With its colourful and diverse range of characters, each with their own special way of beating people up with fists or assorted weaponry, it’s hard to imagine a franchise being more suited to becoming a Soul Calibur-style fighter. Armed with this knowledge MMV went forth....and made a side-scrolling Streets of Rage Clone.
Xross Impact takes place somewhere between series three and four of the anime and presumably continues the story. I say presumably because the game's story is pretty impenetrable since its entirely told through dating-sim style cut-out characters over a backdrop. They occasionally move a bit and blink but it makes it very difficult to get even a vague idea of what’s going on, whereas even a partially animated cut scene even with the in-game graphics might have cleared things up a bit. You can’t really fault the game too much for it though as it was clearly never intended to be released outside Japan, and all the story really is is an excuse for all the characters to fight and tear each other’s clothing in a provocative manner.
Fortunately the game itself is pretty easy to master. The main menu is in English so you can easily deal with things like saving and control-wise there isn’t all that much new you can bring to a side-scrolling fighter so its pretty intuitive. There are a couple of combo’s with the shoulder buttons to work out though - one will summon a pre-selected ally to do a one-off attack to help you out and the other unleashes what I like to call ‘the shirt ripper’ – a super-powerful attack which if used to defeat an enemy makes all their clothes fall off in a strategic manner which, given the content of the anime, I suspect was enforced by Sony. Against one of the major characters you’ll get a jiggling 3D model flying across the screen and the ripped clothing will carry over into the next dialogue scene in story mode, which is a nice little touch. The only real oddity is the inclusion of a jump button – jump attacks aren’t all that necessary and there’s never any platforming either.
The game employs a basic experience system which is absolutely vital when trying to progress through the story, and the difficulty curve is so steep that by the third or fourth level you’ll have to start grinding either by repeating previously played levels or using the challenge mode where the game will impose rules from the basic ‘don’t get hit‘ to the more challenging ‘defeat all enemies with the same move’. These can be very tough, particularly as without a guide it’ll be trial and error before you work out what you have to do. This grinding is the most problematic part of the game as its pretty boring and the results of levelling up you’re character are all in the fort of stat boosts so there’s rarely a sense that you’ve accomplished anything. Some new moves or costume changes would have been really nice to see here.
Graphically the game looks pretty good - the characters are all great and match up well against their anime counterparts and even the repetitive basic enemies look good (which is fortunate as you’ll be seeing a lot of them). The backgrounds and pick-ups do look a little off given that they’re rendered in 3D against the 2D characters, but it all plays very smoothly and the animations are really quite nice - all the characters have their own animations without much Xross over (see what I did there?), which is impressive given the massive array of playable characters in the game.
All-in-all the game is frustratingly impenetrable, repetitive and difficult but you will ultimately enjoy it – it’s perfect for 15-20 minute bursts when you don’t really want to concentrate too much. Feel free to add a point to the score if you’re a fan of the series.