Friday, 9 September 2016


CrossCode is a game that I've been keeping an eye on for a while now. Just from looking at it, the game oozed retro charm with its very 16-bit aesthetic and overhead Zelda-inspired perspective. Actually sitting down and spending some time with CrossCode reveals that there's a lot more to it. The game isn't simply a retro throwback meant to tug at our heartstrings through the powers of nostalgia. There are a number of modern day conveniences and design philosophies at work that a lot more depth to the experience.

The basic premise of CrossCode is that players take on the role of a girl named Lea who is trapped in a virtual world that is part of a popular MMORPG. It's all rather reminiscent of anime series such as .Hack and Log Horizon. Complicating things is that Lea has lost her memory, so she doesn't really understand much about the world that she's in. Luckily, she has the help of Sergei Asimov, a human in the real world who is communicating with Lea, trying to help her with her memory. From what I've played so far, he hasn't helped a huge amount and has been mostly helping Lea regain her ability to speak, as she's been affected by a glitch in the game whereby she can't talk. She may not be a brilliant conversationalist but it's a convenient way of pushing forward the silent protagonist.

As one progresses, they experience more of the world and Lea meets other players in the MMO. She has to keep her background a secret, though, as they think she's a normal player just like them, not a person trapped in the game. As she meets all of these people and they get to chatting, we see various nods to the MMO genre. What's nice about this is that dialog doesn't linger on jargon that is commonly associated with the genre. Instead, it's more about player attitudes and behaviors. It's a nice change of pace, as it seems like various shows or games that make reference to MMOs get hung up on language and spend little to no time looking at what makes the genre special in the first place: all of the different people who play the games.

In terms of actually going around and doing stuff, on a base level, CrossCode has a lot in common with classic Zelda games when the series was all about the overhead perspective. This can be seen through the various zones connected together that are teeming with monsters, often with treasure chests in hard to reach places, enticing players to figure out how to get to them.

Getting to said treasure chests, not to mention doors / passages to other zones is where we see the game come into its own, as platform puzzles play a big role in players getting around. There isn't any actual jump button when Lea explores an area, but when she comes to a ledge or a bit of ground that isn't much higher than where she is, Lea will jump automatically. With that, players can explore a given zone and try to figure out which ledges are of the appropriate heights and distances from one another to traverse to hidden or generally hard to reach areas.

Things become even more complicated in dungeons where the platforming becomes even more difficult and the puzzles more complex, incorporating moving pillars, and switches that have to be activated in very specific ways. It's also worth noting that dungeons are extremely large and can take over an hour to get through, usually with a very tough boss at the end.

There's also a fairly decent amount of character customization in CrossCode thanks to the game's talent tree. Branching into four directions, each specializing in different aspects (melee attacks, ranged attacks, health, and defense), the branches give players the option to enhance various base stats as well as unlocking new abilities. On top of this, players slowly learn different elemental abilities which can be treated as stances that Lea can switch between, each of which have corresponding branches on the talent tree that become available when she learns these stances. As such, even more customization is unlocked.

As mentioned earlier, the game's visuals are quite reminiscent of what one would expect to find during the 16-bit era, especially games that were showing up on the SNES at the time. Character and enemy designs are of the cutesy variety, while zones are fairly different from one another ranging from lush forests to snow-swept mountains to high tech facilities. One thing that really stood out while wandering CrossCode's world was how vibrant and colorful the aesthetic is, The colors really do pop off the screen.

Meanwhile, the music has quite a bit of synthy melodies going on that reminded me of Phantasy Star quite a bit. Being a huge fan of the music in that series, this suits me just fine.

At this point, CrossCode has been available on Steam's Early Access for a fair bit of time. There's already a lot to do in the game, so I'm getting the impression that it will be quite long when it's finally completed. As of now, the game is only slated for the PC and Wii U, but who knows, maybe it'll get brought over to other platforms in the future. It's certainly looking promising and will likely gobble up quite a bit of time for people who like Zelda-inspired action RPGs.