Initially, I wasn't too impressed with NIS America's latest RPG release. The story and combat were moving too slowly and I felt like I just wasn't getting it. If I based my review on the initial few hours I put into Cross Edge, you'd be reading what seems to be the general consensus on this game: too little story, too confusing, too hard, and too little direction. Here's the thing: some games don't reveal themselves until you put the work in, hence why you’re getting this review weeks (not days) after its release. Honestly, there's nothing surprising about Cross Edge. It's a very difficult Japanese-style RPG that rewards the player for finding ways to exploit the system. By now, you know if you like this type of game. If you're completely new to the genre, then the learning curve will be somewhat steep, but in no way insurmountable.
What is the Cross Edge experience? It’s actually pretty straightforward: search on various maps for events to move the story along. Spend enough time searching and you’ll find extras, such as additional events, and souls that net items and new costumes. Grind on random battles and work towards boss fights. Maps are linked by side-scrolling dungeons that have hidden items in them and the occasional rare dragon that can easily decimate your party. That's pretty much it. The complication lies in everything else and it’s these elements that will make or break your experience.
The key to surviving in Cross Edge--because this is a very hard game--is choosing the proper team with good combos and equipping them with powerful items. With each level up, character's gain upgrade points that can be assigned to stats. This lets you focus on what works best for each character, so for mages, boost intelligence; for gunners, up the luck so that they hit more successfully. The enemy encounter rate is ridiculously high, but you'll need all these battles to be able to survive the tough boss fights. The trick is to overkill as many enemies as possible. This causes them to drop more valuable loot thus increasing your chance of getting rare synth items, because the only way to get more powerful weapons, armor, and accessories is to create them or gain them from enemies and titles. I tried to ignore this aspect of the game early on and that was a big mistake. Leveling will only get you so far, combos and good equipment are the key.
This is an RPG for the completionist in all of us.
The most glaring issue with this RPG mashup is that everything is shrouded in mystery. Even DoubleJump Books' eGuide offers a surprising lack of coverage about the game's more intricate mechanics. It's also demanding of your time and patience. With so many characters and combat options, you'll spend most of your first playthrough figuring out where to put your characters, what to equip them with, and what four-person team offers your favorite combos. To me, this is the best part. I'll even go to the extreme and say that if you lean towards micromanagement and enjoy an ever-changing combat landscape, then Cross Edge may very well be your favorite RPG of 2009.
So is this odd JRPG really too flawed to appreciate? Not at all. The story is sometimes goofy, full of the trademark inuendos, silly encounters, and static interactions favored by NIS America-published games. There is a more serious side though involving worlds colliding, power struggles between characters with amnesia, and the fate of lost souls. The bulk of fun lies in customizing stats, synthing items, unlocking titles and costumes, and breaking records for the online leaderboards. With more than a dozen playable favorites from developers Capcom, NIS, Namco Bandai, Gust, and Idea Factory, the configurations are nearly limitless.
It’s true that I’ve never seen more types of points: TP, EXP, EP, PP, SP, AP, VP, LP (ok so I made some of those up!), it’s also true that this is a RPG that requires constant attention; but come on, if you want an easy game, look to other genres. Some of the arguments against Cross Edge are valid. As with Disgaea 3, the aesthetics don’t live up to the PlayStation 3 standard, the story is very flat (though enjoyable), and there is constant upkeep. But as I said earlier, I don’t see all of these points as necessarily negative.
This is an RPG for the completionist in all of us. Plus there are some very delicious unlockable costumes for the female characters (the male costumes don’t actually change visually). Add in the ability to carry over many elements from a completed game, a leveling cap set to 999, and a huge catalog of combos and items, and you have a healthy amount of playtime at your disposal. I think you know where I’m going with this: Cross Edge is highly recommended should you meet the criteria I’ve harped on throughout this review. Others can move along and take on something more mainstream. But don’t hate just because the game doesn’t serve itself up on a platter.