July – the month a little gem called CrossCode came to Nintendo Switch. An action RPG with strong influence from Secret of Mana. So, I’ll put my cards on the table here. Truth is, I’ve had this review code for some time, but it was continuously delayed. And now that we’re halfway through December, it seems redundant to cover it. I get that, but I made a commitment. The question now is how to make this relevant. Well, I had received a PS4 code from Deck13 late due to emails going to spam. Thinking that I wasn’t getting it, I purchased it on the eShop. That’s when it occurred to me; a comparison between versions. It might be worth noting any fallacies experienced on either of the consoles. So without further ado, let’s just jump into it.
WELCOME TO THE CROSSWORLDS!
Our story begins on a brick path. A girl phases into existence. Her goal is thus; she wants to rescue her brother. She believes that he’s been abducted by the same strange man pleading for her to retreat over comms. She refuses and continues forward. However, contrary to her impressions, it seems the kidnapping never happened. In fact, it’s possible that her brother was willingly grabbed. The reason seems to be unfinished business.
She hurries to the building she believes he’s being held at. Realizing that she won’t listen, the strange man resorts to violence. He summons mechanical foes to stop her. Unfortunately for him, his efforts are futile. She’s able to quickly dispatch her enemies before reconvening. Eventually, she reaches her destination but not before being confronted by more robots. She destroys them and then busts through the door.
To her surprise, it’s empty. There aren’t even robots trying to stop her. Not dwelling on why she runs into a room ahead. Inside, she finds him; it’s her brother. He’s working diligently on a computer. She immediately begins pleading but her cries reach deaf ears. Instead, he reveals that he’s given up on life. Because he’s already dying, there’s no reason not to finish this mystery assignment. She refuses what he says, begging further but to no avail. Seconds later, he pushes himself from his desk. He proclaims his duty done before collapsing. He’s dead. What was he so determined to get completed? And why was that strange man trying so adamantly to stop this girl – Shizuka?
WHAT A PSEUDO-ONLINE WORLD!
In my early 20’s, my ex and I were obsessed with World of Warcraft. We spent ungodly amounts of money on it. CrossCode aims to emulate that feeling of interconnectivity. It wants to create a faux online environment. Something it succeeds in doing because of a few things;
- As you’re journeying through the over-world, you’ll notice something. NPC’s are scurrying through the area. They’re either jumping across chasms or going to new areas. It made the world feel full, and like there were others actively playing. However, you’ll not be able to interact with any of them.
- Akin to those in the field, the cities are also bursting with activity. It was kind of overwhelming at first. NPC’s can be seen chatting amongst each other or entering buildings. I would’ve liked if they’d walk up to quest givers to drive home that online element, but that’s a minor gripe.
- You can’t speak to a large portion of the people in cities. That’s not to say it’ll feel lifeless. It won’t, and that’s a testament to the volume. You can also overhear banter between NPC’s. And you’ll quickly see that a lot of it seems to be in character. In other words, do you recall those servers devoted just to role-play? That’s what this is. My favorite example is a couple you’ll come by. A girl and guy circling a fountain. She’ll be talking but his responses are all the same. Just general agreement with no other addition. She suspects he’s not listening and decides to test it. She then begins spouting about getting naked and parading around. His reply – again – was a resounding “uh huh“.
- Another example is the blue-haired girl you’ll control. She suffers from amnesia. It’s an RPG pandemic, man. As an extra wrinkle, she’s also mute. Her issue is her speech synchronization is damaged. It makes having conversations difficult. Despite her inability to talk though, it won’t affect the story. As a game, all NPC’s have been coded with a dialogue script. Even if she responds with a random statement, they’d carry on as normal. However, speak to a player that represents a “real person”, and that changes. Suddenly, they notice her silence. They’ll immediately point it out.
My reasoning for showcasing the above is to nail down the effort. A lot of attention went into this type of detail. As a result, it helps flesh out the world. This felt like a genuine experience that people all over the world were playing. I was invested in the lore. I found the storyline intriguing as hell. I honestly haven’t seen this great of a job done since the false MMO in the .Hack franchise.
3D EFFECTS IN A 2D ENVIRONMENT!
I’m personally split on the level design. I do adore how everything is connected. That out of reach cliff with no path upwards actually has one that’ll be found if you keep traveling. I really liked this because it encourages you to explore. Do so and you’ll be rewarded with items or equipment. There are also bits of platforming scattered around. It’s functional but it also reveals a flaw.
CrossCode tries to utilize depth. It wants to toss 3D objects into this 2D world. This is nothing new. We’ve seen it done to successful standards. The thing is, it simply falls flat here – pun intended. My perception sucks as is. So, I had a difficult time trying to discern what was actually on a higher plain than where I was at. This meant a lot of falls. Compound that with a goldfish memory, and I’m positive I retried spots with the same failing results.
Another example is once water is introduced. More accurately, cubes of H20 that can be frozen. Because of the depth fallacy, I had a hard time angling the ice shot just right. It was a headache and devolved into mashing the button until I did it. Definitely not a problem that’ll affect many. For me and anyone with perception difficulties, be forewarned. There will be smashing involved, and certainly not the good kind.
The environments themselves are gorgeous. Radical Fish Games did an astounding job revitalizing the SNES pixel charm. It took me back to my youth. Colors are vibrant and plant-life is lush. It’s staggering the detail they managed to put in. Cities especially have tiny intricacies that are just – ugh. I’m doing a chef kiss right now. The trees were sadly generic looking, and I did see assets reused in terms of NPC models. In more positive gushing, I quite enjoyed the weather effects. The way the snow danced towards the ground or squished under my feet.
HEY LEA, ARE WE THERE YET?
Dungeons; they’re enormous in this game. I do understand why that is. It’s meant to mimic how World of Warcraft had those that lasted an hour or so. Here’s the biggest difference. I’m not playing in a party of five characters. Each run is done by my lonesome and I was much more aware of the length. As is, I felt that these dragged on. I believe the second one I entered had a halfway point. A checkpoint needed to be placed so you didn’t have to go through it all again. What helped to prolong these were the puzzles.
In my opinion, a good puzzle is one that presents a challenge. CrossCode did a great job with this aspect. I had to figure out ways to light up crystals or bounce off the wall just right. A good puzzle once solved is fairly quick to solve too. You’ll merely go through the motions to do so and off you go. Not here though, and I wasn’t a fan of that. It was mostly to do with bouncing off walls just right. I’d know what needed to be done. Actually executing it was trial and error. I’m not the biggest fan of frame perfect solutions. That in order to get through a door before it shuts, I need to be positioned in exactly this spot. Or to hit a switch with my projectiles, I need to do so 3 seconds in or I was out of luck. It devolves into a tedious game of cat and mouse. Will I do it, or won’t I?
THE MECHANICS OF CROSSWORLD!
It’s pretty standard fare. Levels, equipment, and abilities. CrossCode uses a skill tree for the latter. You‘ll also be able to increase your base stats. Attack, Defence, Speed all can rise by a certain percentage. When you reach a fork, the game doesn’t ask you to invest in both. You’ll be able to freely choose either side. Doing so gives you access to a brand new skill.
There are plenty of ways to customize our character Lea. I personally went with a more balanced input. My second playthrough will see her be swole. All the points into strength. Points that unlock with each level up. Or how we use to say on World of Warcraft; each Ding! Keep in mind that not all slots are priced at 1 point. Some require 2 or even 4. So it’s important not to spend frivolously. On that note, there’ll be a total of 4 elements that Lea can utilize. Each with its own tree. Rest assured as points won’t be split between them.
Moving onto equipment and items – I’m lukewarm on the shopping mechanic, to be honest. I appreciate what it is, but I felt that it isn’t as intuitive. Apart from the usual shops, there are also line merchants. They’ll set up in city’s or even in the wild. You won’t be able to buy their wares for cash though, instead, they need a certain amount of items. These can be collected by killing enemies. See where I’m going with this?
The need to grind is amplified. There’s no real guarantee that you’ll get the items that you need either. I had to ravage the monster population. Normally I’d be okay with doing so. I’m that strange dude that likes to level. The thing is, at a certain point, the foes you find within an area give only 1 point. This is to prevent power-leveling I assume. For me, it eliminates the appeal of grinding. At least with experience, I was promised a set amount. With items, I’m not. I could kill enemies for 5 minutes or go on a killing spree. My spoils though wouldn’t be reflective of that. Maybe 1 or 2 items. Anything else I got wasn’t needed to trade.
Battling itself is fast and fluent. You’ll be able to melee, as well as blast out a barrage of discs. A weapon that throughout the game, you can alter with obtained elements.
WE’RE COMPARING NOW, EH?
I didn’t see any huge stutters in either version. Take that with a pinch of salt. My eyes aren’t what they used to be. I did feel as if the PS4 version was smoother. Speaking of, these are the differences you can expect;
Nintendo Switch – There is an odd bug that jumbles up the music. It happened whenever the console was awoken from slumber. Like me, it seemed grumpy and distorted. Unlike me, coffee won’t work. During my time with CrossCode, it seems the problem fixes itself with time. Though the amount it does so will fluctuate.
I also had rare instances of slow down. I was able to consistently trigger it by provoking several groups of monsters to chase after me. Otherwise, in normal play, it shouldn’t be an issue. Just don’t be a daredevil and don’t run around, attracting an army.
This point is extremely subjective. As a person with big hands, I found aiming my projectiles uncomfortable. My Nintendo Switch Lite is wide. Whenever I tried to move the right stick, I could feel the strain. It doesn’t help that the further apart my hands are, the harder it is to control my right side. And yet, once I moved over to the PS4, the experience was enhanced by so much. This definitely won’t impact everyone, but keep it in mind.
AND THE MASSIVE MULTIPLAYER VERDICT IS…
I found CrossCode to be enjoyable. Despite my depth issues, they’re minuscule in comparison to the good. While the game is grind-heavy to obtain items needed to trade, it’s all mindless and the perfect activity to do while you’re listening to a Podcast. Though, I will say the music in-game are great listens. The map is interconnected and will encourage you to explore. Do so to find ways to climb cliffs and to find secrets.
I was enamored with learning the lore and Radical Fish Games did a fantastic job of immersing me. They hit it out of the park with the online game feel. Perfectly emulated. The gorgeous pixel art and combat is a love letter to the SNES era. The influence of Secret of Mana is too obvious. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the homage after defeating a boss. The sound effect and explosion.
The writing is charming and the amount of effort put into this should be acknowledged. While the Nintendo Switch version had issues at launch, those have been largely fixed. What hasn’t been isn’t enough to be a dealbreaker.
I looked at both versions of the game and overall, I have to say Nintendo Switch is how I most enjoyed it. That said, I say this;
CROSSCODE IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Deck 13 for a PlayStation 4 review code for this title.
Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage
Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!
Painfully single, but still somehow a master of dad jokes. If asked, he’ll answer it’s for his inner child. Fabio enjoys JRPG’s and has embraced his anime love.