An Uneven Blast From The Past

HIGH Faithfully recreates the look and feel of 16-bit RPGs.

LOW I had no feeling for the story or characters.

WTF A fantasy MMO with no toxic players.

Full disclosure, I didn’t finish CrossCode.

This new JRPG-style title from Radical Fish Games is certainly a competent love letter to role-playing titles of the 16-bit era. From the quiet piano score that plays on the start screen to the large overworld to be explored, the devs have clearly put in the work needed to capture the feeling of popping something like Chrono Trigger into an SNES for the first time. Unfortunately, even with all its attention to detail, CrossCode stopped being a game I cared about.

Taking place within the world of a massive faux-MMO called CrossWorlds, players control Lea. Lea is mute, only able to communicate in a few phrases that are unlocked through important story sections because a series of events have caused her to lose her memory, and she’s now forced to play through CrossWorlds in order to get it back.

The premise was interesting enough and seeing NPCs speak like real players in a virtual world while queueing up together sold the idea that I was in a large-scale online experience.

Even better, CrossCode sports the looks of the oldschool RPGs it pays homage to, thanks to gorgeous pixel art and character portraits during dialogue sequences. The music deserves a standing ovation. The world is a sprawling one with different biomes to explore and interact with and also introduces modern RPG twists like factions to side with, as well as an interesting hack-and slash combat system that never stopped feeling satisfying.

So why did I stop playing?

It was a few things — the most prevalent being the story (or lack thereof) in the early hours. Lea’s journey seems like it will tackle interesting themes, and (no spoilers here) players will learn about Lea’s past and realize what makes her so different from the others. However, CrossCode throws hours of filler at the player early on, and every time the plot felt like it was ramping up to something, it kept getting pushed back.

CrossCode is also thick with uninteresting quests and lots of lightweight dialogue. Players will soon find themselves with dozens of quests in their journal — some are fairly simple and enjoyable, but many are just fetchquests or tasks that demand the player kill X amount of enemies.

On the other hand, CrossCode‘s combat is reminiscent of modern hack-and-slash games, in a good way. Players build up a combo meter as they fight, with Lea using a combination of slashes, projectiles and even blocks to take on enemies. Leveling up is also satisfying, with different augmentations to Lea’s skillset providing upgrades.

In a way, it’s true to the MMO experience it’s partially modeled after by having players grind quests to level up before raiding with their party. Points for authenticity there, but without more interesting motivation like richer story or more varied quest design, I felt like I was doing too much work for too little reward.

CrossCode is an ambitious title, has a strong style that fans of this type of RPG will appreciate, and the combat is great. Unfortunately, the lack of a compelling narrative and loads of filler made it an experience that didn’t convince me to play to the end.

Rating: 7 out of 10

To order a physical copy of CrossCode, please go HERE.

Disclosures: This game is published by DECK13 Spotlight and developed by Radical Fish Games. It is available on PS4, XBOX, Switch and PC.  This copy was obtained via publisher for review and was reviewed on PS4. Approximately 30 hours of play were devoted to single-player and was not completed. There is no multiplayer.  

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T for Fantasy Violence and Language. The game feels like any standard anime or RPG with some slight violence and mild swears like “d*mn”. Nothing is too gratuitous and I feel like any young kid could play this game with no issues.

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not present in the options menu.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: All the dialogue is delivered through text and can even be seen in the pause menu. Everything is telegraphed visually for the player and sound is not required to play. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, the game does not offer remappable controls, nor a control diagram. The triggers are used for special attacks and accessing the menu, while the bumpers are used for blocking and standard attacks. The face buttons are used for interacting with the world, NPCs and cancel/confirm. The y-axis cannot be changed.

Cj Salcedo
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