||Seventh Cross: Evolution
If only this game could evolve into something fun.. - Review By BenT
Evolution. It's a novel theme for a game, seen only once before in a decidedly average SNES game, called EVO: The Search for Eden. The goal of that game was to evolve from a lowly fish into the first early man, ready to assume your role as master of the planet. NEC has taken a stab at this theme in Seventh Cross: Evolution, but left out the "goal" part. In Seventh Cross, your only mission is to survive and move on to the next area, where tougher creatures and another boss await.
In Seventh Cross, the task of evolving is a somewhat complex, multi-step process. To start, you must gain Evolve Points (EVP) by killing any and every enemy you come across. For most of the game, the designers are rather stingy with these, so it'll often take you awhile to gather enough to move on to the next step, confusingly called "Evolution". In the Evolution screen, you're presented with a 10x10 grid on which to create pictures or diagrams. You have six colors with which to work, each representing an attribute of your character (Attack, Defense, Intelligence, etc.) that you can raise. After you're satisfied with your creation, click on the submit button and the game will apply a mysterious set of rules and algorithms, resulting in you receiving the ability to create one of 120 different body parts. Of course, submitting the picture takes some of your precious EVP. Anyway, now that you've gotten at least one new part, you're ready to evolve (Mutate) your character. To do so, you select from head, arms, body and legs, and can choose from any of the parts you've unlocked in the Evolution stage. Unfortunately, each body part requires a certain amount of materials and nutrients to grow, so you'll need to make sure you have an ample supply of these before selecting which new part to add.
You begin the game as flipperboy, and are returned to this state if you die. In that case, it's time to reload.
Whew.. I'm tired just from reading that. The gameplay in Seventh Cross is far cry from Super Mario Bros., to be sure. So, how does the game stack up?
I found the central idea of evolution to be rather interesting, and for a completist like myself, the collecting of the 120 body parts is rather satisfying. In addition, the control is decent enough, although the game oddly elects to use the D-Pad in lieu of the Analog Stick. An odd choice, when the Analog is pretty much the standard for 3d games.
Finally, the back story of the game is really quite cool. Without giving it away, I'll just say it's a pity that it becomes apparent only at the very end of the game.
To begin, the central gameplay system called "Evolution" is rather flawed. It's pretty much impossible for the average human to draw any sort of correlations between the drawings you create and the resultant body parts you receive. After playing for a while, I realized I'd have just as much success by making random doodles, and I was sadly right. The body parts kept rolling in, in a purely random manner. As such, I often unlocked advanced, higher level body parts that I wouldn't have the material to build for hours, while forgoing the lower level stuff that I needed then. Worse, the EVP required to submit a picture rises throughout the game. When you start it's a mere 2, but by the end of the game it takes a whopping 50 EVP to submit just one picture. This adds up to many hours spent simply killing animals for EVP, in the hopes that your next random picture will net you that body part you really want. By the time I reached the end, I was missing about 30 of the 120 parts. Unfortunately, it was way too frustrating to finish the collection. I'd collect hundreds and hundreds of EVP points and then throw them away at 50 a pop, and sometimes get only one new part, if any. At this rate it would take days of straight playing to complete the collection. That would be bad in a good game, and in Seventh Cross, it's downright unacceptable. Unless you're trapped down a well or something, there's no way you're going to play this game to completion. And truthfully, most times I'm trapped down wells, there's no place to plug in my DC and TV.
Draw a picture, any picture. Note the L-Shaped Tetris Blocks.
Anyway, since there's so much killing, the fighting had better be fun, right? Welp, not in Seventh Cross. The combat engine is the most basic, least interesting fighting system I've seen in ages. It basically amounts to trading hits with your opponent until one of you falls. That's it. There's no skill involved except knowing when to run.. this is purely a battle of numbers. To make things more annoying, when there are two or more enemies your targeting reticle will often focus on the further of the two targets, resulting in you being unable to attack the closer one. Of course, the near monster can attack you while you're jamming the melee button and wondering why nothing's happening. When you finally notice that you're targetting the wrong creature, you can switch your targeting focus with the L and R triggers, but this works only when out of combat. What this amounts to is jamming on L and R in the hopes that you'll successfully switch targets between the closer enemy's frequent attacks. And if, during this brief window of opportunity, you hit the triggers one too many times, you'll be targeted at the far enemy once again, while the closer enemy continues to pummel you. This bit of timing-critical gameplay is pure annoyance, especially since just about everything else in Seventh Cross is basically supposed to be turn-based.
Graphics are nothing to write home about, either. While they utilize the Dreamcast's customary 640x480 resolution, they are otherwise bland and unimpressive. Textures lack detail and are repeated constantly, while character models are barely adequete. The character animation is alright, but downright sparse - your creature does not even have an idle animation. The engine only musters 30 frames per second, lending a distinctly unsmooth look to movement. And to add insult to injury, the game slows down when more than a handful of creatures are in the vincity. This is particularly problematic in the ocean world, where the game is in perpetual slow motion.
My character is technically a flower, but I think he looks more like a fruit.
Sound doesn't fare much better. The music is a mostly forgettable new age affair featuring a mournful piano and random synths. No thanks. Sound effects are worse. Your character's walking sound varies depending on what legs it's sporting, and some of these are just downright grating. Worse, the sound playback system does not seem to precache sounds, leading to a nearly two second freeze whenever a sound effect is first played in a level. Lame.
The Final Word
Seventh Cross: Evolution takes an intriguing premise and buries it alive beneath poorly conceived, repetitive gameplay. If you think the game's theme sounds interesting, consider it a renter at best. There's no way this is worth your hard-earned $40.
Publisher: UFO Interactive
Highs: Interesting theme.
Lows: Badly designed and repetitive gameplay, poor graphics, lame sound.
Other: 1 player, VMU Compatible (one save takes 172(!) blocks).
(out of a possible 10)
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