CrossCode: A Retro-Inspired Masterpiece

From the moment you see the title screen, CrossCode feels like it is going to be special.

I haven’t felt this way about a game in a long time. Back during the Super Nintendo Entertainment System days, I came across a role-playing game named Chrono Trigger that completely changed the way that I looked at what could be accomplished in a single video game. To this day, I vouch for Chrono Trigger as the greatest game that I’ve ever played and no game has ever come close to providing me with the sense of wonder that title provided. And I’ve experienced a lot of excellent games since the 1990s.

I had my eye on CrossCode for almost a year before I finally pulled the trigger and purchased it a couple of weeks ago on Steam. This past weekend, I spent several hours with with the retro-styled RPG and it felt like taking a trip back to the 1990s again. I mean that in the best way possible for the RPG developed by Radical Fish because playing CrossCode gave me many of the same emotions and thrills I had when I first played Chrono Trigger. From the moment I saw the fantastic title screen and heard the music, I knew I was in for a treat.

One of the things I distinctly remember about Chrono Trigger was how powerful the intro was in the game with the visual of the swinging pendulum and the fantastic musical score that accompanied it. That intro alone made me immediately ready to see the game from start to finish. I also felt the same way about the intro theme to Final Fantasy Tactics on the original Playstation. CrossCode likewise had a similar effect on me when I booted up the game with its title screen and accompanying music. The track is less than 40 seconds and is on an endless loop. But it is beautiful and conveys so much in a short amount of time to the point where you’ll listen to it multiple times. When I heard the music, I was flooded with memories of my past and moved by its calming yet almost saddening melody. It was ironic that it evoked so many memories when the very premise of the game is helping the main character, Lea, recover her lost memories.

The moving melody that greets you at the title screen is one of the best I’ve heard at the start of a game.

Music is such a vital part of any RPG, especially a 16-bit retro-styled one that doesn’t have the benefit of voice acting. Composer Deniz Akbulut did a remarkable job with the soundtrack for CrossCode as he put together a musical feast for the players. The music is fitting for a game that revolves around a Massive Multiplayer Online world and avatar Lea’s quest to discover who she really is. I can’t say enough good things about the tracks I’ve heard so far in the game and I know there is much more to come because I’m still in its early stages.

At this time, I can’t vouch for how deep the story is because I haven’t played through enough of it. Part of the reason is due to the heavy amount of grinding I’ve been doing to level Lea up. The battle system takes an active style approach versus the turn-based system that Chrono Trigger had. In my opinion, I believe this was for the better as I enjoy battle systems that allow the player to take on enemies in a more real-time setting. This allows for greater control for the player to influence the battle in a more free-flowing way. The more experience you get, the more abilities you unlock which also helps to bring diversity to the battles.

The active battle system of CrossCode is one I prefer because of the greater amount of control the player has.

There is a ranking mechanic within the battle system that allows you to go from Rank D to Rank S depending on how long you can string together battles with groups of enemies without accessing menu items. The higher the rank, the quicker you can earn experience. It’s cool to get into a groove and to keep moving along from enemy to enemy in what almost becomes a rhythm. When you reach S Rank, the enemies respawn faster, which is a great time to rack up a significant amount of experience points. I dig the way Radical Fish implemented this mechanic to award players who devote themselves to battle.

To be successful in CrossCode, you want to spend the bulk of your time fighting enemies in the field. Remember, the story takes place in an MMO world and leveling up your character through constant battling is one of the main components of the genre. If you aren’t leveled up properly or you don’t have powerful enough gear, it can become difficult to defeat the bosses in the game. So while the game has amazing music and a story, much of the focus of CrossCode is making Lea stronger.

Puzzles are also prevalent in CrossCode. This is the aspect of the game that reminds me of the earlier The Legend of Zelda titles and other RPGs such as Alundra. I have yet to encounter many puzzle segments in the game, but the ones I’ve played early on were beneficial in helping to learn some of the mechanics of the game. With some items currently out of my reach, I would imagine that some of the future puzzles will reveal mechanics and abilities that will help me to obtain those items.

There is a ton to do in CrossCode and a ton of people you will meet along the way.

Don’t let the beautifully rendered 16-bit graphics fool you into thinking this is a short game. CrossCode comes packed with a plethora of things to do, even when you’re not on the battlefield. You will meet other characters, as well as have a full variety of missions and tasks to accomplish. I’ve read reviews from other players on Steam that took 40-50 hours to complete the game and as long as 80 hours to complete and find everything CrossCode has to offer.

CrossCode is currently the best game I’ve played so far in 2021. It could very well be the best retro-inspired RPG that I’ve experienced. It’s gone under the radar, but those who have played it have given it a high amount of praise. It is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. All platforms have received no less than a Metacritic score of 81. If you were a fan of Chrono Trigger and even some of the original PlayStation RPGs, such as Suikoden and Alundra, you need to play this game. CrossCode is not just an excellent indie title. On its own merit, it is a masterpiece.


One Comment on “CrossCode: A Retro-Inspired Masterpiece

  1. Pingback: I Got a Cool Achievement in CrossCode – The Video Gamer's Advocate

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