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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.]