Cross Reverie caught Siliconera’s eye a few months ago due to using a conditional turn-based battle system inspired by Final Fantasy X as well as being a darker take on the JRPG. It was easy to tell straight away that it is an accomplished project even at this early stage of its development.
What wasn’t possible to tell from that first look was that it was the work of only two people who are being driven purely by their passion for the JRPG to make their own spin on it. One of those is Kovalen ‘Destructor’ Ramalingam, who is the director of development studio Sinxsoft, as well as the producer and lead programmer on Cross Reverie.
Siliconera recently spoke to Ramalingam to find out how the specifics of how he is turning his love of JRPGs into Cross Reverie, including why he wanted to give the game a nightmarish tone, how the combat system works, and how the game’s eight central characters interact with each other in and out of battle.
You’re obviously a big fan of JRPGs so could you pick two or three common components that you enjoy about them and give any specific examples that has informed Cross Reverie?
Kovalen ‘Destructor’ Ramalingam, producer: In my mind, JRPGs’ combat has always been synonymous with turn-based battle systems. While I enjoy the innovations and attempts at changing the status quo like in the latest Final Fantasy XV or even Resonance of Fate‘s over-the-top gunplay, there’s a certain charm to the older systems that I wanted to recapture in Cross Reverie. The game went through a couple of iterations during early development stages, ranging from the traditional active-time-battle (ATB) to a mishmash of a more-reactionary Grandia system but, in the end, the best fit proved to be the conditional-turn-based battle system (CTB) from games such as Final Fantasy X, with a depth of tactical play that just meshed well with the other systems.
Customization is also an important part of JRPGs to allow the players to express themselves through their own play styles and preferences and games like Final Fantasy VII brought some innovative outlets for it through the likes of the Materias, which was one of the inspirations for Cross Reverie‘s stigma system. In this fashion, Cross Reverie was inspired by many of the great classics, such as the Awakening Combinations which are reminiscent of the signature Double/Triple Techs from all-time favorite, Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger. In the grand scheme of things, what’s beautiful about JRPGs is that they’re literally the whole package: graphics, gameplay, story-telling, musical scores, etc, all intricately pieced together for a unique and memorable experience. I’ve been fascinated with the genre for a very long time and as Sinxsoft’s first title, Cross Reverie is the culmination of a more than decade long journey in providing my own take on the formula.
Given that many Japanese-style RPGs are colorful and bright, why did you decide to subvert this with a darker theme?
I’ve always had a penchant for the darker side of things, whether in JRPGs or games like Dark Souls or The Witcher with their gloomy and immersive worlds. Cross Reverie‘s story was in the same vein with its nightmare undertone and I decided to go with rich and colorful graphics, to stay true to JRPG roots, but with a dark Diablo–esque infusion to create a feeling of tension and despair i.e., a nightmare. It is worth noting that the graphics in the gameplay prototypes are still an experiment in finding the right balance and look.
Could you give us a quick background on Cross Reverie’s story before we get into more specific details?
Cross Reverie‘s story puts the spotlight on Eight of the land of Xylera’s combatants who were summoned to Talesford Island, home of the mystical Ancients, in order to take part in a ritual that occurs every century to determine Xylera’s strongest. But as it turns out, something much more sinister was about to happen and they soon find themselves in a battle of life and death, otherwise known as the Trial of Nightmare, and it is up to the player to determine their fate. Compared to standard JRPGs, the format takes a more character-centric approach and is closer to a mix of Chaos Rings and Persona. It was partly also a design-conscious decision to allow us, as an indie developer with limited resources, to still deliver a graphically pleasing and tightly-packed experience with a lot of replay value.
As you say, you have eight warriors in total, but you’ve only shown three per party so far. Does this mean we’ll have to pick and choose which ones we want at the start? Or does the story decide which characters are used at certain times, perhaps?
In the current format, the story arches are nation-based resulting in four main playthroughs for Veronis, Yinsei, Alastok, and Arch Toria, each with different connotations and perspectives on the story, and the game will initially send the player on the path for Veronis, putting the focus on Raine and Lance. While the story will enforce certain character picks, the player will still have some options for the remaining slots, based on progress and relation to the other characters. And while not fully shown in the prototypes, the battle system also has a ‘Switch’ command which allows active characters to switch with reserve picks. The switch system is still a point of contention at this time due to balance and story-related implications but I’ve been leaning towards having it available after the first clear.
How diverse are these characters in terms of personality and fighting style? Are there any unique interactions between certain pairings of characters, for example, unique dialogue or co-op fighting moves?
Combat wise, each of the eight main characters brings a different playstyle to the table. For instance, Blank has a more defensive set of tools at his disposal while his counterpart Spike is a reckless powerhouse who thrives at low health. Balancing parties and customizing stigmas around those strengths and weaknesses will be key to taking down some of the tougher foes. In the same way, each of them brings something different personality-wise, based off their past interactions, back stories and ambitions. And absolutely, unique dialogues and interactions will be abundant throughout the game and will be one of Cross Reverie‘s forte, whether it’s little moments shared by certain characters on the romantic front, opening new paths by having the right characters in the party at the right time, or unlocking special awakening combinations like rival swordsmen Spike and Elisa’s X-Blade.
How are we going to be able to navigate the many threads of the story in Cross Reverie? You mention there are multiple endings, for example, so what kinds of factors will determine which one we’ll get?
Each of the game’s main paths will bring up certain key decisions and moral choices which may or may not affect the future of the characters. Initially, players will not have much choice in the end results but each subsequent play through will open new possibilities to change the outcome. Unlocking the better endings will there require completing the different paths while carefully manipulating both the fate of the eight combatants and certain other story-related factors.
Given that Cross Reverie revolves around the Trial of Nightmare and takes place on a single island is it more combat-focused than exploration-focused in comparison to similar RPGs?
While Cross Reverie opts for a more closed-ended format compared to traditional JRPGs, dungeon crawling and field exploration will still be key factors as Talesford Island is no ordinary island. The core experience will have the player going through a minimum of eight different zones each with multiple floors and levels that culminate into a Boss fight, with character interactions prevalent throughout the levels. As such, the balance between combat, character interactions and exploration should be quite even, and this will be easier to ascertain once we start putting everything together towards the later part of the year.
Could you give us a lowdown on the combat in Cross Reverie? How does it work? How can items and spells be used to one’s advantage? Does chance play any part in the fights (such as the chances of a critical attack)?
Battles feature a CTB system where both player and enemy turns are known in advance and during their turn, players will have to pick between a number of commands, abilities, stigmas or items in order to take action against foes or support the party. One of the highlights of Cross Reverie‘s combat is the awakening system that allows combining abilities to create a weakening effect on the target, otherwise known as an awakening. This can then be consumed for a stylish finish and at this time, they’re quite open ended which means players will have to experiment to discover all the different combinations and pairings.
During combat, items will see more situational usage and allow actions that the character may otherwise not be able of, such as reviving the party or regenerating TP in a pinch to force an awakening setup. Stigmas (spells) on the other hand will see abundant usage whether offensively, defensively or for utility such as the ‘All-Seeing Eye’ stigma which can detect the targets’ attributes and weaknesses that the players can exploit.
I believe that chance or as the MMO veteran in me would call it, RNG, has its place in any game, and specially RPGs. Cross Reverie is no different and features the dice rolls in the form of critical hit chances on normal attacks and certain abilities such as Rose’s ‘Shoulder Tackle’, which has a chance to instantly kill foes based on the amount of TP consumed, and possibly allow for a comeback from an otherwise dire situation. At the same time, the game rewards tactical play and lets players be in control of their fate through guaranteed critical damage via exploiting elemental weaknesses or even the ‘Critical’ command, which while less potent than a normal critical hit, allows for some special interactions such as interrupting enemy abilities.
You say that you’re thinking of launching a Kickstarter soon in order to raise the funds necessary for Cross Reverie’s development. Is this your only option at the moment? Do you know specifically what the funding would be put towards at the moment?
This one will require a little more backstory as Sinxsoft itself is a two-man operation with me taking care of all the technical aspects of the game and creative direction, and the other person being the story writer. The reality is that the artistic side of Cross Reverie is wholly dependent on the game’s already strict budget and the downfall of the Canadian economy has been setting us further behind when dealing with our international contractors. The goal of the Kickstarter would be to get back on track and reduce reliance on premade assets as we look to start on the Trial of Nightmare’s zones in the coming months. This would also allow us to deliver a smoother overall experience through spending additional resources on refining and polishing what we already have, while giving power to the people to decide if they’d like us to go beyond what we would achieve with the core budget with things like full character transformations (whole new models & animations), voice acting, bonus story arches, etc.
I consider myself fortunate to have options at this point with the game having piqued the interest of a few parties but the reason for opting for crowd funding over a different path is just that: the people. At its core, Cross Reverie started as a passion project and nothing would make me happier than to have the community’s backing behind it. I’m also very open to feedback and critique, as I believe it’s an important factor in improving your game as an indie, and having each update evaluated on a larger scale by the players themselves would go a long way to making Cross Reverie a JRPG truly worthy of the genre.
Thanks again for the opportunity to talk about the JRPG of my dreams that is Cross Reverie. There’s still a long road to turning the ‘reve’ into reality and I hope to have fellow gamers and JRPG enthusiasts join us on this journey and show their support on the upcoming Kickstarter.