Square Enix' Guardian Cross [Free] is exactly the game it wants to be. Coming from me, that would usually be a compliment, but in this case, it's more of a sigh and a shrug.

I'm not categorically opposed to free-to-play games. Agharta's Shufflepuck Cantina came out at the same time as Guardian Cross and has an unobtrusive IAP model combined with strong core gameplay. A few years ago, I was hooked on Alteil, a game that looks a little like Guardian Cross, but plays more like Magic.

Guardian Cross does not play anything like Magic or even a strategic RPG. It's a card-battling game where battles are completely non-interactive, and deckbuilding is so obvious that there's a button to do it for you. The English release of Guardian Cross feels calculated, like a decision on Square Enix' part to claim some of the cash raked in by "Japanese style" social games like Rage of Bahamut [Free].

Guardian Cross has the whole package: monster hunting (gotta catch 'em all), highly-tiered rarity, sacrifice-based experience, passive no-loss PvP, timer-based action points, log-in bonuses, ticketing of necessary activities, aggressive social integration, artificial limits on everything, and card art with big breasts (and/or roaring monsters). To be fair, the art is actually very well-drawn, solidly up to Square Enix standards, and less ridiculous than some but it still falls squarely into the fangs-and-cheescake genre.

Guardian Cross' advertising copy promises the ability to play the "entire" game without spending money, and this, to Square Enix's credit, is basically true if by "entire game" you mean the story/campaign, and neither a complete collection of monsters nor any success whatsoever in the PvP coliseum. There's also the fact that the story isn't up to Square Enix standards. It has something to do with old gods being reborn as "Guardian Monsters," and I guess that explains why you shoot them and then they fight for you. The plot is implausible, the characters are dull, and the world feels incomplete.

Completing story mode battles with a second-string "deck" is made possible by the fact that losing just means that you can fight the same enemy again, and while your Guardians come in fresh, monsters you damaged or KO'ed last time stay down. This means that you can grind through any enemy in story mode, it just costs you "Action Power" for every attempt. Action Power regenerates slowly over time, or your gauge can be refilled with a "potion" (available in limited supply or purchasable with virtual currency).

That is how Guardian Cross works. You need a lot of different resources to play (too many to list here) all of these resources are rationed according to real-world time as well as in-game actions, with the most useful items (like "Special" Hunting Tickets) very scarce indeed). So playing for free means a lot of waiting punctuated by playing at strategically timed interviews.

Of course, all of these resources can be directly or indirectly unlocked with virtual currency, and that coin costs real dough. One of the things that Guardian Cross has going for it is that it's very playable in bite-size chunks, but that very advantage means that you'll want to play at times when you'll lack AP or GP or tickets.

The game's biggest problem, however, is its core gameplay. This comes in three parts: hunting, deck management, and battling.

The hunting minigame is basically "Big Guardian Hunter" as you line up a scope with silhouettes (so you can't tell if you're trained on a rare Guardian) then shoot, then attempt to scroll after the fleeing creature using controls so bad it must be intentional. The hunting minigame remains palatable because of the occasional high-rarity "kill," but wouldn't last 30 seconds as a stand-alone game.

The deckbuilding component seems interesting, as you have the chance to build a battle order, thinking about elemental advantage and the effects of your Guardian's special abilities on the enemy. Except that it doesn't work out that way. You enter all battles blind (except when re-fighting monsters you failed to beat the first time in story mode), so preparation for a specific enemy is irrelevant. Combo-building is also irrelevant, as base stats trump element and special abilities in overall impact. You never want to level up a weaker monster for it's special abilities. Oh, and your Guardians don't gain XP for winning battles, just when you sacrifice other cards to them, so you'll want to sacrifice nearly every card you're not using in your "party."

Then there are the battles. The best thing that can be said about the battles is that you can put your device down and go do something else. You won't however, because you'll be there holding down the "fast forward" button. There is no "skip" button. Neither is there any interaction whatsoever. With fast-forward held down, you can get through a battle quickly, but it still feels like the game is just wasting your time.

If you're into loosely Yoshitaka Amano-style art, or if you've ever said "y'know, I really wish Silent Scope was more like QWOP," Guardian Cross is worth your time. And if you're just into these kinds of games, it's not bad - but neither is it revolutionary. Otherwise, Guardian Cross has little beyond the illustrious name of it's developer going for it.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarNoneNoneNone
  • mcamp

    This app barely deserves to be called a "game". It plays itself almost entirely without input from the player.

  • ImJPaul

    Don't you think 2 stars is a bit generous?! Haha

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/RAF34COT7I3BYVCN2GR5R7AUTA Jackson

    agreed with above, players that spend no money have ZERO chance in the pvp coliseum and players that do will keep getting the big prizes that make the difference between paying and nonpaying players even greater

    • Darth Alpha

      Are you sure? I started the game last december, spend 0 bucks. Using only luck and trade, got almost the Entire FF collection, a good collection of limited editions. The trick is patience and no rush.

  • http://twitter.com/Slimwiggins Thomas Haroldsen

    And to add insult to injury, at least twice a day my app crashes during the hunting causing me o lose the monsters aquired and the ticket.

  • MidianGTX

    Loving the brutally honest review (and rating). Where are the people who claim TA only reviews 4* and above games now? It's Square, and it's shit. And TA called it.

  • wafflestirrup

    I played this and got through the initial introductory tutorials only to have deleted it. Clunky, cumbersome interface displays too much data and makes for less than desirable gameplay.

  • Tinsel

    I actually don't even like most of the Square releases on iOS, but this is their worst by far. I would barely call it a game. You basically pay money to see new artwork and/or beat people that have not spent money on this trash.

  • http://iqsoup.com/ iqSoup

    Sad. When are we gonna see a good Pokemon derivative on IOS? I'd pay $40+ for a game like that.

    • Michael Matzat

      Dragon Island Blue might be your fix. The iAP are not needed at all, fully playeble.

      Otherwise, i think square imght actualy the company to look at for any non indy good game. They are bringing the most new and old "full game experiences" to iOS.

  • ExcaliburEdge

    I've really been wanting to see a good card game from Squeenix hit iOS, but this is so mindless it hurts. I've been hoping for something more like Triple Triad from FF8 or the card game from FF9. Those, coupled with online PvP, would be great! This app is sorely disappointing.

  • AverageJack

    It bothers me than they link legend of cryptids with the ridiculous art or whatever.. I prefer the legend of the cryptids art over this games sometimes mediocre art style. But maybe that's just me

  • LS Agus

    only those who can spent most of time, money, have multi device, and active on the forum can be the top ranks. ACE 5* with stones can easily beat any monster with decent defense, no matter what monster is it.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/7SWH7AZY3E5S6S7UAIA6AMNIJY Ss Tester

      Every MMO game requires players to spend most of time, money, active in forum etc. to be in to top ranks. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/Q7IRAY7HMYQ4EK3OYQQAQD7L24 Chris

    This game is very "simple minded" and almost automatic. However since its free and if you still want to try it out, use this code to help you start out with some better cards for a head start. GA38279 (case sensitive). For as simple as it is, I've really enjoyed it. Give it a quick 10 minutes and see what you think.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/7SWH7AZY3E5S6S7UAIA6AMNIJY Ss Tester

    It's so cruel to rate as 2-star, this is a card game, what do you want it should have ? a 3d hunting mini game ? Final Fantasy storyline ? animation fighting like street fighter ? No, it's a card game, not FF or SF or COD.

    Square Enix is nice enough when they give out 2 special hunting cards (cost 1 buck each) for daily login, 2 for first event & 2 for second event. 

    I agree that people have to spend money to compete top place in arena (pvp coliseum), but that's not developer's fault, many players ready to pay to be the strongest players in game; if you want to beat them you must pay. 

    • Colten Moore

      Have you ever played a game called Battle Fury Pro? It's a tile-based fighter (think, say, Final Fantasy Tactics) where you pair off your own team against others, or in the level-based storyline, which is, in and of itself, a passable concept. The problem is, there are two buttons on the bottom right corner of the screen--the first puts the CPU in place of the player, and the second puts the whole game on fast forward--and there is literally no reason not to press both buttons, since the game will basically win itself for you. That means the only thought-provoking element left is team-building, but since the strategy is so one-dimensional, there is one obvious tactic you will want to use--one part of your group does big numbers healing, and the other does big numbers damage--and everything else about the game is building onto this same model with upgrades accessible through IAP or grinding, which you can do with the two aforementioned buttons. There are no consequences for loss; you lose energy, which you can replenish with IAP or by waiting, but you can retry fights infinitely, and you lose energy even if you win, so it really only affects how much energy each fight will drain. In short, there is no interaction between the game or player, except in that the player has the option of skipping through most of the game--and is encouraged to do so.

      Now, draw as many comparisons between this model and this card battler as possible.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/7SWH7AZY3E5S6S7UAIA6AMNIJY Ss Tester

        Not sure what you meant by comparing Battle Fury Pro & Guardian Cross, 2 different genres. Try compare similar games such as Pokemon or Rage of Bahamut, this game is good enough as 4 or 5 stars. 

        What players reviews ? 4.5 star by 1828 players (US market). Feel TA reviewer's hatred against SquareSoft. 

      • Colten Moore

        Genre is irrelevant; the core gameplay, mechanics, level of interaction with the player, IAP structure, etc. are the same, and both are oppressive. A first-person shooter with this same model (which would probably be on-rails, game automatically aims and possibly even fires for you, bullets are in limited supply, but ammo pals could be bought and otherwise replenish on a timer) would be broken for the exact same reasons, regardless of genre. If you finished reading at the first sentence because Battle Fury isn't a card battler, and then failed to draw any comparisons to the cripplingly non-interactive gameplay between this and that on that basis alone, I don't know what to say.

        If you want to compare this to another card game: do you remember a neat little side game in Final Fantasy IX called Tetra Master? The cards you begun with were ostensibly random, and you played people with basically random cards, and could really only gain cards from them by winning, but man, that game was FUN. There was a real sense of strategy involved in building your card selection for each game, and your decisions during the actual game mattered. What's more, there were still extremely rare cards, and it still felt awesome to have that El Cid airship card with crazy attack that pointed in seven directions.

        Square tacked Tetra Master on as a cutesy little add-on to another game fifteen years ago, but compared to this full-fledged title released by Squeenix this week, Tetra Master looks golden. That's just terrible, and the poor design of this game is inexcusable.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/7SWH7AZY3E5S6S7UAIA6AMNIJY Ss Tester

        Luckily you didn't compare Call of Duty to Guardian Cross, or Xbox to iPhone. It's pointless to discuss like this. 

        Ironically, TA rate 2-stars and players rate 4.5 stars. Epic Fail. 

    • Antonio Armstrong

      The complaints are legit dude. Defending SE on this is your perogative. Paying to play isn't bad when its done in a way that justifies it. Charge us a one-time full fee for the game and that's acceptable. But picking our pockets for at least $4 a pop for the "chance" to nab a "rare" card is just asinine. Then there are "super rare" cards to boot, which even if you pay for, you might not get even if you have all the other cards. Its a rip off.

      Other than that, the other complaint about the game's overall content is also legit. They could have at least tried to make the game more interactive. Its all based on money grabbing. The hunt tickets, the hunt process with a minute timer. Not to mention that shooting them makes them scatter and even with excellent aim, you'll miss while they're fleeing so you can't take them down as fast as you should be able to. This is because the game is basically hosted on a server and there is a delay between your shot and the on-screen icons causing you to miss unless it is slow moving or stationary. Also, I've moved my scope in the path of a fleeing beast and behind them and what I've noticed is that if you move your scope to their anticipated path, they will often, literally, move directly opposite of you preventing a quick shot. I usually keep distance and they stop earlier without change in direction. This is a cheap tactic. If you're gonna make us hunt, at least make it fair, because we can't get the good cards without paying anyway.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/7SWH7AZY3E5S6S7UAIA6AMNIJY Ss Tester

        Nah, no one works for free, don't expect people provide good services free. Do you think making a product cost 0 bucks ? Maintain server at free cost ? 

        However developer never force you to pay them. Did Guardian Cross force you to buy anything ? Never, players buy at their wills, no one ask or force them to pay. You can play GC free if you want, you still can compete PvP with over 80% of players, about 100,000s players I presume. 

        Have you ever played Crime City ? You can play it free, but want to join Millions Income Per Hour Club (IPH) you have to pay by real cash (buy gold buildings), without money you need 2 year time to be a member of $1M IPH Club. Any complaints ? No. You play & pay at your own will, no one ask you to pay, no one force you to pay. 

      • Nsfw Sao

        You are forgetting, Rage of Bahamut, Fantasica, Legend of the Cryptids, Monster Mastro and all of the other card games does the same as Guardian Cross and charges you 1-3 bucks for a chance to get a rare card. But with GC, 1-3 buck can get you more than just one rare/super rare cards. More for your money if you ask me compared to all the others card games I've played and invested in like the others I have mentioned above.

  • sortvind

    squaresoft, where art thou.

    • ExcaliburEdge

      Dust in the wind...

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/HSAPWXD2VI7NSQW45ISYJEXSRM Cameron

    Im free to play and Guardian Cross by Square Enix^^ is my fav game atm large player base and very unique gameplay. Hunting for your cards is fun and very frequent and this game is NOT A POCKET SQUEEZE. Use my referral code FT21690 to get rare cards and a boost your initial start to the game dont miss out on this one trust me fast paced card game awesome graphics and hours of fun^^. No crashes here fix you crappy devices

  • http://www.facebook.com/Justin.Pham0310 Jay Phạm

    Spend a meal price to have the fun is worth it. I only spend one time and my deck is good enough in A+ class.

    *******You can get RARE CARDS by entering my reference CODE: HM37515 ******* 
    HAVE FUN GUYS. ADD ME SO I CAN TRADE U MORE CARDS

    HM37515 ******** HM37515 ******** HM37515
    HM37515 ******** HM37515 ******** HM37515
    HM37515 ******** HM37515 ******** HM37515
    HM37515 ******** HM37515 ******** HM37515
    HM37515 ******** HM37515 ******** HM37515
    HM37515 ******** HM37515 ******** HM37515
    HM37515 ******** HM37515 ******** HM37515
    HM37515 ******** HM37515 ******** HM37515
    HM37515 ******** HM37515 ******** HM37515
    HM37515 ******** HM37515 ******** HM37515

    So use the above code to play game. I will add friend and guide you through the game!!!

    Have fun playing guys! Peace!
    HM37515

  • http://www.facebook.com/Kazmus2k Caz Jensen

    PLEASE HELP ME COLLECT THE LORD OF INFERNO!!! I NEED 15 MORE HELPS TO START A GAME WITH MY INVITE CODE!!!!
    TD29145
    TD29145
    TD29145...........PLEASE START A GAME WITH MY CODE AND WE BOTH GET A FIANL FANTASY CARD!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Kazmus2k Caz Jensen

    PLEASE HELP ME COLLECT THE LORD OF INFERNO!!! I NEED 15 MORE HELPS TO START A GAME WITH MY INVITE CODE!!!!
    TD29145
    TD29145
    TD29145...........PLEASE START A GAME WITH MY CODE AND WE BOTH GET A FIANL FANTASY CARD!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sallyundayag Rosalie Undayag

    This game is really addictive. Add me up MiNoe24 Y and H are both. Capital otherwise the system wont recognize.

    Few tips:

    Dont take the coliseum very lightly. (esp at the start) its your chance to get mighty cards at the start of the game.

    When hunting:

    Aim for the higher tiers stars. Only enhance three and up cards. And at the start of the game make sure you only focus in enhancing one guardian at a time rather than enhancing all. This will give you an advantage when fighting stronger enemies and players in the coliseum. 

    And lastly:

    Use two stars and up as ingredients for enhancing and sell one star cards - trust me on this one specially when you found yourself run put of guardian points.

    By the way. Use my referral code to earn yourself a higher tier card early at the game. Just type YH53572 (Y and H are both capital otherwise the system wont recognize it)

    Enjoy the game!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/suen.t.shing Suen Tung Shing

    Enter invitation ID EL72032 and we’ll both get a rare card! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/gameruiler Shane Toms

    Use my code so we both can get a rare card FL67997

  • http://www.facebook.com/vito.andolini.1612 Vito Andolini

    Use my invitation code to get rare cards!!! TG37852

  • Martin Walger

    Godo game
    Entré this invitation code to get at superstrong card to start with.

    Code: HT56762

  • youngster

    use my referral code when u start playing.ZH88066. after u complete the second mission, u will get a 4star card!

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.browning.904 Peter Browning

    I love this game. Use this code VI75493 to get a rare card. also I will throw in 5 4-star Cards!!! Limited Time only!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.browning.904 Peter Browning

    Well true about the many problems the game has, but all n all its a fun game. If interested us my referral code VI75493 to get some rare invite cards, plus I will mail you 3 rare 4-star cards. I will post again when the offer expires. When entering the code the second digit is an I not a 1. I hope you guys enjoy the game and become friends.

  • Cid

    Enter ZR09913 as Invitation Code when Starting the Game to get a Super rare Card ( 4 Stars ) right After the Tutorial :)

    Players who come back After some Month of a Game Break get 10 Special hunting Tickets and 20 recovery Potions on Top of it if they use that Code !

  • Cid

    Enter ZR09913 as Invitation Code when Starting the Game to get a Super rare Card ( 4 Stars ) right After the Tutorial :)

    Players who come back After some Month of a Game Break get 10 Special hunting Tickets and 20 recovery Potions on Top of it if they use that Code !

Guardian Cross Reviewed by Tof Eklund on . Rating: 2