Console: PSone Company: Squaresoft Release Date: August 2000 Genre: Adventure/RPG Number of Players: 1 Save Feature? Yes
Chrono Cross was the game that pushed me into purchasing a Sony Playstation. After delving into its masterful predecessor (Chrono Trigger) to no end, I just had to get a crack at the sequel. Chrono Cross did not disappoint either. The gameplay is sensational, the soundtrack as beautiful as they come, and the storyline mystical. There is that same "mystique" throughout the game that lets you know that the game is indeed in the same vein as Chrono Trigger. In many ways, I found Chrono Cross to be Chrono Trigger's equal and that's saying a lot! Late nights aren't uncommon when jamming away at this game. Overall, Chrono Cross is a legitimate candidate for the greatest game ever!!
Overview: How in the world can I begin to talk about Chrono Cross? There is so much meat in this game that it's hard (if not impossible) to cover everything. For starters, Chrono Cross is another Squaresoft treat so if you've played Chrono Trigger or any of the Final Fantasy games, you have a good idea of what to expect in this offering. However, Chrono Cross has just enough innovation and that unique touch to make it its own game. It's not just another Final Fantasy. While most people refer to Chrono Cross as simply a role-playing game, I feel that there are enough elements of a typical adventure game to fit CC into the RPG/adventure mold.
One thing that I like a whole lot about Chrono Cross is the many secrets and side quests; tasks that you don't necessarily need to do to finish the game. This gives the game a lot of replay value (a must for any game). Like Chrono Trigger, there are a ton of endings (most of them being accessible only after completing the game once) which give the game even more replay value. I really like the fact that there are so many secret items that you can find by searching diligently. I felt that this element was somewhat missing in Chrono Trigger. While there were a lot of treasure chests and a few sporadic secret items in CT, Chrono Cross has so many secrets that it's amazing! You might find a powerful element in a pot or an advanced weapon behind a picture on the wall. Not all of the secrets are cut-and-dry either. Perhaps there is a secret door behind a waterfall or a barely noticable vine that you can climb. Any true RPG fan will have a blast searching for secrets in Chrono Cross.
Another cool feature in Chrono Cross is the various characters. Not only are they cool but the sheer quantity of them is not to be believed! During my first trek through the game, I was able to get around 30 (yes...30!) of the possible 40 characters to join my party! Note that it is virtually impossible to have all 40 characters at once. The reason for this is that different decisions that you make can have a major impact on which characters will or will not join your party (yet another reason why the game rocks). For example, early in the game, there is the possibility of either Pierre, Guile, or Nikki joining your party. The decision(s) you make determine which character joins you! This is so awesome because it gives the game so much replay value (there's those words again). There are a lot of characters that only join you if you go out of your way as well! Sometimes you need to search a specific area for a key item or you need to take a key item to a specific location (yes, that "Big Egg" item that you receive early in the game does have a use).
Regarding the characters themselves, a lot of them are really cool. I have always liked Serge (the hero) a lot. He's just so cool-looking and his weapon (the swallow) is the best! The manual refers to Serge as the "silent protagonist" and rightly so. Serge talks very little but his swallow (double-edged weapon) more than makes up for that! He wears a cool looking bandana as well...I should wear something like that. :) And then there's Kid. In terms of temperment, Kid (what kind of a name is this?) would have to be the complete opposite of Serge. Unlike Serge, Kid is a loudmouth. This girl can talk trash with anyone! However, that's okay because she can usually back it up with a little "dagger-action." Although the match of Serge and Kid as main characters seems very strange at first, I think that it works in the end. Someone has to do the talking right?
After Serge and Kid, there are no characters that I would really qualify as being main characters other than Lynx and Harle (see Storyline). Some stand out more than others though. I always thought that the French swordsman Pierre was pretty cool. Radius is great as well; I've always pictured him as Serge's mentor. He may be elderly but his cane can really pack a wallop (I always wanted to see a game with an old man using a cane as a weapon...thanks Squaresoft!) :) Other notables are Korcha, Greco, and the "oh-so-cute" Pip.
As you can imagine, there is a lot of dialouge throughout the game. However, the unique feature of the dialouge is the various dialects. Before too long, a newbie will discover that there are a lot of different dialects in this game! Some characters such as Pierre and Harle have a noticable French accent (my favorite foreign language btw). Other dialects include German, Italian, and one that I like to call "pirate talk" (e.g. Aye be comin' soon.) These dialects really add a neat feel to the game. Even though you don't hear an audible voice, you can imagine what the characters sound like. This tactic gets a big thumbs-up from yours truly!
Alright, I think that it's time to start talking about the gameplay. Since this game is an RPG/adventure, you know where this path will lead: to the game's battle engine! This is yet another unique feature in Chrono Cross. It takes a little while to get used to the battle system but it becomes second nature pretty quickly. Basically, any person in your party (up to three characters in your party can fight at once) can attack or use elements at any time as long as they have enough stamina points in reserve. Stamina points are used up by attacking or using elements (the equivalent of magic in a FF game). For example, if you choose to attack, you will have three choices: a weak, strong, or fierce attack. They consume 1, 2, and 3 stamina points respectively and as you can imagine, the fierce attacks cause the most damage. However, that is not all! Before you attack, you will see three percentages for each attack. These percentages show the likelihood of successfully connecting with an enemy (e.g. Weak = 84%, Strong = 80%, Fierce = 75%). As you can see, you have a greater chance of hitting the enemy with a weak attack than a fierce one. However, you should keep in mind that with every successful blow to the enemy, all three percentages will increase slightly. As a result, the safest strategy would probably be to use two weak blows (2.0 stamina points), one strong blow (2.0), and a fierce blow (3.0...using all 7 stamina points). By using the weak and strong blows early, you can move the fierce blow gauge up to a nice percentage like 85%. Of course, the strategy is always different for each battle.
The other option in battle is to use elements. To use elements, however, you need to attack first. Only after attacking does your "element grid" begin to fill up. Also, it should be noted that using an element soaks in all 7 stamina points (more if you have less than 7 left). Sounds easy right? However, that's when the strategy comes into play. Up in the left-hand corner of the screen, there is the all-powerful field effect meter. The field is affected each time that an element is used by anyone. There are six element colors (red, blue, green, yellow, black, and white) and you could say that certain colors "counter" other colors. For example, if you are fighting an enemy that has an innate color of black, Serge's white elements will cause massive damage since white counters black (and vice-versa). The major strategy involves using several elements in succession. Since the element field has 3 layers, each element causes 1 portion of the grid to change to that color. However, when several elements of the same color are used in a row, the element field could be filled with one color (e.g. blue) thus increasing the potency of those elements big time! However, it all depends on the innate attacks of your party. For example, if the element field is all white and Serge gets attacked with a white element, it will not cause nearly as much damage as it would against Luccia (who happens to be innately black).
Whew!! That is a lot of info to digest at once! Okay, you are probably wondering why in the world I spent all of that time discussing the battle system. After all, you didn't come here to read the Chrono Cross manual. The reason is to give you an idea of the scope of the game. As you can see, there is a lot of strategy in this game. You don't simply press "Fight," "Fight," "Fight," and watch your members dismantle the foe. You have to be methodical in how you attack; you have to think before acting. Alright, I think that I've covered enough in this section. I could go on and on about additional aspects of the game but I'm sure that you would rather hear about the game's graphics and music right?
Graphics: Since Chrono Cross was my first Playstation game, I might be a little biased here. Remember, I'm an old school gamer! I grew up with the NES so you know that it doesn't take a whole lot to satisfy me. With that being said, I was very impressed with the colorful, detailed, and highly realistic visuals throughout the game. For a Playstation newbie, I was truly blown away at times! This was especially the case when I witnessed the various movies for the first time. I was simply in awe when I saw the opening movie for the first time. Incredible stuff man! I just wish that there could have been more movies in the game; it's hard to get enough!
Like I mentioned, the in-game graphics are excellent as well. Some of the scenary is nothing short of gorguous! There are tropical areas, seaports, eerie forests, and mysterious swamps that Serge and his friends will encounter in their journey. Some of the most impressive graphics can be found in Viper's Manor. I was awestruck by the attention to detail in the mysterious mansion. The place screams of grandeur with its crystal chandeliers, golden surface, and statues. As if that wasn't enough, you can see your reflection on the floor! Another really cool area is the Shadow Forest. The combination of dark green/blue hues with old looking trees was perfect! It created an eerie, somewhat mysterious feel. I just can't say enough about the graphics in this game. They do a superb job of creating the incredible atmosphere that makes Chrono Cross a standout among the many Playstation RPGs. The excellent graphics make Chrono Cross an enjoyable gaming experience as well. At times, it can be enjoyable just to stand back and admire the view! Amazing I tell you!
However, I didn't feel that the character graphics were as good as the background graphics. While the characters themselves look very good close up, you can't help but notice their "fuzzy" appearance when they are far away. It can be hard to make out the faces on various people. This is actually quite realistic but it's still just...fuzzy. It isn't a huge deal or anything but it's something that I noticed right away. I presume that it's just a limitation of the Playstation.
Like the game's visuals, the animation throughout the game is nice and fluid. The characters were more lifelike than ever and the battles were so much fun! The animation that takes place when a battle begins (right after you run into an enemy) is very nicely done. I really like how each locale has a different battle field. While the battle graphics don't seem quite as smooth as in the overworld areas, they still look pretty good. You notice the use of polygons in the graphics a little more but it still looks pretty good. The variety of actions that take place in battle are overwhelming! You have to remember that there are around 40 characters in this game. Amazingly, each character has his/her/its own unique motion. Add the large number of attacks for each character and you have a lot of variety! Some of the elements (especially the oh-so-cool summon elements) were unbelievable as well! The enemy animation is excellent as well! Each enemy moves differently giving the enemies unique characteristics! I always get a kick out of the bats (gobbledegooks) in the game. Their huge eyes make them look so funny! As far as animation goes, I don't see how you can do any better than this. Although the overall graphics in the game weren't groundbreaking, they were still very nicely done.
Music: The greatest strength of Chrono Cross (and virtually every Squaresoft offering) has to be the soundtrack. Chrono Cross' score is simply a dynamic masterpiece! When I first heard the opening movie track ("Time's Scar"...it's in the MP3 section!), I was already pleased with my purchase of both the game and the Playstation system. As if that wasn't enough, the "Garden of the Gods" theme that plays on the title screen really impressed me as well. Essentially, I was ready to purchase the soundtrack before even pushing start!! While the game's soundtrack might not appeal to everyone, it sure fits the bill for me. If you're looking for adrenaline-pumping music with a dose of heavy metal, then look elsewhere. However, if you enjoy music with beautiful melodies filled with emotion, then Chrono Cross is for you! That's not to say that all of the music is slow because the battle tracks and some areas have music that is more on the upbeat side ("Time's Scar" is a little of both.) However, if you just want to sit back and relax, no soundtrack can beat out Chrono Cross. I was simply enthralled as I played through Chrono Cross for the first time because the game had succeeded Chrono Trigger beautifully in the music department. Not only did Chrono Cross have a spectacular soundtrack, but it incorporated a lot of Chrono Trigger music in remixed fashion! "Chronomantic" is a brilliant remix of Crono's theme while the victory fanfare is an enhanced version of Lucca's theme.
While the soundtrack is great as stand-alone music, it functions very well as game music (imagine that). The music in Chrono Cross was definitely instrumental (no pun intended) in creating the incredible atmosphere throughout the game. The "Arni Village" tracks near the beginning of the game are so peaceful and serene; they create the perfect feel for the seaside village. "Lost Fragment" and "Reminiscence" are slow and beautiful while the "Chronopolis" and "Dead Sea" tracks late in the game bring back memories of the good ole Chrono Trigger days with their eerie/mysterious feel. The "Forest of Cutting Shadows" and "Sneaking into Viper Manor" tracks may not be very good stand-alone tracks but they fit the game's atmosphere beautifully. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I played these areas at night which only enhanced the feel. Some of the boss music ("Edge of Death" and "Dragon God" themes) were exceptional as well. Lastly, you can't forget one of the most beautiful video game tracks ever, "Quitting the Body."
With that being said, does Chrono Cross have a perfect soundtrack? No, although it comes pretty darn close. The main reason for this is the disappointing battle theme. I wouldn't call it a bad track but it's nothing like the superb battle theme of Chrono Trigger. If Yasunori Mitsuda could have just rearranged that track for Chrono Cross then the battle theme could have been much better. Another minor gripe of mine has to do with the ending theme. Although it's sung very nicely, it's in Japanese so I couldn't understand it!! I know that most diehard RPG fans are indifferent about a Japanese song but it would have been cool to hear an English version. The ending song is nothing compared to "To Far Away Times" (which may be the best ending theme ever).
If it wasn't for a few disappointing tracks, I would give the Chrono Cross score a solid "5" in a heartbeat. The music was just so beautiful and the quality (notably the synth that plays in songs such as "Time's Scar") was simply jaw-dropping! Some of the sound effects were downright awesome as well (e.g. the sound of footsteps echoing in Viper Manor). Overall, the Chrono Cross soundtrack is a rare gem that belongs in every music collection! It just might be my favorite video game soundtrack!
Play Control: The controls are standard RPG-fare...nothing earth-shattering but solid nonetheless. Moving characters around the world, searching for items, and toggling through the various menus becomes as easy as 1-2-3 within just a few hours. I do wish that the controls were a little bit more fluid when moving characters around but it's still pretty good. It's very minor though; nothing big. The important thing is that the battle controls are super! Switching between characters and selecting the various options are easy! You will not have a problem with the controls in this game.
Challenge: Due to the game's unique experience system, Chrono Cross is slightly more difficult than your average RPG. However, if you're good at using strategy and diligently searching for helpful items, you'll be alright. What makes the game tough is that there is essentially no level system. Additional attributes such as Hit Points (HP), Magic Points (MP), and strength can be gained by battling enemies and/or equipping characters with better equipment. However, there comes a point where your characters will no longer receive additional attributes by fighting enemies. Not until defeating the next major boss will your party be able to become stronger. This system basically keeps you from stacking your characters' levels to where they become invincible. Personally, I like this feature a lot! It encourages you to use strategy and there is a greater sense of victory after defeating a boss. There is no reason to fear though; there never comes a time when you're forced to fight a super-tough boss with weak characters (the Criosphinx late in the game is a rare exception). You're just not able to run the table and beat the game without using strategy; that's all. :) I confess that I am the type that likes to powerup my party to the max but I found Chrono Cross to be a nice change of pace.
Storyline: Before even playing the game, I knew that Chrono Cross would have a very tough act to follow in this aspect. The time-travel storyline in Chrono Trigger was what made the game so engrossing. I was really curious to see how Squaresoft would handle things in Chrono Cross. Was there any way that they could pull off another brilliant story?
The answer is a resounding "Yes!!" The background story of Chrono Cross was brilliantly done; like in its predecessor, it made the game so engrossing. I could never play this game for just an hour at a time; 3 or 4 hours was more like it. :) You wanted to do just "one more task" or get "just a little closer" to discovering the truth. Granted, there were times when it was hard for me to know what was going on but the pieces really come together towards the end. The story was very innovative as well. This time around, it involves two parallel worlds in addition to time and space.
I will try to say as much as possible without throwing any spoilers out there. Playing through this game for the first time was so special because I had no idea what would happen. My little sister, Cari would constantly get on the computer to try to find out what happens but I would stop her. :) This game was just too good to have the story spoiled. For that reason, I will be careful not to give any major surprises away.
The game begins with Serge having a mysterious dream. The significance of the dream becomes readily apparant later in the game. The real mystery begins when Serge and his friend Leena have an innocent meeting at Opassa Beach (a few miles from Arni Village). For some unknown reason, Serge suddenly disappears into thin air! When he comes to, everything looks the same except for the fact that Leena is nowhere in sight. However, it becomes painfully obvious that something is very wrong with this world. For some odd reason, no one at Arni Village seems to know Serge; even Leena can't recognize him. A real revelation comes when Serge learns that the Serge of this world tragically died ten years ago!! This is when the real adventure begins. Serge seeks the answers to his many questions. Why does he no longer exist in this world? Who caused his death in this world? And who is the mysterious Lynx and how does he seem to know about Serge living in the other world? There's the fateful encounter with Kid as well. Who is she and where did she come from? It is not until very late in the game that the truth is known. The revelations are shocking though; there are times where you will just say "Wow!" This is why Chrono Cross is so much better than the average RPG. As the game progresses, it becomes clear that the fate of the world rests in the hands of three distinct parties. They include humans, the mysterious dragons, and the even more mysterious FATE.
That's far enough. I won't go any further and spoil the story for anyone. I have only scratched the surface ; the plot becomes very in-depth as the game progresses. It should be noted that there are a ton of subplots as well. Each character has a story to tell. Elements such as these make the Chrono Cross story as brilliant and as enjoyable as any that you will encounter in a video game.
Funfactor: I really could just skip over this section because you already know the answer. Due to excellence in virtually every category, Chrono Cross is an extremely fun game. It has everything that a great game should have: graphics that create a good atmosphere, a beautiful score, and a super-engrossing plot. If you're looking for an enjoyable game that will keep you up past your bedtime, Chrono Cross is definitely the one!
Negatives: My biggest qualm with Chrono Cross has to be the disappointing ending. A game this great deserves a better finale than this! It was just really weird and couldn't hold a candle to the FFVII or FFIX endings. Although the ending theme is composed of a beautiful piano solo, the credits track is pitiful compared to the wonderful "To Far Away Times" tune in Chrono Trigger. Chrono Trigger is much better in this aspect.
I was also disappointed with the game's main battle theme. It just didn't create the right mood and was nothing compared to the awesome Chrono Trigger battle theme. It's such a shame too because this track is one that you'll be hearing throughout the game. You can't help but wonder what Mitsuda was thinking when he wrote this; oh well, we all have bad days right? ;)
On a different note, while I personally enjoyed having a party of 40+ characters in Chrono Cross, I felt that the character development wasn't what it could have been. The camaraderie that made Chrono Trigger such a special experience is mysteriously missing here. While there are a few exceptions (Serge, Kid, Lynx, and Harle were all fleshed out nicely.), sometimes less is actually better.
Ratings: Graphics: 4.7 Music: 4.8 Play Control: 4.3 Challenge: 4.3 Storyline: 4.9 Funfactor: 5.0* Overall Score: 28.0 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: *Co-Crown Jewel!!*
Back to Playstation PowerLast Updated: May 21, 2006