Version tested: PlayStation 3
When Cross Edge was first announced, the odds of a European release didn't seem likely. A supposed collaboration between Namco Bandai, Capcom, Nippon Ichi, Gust and Idea Factory, it was set to feature characters from the likes of Mana Khemia 2, an RPG which even now doesn't have a European release date. Further scepticism was also raised by the inclusion of characters from Spectral Souls and Absolute: Blazing Infinity - the latter being a tactical RPG for the 360 which has never been released outside of Japan. Nevertheless, not only has NIS America already brought Cross Edge to the states, but KOEI has found time to publish Cross Edge in Europe. Well, guess it makes a change from Dynasty Warriors.
As a crossover RPG, Cross Edge is a cluster-truck of anime stereotypes, filled with spiky-haired heroes and sexually precocious heroines. By exhuming the Darkstalkers series, Capcom have included vampire Demitri and cat-girl Felicia, as well as succubus sisters Morrigan and Lilith. The other publishers have contributed the likes of Raze and Lily from Mana Khemia 2, Lyner and Ayatane from Ar Tonelico, and the ditsy Marie from Atelier Marie. From the house of Disgaea we also get demonic dominatrix Etna and a few disposable members of the Prinny Squad. But with such a vibrant history it's a shame more use wasn't made of the Nippon Ichi license, as the story elements involving Etna rank among the game's highlights.
With such a diverse mix of mythology, developer Compile Heart has wisely chosen a different universe setting to tie everything together. Cross Edge kicks off with a teenage duo called York and Miko awakening in an unfamiliar existence with no memory as to how they got there. After battling a pack of bloodthirsty wolves they bump into Miss Morrigan, who is also suffering from amnesia, and a bit of friendly banter leads to them teaming up and going exploring. A scout around the local area soon turns up more familiar faces and the numbers swell quickly.
As memories gradually return it's revealed that the Cross Edge reality is being sustained by imprisoned souls sucked in from different worlds. The only way to return home is to find and free them. Standing in the player's way are the childlike triplet rulers of Cross Edge who, rather than getting their hands dirty straight away, hire many of the heroes' respective villains. On the payroll are Bourd from Ar Tonelico and uber-villain Jedah from Darkstalkers, as well as original creations like the armed-to-the-teeth Augustine. Malevolent players can also recruit these bosses by meeting certain conditions.
In many ways, Cross Edge feels like a tactical JRPG hybrid. The game is made up of five large 2D maps which represent the affected home worlds. Each map is split between different layers which open as the player travels between them. Cross Edge also employs a kind of non-random battle system, which works exactly like a random one, except for a flashing gauge which lets you know when trouble's coming. So if you're the type that silently prays to make it to the next village before being jumped by a squad of rake-wielding goblins, be warned. The towns are also nothing more than a menu used to resurrect dead characters and create new items.
For a game bursting at the seams with fan-service, it's no surprise that Cross Edge contains a lot of narrative. So as well as scouring the map for trapped souls, the player also has to sit through many story events. The dialogue in the main story is voiced in English and for the most part is adequate. The plot is also accompanied by some impressive 2D images of each character in high resolution, although the animation is sadly limited to minor changes in facial expressions. The game's few dungeons are nothing more than short platforming sections with the same non-random battles.
In addition to the main story, Cross Edge includes extra "soul events" which are often text-only. These play out like mini-anime skits, with the deranged cast getting up to all kinds of shenanigans. Artillery enthusiasts York and Zelos are only concerned with finding the next fight, alchemist Marie is always looking for guinea pigs to test her dodgy new concoctions, Shurelia has a knack for getting hopelessly lost and Prinny is always tempting fate by perving at the naked ladies in the various hot spring events. Rather than feeling tacked on, though, these often help break up the fighting with a degree of Nippon Ichi-style humour.