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Chrono Cross

Traditional RPG
  • 15 August, 2000
  • 18 November, 1999
A 138 total ratings
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Chrono Cross

A Chrono Cross review Author: Davon Alder Published: July 16, 2000
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No one has ever been able to adequately describe "that old school feeling" that many say is missing from Square's more recent titles. If "that old school feeling" is the sadness you feel when a game ends, even if everything ends happily, just because the plot is over and you have to return to the real world, then I can say for sure that Chrono Cross had "that old school feeling." If that isn't your definition of the ever-elusive "feeling," just pretend I didn't say anything and skip down to the next paragraph.
Mmmm...strawberry jelly...

By now, most are probably familiar with the fact that Chrono Cross is the direct sequel to the much-lauded Chrono Trigger of SNES fame, and that it is also in part based on Radical Dreamers, a game for the short-lived Japanese Satellaview system, and has a total of 44 playable characters. Most people likely don't care about the quality of a successor to Radical Dreamers, but as the sequel to Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross bears a perhaps unfair burden of expectations. How can any sequel compete when sites like IGN PSX are being downright inaccurate with their hyperbolic praise of the original (no offense to IGN)- and while our minds are likely acting much the same?
The answer is: amazingly well.
For those unfamiliar with the basic plot of Chrono Cross: a young boy, the game's "silent protagonist" Serge, finds himself unexpectedly pulled into another dimension, one in which the world is in many ways different from his own. To say more would spoil the story, of course. For awhile after the dimensional shift and the revelations surrounding that mysterious events, the game's plot grows a bit dull, as the player is temporarily subjected to a smattering of cliche dungeons, including a ghost ship and sneaking through an enemy base disguised in guard uniforms. Luckily, things soon pick up and the game thereafter knows nary a dull moment, especially once the plot starts tying in to the original Chrono Trigger plot.

In gameplay terms, Chrono Cross is quite different from Chrono Trigger. While Chrono Trigger used the Final Fantasy series' Active Time Battle system for battles and had characters gain abilities using a slight variation of the old system of gaining abilities by leveling up, Chrono Cross uses almost entirely new combat and ability systems, which expands heavily on the stamina points based system used in Xenogears. I'll spare you a wordy explanation of the new system and instead say that it's refreshing to see so much innovation in one game. Besides replacing the old turn-based vs ATB, Chrono Cross also makes non-boss enemies optional, refines the weapon creation system of < href="/games/ps/ff8">Final Fantasy VIII and combines it with the traditional equipment system used in most games, and improves the RPG gameplay formulas in more ways than any game since Final Fantasy IV did away with turn based combat by giving us the Active Time Battle system. As well, it throws challenging bosses at you with fair regularity, and you'll often find yourself running away from boss battle (which is possible in Chrono Cross) in order to fine-tune your strategy.
Chrono Cross is somewhat amazing in that it manages to have so many unique features. What matters, however, is not how many new features a game has, but how effectively it applies them. While Chrono Cross for the most part pulls its innovations together well, there are a few flaws in the design. First and foremost, with so many characters, there is often little reason to use one above another. While some characters are quite unique in their abilities, such as Pip and Sprigg, others tend to be separated only by slight differences in stats. As well, the signature Chrono Double and Triple Techniques are few and far between- so much so that I never saw a single one during my first playthrough. The game has enough strategy and gameplay to more than survive these minor flaws, but hopefully they will be ironed out in the next Chrono game (here's crossing our fingers that there is one).
Okay.. so maybe it does delve into Mojo's past. I was too afraid to find out.

More so than the gameplay, the characterization is hurt by the huge amount of playable characters. While the use of accents sets the characters apart quite well, a little more focus on the major characters (especially Kid, though there's an optional scene that is said to add quite a bit to her personality which I missed) would have been nice. Still, I think I can live without knowing the details of Mojo (aka Lucky Dan)'s past. Once again, the overall quality of the game isn't terribly damaged, but there is room for improvement. Translation-wise, the game wouldn't even be possible in English if it wasn't for the "auto-accent generator," a program which alters set words for each event so that they match the personality of the optional party members you have along. While this may suggest a Bablefish-like disaster, each scene seems to have been tested to make sure that the program makes the lines sound distinct and understandable for each character, and keeps their personalities intact.
Graphically, Chrono Cross is up to the standard we've all come to take for granted from Square. While the character models on the field are perhaps a bit less detailed than those used in Final Fantasy VIII, and dramatic camera angles used less often and effectively, the in-battle graphics are top-notch. Each character has multiple animations for each level of attack, and all the techniques and spells are suitably impressive. The FMVs are, of course, beautiful, and never seem over used.
Oooh, shiny!

The most impressive aspect of Chrono Cross is its music. If you happen to be a fan of game music, you likely had the soundtrack before you actually had the game. Like Chrono Trigger and Xenogears before it, Chrono Cross simply wouldn't be the same game without Mitsuda's music to bring its towns, people, and world to life.
How to better to end a game review than with its final battle? Without spoiling anything for you, the most I can say is that Chrono Cross has perhaps the most surprising final battle, in both gameplay and story, that I've yet ran into. Enjoy Chrono Cross....and then join me in enjoying the wait for another Chrono game.
Editor's Grade
dotted line "Is it better than Chrono Trigger? That you'll have to decide for yourself. Chrono Cross' innovations will likely be seen again in the future, and the whole genre is better off for the new ideas. A bit of fine tuning, and it could even be called a perfect game."
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