“Another day, another dollar” – that’s how the old saying goes, isn’t it? Well, let’s change that up a bit to “Another day, another KEMCO retro-styled JRPG”, shall we? It may not trip off the tongue as easily, but it certainly sums up my feelings as Asdivine Cross limps its way onto my Xbox Series X.
Following on from the raging mediocrity of Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom, there’s yet another KEMCO title that is apparently optimised for the Xbox Series X|S, and so, fighting down the rising feelings of deja vu that threatened to overwhelm me, I jumped straight back into the world of Asdivine. Interestingly though, Asdivine Cross was initially released on mobile, between that of Asdivine Dios and Asdivine Menace, first seeing the light of day back in 2017. Does it stay relevant today, and more importantly, does it deserve that X|S branding?
The story of Asdivine Cross, as you might expect if you’ve ever played a KEMCO game before, is straight out of the very biggest of RPG cliches. The first thing that a game like this needs is a hero with a strong, manly name, like Harvey. Yes that’s right, the rough tough protagonist of Asdivine Cross shares his name with a giant rabbit, but let’s gloss over that. The next thing a KEMCO game needs is a trio of companions that can be recruited to the cause. Again, a big tick here for Asdivine Cross, and extra points are scored because all the companions are female. So far, so Asdivine. Then you add in a suitably evil bad guy, this time around in the form of the Shadow Deity itself – a guy who appears to be miffed that people no longer believe in it. As the Shadow Deity is apparently in charge of death, what better way to get people to believe in you than to get a patsy to go around and kill a load of people? Well, clearly the Shadow Deity can’t think of anything, because that’s exactly what happens.
The companions that you can recruit are an interesting bunch too. There’s the princess of the land, Amelia, who meets Harvey after she is thrown into a dungeon as an imposter takes her place. The imposter turns out to be Lucile, Amelia’s younger sister who is capable of not only changing her appearance to mimic anything, even a cat, but can also learn any enemy skill that is used on her, making her able to become a very powerful fighter. The last companion, Olivia, is the Priestess of the Shadow Deity, and joins in order to try and find out what is going on.
The rest of the game is pretty much business as usual; extremely typical for Asdivine and indeed KEMCO games. The main game screen is viewed from above, and requires the party to either explore towns, where there are no random battles to take part in, or dungeons and the overworld map, where there are more battles of a random nature than you can shake a broadsword at. The look of the game is very much as you’d expect as well, with charming, retro-looking sprites wandering around a colourful landscape. There are also various NPCs to interact with, either for background information or to give us side quests, indicated by having a storm cloud over their heads. Further to that, the battle screens are exactly like those games which have come before it – monsters on the left, heroes on the right, and the action taking place in a turn-based environment.
When it’s the player’s turn to act, as shown by the bar in the bottom left, there is a choice between attacking, defending, using items or magic or skills and, in a new feature, being able to perform a combo attack. These attacks come into play when the trust bar is full, and allows team members to join up for an attack, with different options available depending on whose turn it is. As an example, Harvey’s attack hits all enemies between 30-50 times, while Amelia’s heals everyone and raises their stats, which can turn the tide of the battle if used at the right time.
You’ll need to use these too as the other thing that makes a comeback is the typical Asdivine difficulty spike – you can be steamrollering everyone in a dungeon until you hit the boss, who then stomps you into the floor, requiring you to take the loss, and then go back into the dungeon and grind out another few levels in order to make progress.
My main issue though is a question that constantly raises its head with games of this type – does this game need to have the Xbox Series X|S Optimised badge? Well, in short, no. There’s nothing here that wouldn’t run on a phone, never mind a £450 uber console, and so it seems like it’s all a bit of a gimmick, to be honest. It is seemingly no faster loading than a vanilla Asdivine game, the graphics are retro-styled so don’t appear to benefit from being 60FPS at 4K, and it all just seems a bit false to be honest. I’d rather that KEMCO had spent some of the time they used porting this to instead fixing the control system, which is still pretty ropy and causes you to have problems getting through narrow gaps; something which in turn leads to frustrating corner hang-ups. Still, not wanting to be overly critical, this game does have a lot of content to go at, including the return of Maidame Curie and the Battle Arena, so the news is not all bad.
What we have here with KEMCO’s Asdivine Cross on Xbox is just some RPG. There’s nothing new or startling, there’s nothing that will amaze you, but equally there is nothing that is overly disappointing, apart from the slightly dodgy controls. If you have previously played, and liked, the rest of the Asdivine games, it’s good to have another bit of story from that universe, but if you’ve never played one, I’d probably point you to Dios or Menace and the more likable character of Izayoi rather than this tale. Of course, give it a try if you like a retro JRPG, but do not expect any next-gen shiny new bells and whistles.