Cross The Moon
Developer: Patrick Rainville
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Genre(s): Visual Novel
Platform: Xbox One (Also available on Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch and Steam)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 18/06/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Welcome to L’Amour
Patrick Rainville’s kinetic sci-fi vampire visual novel Cross The Moon is a genre entry in the most literal sense. There are no choices to be made and no branching paths with multiple endings to unlock, but if roughly 10 hours of simply reading doesn’t scare you away and you’re into this style of game then it’s one that should immediately shoot to the top of your to-play list. In the fictional city of L’Amour, Cross The Moon takes place 40 years after a mysterious event called The Awakening uh… awakens vampiric powers in some of the population. With humans and vampires co-existing, most of them now reside here. They go to school together, work together, and even breed together, but do so under the watching eye of the “vampire police” Apotro. Consensual feeding is fine but their ability to mesmir humans is highly illegal, for example.
So, our story begins at a local bar where high school friends Lux, Apollon, and Corentine hatch a plan to mesmir a human patron in order to feed on them outside. Naughty vampires! However, the next morning the human’s body is found by the riverside with a stab wound and both of his eyes missing. He was alive when Lux and company left, but the Apotro and local police brigade probably won’t see it this way.
This particular event sets into motion the entire narrative, but it’s actually split between the point-of-view of four different characters. Like I mentioned earlier, there are no choices to make or paths to explore, but the narrative is brilliantly written and kept me intrigued throughout my entire playthrough. Not only did I find the concept of humans and vampires co-existing to be interesting on its own, but Patrick Rainville’s characters came to life with gusto and tackled some topical issues like racism, sexuality, broken homes, and shady corporation shenanigans. Blend that up with some absolutely bonkers sci-fi themes and Cross The Moon ended up in my top 5 visual novels of all time. It really is that good.
The Unusual Suspects
With four different viewpoints and zero player engagement, it was important for Cross The Moon to diversify its cast and give each of them their own motivations, scenarios, and intertwine them without being confusing. There is A LOT going on here, but I’m happy to report that it does just that.
The overarching story is narrated by a nameless being in a barren location, guiding a faceless woman named Ana in recovering her memories by listening to music. Ana doesn’t speak, she just listens to the being and the stories presented on each side of her vinyl record collection.
I briefly touched on it earlier, but Lux is a high school student and the son of a human mother and vampire father. He has feelings for his best friend Apollon, but something about Apollon’s new girlfriend rubs Lux the wrong way. He’s heartbroken over his now-distant friendship with Apollon, but applies a Band-Aid to the wound by entering a relationship with his human friend Marie.
Lux’s older sister Aurore is the next viewpoint as she’s fresh out of college and applying for a position within L’Amour’s megacorporation bloodFLOW (who create blood-alternative products like pills and drinks to satiate vampiric cravings). Aurore is a no-nonsense vampire who often speaks her mind and isn’t afraid to abruptly dismiss herself from uncomfortable conversations. She’s also trying to wean herself off of human blood entirely, but she’s introduced in the middle of a relapse, meeting a mysterious mask-clad “blood dealer” at a local diner. Her story primarily focuses on her job interview, the struggle of being a black vampire, and learning to open herself up a bit to a brand-new friend.
The final viewpoint is that of Otsuki, a Japanese police officer who finds herself being transferred to L’Amour to assist their local precinct while learning more about how to deal with vampires. She’s introduced with her new partner Sa as they arrive at the previously mentioned riverside crime scene, using her “intuition” to advance her investigations. Her story obviously focuses on the investigation, but also her new friendship with Sa and their clashing investigative styles.
Cross The Moon’s cast is absolutely fantastic and their respective narratives weave together in such a wonderful way that I never really missed having more engagement in its pathing. It’s all drip-fed at such an excellent pace, introducing new characters, plights, and plot twists that always kept me eager to continue reading.
Visual novels live and die by their narratives but poorly executed character illustrations and backdrops can certainly damper the experience. Cross The Moon avoids that notion entirely by taking a sub-genre of horror that routinely colours within the lines, albeit with a little colour, and drenches it in sexy synth sounds and vibrant, clashing colours. The aesthetic is unlike anything I’ve seen in a visual novel, which says a lot considering the game’s publisher, Ratalaika, seems to release a new one every week.
Backdrops consist of real-world photographs that have been highly saturated in clashing colour schemes. There are quite a few different sceneries to take in as well, from seedy bars and questionably shady vampire clubs to hospitals and mundane cubical-filled offices. This over-saturation gives everything a sort of thematic consistency that doesn’t feel like a vampire setting draped in science fiction. It’s absolutely awesome. I’m always a fan of developers and artists that experiment in new ways to present themes that my brain automatically associates with being “a certain way.” Cross The Moon excels in this regard.
Equally seductive is its soundtrack, also composed by Patrick Rainville. Each track masterfully echoes the narrative’s current vibe, from mysterious, high-energy synthwave to sombre confusion and blistering revelations. They’re all fantastic.
Should you sink your teeth into it?
If this review should tell you anything it’s that I absolutely loved Cross The Moon. The way it visually presents itself, the soundtrack I’d happily purchase on SoundCloud, the brilliantly written characters and the way their stories all weave together worked in tandem to create one of the finest visual novel experiences I’ve had since The House in Fata Morgana and SeaBed.
You may have also noticed that I didn’t have much of anything to complain about. No game is perfect, of course, but when it comes to the kinetic style of visual novels, Cross The Moon is among the best of the best. The only thing keeping it from earning a perfect score is the fact that I experienced audio that would cut out whenever the game was minimized (or whatever the console-related term is) while I shared screenshots. A code was provided by the publisher to review the game, but I loved it enough to buy it myself on Switch where this particular sound issue was far more frequent. The Xbox One version certainly fared better.
All in all, if visual novels are in your wheelhouse and you’re cool with foregoing the player choice and multiple routes that typically accompany them, then Cross The Moon should be near the top of your list.
I’ve played full retail-priced visual novels that offered a fraction of the enjoyment that Cross The Moon did at £4.99. This is hands-down Ratalaika Games’ finest visual novel they’ve published yet and I can’t wait to see what Patrick Rainville does next!
4 out of 5
You Can Purchase Cross The Moon for £4.99 on the Nintendo eShop
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.