Nearly two years after it’s full release on PC and close to 8 years after the beginning of development, CrossCode finally finds it’s way onto PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The action RPG made by the small German indie studio RadicalFishGames shines with beautiful 16bit graphics that remind you of games like Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger. And with endearing combat and dungeons filled to the brim with puzzles, the 50-hour game will keep you on its toes for quite some time without getting boring.
The debut game by RadicalFishGames took it’s sweet time to find it’s way onto PC and consoles. The Saarbrücken based game studio formed itself out of the German RPG-Maker scene close to a decade ago and one can tell that the devs are quite passionate about role-playing games. CrossCode feels heavy influenced by old school RPGs like the Secret of Mana series and games like The Legend of Zelda and isn’t shying away to make use of tropes you can find in these kinds of games.
In CrossCode you play as Lea, a player in CrossWorlds, a huge MMO space on the planet of Shadoon. Lea’s avatar, her player alter ego in the MMO, wakes up on a supply ship on it’s way to the game world, but for some reason, she suffers from amnesia and can’t speak at all. On the ship, it is explained to Lea by Sergey, one of the many support characters in the game, that in order to regain her memories, she has to explore the world of CrossWorlds. Shortly after the ship is attacked by a mysterious figure that for some reason seems to know Lea. After escaping the ship, Lea finds herself in Rookie Harbor, a new player hub and the adventure begins.
CrossCodes retro art style looks gorgeous. It perfectly encapsulates the graphic of 16-bit era games like Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, and Terranigma. The areas of CrossWorlds contain lush and vibrant forests and jungles, vast deserts, snowy mountain areas, and much more, filled to the brim with details like flowers, particle effects, and random (NPC) players running around or hanging out together like in real MMOs. These regions themselves feel like labyrinths full of caves to explore, treasures to find, and little puzzles to solve in order to unlock the next areas, shortcuts or area-specific to one of the many side quests the game has in store for you. Sometimes they almost feel a little bit overwhelming, because they can easily distract you from what you wanted to do.
Very early on in the game, Lea meets her first party member, Emelie. She is one of many characters that join Lea on her journey to explore CrossWorlds in order to solve the main quest of the game, which leads you to so-called temples of the ancients, long gone mysterious beings of the game world, but also to regain her memories. The party members are controlled by AI and do a good job to support you in combat, but also play a role in the main story of the game. They are quite charming and especially the bond between Lea and Emelie plays out great. Then there is Apollo, a fellow spheromancer (Lea’s avatar’s class in the game), who always challenges her to PvP battles because he thought Lea cheated in the game, who put a big smile on my face every time he showed up. But also the rest of the supporting cast is great. From Sergey, who is your fellow companion outside of the game, who helps you to recover your memories, the member of the First Scholars, the guild you join, up to some of the more memorable side quests NPCs, like Henry, who floods you with new quests in every area. The world of CrossCode feels quite alive.
One of the highlights in the game is definitely its action combat. Lea fights the different enemies and bosses in the game with melee and ranged attacks and skills. On the melee side, you can combo attack enemies, utilize dash cancels and block actively, while Lea’s range attacks let her spam throw energized balls or charged ones. The further you progress in the game, you also unlock up to 4 different elements that, when chosen, enhance Leas attack and let her use several new skills, which have 3 different levels. And that is not all. The later enemies require the player to use the environment to break through shields, use the right elements or attack at the right time.
Where the game truly shines and doesn’t need to hide behind big triple-A games, are the dungeons. During the story, you encounter Zelda like temples, which will keep you busy for hours. Every room contains either combat encounters or puzzles. While in the beginning you just have to hit some switches with your charged ball attack or maybe have to move some boxes around, later on in the game and especially in combination with multiple elements, you will melt ice blocks, charge Tesla coils and teleport blocks through rooms. All while getting the timing right, switch between elements, move Lea, and other objects. Sometimes when you enter a new room and see the puzzle layout, you feel overwhelmed, but the moment you understand what you need to do and execute it, you feel so satisfied and rewarded. During my playthrough of the game, I felt like a lot of these puzzles don’t need to hide behind games like Portal or The Talos Principle at all. The number of puzzles almost felt too much in the beginning, but the later mini-dungeons and temples had a better place overall.
I was worried before I started the game, how the controls would translate to consoles, as some of the puzzles really require precision to execute. But the controller controls felt natural to the game. And if you struggle with the controls, the game offers accessibility options for not only the speed of objects in puzzles but also for enemy damage and enemy attack rates. So don’t hesitate to make use of it, as even the developers encourage you to play however you like.
On the technical side Deck13Spotlight, who is responsible for the console port of the game, promises nearly flawless 60 frames per second and during my playthrough on the Nintendo Switch, it was true for the majority of the time. Only in towns and a couple of random places, the frame rate dropped noticeably below it. However never in a place where the frame rate was really relevant for the gameplay, such as dungeons or big combat encounters. Also, the initial loading times of the menus were quite long, the navigation in the menus themselves however were smooth and felt good. Deck13Spotlight already promised to work on it and provide a first update close to or on the release of the game on consoles.
CrossCode (Nintendo Switch)
- EmuGLX Score: - 9/109/10
The long wait for CrossCode’s console release is over and the wait was worth it. CrossCode is a love letter to 16bit era RPGs and a lot more. What RadicalFishGames created here is a very strong debut and a great action RPG. This 50-hour game is full of things for the player to explore, enemies to fight and puzzles to solve. Challenging where it needs to be and but aways fair. I had a great time joining Lea on her journey to find her lost memories and figure out the mystery behind CrossWorlds. And I can’t wait to dive into the postgame content that is already announced and will come out later this year.
And don’t forget, if you want a physical boxed version, maybe for your physical collection of Switch games, it can be pre-ordered from https://crosscode.inin.games/!