Mixing Zelda with the world of Sword Art Online is not something we thought would work, but boy does it work in CrossCode. This little gem popped up on Xbox Game Pass last summer, but it's taken us a while to really check it out. Looking for something to play during the E3 period that isn't too taxing, we decided to boot it up and quickly became enamoured with its gorgeous sprite work and mash-up of gameplay.
CrossCode is truly a Game Pass gem.
The basic premise is that you're thrust into a real world MMO, where players control avatars in a physical plain. Its narrative starts off pretty bonkers, but mellows out as you enter the traditional genre trappings. There are towns, tons of quests, and hundreds of enemies to grind to level up. It looks the part of an MMO, with other characters dashing around you going about their quests, giving the sense this is really played in another world. But CrossCode has a few tricks up its sleeve.
While you'll spend a lot of the time playing something that feels like a single player MMO, the game soon shifts into something completely different. After a fair few hours of questing, you'll be introduced to your first dungeon, and it's in here that the Zelda elements come to fruition. You'll complete puzzles, unlock chests, and venture through complex structures to reach the heart. It's an extremely welcome change, and new dungeons seem to be introduced just as the MMO elements become tiresome. It all feels perfectly balanced.
One element that carries the whole experience, however, is the absolutely incredible combat. It feels powerful, comes with some great feedback, and offers a lot of opportunity to mix up your styles. You can go in all-guns blazing with your ranged weapon, dive straight in with your melee weapon, or mix things up for some truly chaotic encounters. Enemies also pack a mean punch, too, meaning you'll need be quick on the ball to stay alive when you're fighting bunnies, snowmen, and other weird creatures.
All of this wrapped in some beautiful sprite work. You play as Lea, and despite only having a small selection of facial animations, she boasts an incredible amount of personality. So do many of the other characters you meet on your travels. It adds a ton of personality into the MMO world, which more often than not, are void of characters you connect with. It often feels like it's playing with the conventions of what the genre is and actively making light of them, instead of attempting a one-on-one mimic in a single-player setting.
CrossCode has surprised us massively. Its narrative is engaging enough to keep us moving forward, but the gameplay is the true star. It boasts some deep RPG systems, punchy combat, fantastic puzzles, and a world you want to explore every corner of. It's also a pretty lengthy affair, with some users reporting playthroughs of upwards of 50+ hours. There are dozens of side quests and secrets to find, but even if those don't tickle your fancy, the main path is filled with many surprising moments in both its story and gameplay. You'll be hooked till the very end!
Have you checked out CrossCode on Xbox Game Pass? Let us know in the comments below.