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Cross Edge


I wouldn't exactly say that I'm a Japanese RPG addict but man, my game collection is full of them. No matter what console I own, if a J-RPG hits the American market it eventually finds a home somewhere on my game shelf. To that extent you bet Nippon Ichi Software has a proud section all its own. J-RPG fans generally celebrate when NIS America announces a new release, but is there latest effort really worth getting in a tizzy about? Sadly it's not.

Cross Edge is the latest NIS release and basically one of the only ones you're going to find on the PlayStation 3. Not only that, as its name loosely implies, this game is a crossing point for several other games. Capcom, Namco Bandai, Gust, Idea Factory, and (of course) NIS all come together in a weird form of amalgamation. With characters from Disgaea, Atelier Marie, Dark Stalkers, Mana-Kemia 2, Ar Tonelico, and Spectral Souls you can bet that you're going to have an anything but normal experience. I mean, so many characters from so many different game franchises and genres are wedged together here. Things definitely don't go off without a hitch, but some diehard J-RPG lovers will definitely find something appealing here. Unfortunately I'm not one of those few.

Gameplay


Okay. To be fair there are many good points to Cross Edge. It's just a shame that there are also an equal amount of bad ones as well. What to talk about first? How about the bad!

Cross Edge puts you in the shoes of two characters, York and Miko, who basically wake up somewhere and don't know how they got there. From that point we learn that this strange new world is full of monsters and other souls who don't seem to know what the heck is going on either. York and Miko befriend them and travel around doing stuff and discovering things. It's bunk really. The story never elevates beyond that and it feels like a very cheap way to shoehorn these other characters into the game. Sure it's fun to play as Morrigan, Felicia, Prinnies, etc., but wouldn't it be better if the game made sense while you were doing it? Call me old fashion!

Another sore spot for Cross Edge is the way the game's progression occurs. In order to get anywhere with the story, to find a new town, initiate a boss battle, or uncover a new character you have to use a search ability to reveal a hidden icon. Nothing is plain as day and you have to walk around constantly pressing a button in order to find even the most minute things such as, oh, I don't know, a town? It's invariably frustrating, forces you to backtrack, and borderline kills the experience of this game. Things get a little better later on when your searching ability expands, but you have to stick with the game for quite some time and even then you'll still have to backtrack.

The other flaw in the game involves the game's approachability. The battle interface takes quite a long time to get used to since there are multiple inputs and menus to navigate, not to mention the daunting amount of information thrown your way at all times. It takes some serious use of the tutorial, reading up of the instruction manual, and hours of hands-on time before you really feel comfortable with it. It's a huge turn off for folks who don't want to slog through menus and digest vast quantities of numbers and statistics. Once you get past that though, you'll most assuredly fall in love with the battle system.

The thing I like most about this game is the combat. Quite honestly you can't really play an RPG without focusing on that one key element and thankfully Cross Edge has that down. The battle system is quasi-strategy with a movement and attack grid, as well as points you're allowed to spend on your turn. If you've some of the titles this game borrows from you'll instantly feel right at home with the combat aspect of this title (once you've gotten over the stress of figuring out the menus and information).

Though you're given a plethora of characters to pick from, you're allowed only four on the field at all times. It's good to know that you can swap out on the fly and each character has a unique set of moves that is more beneficial against certain enemies than others. Experimenting with this element is a blast and it gets even more involved when you start delving into combo attacks. That's right! You can string together special moves given the right circumstances and particular characters. There's even a little way to practice this before taking it into battle which is downright brilliant.

As you'd expect from a Japanese RPG, Cross Edge includes a fair amount of level grinding and battles to fight through. You can plan on dropping more time than you'd like in some areas simply because you have to search for events and you're attacked the whole time. It's frustrating and you'll feel like you're going nowhere fast, but at least the battles are fun for a while. Ultimately this game will be enjoyed only by J-RPG enthusiasts who have played every game included here and are looking for something new to try. If you appreciate a challenge, like grinding, arenít easily frustrated, and don't mind that there's virtually no sensible story here, then Cross Edge may be for you.

Graphics


Ugh. When is NIS going to learn that they have to spruce things up a bit? Especially if they're releasing a title on the PlayStation 3! Muddied textures, low-res sprites, bland backgrounds, chunky animation, and an overall retro design simply do not look good with the 720p output. The cut scenes look pretty good, but since they include pre-rendered artwork that's not very surprising. All around this looks more like a PlayStation 2 or PSP title, but not something that should have an appropriate release on the PS3.

Sound


Mildly better than the graphics in Cross Edge is the sound. The music is often standard, though with a harder edge, but is ultimately forgettable. The sound effects are okay though nothing to write home about either. The dialogue fairs somewhat better with an enjoyable Japanese language dub, as well as an English language one. It's always nice to have this option and quite honestly both tracks performed very well.

Conclusion


Cross Edge features a brilliant combat system and the character roster is like a dream come true for many J-RPG fans. Sadly the rest of the game stinks. The fact that you have to constantly search for the next "event" grates on the nerves since it forces you into more fights, drags on the play time, and necessitates backtracking and aimlessly walking around. The story is also pointless, the graphics are quite firmly last-gen, and all around the project just has a very ill-conceived feel to it. With that being said there is some fun to be had with this title. Whether or not you're the kind of person who will enjoy it should be fairly clear to you by this point. Personally, I'd consider this a rental.