Role playing games, whether they exist in an open world or a mission based universe, has one important job. If they don't attract a gamer from its opening moments, that person may be gone forever. Some RPG titles eschew that sell 'em while they're hot mentality, preferring a slow burn for the more discerning participant. Cross Hearts Arcadia doesn't wow you right off the bat, but instead opts for the steady smolder approach. In a world of firecrackers, can a soft candle light the way home?

The storyline centers on the intricate relationship of an Algiz and an Eng, two words which translate to a master/guardian (Algiz) and his pet/companion (Eng). You inhabit the role of Nirva, the Algiz who lives up in a sky floating land where books and substantive relationships are treasured. After finding a rare Eng named Tylt, Nirva finds a companion for life.

Cross Hearts Arcadia's main theme is actually a break in RPG tradition, since it focuses on the absolute interdependence of its two heroes. Although they each have their own skills and powers, Tylt consistently reminds our hero that they are actually one functioning being. Without each other, their journey to a mysterious domain called the Genesis Sanctuary will end in disaster.

Engs are rare creatures, and Tylt's diverse powers partly rests on whichever nuts you find in the land for him to eat. Since it's a throwback to 16-bit adventure titles we all know and love, the actual fighting mechanic is understandably predictable and turn-based. There are no tutorials needed, especially if you're adept at touching and tapping menu items before a battle. You've probably seen it done a million times before, and there's really nothing new to see. That being said, if more of the same is what's on your menu, why complain? Also please let me introduce Reeces, a research loving mage who joins your party after a convincing pitch from Tylt.

The title does throw a creative curve ball into the mix, as whatever herbs or materials that are collected in your travels can be created into a weapon that will be forged at the nearest town. This addition adds a bit more excitement to proceedings, as wandering around for coins can get a bit monotonous. Knowing that even the most inconsequential ingredient is part of a greater whole makes every moment in Cross Hearts Arcadia count. As you can see below, my collecting and organizing skills sucks, as I couldn't even find enough stuff to make a robe.

Maybe Cross Hearts Arcadia caught me in the right place, but lately a little more conversation isn't such a bad thing. As long as you're open to long talks with characters who share their deepest dreams and desires, then this RPG will have you under its spell. Tylt also never seems to shut his mouth, but then again, he says a lot of things I really need to hear.

The most gripping aspect of Cross Hearts Arcadia is its passionate focus on the importance of friendship and exploration. I often forget that a great RPG doesn't have to hinge on some hack-and-slash mechanic, or a crazy boss you must overcome. Ideas do matter, and when coupled with even the most static of images, the results could be empowering. An overhead shot of Nirva alone in the forest takes on added depth when you know a picture, in this instance, is worth a thousand words.

Cross Hearts Arcadia gradually drew me into its embrace. It's absolutely corny, but it's like seeing an old friend for the very first time. Both of you may not be the brazen warriors of the past, but that's okay. We get by with a little help from our friends. Even if they're a total pain in the Eng.


App Store Link: Cross Hearts Arcadia for iPhone & iPad | By Kemco | Price: $2.99 | Version: 1.0.0 | 33.8 MB | Rating: 9+

7.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating