwing them together to do battle with some evil meanies. I could talk endlessly about the battle system and how much fun it is once you get it. But, I should probably leave you with this bit of advice: this game is not for everyone. RPG fan or not, you really have to be committed to the genre to enjoy Cross Edge to the fullest. I know Idea Factory’s reputation is questionable, but every once in a great while they manage to turn out something worth playing if, and only if, you have the patience to understand it. Cross Edge is a perfect example of that.