|Imagine the evolutionary tidepool. The sea meets the
land and the churning of the waves begins to stir the first inklings of life. Soon,
organisms develop to inhabit this space: single-celled protozoa, simple slugs, primitive
waterbugs. And then there's those damn crabs that keep plucking off your little head, just
as you finally get legs.
That's what Seventh Cross: Evolution is like a nonstop evolve-a-thon thrillride, begging your attention. In reality, the effect of playing a game like this is oddly addictive. In Seventh Cross you begin life in the "protist" stage. At first you look like a little amoeba-thing, then you evolve into a slug for awhile, and after eating enough blue-green algae you evolve into the basis of all future mutation the "genesis" stage. In the protist stages you lack the ability to do anything except swim and eat. Once you reach the genesis stage you develop the ability to attack. Of course, the semi-formed flippers that come stock on the genesis model don't work very well in most brawls, so you spend the rest of the game mutating the different parts of your body. There is no real story. You progress through seven levels, themed according to different evolutionary epochs, trying to become the ultimate badass.
If it sounds like Seventh Cross is a pretty "unique" game, it's because it is. And if you take "unique" to mean "really damn weird," then you're even closer to the real thing. At first gameplay is pretty normal. You spend most of your time roaming around killing things and eating them. Your attack abilities are determined by which body parts you currently have evolved. That is, the blade crab arms work like giant razors, and the cannon shark arms shoot big projectiles, etc. Likewise, your movement is dependant upon which legs you are currently using.
To switch between body parts you mutate your current limbs via the mutation menu. You can mutate any body part that you have enough "body constitutes" for. The body constitutes are things like protein, calcium, and NeuroBio. That's why you kill and eat your prey, to collect the nutrients. The mutation works simply enough, and you can mutate your head, arms, body, and legs. There are a lot of different types of limbs, which can either be put together to construct a uniform body or a hodge-podge of different creatures. You can evolve parts from blade crabs, monkeys, tube snakes, lizards, laser horses, and, even, (gasp!) man. It's a pretty straightforward process, and the bulk of your play time is spent accumulating body constitutes to evolve a better attack or a different set of legs.
The mutation is complicated by the evolution aspect of the game. At first there are no body parts to mutate into. To unlock different body parts you must visit one of the obelisks always present on a level. Each animal you've killed gives you some evolution points, and you "spend" these at the obelisk by drawing patterns on a grid and then submitting them for evaluation. So you go into the evolution screen, and you are presented with a pallette of six colors, each of which represent different traits (i.e. attack, intelligence, defense, etc.). You draw on a 10X10 grid with the different colors, and then press the send button. Once sent, you go to a view screen where it tells you what kind of body part you've evolved. After you evolve it in the evolve mode, you can mutate it with the mutation menu.
All of it is a bit overwhelming at the very beginning, but you quickly get used to the whole process. The "artistic" aspects of the game are intriguing, and I spent hours just killing tons of little whatevers and trying to evolve every single limb and ligature. Often I would end up evolving a body part that was such a high level that I couldn't mutate into it in the near future, and so it can take a long time to evolve something that's in your level range. The body parts are divided into 30 levels, and a metal head doesn't do you much good when you're working with blade crab brains. What takes the wind out of the evolution aspect of the game is that it seems to be fairly random. After hours and hours of altering patterns I unlocked a whole lot of body parts, nearly all of them in fact, but never felt like I could identify a pattern. The generation is not random, because if I evolved a body part using a certain pattern, then restarted the game without saving and drew the same pattern, I would always evolve the same body part. Although it's sometimes annoying to have to do so much futile evolution, and the drawing aspect loses it's novelty eventually, the ambiguity of the evolution system is just the beginning of the Seventh Cross mediocrity.
The graphics, sound, movement and camera on Seventh Cross are not at all up to standard Dreamcast fare. There are some clipping problems and the camera is often annoying, especially if set on random mode for fight scenes. The water is done nicely, but most of the objects, including your own character, have some pretty sharp edges. Normally, for a game as innovative as this one, subpar graphics and technicalities can be ignored, and in spite of these drawbacks, Seventh Cross is still fun. But since it lacks a story, or much even in the way of hindrances to your progress, the scenery is crucial. And all you ever do in Seventh Cross is kill stuff and mutate new parts, so most of your joy, as a player, comes from seeing your little frog-lizard-blade crab-monkey guy walking around. It's the same appeal as those flip books where you can construct faces from a bunch of different eyes, noses, and mouths, except more complicated.
With other interesting "grow and evolve" titles (most notably Sea Man, the Japanese mega-hit) slated for the DC, Seventh Cross ends up suffering due to its random evolution system and the subpar graphics. If you're looking for an epic story, flashy effects, incredible realism, or any of the other standard blurbs, then don't look for this game. Seventh Cross: Evolution is an intriguing game that may not have a lot in the way of tradition, but it does have lots of room for improvement.