Full disclosure: I’m not done with CrossCode. I’m only 20 hours in. Yes, “only.” This game is shockingly huge, apparently almost 40-80 hours long depending on how much time you spend with it. But game-loops tend not to change drastically ten hours after a game starts, so I’m pretty confident in sharing my thoughts. All that said, let’s dive in!
I knew I was going to like CrossCode before I played it, if we’re being honest. The game immediately grabbed me with its pixel-y aesthetic and interesting premise. You play as Lea, a blue-haired girl that herself plays the titular MMO CrossCode in order to recover her memories. Like I said, I’m not finished with the game yet, so I don’t know if it ends well plot-wise, but I’ve loved what I’ve experienced so far. It takes a while for things to get going, but the pace is pleasant. I’ve always been fond of the .hack game-within-a-game concept, and the players Lea hangs out with talk about their lives outside of the time they spend playing together. The dialogue is snappy and Lea is a great character. Her voice in the game is bugged, so she has a very limited selection of words she can speak, but she has an array of sprites that let her be expressive, from shock to smugness, and it does more than enough to establish her character.
I mentioned above that you can figure out if a game-loop is right for you within 10 hours, but that doesn’t mean that CrossCode stops being interesting at that mark. Far from it. This is game is so hard to describe. It is, frankly, one-of-a-kind when it comes to Action-RPGs. It draws inspiration from everything from Zelda to Final Fantasy XIII to Golden Sun to Devil May Cry and even your favorite twin-stick shooter. It has a gigantic world to fight, platform, and puzzle your way through. And it wears its MMO flavor text on its sleeve, with tons of quests to do, materials to collect, and secrets to uncover. Lea’s class in CrossCode is a Sphereomancer, which allows her to launch spheres out of her hands that ricochet off of walls, and can be used to solve puzzles or attack enemies. On top of that, she has a dash that can be timed to phase through attacks, and a guard that, when timed perfectly, can negate damage, Royal Guard style. And on top of all that there’s a gigantic upgrade tree to parse through, and the edition of elements that change Lea’s moves and how she interacts with the environment. Fire balls can do everything from lighting up torches to turning puddles into steam, for example, and ice balls can freeze pillars of water so they can be jumped across. Each layer that gets added to CrossCode doesn’t feel overwhelming or convoluted — it just makes the whole experience more engaging. I haven’t felt bored once in the 20 hours I’ve played. It’s like a Super Nintendo game that came through a time portal from the past, but somehow has all of the quality of life and depth in mechanics we’ve come to expect in the past 30 years.
I will say: CrossCode has a lot of puzzles. Like, a lot of puzzles. You will finish one big puzzle room in a dungeon, enter the next room, and find yourself in front of another puzzle. I am older and tired than I was even a year ago (2020 has aged all of us), so I found myself looking up the solutions for these puzzles pretty often, but if you don’t like solving environmental puzzles, this game might not be the one for you. Enemies and boss battles also hit hard and can kill you quick, making for a challenging experience. Thankfully, the game includes options to decrease how much damage you take, and even how harsh the timing for puzzle execution has to be. We stan a game with accessibility options.
I do have a couple of gripes with CrossCode beyond all the puzzles, and they aren’t as much a matter of taste. For one, quests can be hard to keep track of. I had to look up locations for quests many times after ten minutes of searching, and I would even sometimes lose track of NPCs I had first accepted quests from, running around everywhere to find them just so I could turn the quests in. Most annoying, however, are the depth perception issues. Lea can jump from one area to the next just by running up to a platform she can reach, Zelda-style. A lot of time, especially in the overworld areas, it became impossible to figure out where Lea could and couldn’t reach with her jump because of the lack of definition and shadow in the game’s sprites. I’d often be solving a platforming puzzle just fine, only to find myself jumping towards an area I couldn’t actually reach and landing on the ground below and having to start all over again. This isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, and most of these puzzles are for optional chests and the like, but it’s definitely irksome.
CrossCode is a damn delight. It is aesthetically pleasing and engaging to play. I’ve loved basically every minute I’ve spent with the game so far, and I’m sure that will continue to be the case as I make my way to finishing it. Its port to consoles has been immaculate — I’m playing the PS4 version, and haven’t experienced a single bug so far. Sometimes, first impressions are correct: I knew in my gut CrossCode was going to be fantastic, and now that I’ve finally gotten my hands on it, I’m satisfied and then some.