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Chrono Cross (PlayStation) artwork

Chrono Cross (PlayStation) review

"From conceivance to deadline, there was only one possibility for Chrono Cross, and that was complete and utter failure. The growing giant Squaresoft realized this and, loathe to tarnish their growing reputation as a divine RPG developer, decided to make Chrono Cross an indirect sequel to the highly fabled Chrono Trigger, granting Chrono Cross commercial success. Unfortunately, its degree of caliber was much lower. Trying to cash in on the growing userbase of graphic w..."

From conceivance to deadline, there was only one possibility for Chrono Cross, and that was complete and utter failure. The growing giant Squaresoft realized this and, loathe to tarnish their growing reputation as a divine RPG developer, decided to make Chrono Cross an indirect sequel to the highly fabled Chrono Trigger, granting Chrono Cross commercial success. Unfortunately, its degree of caliber was much lower. Trying to cash in on the growing userbase of graphic whores and casual gamers along with the Chrono Trigger fanatics, Chrono Cross can bluntly be said to be garbage.

You start the game off with an FMV sequence that takes your breath away. As soon as it ends, you expect to get right into the action, holding your breath…only it takes you 20 seconds of loading time before you can do so. After recovering from going blue in the face, you can finally identify yourself with a main character – young Serge, a daring adventurer. Along with two comrades, you journey through a dark tower with beautiful environments and haunting music, and head through a mysterious door to confront whoever is behind it. Instead, in a plot twist of building suspense, Serge is holding a bloody knife in his hand, his female mate Kid stabbed in an act of betrayal. The haunting music echoes, and with the confusion, freaks you out. You wonder what’s going to happen next…only then you wake up and it’s all a dream.

A major problem with Chrono Cross is how it plays out its story. You journey through a variety of graphically-intriguing environments, from a dried-up island to under the ocean to an abandoned futuristic outpost to a floating tower, trying to learn what’s going on with the storyline…but each time something interesting happens, it takes too long to figure out the cause and effect. Serge stabbed someone in his omen-like dream, huh? It takes you 10 hours minimum to find out what this dream meant, and then something strange happens, and then you’ll be forced to go through the rest of the game before you figure out completely what happened during that event. This is not to mention the majority of the story that fills in all the plot holes is told to you by three kids before fighting the last nemesis of the game. Squaresoft had a grand plot, but in the end, it was downplayed by their inability to make it all work out. The one redeemance is the total badassedness of the main villain of this game, Lynx - feline, scary, all-knowing, and a dark shaman to boot.

The second flaw is the number of characters. For those who have played any of the Suikoden series, you should know how fun, light-hearted and distracting it was to recruit the 108 Stars of Destinies. Squaresoft decided to implement a similar system of having a bunch of characters (Around 45) to recruit…only it takes you three playthroughs of the game to get all characters. Additionally, too many of the characters have sparse amounts of background development, a good amount serving as story fodder and nothing more.

The third flaw that comes into play of making Chrono Cross a piece of trash is everything about its battle system. Although one might be drooling too much over the graphical capabilities that Chrono Cross shows off not-so-subtlety to notice the flaws of combat, it is there, and it majorly detracts from the perfection that Chrono Cross boasted to have. Working on a stamina system that goes to as much as 10 stamina, you run up to the enemy and have three choices of attacking them; weak, normal, and hard. Each attack has a percentage-based rate of accuracy. However, each attack is drawn out for too long, and that brings me into the next part of battles; Elements.

In battle, you cast Elements to cause various effects, such as attacking the enemy or healing your party members. These magical spells are equipped in slots beforehand a battle, and can be used only once a battle. You can also equip certain items as Elements, which means that you can only cast it as many times as you have that item. In the upper left corner of the screen, there will be three rings that will be colored in as you cast your spells, depending on which type elemental magic you use. The more rings you have of your Element, the more powerful your spell will be. There are six different elemental forces, and each Element is strong against another Element and weak when hit by an attack from the same. The opposing powerss are: Black and White, Green and Yellow, Blue and Red. Each of your characters is of a certain alignment, bringing some more strategy components into play when deciding your party. However, once again, in graphic whore style, the Elements go and compete with movies in how long they take to cast, making us wait for loading times before they cast, and playing that stupid battle music track over and over as if this game were God’s secret weapon for all the “Every time you [insert action here], God kills a kitten” pictures.

The last part of battle is the team attack. While team attacks were present in full force in Chrono Trigger, this sequel has only a precious few number of team attacks, forcing you to change to party members that you don’t want if you desire to use a team attack.

But there is no incentive to fight.

Any sane player of this game should ask themselves; why bother to fight? The mastermind behind the stupidity that is Chrono Cross decided to throw away the chains of ‘Leveling up’ and ‘Experience Points’, and go to a different system which makes the fourth flaw – the Star system. After each boss battle you win, you gain a Star or two which caps off once you get one hundred. For the first few regular monster battles after that your characters’ stats will raise minimal amounts…but then stop. Because then you don’t have enough Stars to raise your stats anymore, and why should one bother fighting anymore? This also results in the likely possibility of being either underleveled or overleveled for another boss level, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

What really galls me about this game is how Squaresoft decided to create an artificial length. In Chrono Trigger, a person could start a New Game+ after they beat the game, which started them off from the beginning but with the levels and items that they ended off with last game. It allowed for a whole new perspective on the game, ripping through it as fast as you can, and discovering whole new endings that you could get. In Chrono Cross, however, you’re forced to play at least three games altogether. Why? Because you can only get a third of the non-mandatory characters per playthrough, and to get all the characters, you need to go through the story thrice and make different choices that results in going to different places. While Squaresoft was able to make it seem like a new game every time, they botched it up by creating an atmosphere that got boring the first time through, and more so the second and third.

Admittedly, sometimes the game is fun to play through, such as the few emotional moments which includes the confrontation between Lynx’s and Serge’s party or the confrontation between Glenn, Darius, and Riddel, or even Skelly meeting his grandmother for one last time, a few comical moments when you fight the spices crew of Solt, Peppor and Ketchop, and the shock when you learn about everything that happened at the end of the game. The graphics are very polished and is one of the most detailed and colorful games on the PlayStation, and some of the music is nice. Nevertheless, Chrono Cross is far from the flawless RPG that it was slated to be. It is only evidence that Squaresoft is not perfect. It is the game that dared associate itself with a masterpiece, thus destroying the hopes of a true sequel.

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Community review by yamishuryou (November 27, 2004)

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