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Cross†Channel Visual Novel – Retrospective

“This is the Gunjou Institute Broadcasting Club. Is anyone alive out there?”

  Gameplay:

Which route will you choose?

Cross†Channel’s mechanics run similar to your standard visual novel. You follow the viewpoint of main character Kurosu Taichi, scrolling through a series of dialogue text boxes and choices to ultimately arrive at the end of a particular route. The key distinction for Cross†Channel however, lies in the fact that making wrong choices does not led to a bad ending, but rather to the repetition of that week’s events until you make the right choice for the heroine whose route you end up on. In essence, Cross†Channel forces you to make a set of choices in order to arrive at a specific heroine’s ending, of which there are five (one for each heroine). A special sixth route comes into play following the successful completion of each heroine’s route, which ultimately leads to choice-less seventh route (the True End).

The total length of the game ultimately stretches about 10-20 hours and it must be noted that there are multiple H-scenes present throughout the game (typically at the end of each route). A walkthrough is available here at Fuwanovel (please note that the choices may hint at minor story spoilers, so it is not 100% spoiler free) should you need one. Last but not least, players should note that a bonus story called Tower of Friends (a.k.a. the Cross†’Channel or Cross Channel Prime route) also exists and should be read after the completion of the main story, as it provides an additional ending that gives an added perspective to the game.

  Story Summary / Characters List:

Story-wise, the story focuses on Gunjou Academy (lit: Ultramarine Academy), an educational facility designed to isolate students with “high adaptation coefficients.” These coefficients are determined by a special adaptation exam, which determines an individual’s ability to successful function in society. The higher the score, the less likely this will be the case, with scores above 40% requiring that the student be transferred to facilities such as Gunjou—with the supposed hope that one would be able to recover enough to return to society.

Having scored an 84%, Kurosu Taichi arrives at Gunjou Academy with what seems to be the highest score by far of any student. There, he eventually joins the Broadcasting Club, composed of the heroines Miyasumi Misato, Kirihara Touko, Sakura Kiri, Yamanobe Miki, Hasekura Youko, and the secondary characters Sakuraba Hiroshi and Shima Tomoki. Following a failed summer vacation that finds our cast with their club essentially disbanded, the Broadcasting Club returns to the city in low spirits, only to find that they are the only humans left within it. Mysteriously, the city’s residents have all vanished, and no means of contact with the outside world. In response, Taichi decides to embark on a mission to re-gather club members to assist Misato in her efforts to complete a broadcasting antenna, which she intends to use in order to find other survivors.

  Impressions:

To start things off, let me first confess that the first hour of the game had me absolutely hating the main character. He sexually harassed everyone he saw, acted like a complete ass on top of it all, and occasionally fell into incoherent babble while he was at it. Needless to say, Kurosu Taichi was the definition of repugnant, and I don’t think any character out of the dozen or so visual novels I’ve played has ever made me feel that way about them. An hour in, I was flat out repulsed by his personality and antics, and I admit that the thought of dropping the game was weighing heavily on my mind. In the end though, I stuck to the series in order to see how things ended up, and I’m glad I did. It might’ve been confusing in some respects, and it takes a little bit to get going, but I have to say—it was darn worth it to play through.

These are the moments we cherish.

Without spoiling too much of the story, the biggest thing to note with Cross†Channel is how everyone at Gunjou Academy has a reason they’re there. At first look, it’s easy to shake your head and go: “What kind of system is that!? How could they isolate people based on some random examination!? What about those that are borderline? Wouldn’t it be worse for them to be in such a facility?” And you wouldn’t be wrong to voice such displeasure. The system is inherently discriminatory in nature and its claims of being a facility to heal its inhabitants are suspect at best. The thing is though—despite all the things working against it—the adaptation coefficients here do generally end up on the mark. Does this excuse the system? It doesn’t, and that’s the point.

When it’s all said and done, one could spend much time arguing about the system regardless, and it’s a line of thought that eventually leads to questions about society in general, the definition of what it means to be human, and the necessity of such a system in the first place. In this respect, Cross†Channel comes in as a series with a lot on its plate. The mysteries of the world are only the hearty appetizer, setting the stage for the main course: human commentary.

More than anything, Cross†Channel seeks to paint humanity as a social creatures. We instinctively seek to interact with and create connections with another. Throughout the process, we maintain our existence by trying to gauge the distance between ourselves and others, at times hurting others, other times getting hurt in the process. Set backs happen, bonds break, memories fade, and ideally a new set of bonds and memories take their place as we aim to simultaneously maintain our individuality in a society that ultimately discourages it. These are some of the facets of what it means to be human, and they’re elements that most invariably understand and follow in some sense of the word—whether consciously or unconsciously.

The mirror reflects the true self.

The thing is, not everyone is the same, nor will everyone ever experience the same thing. Invariably, things happen that change people forever, and it’s quite possible that it gets to a point where one just can’t form those bonds or interact properly. It doesn’t mean that they’re suddenly different and don’t require them however, and that’s the key distinction here. Chances are, they’ll continue to seek the social interaction that defines our species, all while painfully aware that the hands they use to touch one another may be more akin to porcupine quills than anything—a tragic situation where one can’t help but seek something they know will hurt someone in the process.

That’s the main cast (and the game’s overall theme) in a nutshell, and it must be said that Cross†Channel does a great job presenting the aforementioned themes and fleshing it out with the characters involved. There’s a focus on both their interactions with one another (which are at times comedic, depressing, or deadly serious) and their interactions with the world (tinged with rejection and hatred), and the game manages to present not only the differences that result from bringing interactions to a larger scale, but the important similarities that lie underneath it all. Each character has a story of their own—stories that come together beautifully in a complex weave that makes you think about your own views and place in society, while leaving you with the impressions that you’ve read something deep and profound (even if it is confusing as hell at times). The latter comes with the territory of who Kurosu Taichi is however, and I never thought I’d say this considering how Cross†Channel started, but he does end up making quite the positive impression when it’s all said and done. Who would’ve thunk?

The Verdict: Cross†Channel isn’t a visual novel that’ll rub everyone the same way. Some people many find the main character too repugnant for their tastes, others may find fault with the confusing nature of Taichi’s commentary, or don’t like how the topics are presented here. And it’s fine. For those that manage to get through the first route however, rewards await in terms of the mystery this series has to offer and the commentary it brings, and Cross†Channel might just be something that gets you quite emotional before its all said and done. At the very least, it did for me, especially when you get to the bonus story. Got a dozen or odd hours to spare? Give Cross†Channel a try. A beautiful story about finding oneself awaits, filled with mystery and buoyed by a soundtrack/main theme you won’t forget anytime soon.

  CG Screenshots:
August 11, 2014 at 7:31 pm
19 comments »
  • August 11, 2014 at 7:38 pmherkz

    >and occasionally fell into incoherent babble while he was at it.

    That’s probably because the translation is incredibly bad. The majority of the lines are mistranslated.

    • August 11, 2014 at 7:47 pmZephyr

      That does play into it yes, but at the very least one could get into the general themes the VN tries to focus on at least.

  • August 11, 2014 at 8:02 pmGuardian Enzo

    Z, how do you view CC specifically as a Tanaka Romeo work? Where does it fit in his catalogue?

    • August 11, 2014 at 8:18 pmZephyr

      Sadly, I can’t remark too much on that. I have yet to play Rewrite or any of the other VN’s he’s worked on, nor have I found time to watch the LN adaptations of his works yet. I watched a bit of Jinrui a while back, and well, I think the best thing I can say is now that I know the association exists, I can definitely see how it’s a Romeo work stylistically/thematically. There’s definitely a certain uniquity to it that sticks out about the writing and presentation.

      • August 11, 2014 at 9:28 pmPasserby

        When you read Rewrite you can compare it to Key’s previous works and definitely feel the hand of Tanaka Romeo at work. Rewrite does try to masquerade itself as ‘Key fare’, but it’s without a doubt something very different. While Maeda’s works were ultimately very much optimistic, Tanaka’s Rewrite is, at it’s core, pessimistic. And Tanaka tends to focus more on people struggling with certain issues, while Maeda emphasised people overcoming them.

        I rate Little Busters above Rewrite, but then again I’d also rate Little Busters above Cross Channel and almost every other VN I’ve read. This could be personal bias. I’d be interested in your own views if you get around to it.

      • August 11, 2014 at 9:31 pmZephyr

        Little Busters was quite something. Still get goosebumps thinking about it.

    • August 11, 2014 at 8:43 pmMikey

      As someone more knowledgeable about Tanaka, allow me to take a crack at this. Always an interesting question. I would definitely consider Cross Channel to be the most controversial of Tanaka’s works solely due to the MC. In the end, the Novel does a good job of making his character understandable (And the way the ending goes about him is great), but I could easily see someone writing it off as simple apologists nonsense too. And as most people would probably tell you, its better to read the game in original Japanese, which would require an advanced knowledge of the language to begin with (I actually gave it a full point up after reading it in Japanese). It’s definitely a Romeo Tanaka work though. Extremely well done dialogue, interesting characters that are not at all what they seem and a very interesting gray story filled with mindf*cks and facsinating plot twists.

      If I were to compare it to some part of Jinrui, the last arc (The Fairies’ Tea Party I think) fits the bill.

      • August 11, 2014 at 8:48 pmGuardian Enzo

        Thanks, Mikey – very interesting read.

  • August 11, 2014 at 9:11 pmPasserby

    I’ve always considered Cross Channel a bit of a shame because while I certainly rank it as one of the great visual novels I’ve read it’s rather hard to get into. As noted, the main character does not help (is this suppose to be me?! Gah!) and I’ve found it hard to actually recommend it to people. I’m glad you got through it and wrote this; good VNs definitely can use more exposure.

  • August 11, 2014 at 11:14 pmFar

    Cross Channel is my favorite visual novel, actually. It might be because it was one of the first few I read, though. I actually had the same initial reaction to Taichi and considered dropping it early on. His perverted antics weren’t at all funny to me and I was starting to wonder why so many people seemed to like the VN so much. But I stuck with it and as things wore on he actually ended up being my favorite character and, in my opinion, maybe even the most well-developed in a cast full of well-developed characters.
    I really liked how the story took several common character types (the well-meaning pervert, the tsundere, the best friends, the emotionless girl…) and twisted them to show what it would take for people to actually be like that in reality. The more I read the more I fell in love with all of the characters in all of their screwed-up glory as I started to understand what was going on and what the story was ultimately trying to say about society and what it means to connect with other people.
    Even though the beginning is kind of… off-putting (it’s necessary but it’s certainly not pleasant as an introduction) Cross Channel totally stuck the landing with its ending which (to me at least) was basically the most ideal closer in both tone and content that I could possibly ask for. I really should give it a re-read one of these days…

  • August 11, 2014 at 11:45 pmreishin

    http://randomc.net/image/Cross%20Channel/Cross%20Channel%20VN%20-%20Large%2004.jpg
    that picture brings back some fond memories of many hours waste playing the NANACA+CRASH flash game.

    • August 12, 2014 at 5:56 amDangerism

      which was probably more popular than the game itself.

    • August 12, 2014 at 6:38 amsealouse

      Oh there’s a mobile version

  • August 12, 2014 at 4:11 amCrow

    You probably don’t want to ever read Chaos;head. By far the most repugnant lead character (actually, it might be a tie with the dude from School Days) and he never grows out of it. Plus the plot was pretty farfetched, which is saying something when it comes to VNs.

    • August 12, 2014 at 7:44 amZephyr

      I actually read it before. Lol. Had less issue with him than I did with Taichi here at first, interestingly enough.

  • August 12, 2014 at 4:46 amsss333

    I don’t really agree with the retrospective being “spoiler free”. It’s not really possible to talk about Cross Channel at any length without giving away something. Decyphering the premise is probably one of the core elements to this game, amoung many others.

    • August 12, 2014 at 8:16 amZephyr

      You mean the labeling of this post as spoiler-free content-wise? Or you mean the spoiler-free in the sense that you want to talk about Cross Channel here, but due to it being labeled spoiler free you can’t?

      If it’s the former, I made it so that the key game mechanic and the ways they explore those themes aren’t listed in the actual retrospective. The premise/story summary is essentially similar to other quick previews post by other places when you search up the novel as well. The thematic exploration hints at some story elements, but I felt you have to give at least something to get people interested.

      If it’s the latter, well, the comments are exempt from the spoiler-free rule as long as you note that you’re going to talk about it before hand and preferably use a spoiler tag.

  • August 13, 2014 at 12:23 pmSomething

    The thing I like about this is … you won’t get into it at first because the main character is kinda annoying ( well there’s a reason behind it ), and the back story is kinda good to
    Thing is … you have to play all the routes to get the main ending and re-read some of the things MANY TIMES is just tedious so I just skip through some of it …

  • August 15, 2014 at 4:20 amSetsuna Henry

    I am currently play Rewrite and Cross Channel on my PSP.