Chrono Cross - Review

Best played with 'Chrono' X'ed out

By: Silver_X

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 7
   Plot 3
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Difficulty?
   Time to Complete

20 - 30 hours


Title Screen

   Expansion packs are often used in the PC gaming market as a hook to lure gamers back into popular games, with the hopes of high sales. Unfortunately, these add-ones often fail to capitalize on the high points of the original, and lead to disappointment. There are, however exceptions to the fact, but those exceptions are nowhere near are prevalent as they should be. It's so unfortunate that one of the greatest RPG's of all time has been continued in this rough fashion.

   To say that you need knowledge of the first game to enjoy Chrono Cross in the least bit, is an under statement. In every sense of the word, Chrono Cross feels like a low budget expansion pack, at least on a story continuation standpoint. By taking all the great plot threads of Chrono Trigger, the team of CC (also the people behind Xenogears) have been able to add mounds of great-convoluted goodies, and a sense of extreme seriousness in the plot, two elements of which the Xenogears crowd of rpgamers tend to love. But even on this level, CC fails to unwind. Unlike Xenogears, CC doesn't resolve itself in a favourable manner. Instead of constant plot twists, interesting characters, and tons of deeper meaning monologues, CC is sugar coated in a Pokemon style flavour that never seems to explain its personality at all. Consisting of around forty cute characters with 0 personality or plot significance, aside from maybe three, it's a wonder what square was actually trying to accomplish with the story.

   The primary conflict in all of this spawn's from the essence of CT, a fun loving game with a great handle on the aspects of good characterization. Chrono Cross more or less borrows one of the key plot threads of this classic, and adds a Xenogears flavour without explaining anything. You're left with a story that's interesting, has potential, but doesn't go anywhere, primarily because there's no developed characters to push the story further, or a plot that's developed enough to explain the overall story direction. It was disappointing seeing such a story implanted along side Chrono Trigger, the two just don't seem to intertwine. CT was an amazing scrapbook, tagged together by the best in the industry. CC is an over calculated story that forgets to explain what its trying to bring across. A truly sad fact indeed, when you see those moments of brilliance in the form of Lucca's scene, or perhaps the moment Kid realizes her past. It's so unfortunate that there are only a few times Chrono Cross breaks away from its Xenogears style direction into CT territory. Above all, however, the fact that the story single handedly calls for knowledge of the undertakings in CT is disappointing, considering that many people never played the original.

"Dum de dum dum dum..."  

   You've got to question the placement of 99.9% of the forty plus characters littering the Chrono Cross world. Instead of focusing on a developed cast of characters that move along the plot with their motives, actions and desires, as well as their great personalities, Chrono Cross presents you with not twenty, not thirty, but a whole forty some odd characters that have as much personality as the inn keeper of Fargo, or the guy down the street x in game x, maybe a bit less. Inside of developing these characters and tangling them into CC's story web, the CC team decided to give them colourful accidents to mask their lack of personality, tricking all who could do without the story anyway (thinks of a few close friends). I can't understand the positive reviews that state the great characterization, and lush personalities. It's painfully obvious four hours into CC that is relying on a great soundtrack, awesome graphics, and just about everything else that could be tacked under the title of "face value assets". Don't get me wrong, I love great graphics and music, but if I can see through the characters in a matter of seconds and tire from an empty, characterless plot, what's the point of playing? Its so disappointing seeing relationships, interactions, and possible love interests being put aside in favour of a quick slap together of a game that holds the Chrono prefix. The fact that forty odd characters say the same things in different accents at all the key points in the game is an insult to the gamer's intelligence. Whatever happened to character development and individual personality? If it wasn't for the truly enjoyable Karsh, and most of all Kid, Chrono Cross would be nothing more then a lukewarm Pokemon with surprisingly less interesting characters.

   Aside from the story and plot elements, Chrono Cross isn't that bad at all. The sound track is brilliant, although not without its faults. The audio shines when more complex compositions such as "Time of the Dreamwatch", "Scars of Time", and "Orphen Fire" (not sure on the name) come to pass. However, songs like these aren't as present as they should be, being replaced by many mellow tunes that just don't have enough energy to carry the sound track into perfection. One thing that can be said about the OSV though, is that it's got a lot of variety, and while some of it doesn't listen well, a lot of it is perfect for the game, setting the mood just right at all the key moments in the game.

Cutesy or Realistic Name
Ready, set, strike.  

   As often as there are flying cows, there are Square games with horrible graphics. Chrono Cross look excellent, containing a great artistic approach that is both original and easy on the eyes. Unlike some of the more "movie set" inspired graphics such as those in Final Fantasy 8, Chrono Cross goes for that organic living look, that comes across as both believable and graphically splendid. Without a doubt, Chrono Cross is full of colour and personality graphically, and while some complaint can be issued towards the lack of closeness to the character during town and dungeon scenes, the complaint would be a minor one.

   Chrono Cross contains one of the most original battle systems to date. The battle system itself works well, and picking it up from scratch is a very easy undertaking. The basic premise goes something like this. You have the ability to use three levels of physical attacks, ranging from heavy to light. These attacks consume one, two or three stamina (each character has a maximum of seven stamina), which is recovered through defending or during the enemies turn), depending on the level of the attack. These attacks directly affect your element grid, which is used to allocate magic. A light attack brings you up one level on the grid, while a heavy attack brings you up three levels. By levelling through the grid, you're allowed to use magic that's placed higher on the grid, magic which is more powerful then your lower allocated spells. To top the battle system, an element grid is placed on the top left hand of the battle screen. There are three layers of this grid, and whenever you cast a spell, the colour of that spell is placed at the end of the grid. The effectiveness of a colour rises as more of that colour becomes highlighted on the grid. However, the enemy can also use this grid, so some caution should be placed in how you cast your spells. To say the least, the battle system is original….

   However, the problem is not so much with the system itself, as is the implementation. The fact is, Chrono Cross's battle system allows you to use a lot of strategy in battle, a lot more then almost any RPG on the market. For this reason, to be used and manipulated effectively, a lot more difficulty should be placed in front of the gamer, something that is unfortunately never done. Even if you were to use all the stock equipment, all the stock spells, you could still manage to beat most of the game with ease, a fact that shouldn't be. To add insult to injury, you can RUN from ANY battle in the game, including boss battles. As much as this is nice, you got to question its usefulness of such an addition when you can beat boss's in seconds. Even worse, the only time when you can significantly increase your stats is during boss battles. No level gaining. In short, what's the point of using the battle system at all? One of the greatest aspects of playing RPG's is building your character stronger, and reaping the rewards in battle... which in turn gets you more money for better armour, which makes you stronger for the next challenge. There's a cycle here, isn't there? When originality breaks a sense of presence outside of an RPG's story, questions should be laid on the effectiveness of the game play as a whole.

   Considering the facts, why would anyone want to reply Chrono Cross? The story is awkward at best, that unfortunately houses some clever, sometimes brilliant moments.... As stated, the battle system is inadequate for the difficulty level, and while the game does contain a surplus of graphics and music, is it really enough to merit that second or third run through? I guess it all depends on your tolerance level. The game does include a tool to speed things up after your first run, but the multiple endings aren't really up to snuff like those in CT. The multi path system in the game is good.... on paper. Outside of that, it's boring, and really busy work considering how developed these characters really are. However, it should be noted that few good scenes are only viewable by replaying the game, something that many people might consider when all is said and done. Also, if for some reason you enjoyed CC's characters, then by all means, feel free to seek them out during a second and third play through.

This ain't no Easter Bunny.  

   In truth, Chrono Cross is a slightly above average game. The graphics and composition are by far some of the best in the Playstation. Being dragged down by its awkward story telling and ultra dull characters, Chrono Cross remains an artistic masterpiece if nothing else. Taking the back cover as a reference, "Twenty years after the events of Chrono Trigger, a new set of adventurers set out on an adventure that will surpass time and even space".

   Don't jump into this game expecting a heart-warming sequel that takes place twenty years after the original. Expect an expansion pack that just failed to capture the spirit of the original. Expect something a little more average then you'd expect. :)

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