Release date: July 20, 2023
Developer: RideOn Japan
The age old war between cats and dogs has never been more illustrated than what you see in Cross Tails. Two kingdoms at odds with one another in a deep-rooted hatred fueled by generations of animosity, the game’s narrative opens with the canine Kingdom of Ranverfurt and the feline Republic of Hidiq currently embroiled in a decade-long battle. With a third faction trying to drive things in their own direction, will we be able to solve the conflict and steer destiny in a peaceful direction, or will the people continue to suffer due to the interference?
From the start, you’ll be able to choose to follow the story of either the Kingdom of Ranverfurt’s army Captain Felix Arens or the Republic of Hidiq’s Shaimaa Jerbi, daughter of one of Hidiq’s great clan chiefs. With three cats in my home, I felt like if I didn’t go with the feline route that my cats would note my betrayal and I wouldn’t wake up the next morning, so Shaimaa was quickly decided on as I started the game. Cat-ssassination was not on my to-do list for the day, so I’ll say that was a decision well made. The other character that you end up leaving behind will show up in the story, as Cross Tails seems to show two sides of the same narrative, giving the player a fair bit of replayability value out of the gate – playing both sides will be necessary to get the full story details, so if you do get invested, you won’t want to miss out.
Hidiq is a sandy desert area, with arid expanses and rolling dunes. Stumbling upon a chance encounter with Felix, Shaimaa gets thrust into a story of political intrigue, fighting for her clan and her people, all while trying to make sense of the motivations of Felix and the Kingdom of Ranverfurt.
About halfway into the story, you’ll reach a point where you’ll get to make a decision for progression, except one of those decisions is greyed out and unable to be selected until you beat the game. This, in my opinion, is a poor design choice to lock the true ending of each story and requiring the player to play through both narratives twice, so a total of four play throughs overall just to see the full ending to what honestly shapes up into a lackluster narrative overall. This is likely my biggest gripe with Cross Tails, and while I enjoyed the game as a whole very much, I found myself not really invested in the story aspect at all due to the writing just being… well, for lack of a better term, completely uninteresting and badly translated. This could likely be remedied with a once-over of the game’s story script, but as it sits right now, I have no particular investment in my main character and don’t really care what happens to either Kingdom. I’m just here to put units into the ground and gain gold and experience.
Combat is turn-based strategy format, akin to games like Langrisser, Final Fantasy Tactics (positioning actually matters), or Fire Emblem. Units will occupy spaces on a grid-based map, with buildings, structures, and enemies placed about. Each character will be able to move a set distance within a turn as well as take an action. Defeating enemies and taking actions will award the character with experience points to level up and become stronger, which will allow you to take on stronger foes as the game advances. Characters also can have different classes and subclasses, each with their own skill trees. Skills can be bought with gold, allowing you to customize the way you build each character and ultimately locking you into a very addictive loop of grinding for abilities to make your units stronger, thus allowing you to obliterate enemies much more quickly.
With difficulty modes to choose from, you can tailor the gameplay experience to your liking. Easy Mode will be a good start to players new to the genre of tactical RPGs, with higher difficulties posing as more of a challenge the further up you go. Even on normal difficulty, there will be times where enemies can seem a bit daunting, so building out your team is more important than ever. Combat and gameplay is definitely the point where this game absolutely shines its brightest – the visual effects, art style, and character portraits all seem to fit together quite well. While the story does have its let downs and sometimes falls flat, I was never at all disappointed with combat and character progression. In fact, I probably spent way more time than needed grinding out gold to make sure that I could power up my party just because I was having fun.
Cross Tails’ gameplay is the sole salvager of the title – with AI that isn’t afraid to malign your team with status effects, will backstab you at every possible opportunity, and will use terrain to their advantage, the challenge is there for those that crave it. The cute art style is what initially gripped me, and seeing the type of gameplay that the developers chose pulled me in even more. Even though the story direction and decisions fall a bit short, I absolutely adored the game and will definitely be finishing the true ending on both sides simply to see how it goes. (That, and I’m pretty addicted to grinding out levels and abilities and classes in a game where that’s an option. Something is definitely wrong with me.)
Rideon’s Mercenaries games as well as Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom have been some of my favorite budget RPGs on Switch. With Cross Tails’ addictive gameplay and engaging party building system, I look forward to seeing what else they can bring to the table. While the game does have its negatives, Cross Tails is a fun title that doesn’t hit the wallet too hard, but hits my heart in a way that only grindy strategy RPG’s can. Give this one a shot if you enjoy grid-based strategy RPG’s, it definitely deserves a chance to shine.
Cross Tails copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.