CrossCode Console Review – So Many Balls

    Title: CrossCode
    Developer: Radical Fish Games
    Release Date: July 9, 2020
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Deck 13
    Genre: Action-RPG

I feel like I’ve been hearing about this indie RPG CrossCode for quite some time now, but I don’t really find myself gaming on PC. However, that excuse doesn’t work anymore since Radical Fish Games has finally brought the game to consoles.

CrossCode’s original launch on PC had quite a bit of hype surrounding it, but I didn’t pay too much attention due to mediocre games boasting a 16-but art style. Many times, these games tend to feel overly inspired by Final Fantasy, with generic and derivative plots. However, I’m happy to say that I was very wrong in my thought process because CrossCode provided me with an RPG experience that I won’t soon forget.

CrossCode takes place in the distant future. Virtual Reality MMOs have taken the world by storm, with CrossWorlds being the most popular. Unlike most players, Lea wakes up in CrossWorlds with no memory and without the ability to speak. With the help of a few newfound friends, Lea journeys through CrossWorlds in hopes of regaining her memory (and maybe stop a few bad guys along the way).

CrossCode’s premise might seem like something familiar, but the narrative takes a few twists that make it unique. Sure, we’ve seen the “stuck in a virtual world” trope time and time again, but CrossCode takes this concept and runs with it. Each cutscene had me on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. Even though Lea is mostly mute, I found myself incredibly attached to her and was genuinely interested in her story.

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CrossCode’s story is not only full of dramatic moments, but there’s also some humor injected into its plot. The world of CrossWorld is full of pop culture references and overly satirical characters, which make the entire game fun to explore.

Like many RPGs, side quests can be found throughout the adventure. While most of these side quests are simple fetch quests or “kill X amount of enemy Y,” they are a generally enjoyable way to pad out game’ runtime. I would personally recommend at least checking out one or two side quests per area as they help make sure Lea isn’t at a level disadvantage later on in the game.

Aside from Lea, CrossCode has a likable cast of characters. Just about everyone Lea interacts with is well designed and well written. My personal favorite has got to be Emile, Lea’s closest friend and companion on her quest.

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The world of CrossCode feels reminiscent of one you’d find in a real MMO. It is separated into multiple areas, each with a different environmental theme: desert, snowy mountain, grassy plain, etc. These areas are all beautifully designed with loads of secrets hidden throughout for those brave enough to explore off the beaten path.

Player’s time with CrossCode will be spent between two activities: fighting enemies and solving puzzles. Most of the time, outside of dungeons is spent fighting enemies to level up and platforming to reach new areas. Combat is incredibly fast-paced but never feels button-mashy. Furthermore, most enemies have some sort of gimmick that requires a strategy to take down. As you progress, Lea unlocks several upgrades and special moves that keep combat feeling fresh until the credits roll.

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Once players make it inside the game’s multiple dungeons, however, things become much more methodical. CrossCode’s puzzles range from simple to intricate and complex, proving time and time again to be more of a challenge than I would’ve expected. Overcoming these puzzles always felt satisfying and had me looking forward to the next.

No RPG would be complete without a plethora of intimidating bosses, and CrossCode has these in droves. Each boss Lea encounters is a ton of fun to fight, usually being built around a new gameplay mechanic that you’ve just spent an entire dungeon learning. Using your newfound skills to take down giant enemy bosses never ceased putting a smile on my face.

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CrossCode also features a skill tree that lets players customize their playstyle. If you want to put all of your skill points into ranged attacks, you can. Or, you focus on firing at enemies from a distance and improving your character’s defenses, go for it. Similarly, players can equip a large variety of items that affect their stats in unique ways, further allowing for playstyle customization.

Perhaps one of the only things holding CrossCode back is its ball-throwing mechanic. While it works well for the majority of the game, it is pretty apparent that this was designed for PC. Many puzzles and fights require a level of precision that is difficult to achieve on a controller. Most of these issues would be null and void playing with a keyboard and mouse, but this isn’t an option on consoles. Still, the developers did an excellent job of mapping the controls to a controller, but they just feel ever so slightly off.

CrossCode is one of the best looking 16-bit inspired games I have played in recent years. Character models and designs look fantastic, along with every enemy you encounter.  If that wasn’t enough, the soundtrack will have you bopping your head during combat and cutscenes.

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CrossCode really impressed me. Instead of overly leaning on the retro-inspired graphics, the developers created an exceptionally unique and incredibly fun RPG experience. Thankfully, the console release doesn’t change that, even with a few controller issues. I highly recommend this as a must-play Action-RPG, and now that it’s on consoles, we have no more excuses on why we aren’t playing it.

A physical release can be pre-ordered from the publisher.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jake Yoder

Lover of all things gaming, anime, film and theatre. Shonen anime/manga enthusiast.