[Visual Novel Review]: Cross Channel

 

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Developer – FlyingShine

Translator – Amaterasu Translations

Length – 10-30 Hours

[I’m going to spoil you here and say that this is a negative review – a very negative review. This was my immediate reaction after finishing Cross Channel and I stand by it. However, there are other visual novel fans who value alternate aspects of Cross Channel, so I’ll post a link to the opinion of one such reader after the review.]

When it comes to writing reviews you can’t just say something is bad, good or anywhere in between without backing up your opinions. Having said that, the only thing stopping me from describing Cross Channel as absolute mind-numbing garbage and leaving it at that (and indeed, the only thing that stopped me from dropping it within the first few hours) is the fact that it sits at rank 20 on VNDB. Considering the number of visual novels out there that’s a pretty prestigious position, so I felt that I needed to experience the story in full to do justice to any review I planned to write. Without giving too much away, Cross Channel is a terrible visual novel for a number of reasons that I’ll try to elaborate on further down the page, and more than for any other production I have [almost] no clue whatsoever why people claim to have enjoyed it.

I cannot justify devoting time to summarising the plot, so this is from VNDB:

“Gunjo Academy is a facility designed to gather and isolate those students who got a high score on an adaptation exam (Scoring high on this exam indicates that the student is less likely to be able to adapt to society) mandated by the government. After a failed summer vacation with other members of the school’s broadcasting club, Kurosu Taichi and some of the other club members return to the city, only to find that the world had completely changed.”

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I don’t even know where to start with this one…as I mentioned earlier, I have an overwhelming desire to just say it’s bad and move on. Perhaps I should begin by saying that the synopsis does a poor job of explaining what Cross Channel is all about, partially because it tries to avoid spoiling what the “completely changed world” is all about and partially because I still don’t think the “students that would be less likely to adapt to society” sticks even by the very end of the game. It sounds good on paper but every single character is a Japanese media stereotype and very little more, that is to say that they’re all pretty much normal as far as anime and visual novels go (and as far as real life goes for many of them). In fact, I think the only reason that was included as a plot device was so that the visual novel would have an excuse for failing to justify the vast majority of the characters’ actions or thought patterns (or at least the ones that are significant to the plot).

Beyond being relatively bland, the cast has a penchant for changing their attitudes on a whim solely to suit the purposes of the story. Ignoring the first routes (because most of the background is explained in the latter ones anyway and the former seem to only exist to have an excuse for the inclusion of sex scenes), each heroine reacts to the protagonist in more or less the same way:

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Start off distant from the protagonist –> Decide they actually kind of like him in a day or two (never mind the fact that their initial opinion is based off of knowing him for an extended period of time) –> Trip to the beach (wish I was kidding) –> Sex scene –> Fin.

Rinse, repeat. On top of that, except for their conclusions the second routes are almost exactly the same as the first and the skip button simply refuses to work because there’s probably a single line change in the whole scene. It wouldn’t be so bad if the text you were rehashing was meaningful but Cross Channel would probably still be complete [from my perspective] with only five percent of the full word count, and even at that length I would hesitate to recommend it because the stories themselves are so bland.  Though there are character features, plot devices and scenes that might be considered interesting scattered here and there, the visual novel spends so little time on them that their overall influence is homeopathic. Add in the complete lack of rationale behind why the base plot itself occurs and how the heck it ever gets resolved (I mean, my goodness, a quick glance around the internet shows that even Cross Channel’s fans don’t try to explain Cross Channel’s story) and you have a thoroughly unenjoyable mix.

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If the other characters are bland, the protagonist is downright unlikeable. It’s heavily implied throughout the novel that his particular reason for not being able to adapt to society is because he has overt sexual urges and turns evil when aroused or exposed to blood. This is weird mainly because of the extended periods of time he conveniently goes without experiencing sexual thoughts and the time he bandages a heavily bleeding arm without any trouble whatsoever, but mine is not to question, right? Anyway, the end result of this character design choice is that the first four hours or so of reading consist of nothing but the protagonist sexually harassing the heroines and them immediately forgiving him (presumably because he’s so loveable otherwise…oh, wait…). Later on the sexual harassment comprises only about fifty percent of the VN’s runtime, and looking for pictures for this review served to remind me that a significant number of CGs exist solely for the sake of panty-shots.

Look, Cross Channel is relatively old so I’m not going to give it crap about its visuals or audio in terms of quality (I mean, things with better audio and visuals were plentiful even back in 2003 but I haven’t taken any points away for it). What I will criticise however is the tiny number of CGs it boasts for its size and how often those same CGs are reused; regardless of the quality of the rest of the novel it’s just plain lazy. As far as the BGM goes I can’t remember any of the tracks even though I’ve just finished the VN, so I’ll let that speak for itself.

Cross Channel5.jpg

Summary – I didn’t think it was possible for me to like a visual novel less than Chaos;Head but Cross Channel has managed to impress me in that way at the very least. With uninteresting, even unlikeable, characters, nonsensical plot and endless repetition, it has managed to snag The Geek Clinic’s lowest visual novel score at time of writing and the only reason I haven’t gone on to outline exactly how much I dislike it is because I’ve decided it’s not worth the energy. A visual novel should not invoke a sigh of relief when its credits start to roll and then an agonised groan when it lurches into an epilogue.

Score: 3.5/10 – Bad 

As a final note, given my feelings on Cross Channel, Kazoku Keikaku, Yume Miru Kusuri (concept and planning rather than actual authorship for this one, though i’d say it still counts) and Rewrite, Romeo Tanaka has become the first visual novel author I’ve decided to boycott, so good on him!

[Now that I’ve had my fun, here’s another opinion on Tanaka’s work from a dedicated fan with a different set of priorities. It may well suit you better than mine, especially if you’re a fan of subtext and the commentary on real life within fiction, so it’s worth taking a look.]

Romeo Tanaka’s New Visual Novel: Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu – An Insider Look at the Visual Novel Industry

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About Silvachief

I'm a Gamer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I'm big on Video Games, Visual Novels, Anime, Books and TV Series, but there's more to me than just those!
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11 Responses to [Visual Novel Review]: Cross Channel

  1. Lazarinth says:

    Hah, boycott an artist, what round about way of saying you’re not going to read something, and it’s still not as low a ranking as Evangelion! XD

  2. Kai says:

    I played Cross Channel during the infancy of my VN playing days, so I admit at the time, I was easily awed just by premise and concept alone. Fast forward to the present, think I actually agree with you, lol. Cross Channel is a VN that the longer I think back and re-evaluate, the more problems just seem to surface. I was the most frustrated about the other routes which are mostly just carbon copies of the first, barely any change at all.

    • Silvachief says:

      I would be very interested to learn whether I would have enjoyed Cross Channel more when I first started reading VNs as opposed to now. I suspect it wouldn’t have made much difference and that I would have been more likely to drop it.

      I do understand the feeling, though. I’m a little bit worried about re-reading Kira Kira, even if i’m doing it in Japanese, but i’m 100% sure it’ll be better than Cross Channel.

  3. Always fun to read a negative review once in a while, great read! I tried Cross channel years ago but never really finished it because I got bored of it… Though I find it amusing that you decided to boycott Tanaka because of it, I decided on reading this because I really enjoyed Rewrite and an anime he wrote, Humanity Has Declined. Weird how the world works.

    • Silvachief says:

      Funnily enough, they’re also always fun to write! Though I think it’s well deserved this time and i’m truly surprised I managed to finish it myself.

      I enjoyed Ryukishi07’s route in Rewrite but not the overall novel, and dropped Humanity Has Declined part way through (not because it was bad, per se, but because it wasn’t what I felt like at the time).

  4. mister magu says:

    It’s funny how no matter what it is that some people will dislike it. I was browsing for reviews, and I found this.

    I don’t read Japanese, so I can’t speak to what it is like in its original form, but I do actually think the writing was good. The scene transitions were good. It’s true in some ways that the characters ( as all characters are in VNs, imo) can be pared down to archetypes of VN characters… -sort of.-

    They are devices, though. This is a personal story. It isn’t a story where you find out the secret of each character, it’s an emotional journey for the reader that, in the end, you might actually be touched. A lot of VNs have touched me emotionally due to an emotional moment, but the end of this was extremely emotional without any event. The whole VN was the event.

    Wasn’t there a extra part to it? I admit, I haven’t played it, so maybe there were more answers, but to me, VNs can have great characters, but they are measured by the pervasiveness of their world; a VN is a world to live in.

    There really isn’t, that I’ve seen, another VN like this. I’ve played a decent amount, not too many, but enough to say I know the genre. It was very well executed if you believe that it was planned that way. If you think that the characters needed motivation and/or secrets, it wasn’t.

    I could see how it could be terrible, but it wasn’t (to me) and because it wasn’t, given what it set out to do, I think it was good. Is it a masterwork VN? To me? Probably.

    I guess my point is that, and I don’t like to explain people’s ‘flaws’ in art because it makes it seem like you can do that with anything and say “That’s genius!”, but my point is that it was set up like that, and it all hinged on how much you bought into it and it bet that in the ending you would be having a sort of personal epiphany. If you didn’t, then I could see why you’d be pissed.

    I would call it ‘deep’ because everything was a device. There weren’t even any metaphors except for the story as a whole.

    Plus, I played it with a walkthrough; I can imagine it being a nightmare to do without one.

    Oh well, have fun. Nice reading someone’s thoughts. I don’t disagree with most of what you said, but I guess I disagree with the end result. Something isn’t always the sum of its parts.

    PS: Chaos;head was a VN I couldn’t play past a couple hours.

    • Silvachief says:

      I had a guy that followed the blog for a while (I referred to him as my Number One Fan) who was vehemently opposed to my liking Muv Luv Alternative – His comments were a tad too colorful to approve, unfortunately. Basically, I mean to say I understand what you must be feeling upon reading this review.

      According to many Cross Channel fans the translation butchers the original feeling of the VN, though I can’t comment on how true that might be. Having seen a number of a fantastic translations, however, I have to say I wasn’t impressed by the prose in Cross Channel’s.

      As for the emotional component – perhaps because of my disconnection from the writing and characters I was not affected in the same way you were (or, in fact, in any positive way at all), which makes it difficult to view the whole in anything but a negative light.

      I can appreciate that readers find different things to enjoy in different productions, and I can appreciate that a novel should be evaluated with its purpose in mind but, unfortunately, I find myself unable to appreciate Cross Channel.

      As for the extra bit, there is a very short epilogue. I don’t remember it well but I don’t believe anything significant occurred during it. I also played with a walkthrough and almost always do – the “Pick Your Own Adventure” aspect of visual novels has never really appealed to me beyond it being an easy way to split story routes (there are several VNs with excellent stories but terrible choice mechanics, and i’d hate to have the experience soured by poor design).

      Thank you very much for the comment! Regardless of whether they agree with my opinion or not, I always enjoy reading fresh thoughts.

      For what it’s worth, to this day I am not sure how I managed to finish Chaos;Head.

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