Chrono Cross - Review

Better than the original...thankfully

By: Gilboa Zohar

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 10
   Originality 10
   Plot 7
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 10
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

45 hours first play, 15 hours thereafter

way up dere

Title Screen

   Chrono Cross is the long awaited sequel to Chrono Trigger, one of the most loved games ever. I was very pleased playing Chrono Cross, since it managed to build very well on Chrono Trigger's story, making the original actually seem like a good game, which it isn't.

   I think that there are two things that most amazed me about Chrono Cross. The first is the music. I didn't like Chrono Trigger at all, it's one of my least favorite games. So I wasn't excited at all when I heard Chrono Cross. Only when I listened to the soundtrack did I suddenly want to play it. Chrono Cross has a superb soundtrack, one of the best I've heard on the Playstation. The samples are done very well, everything sounds real and the casual listener couldn't probably tell it's not recorded.

   The second thing I noticed was the graphics. There's nothing new about Square's great FMV sequences, its detailed polygonal characters or the richly colored pre-rendered background. However, the battle is a feast of color and life. Basically, it's just like the battles in Final Fantasy VIII - the polygonal characters from the field screens enter battle and are then surrounded by a 3D polygonal room. So far, nothing new, right? However, Square has added various 3D objects inside battle. What does that mean? It means that if you're fighting on the beach, the camera will rise out of a pool of water where you see fish swimming, it will move to a bird's eye view of the battle showing palm trees in the wind and birds flying in the air. Absolutely gorgeous.

The still pictures really don't do it justice.  

   The battle system is also new and it's even original! It's a bizarre combination of Xenogears' battle system, FFVII's materia system and FFVIII's draw system. There's no ATB now. Instead, the characters have a maximum of seven stamina points. There are three types of attacks which take different amounts of points. You also have elements. You've your regular elements, which are basically spells, and you've got your consumable elements, which will serve as your items. At the end of each battle, your regular elements recharge, but you can only use each element once in battle. There is no MP. To use an element, you have to build up your element level by attacking, and then use the element you want. Once your stamina level reaches zero, it will rise again while other actions are performed by other characters or foes. You don't have to wait until it's filled all the way, though. You can attack whenever your character has more than one stamina point.

   There are six types of elements in the game. Red and blue, green and yellow, black and white. Black creatures are more susceptible to white attacks and so on. Your characters also have their own color. As you progress through the game, you gain more element slots. However, there are no levels or experience in the game! So how do you get stronger? Each time you beat a boss, you get a big boost in your stats (for all of your characters, not just those in your party). Also, at the end of normal battles, you sometimes get random power ups.

Remember Labrynth?  

   Apart from the elements, your characters have weapons that you can buy, but you also need various items to do it. Obviously, the most powerful weapons require the rarest components. There're also various pieces of armor which can be bought in the same fashion, as well as helmets which I didn't find too useful. You can equip up to three accessories (including helmets).

   You can get up to 45 characters in Chrono Cross. Each have their own special techs (elements that are unique to that character), and their own history. Surprisingly enough, the game manages to develop many of them quite well, and they don't become a random group of faces. Another way to distinct between the characters is their accents. The game translators have implemented an automatic accent-generating program. That means, the text was translated normally, but the program changes it to fit the appropriate character's accent in real time. Some of the accents are very nicely done. Others, like the French accents, are incredibly annoying.

   Just like Chrono Trigger, in Chrono Cross there's a NewGame+ mode. Once you finish the game, you can save and then start the game again, with your characters at the same level they were before, with all your old elements. You can get all the characters from the previous game much later in the game and that allows you to get characters you couldn't get the first time (sometimes the story branches and you can get some characters and not others, depending on your choices). You also gain access to a couple of items the very cool Time Shifter device, the Charm Relief item and the Time Egg. The Time Shifter allows you to fast-forward or slow-down the game. The Charm Relief lets you to replace your main character with another during battle. With the Time Egg you can fight against the last boss at any point of the game. This allows you to get more secret endings you can only get the second time through.

   Now we get to what I think is the most important component in an RPG, the story. You are Serge from the village Arni. Your adventures begin when you stumble upon a passageway to another dimension. Once you get there, you meet Kid, the other heroine in the game. The plot thickens as you advance through the game and it of course it becomes a battle to save humanity as we know it etc. etc. It's very hard for me to rate the story. On one hand, it's very good. Nice psychological issues, good character development, enough questions raised that are solved later in the game. On the other hand, the way all those issues get resolved is horriffic. It's not as bad as FFVIII's big plot twist, but it seems that the writers decided that in the last hour of the game they should cram in it any possible plot twist, RPG cliche and philosophical idea they could get their hands on. So basically, the story is excellent, until you finish the game. That is why I give it an above average rating, but not a high one.

hint hint

   Overall, Chrono Cross is an excellent game. It's very original, good battle system (once you get the hang of it), great graphics, excellent music and sound and there's lots of replay value (you need to go through it at least three times to get all of the characters). The only real downside to the game is its plot. The game took me 45 hours the first time. The second time, using the Time Shifter, I got it down to around 15 hours. I can't comment much about the difficulty. For me, it was incredibly easy the first time, and even easier the second, when I was even more powerful. I heard some say that each boss is a battle for survival... I think the game is very much worth the buy, but don't except the story to overwhelm you at the end.

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