Crosscode is an ambitious take on the VMMORPG genre, bringing it back, but in a new aspect using a classic 16-bit approach, giving it an entirely new feel alongside its use of dualstick shooter elements coupled with beat ’em up mechanics.
+Extremely well written story that offers quite a bit of fun
+RPG-lite mechanics meet rogue-lite title to keep things entertaining
+Audiovisual designs are a real treat for retro gaming fans
-Missions can be extremely tough to locate
-Navigation and traversal can be extremely challenging
It should come as no surprise. I love MMORPGs. I really do. Final Fantasy XIV is one of my favorite games to play when I’m not busy reviewing or previewing upcoming games. It’s something I love to do to say the least. When it comes to VMMO type games, I’m a huge fan of them, they all offer a unique and ambitious experience that brings everything I love about MMOs to life, but without actually playing an MMO.
This isn’t the first game to do it nor will it be the last. In recent times we’ve had plenty of action-RPGs that gave the genre their very own twist including .hack and Sword Art Online that REALLY pushed such possibilities forward. Since 2012, that’s been Radical Fish games’ intention when their game first entered development eight years ago. They wanted to make a powerful 16-bit isometric RPG that would offer us all the fun of an MMO RPG with all its action-based fun.
CrossCode is just what you would expect from a game about a VMMO title
CrossCode itself is surprising in how its built to play. Simply put, it’s a “twin-stick shooter” type experience at its core, something our main protagonist Lea just happens to be the best at using when she isn’t using her disks to ground and pound her foes. The game takes a very classic approach to the VMMO genre, giving players a sense of depth to it as the world is lively, always active with enemies and NPCs.
The story itself is rather simple, focusing on a tragic event that befell Lea, causing her voice to be removed and for her to somehow be saved by developers of her in-game title CrossWorlds. Your quest itself is simple: Survive, find out what actually happened to Lea and ultimately stop the encounters placed before her as you navigate a massive, yet somehow intricately detailed world.
From the very start of the game, you are introduced into the game’s most basic functions from equipment, to levelling, and even combat. You’ll even learn how to move about the world at the very start along giving the ability to control Lea from the very start. The only drawback? Her dialogue is pretty limited from the very start, leaving for Lea to be a rather simple character, who expresses herself, at the start, through her name Lea and “Hi” as those are the few words she even has.
CrossCode is faster paced than one would expect
Outside of everything you’d expect from an RPG-style game, questing, completing dungeons, and exploring, CrossCode is a rather expansive experience. Enemies vary in types, sizes, capabilities, and mechanics needed in order to defeat them. Combat itself is one of the key elements here and it is experienced differently with every single encounter.
It’s fast and it only gets faster as players progress through the game. Enemies always travel in groups, averaging between four and five together, sometimes two or three depending on what they are. Combat is based on knowing when to pick your shots if you use Lea’s ability to throw orbs or her ability to get in rather quickly, punching any enemy she can into oblivion.
You’ll even find that combat is dependent on your ability to block as well as your ability to dodge any enemy that comes before you. The more difficult the enemy, of course, the better you will have to dodge them. Some of the game’s bosses focus on these mechanics, multiples of them at that, including the ability to hold a shot before bouncing it from one surface to another, something you’ll learn rather early on.
That’s where those early-on puzzles matter, allowing for boss mechanics to widely differentiate from one another, some of them requiring you to make use of only half the leveling order to overcome the enemy put before you. It’ll take time to adjust as enemies are swift, deadly, and provide a moderate amount of challenge depending on what is put before you.
Exploration and puzzles are two very essential parts to the overall experience
There are plenty of moments that reference back to classic games such as Secret of Mana and The Legend of Zelda. Dungeons and world exploring take time as CrossCode doesn’t hold ones hand nor does it offer really any advice as to where you should go. It’s all about exploration, taking your time to find the places you need to be and going from there.
This could mean bypassing much higher level enemies, working your way past them and eventually moving through each zone, collecting what treasures they have and of course, meeting NPCs while completing sidequests however you want. Fast travel is an option, allowing you to go from point a to point be without any trouble and zoom back right to where you left off even if it’s halfway across CrossWorlds itself.
However, one drawback to this isn’t the fact that exploration, platforming, fighting, and the story aren’t actually all that good. To be quite honest, they are spectacular and some of the best there is within the game. They are truly quite marvelous and add new levels of creativity to the game, except the drawback is moreso the character Lea herself.
Lea not having a voice actually takes away from CrossCode itself
CrossCode itself, while enjoyable, struggles with its mainstory at times. The story is admirable, I’ll admit that, but like any admirable story, each one can have certain weak points that need discussed. This one just happens to be Lea, who has lost her voice, making her a character with some sense of intrigue behind what has happened to her.
The downside, she has lost her memory and her ability to speak. Along the way, they do begin to fix her voice, giving her simple terms such as “Lea” and “Hi” at the start, slowly working their way up to bigger words over time. While the twists and turns that help us get to where the story eventually wants to go are rather astonishing, but Lea’s “erasure” hurts it just enough to make it hard to follow at some of its lowest points.
As this is a VMMO-esque experience, there are amazingly well-written supporting characters. Each of them are well rounded, each one offering more than the other, except for the fact you can meet them, get a much bigger world, and even go from there if you wish. Enemy designs themselves are just as intriguing as the NPCs, making them enjoyable characters to have around.
The story itself is brought to life through the use of a powerful audiovisual elements including music, character, and level designs. Each zone tells a story of its own, each one also including different types of enemies and experiences to be had. As the game is 16-bit in its design, your guess that the music is just as good as the design is right. It’s actually amazing and the fact the team did as good as they did is quite astonishing.
In a 30 or so hour experience, CrossCode is admirably large. It does away with the gimmicks we’ve seen Sword Art Online and .hack use in order to deliver their experience. As a solid option, CrossCode is a title that shouldn’t be passed down simply because of how it looks or the small gripe about how Lea was designed in the beginning.
With what feels like unlimited side quests to take, NPCs to talk to, and even items to collect, CrossCode is a game that could very well stick around for more than 30 hours or so, and even push completionists into the 50-60 or more hour timeframe, depending on their attention to detail and ability to complete dungeons and their puzzles in a timely manner.
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Platform Reviewed: PlayStation 4
Developer:Radical Fish Games, Deck13
Publisher: Deck13, Inin Games
Release Date: Available Now
All-in-all, CrossCode isn’t a title you should glance over, but rather, actually try as it’s a great title that won’t break the bank for what it has to offer. Just trust me when I say this, Deniz Akbulut definitely deserves a round of applause for the music created for the game as the soundtrack is simply unforgettable and is worthy of the Physical Edition pre-order through the Inin Games shop.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook where he interacts with his followers quite a bit!