Also on: Switch, PC, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PS4
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: Patrick Rainville
As I?ve written before, my standards for visual novels aren?t particularly high: I generally just ask that they tell an interesting story, and ask a little more of players than simply pressing X to move the story forward. The really good ones do more than that, of course, but that?s the bare level of competence that I look for.
At some level, Cross the Moon fails that test. There are no choices to be found here, no branching storylines: it asks nothing of you than you read it all the way through. From that perspective, the game is no different than The Language of Love — and that?s possibly the worst visual novel I?ve ever experienced.
And yet, somehow, Cross the Moon manages to come off as a lot more than that. Whether you want to chalk that up to the story, or the aesthetic, or the visuals, it?s clear that this is pretty good, as visual novels go, even if it only asks the bare minimum of players.
Let?s take the story, for starters. Rather than simply being your standard anime tale about teenage love, Cross the Moon is a bonkers story involving vampires, and murder, and shady corporations, and corruption, and a big, complex mystery. I wouldn?t say that it?s always the easiest story to follow over its 6+-hour runtime, and there are times where it kind of goes off the rails, but it?s far more interesting than the vast majority of visual novels I?ve played.
On top of that, Cross the Moon is much more visually interesting than the vast majority of visual novels I?ve ever seen. It uses real photos as the backdrop for this insane world — and, more importantly, it uses photos that help build on the creepy vibe the game is trying to create. The pictures are all artsy and weirdly coloured, so you?re constantly left on edge.
Further, the characters here aren?t anything like the usual anime tropes that tend to populate visual novels. They?re drawn in pencil and generally black & white, making them stand out against the strange backgrounds. They feel sort of realistic, but at the same time not at all, and, like everything else here, it?s all very unsettling.
But unsettling is good, for visual novels. Given how much of the genre feels same-y, it?s neat to see something like Cross the Moon that goes off in completely new directions. It would be nice if it asked a little more of players than simply watching as the story unfolds, but even as it stands, it?s a nice break from the genre?s monotony.
Ratalaika Games provided us with a Cross the Moon PS4/PS5 code for review purposes.