Cross-core review - "A showy mecha game that just crossed my mind"
  • This game would have blown everyone's mind with its phenomenal visuals if it had come out two years earlier.

Through the lens of retrospection, the influx of sci-fi-themed mobile games commonly stuffed with end-of-the-world plotlines flourishing from China suggests the region can’t get enough of romanticising the genre. Inevitably, the quantity versus quality debacle comes into play as, despite the sci-fi renaissance brewing in the Far East, the number of misses surpasses the hits. So we ask ourselves, how does this new entry hold itself?

The seven spices of sci-fi sauce

At the doorstep, your visual nerves are bombarded with a spectacle of doom and gloom, with sprinkles of explosions and maelstroms of CGI effects decorating the background. Waltz past the page and you are marooned in a zone rife with conflicts, starring you as some sort of amnesiac platoon commander in charge of an expedition team consisting of a cast of robotic girls needing your divine ordainment to ward off nasty foes.

It's not a Chinese game without the iconic narrative style of roundabout poetic jargon plaguing Arknights and Reverse 1999. That said, Cross Core avoided falling into such pitfall, references to contemporary works such as the science fiction series The Three-Body problems or Silent Hill are dotted in banter between characters. Alas, it's guilty of the user interface shared among Chinese gacha - from its minuscule fonts to its generic layout that greatly emphasises the roots.

The story presentation is as insipid as that economy in-flight meal you get served at ten thousand feet. The lack of cinematic cut-scenes, voice acting and Live 2D really undercuts whatever narrative it's trying to convey, which is a shame considering how beautifully illustrated their cast of characters - girls and mechs alike - is. Even if you trudge past the PowerPoint slideshow, the premise of "amnesiac hero space adventure saga" won't likely blow your mind. Credit where it's due, there's occasional sweet character chemistry that stood out, between you and your starter, but they don't beat around the bush.

Mech made as easy as pie

Dexterity is a matter of the past as mechanics are watered down to appeal to an easygoing casual demographic, befitting the short-burst interval fun that mobile gaming offers. Cross Core strays no further from that notion with its static, turn-based gameplay where characters are placed on a 3x3. If you've played Last Origin, the ecchi game by studio Valkyrie, you will be familiar with the setup.

Unlike the mastermind strategist who's nowhere to be found on the field in Last Origin, your protagonist takes up arms and fights alongside your other units on a level field, together with your other mecha girls are all represented by 3D chibis with a decent head-to-body ratio. Though I'd argue the transition gutted the badass, suave look of the male protagonist as illustrated by its 2D art, mirroring the phenomenon of "lost art" that happened when the mainline Pokemon games transitioned to 3D from generation six onwards.

Before we gallop into the fight, team formation happens on a 3x3 grid. Characters have a synergy bonus with each other if placed correctly. For example, placing your protagonist as the centrepiece will give your other members a boost, which might be irksome to anyone easily bogged down by dilemma, especially if multiple of your favourites happen to function well on the exact same slot unless you're willing to forego efficiency. Interestingly, some characters take up two vertical slots like my mecha friend here and he's evidently irked by the big L he pulls off during his ulti.

In combat, each character possesses three active skills at max in their arsenal, loaded with a variety of effects and action ranges. Rest assured that your weary eyes are spared the nightmarish long wall of texts for skill descriptions that stretch beyond infinity like those in Fire Emblem Heroes. Each skill possesses its own attack animation that thankfully can be skipped because everything shiny can appear dull after viewing them a hundred times. Even if repetition is up your alley, skill animations typically only last a few seconds. That said, these are not industry-defining animations and certainly come off as a bit stale and less impactful.

The Quality-of-life champ

While Cross Core doesn't dazzle with any standout novelty, the game is peppered with login rewards and does not fall short when it comes to offering plenty of quality-of-life features. These are essential if one wishes to close the competitive gap in this vicious dog-eat-dog world. On all flanks, you are bombarded with simultaneously running campaigns that shower you with tons of rewards - and just a few days of casual five-minute excursion already yielded me a hefty 50 pulls and more to count.

One aspect that's worth mentioning is the breadth of customisation options of an auto-gameplay mechanic to absolve repetitive tasks. A true godsend given how much of your average 2024 gacha can be, individual characters with their skills can be assigned priority brackets. For someone who plays Fate Grand Automata, this system is easy to digest and pick up.

Cross Core is also an all-star when it comes to designing fair underlying progression mechanics. For starters, duplicates will automatically be converted into a general-use upgrade currency, Industry practises of gacha incentivise pulling for dupes to unlock some pretty broken abilities, like the constellations system of Genshin Impact that heavily hampers the gameplay of characters.

Its gacha deserves some merriment as the apparition rate for its highest rarity character chalks up a solid two percent in a pool not diluted by unnecessary clutter such as equipment. Combined with the bountiful new-player and launch rewards, you can easily net some shiny SSRs.

Cross-core review - "A showy mecha game that just crossed my mind"

From a distance, Cross Core resembles a cruiser with a grandiose shipshape, with towering amusement facilities and its prideful captain standing on the bridge, but venture below deck and you will be washed by a sense of mundaneness. It's all glamour, but lacklustre when look deeper. Granted, its goodwill in its gacha practices and the fact it's the saint of quality-of-life features that streamline the day-to-day progress makes it a tea-time snack.
Anderson Han
Anderson Han
A wanderlust by nature who regards video games as an artful medium for creative storytelling. I implore thee to join me on my jubilant voyage through the sea of video games. PS: I find great pleasure jamming to Touhou songs while riding on public transports.