I'll be the first to champion the works of NIS America, they are responsible for bringing some great titles to gamers in America, and they usually pick some great titles to bring over and do an excellent job on localization. Cross Edge is the latest in their efforts at trying to get a J-RPG to do well in America on the PS3. Unfortunately they happened to pick this rather sad title to bring out. If it's not the boring character development, or the incredibly slow to start story, or worst of all the crummy battle system marring the experience, it will probably be the insane difficulty and the terrible menu navigation keeping you from making any forward progress. Sad to say that the development team Compile Heart managed to muck up a number of good franchises with this crossover title, and really it could have all been so much better with just a few small changes.
First lets talk about the story. It takes forever to get rolling. The main characters York (York, seriously?) and Miko, find themselves in a land where souls are lost, like a forgotten memory (yeah they say that in game), and they need some help getting home. Along the way you run in to a number of characters from various Japanese stables, including Capcom, Idea Factory, NIS, and Gust. Peppered in between these events is the actual story which revolves around three 'children' who like to devour souls but don't look like they could be bothered to pick up a heavy weapon, so they send the bad guys of the various stables off to get rid of you meddling kids. Though really the story is so weakly put together it's just a matter of running into good characters who will join you at a moments notice, and then the bad guys all team up together and we can have one massive brouhaha of good versus evil. Good can win and we can all go celebrate with cake and ice cream while the evil team heads back to their respective home worlds to plot dastardly deeds and poison water supplies for their mirth and merriment. And along the way we can have a few people switch sides at unexpected (not really) intervals and we can act like we didn't see it coming when the foreshadowing happened back in the first few hours of the game.
If you can somehow get past the lacking story you'll have a hell of time even getting in to the game thanks to the insane difficulty. I had to use healing items in the first battle I fought, and it wasn't part of a tutorial, it was the game handing me monsters that were far beyond my abilities from the outset of the game. Granted I can swap out fallen comrades with fresh team members but it doesn't get any easier either once you start reaching some of the other worlds, where monsters that look harmless can wipe out the party in just one turn, negating the ability to swap people. Make sure you're saving often, otherwise expect a lot of repetition. NIS has posted some DLC for the title that I had hoped would be a help, but even at the outset with these slightly more powerful items battles were no easier.
A large problem here is that enemy levels vary greatly in each region you reach. So for example at the start of the game your over world consists of a tiny island, there is a land bridge that takes you to a larger area to explore. Now you'd imagine that since this is the beginning of the game, you get a slight break and can roam this area without fear. Not so, in fact if you don't hit at least level three before going there you're going to get stomped. Yes the game does restore your health after every battle (while in the over world, and not in dungeons), but if a team member passes out then get ready to suffer for a while as items to revive team members are ridiculously expensive, and while you can restore fallen party members at checkpoints, you have to pay your own party members for the service. That's crap. I thought we were supposed to be helping each other. And technically shouldn't that money just be recycled back in to my own wallet?
The battle system itself is a contributing factor to this difficulty. You are allowed four party members in to a party and you can swap them in and out as you see fit and in a battle there are twelve positions on the field for the player and the enemies. Now here is where things get a bit dicey and stupid. Characters are incredibly limited to the areas where they can hit. Where Suikoden kept it simple with the short, mid, and long range attacks, Cross Edge has a proprietary assignment scheme determining where character attacks go. Why the hell can't my main character, who is wielding guns, target any enemy on the field? Same goes for characters who throw things, or cast magic. So rather than make it so your character can attack anywhere instead you have to move them on the field which will cost them extremely valuable Action Points that go toward attacks.
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