One of the first titles announced for the Dreamcast, Seventh Cross was never exactly an anticipated game intended for mass consumption. Due to its original concept, Seventh Cross is a mildly intriguing diversion, but haphazard design keeps it from being much more.
At its core, Seventh Cross is an evolution-themed RPG. You control a life-form and ascend the evolutionary ladder in order to become the dominant species as well as defend the planet from a deadly alien influence. You begin your journey as a prototypical single-celled organism in a tide-pool, running from larger life-forms and feeding off whatever vegetable matter you can find. After a short time and a few evolutionary steps later, you will evolve into the "Origin," the point at which the real game begins. Having developed to this point, you will finally be able to fight the local fauna.
Advancement comes in four flavors: head, arms, body, and legs, each of which can be switched out from the game's menus. Head modifications boost intelligence, dexterity, and magic ability; new arms raise the attack rating and can give the player ranged attacks; while body enhancements focus on defense and healing. Legs, however, determine what types of terrain your organism can enter, making them the most important evolutionary leaps to completing the game. Appendage swapping is not unlimited, requiring that the organism burn six nutrients gained by eating its enemies, with many evolutions requiring nutrients only found in the latter part of the game. Unfortunately, the game has a serious protein deficiency, making evolutions more costly and time-consuming than they should be. Should you die, all mutations are reset, making you fight for your nutrients again and hope to even have a chance of progressing in the game.
Enemies roam about the world just as our lone evolvee does. Hitting the attack button once they're in range will begin a somewhat less-than-furied battle for dominance - you simply whack each other back and forth until one of you dies. Spells and ranged attacks are a little more interesting but don't add enough to enhance the game's staid combat system. For every battle won, our scaly friend will be rewarded with evolution points, used at the monoliths scattered throughout the game to develop your stats. Evolutionary developments gained from these mysterious obelisks fuel the game's unique brand of "character development."
The activities contained within the monoliths, unfortunately, become the game's focal point. The complicated and seemingly random process is interesting as long as it goes your way. Given a palette of six colors, you paint a picture on a 10x10 grid. Each color represents a chosen attribute that will be added to the Origin's stats when completed, in addition to encoding a new evolution. The problem is that determining exactly what evolution you're going to get is nearly impossible, forcing you to rely on your artistic luck to advance. For example, you could very well be stranded in the first two areas for some time, waiting to stumble into an evolution that will let you crawl up on land. At the same time, you can easily stumble into traits that you won't be able to add to your being until the end of the game. It's easy to think you've found a pattern, but usually those theories fall apart after a few more attempts.
Seventh Cross isn't exactly a feast for the senses, despite its arrival on the powerful Dreamcast. The game's terrain is plastered with stale, uninteresting textures, and the enemies themselves are inconsistently animated. The constantly evolving savior of life has some interesting looks as he develops, but overall the game is anything but special to look at. To top it off, the extremely simplistic graphics are subject to debilitating bouts of frame loss; usually running smoothly, the game slows down to herky-jerky unplayable levels when more than a few enemies come on the screen. The game's sound is mediocre. The first areas have no music at all, while the rest of the game sports repetitive new age and tribal fare, none of which provides more than just background noise. The game's sound effects are severely lacking, sporting the same few sound effects for all enemy deaths, attacks, and the like.
All said, Seventh Cross becomes little more than an endless string of pseudo-real-time enemy encounters strung together with a diverting evolution "simulation" whose unfortunate randomness tears apart what could've been a pretty cool RPG. While it's all in import-friendly English, the game's evolution concept is extremely abstract and all too central to the game to make it truly enjoyable, regardless of the language.