Review by menschmaschine5
"Gets a lot of hate from some Chrono Trigger fans, but is still a great game."
So here we have it: the sequel to perhaps one of the best loved RPG's of all time. Chrono Trigger was a fun and very accessible RPG, and many people who generally didn't play RPG games loved it. It featured fluid gameplay, fun characters that the player could easily relate to, even though most of them weren't very memorable, and a fun, lighthearted storyline. The obsessive part of that fanbase views the game as perfect, that it shouldn't be changed at all, and were offended when this sequel was released. Their expectation was a Chrono Trigger 2, featuring the same cast of characters, the same gameplay mechanics, and in the same world. They were crushed when they found that the sequel featured a different cast of characters, a completely different battle system, and was in a different part of the world. Why, you can't even travel through time! How is this a sequel exactly?
Well here's Merriam Webster's definition of sequel:
2 a: subsequent development b: the next installment (as of a speech or story); especially : a literary, cinematic, or televised work continuing the course of a story begun in a preceding one.
Chrono Cross deals with a subsequent development in Chrono Trigger's story, is the next installment in the series, and continues the course of the story begun in Chrono Trigger. It fits the definition. It's a sequel. But that doesn't mean Chrono Cross is the same game. A word of warning to Chrono Trigger fans: if you're looking for the same game as Chrono Trigger, go play Chrono Trigger again. If you're willing to accept the fact that this is a different game, then welcome. Please note that people who play RPG's regularly will probably enjoy this game much more than those whose RPG experience is limited to Chrono Trigger and Pokemon will.
So what about the actual game? Well let's see...
It's fitting, since the story is such an important part of an RPG, that the story should be reviewed first. Those looking for a deep, dark, and somewhat complex story will enjoy this game. Those looking for a lighthearted, Chrono Trigger-esque story, look elsewhere.
This game takes place in El Nido, a protected tropical archipelago that came into existence as an indirect result of some events in Chrono Trigger, 20 years after the events of Chrono Trigger. Enter Serge, the main character of the game, who has awoken from a strange dream at the crack of noon. Serge is a 17-year-old living with his mother in the small, peaceful fishing village, Arni. He's well liked by the residents of the town, and is a seemingly normal boy, but has a very odd past. 14 years ago, he was attacked by a panther demon, which released a powerful venom in his body that takes a great deal of skill to treat. His father, Wazuki, and his father's friend, Miguel, set out to find a cure for the venom. Serge was healed, but Wazuki came back a changed man and Miguel was nowhere to be found. Soon afterward, Wazuki disappeared. 4 years later, 10 years before the events of this game, Serge nearly drowned, and was rescued by a mysterious figure. Despite all this, though, Serge is well adjusted, and even has a potential girlfriend. While collecting much coveted komodo dragon scales for her, he passes out and wakes up in a completely different world. He discovers it to be an alternate dimension in which he drowned 10 years ago, and is soon attacked by Karsh, an elite member of the Acacia Dragoons with orders to capture the ghost of the boy who died 10 years ago. After defeating Karsh with the aid of a mysterious bandit-girl named Kid, he sets off on a journey to find out what the Dragoons want with him, and finds the origins of El Nido, and how the conquests of Crono and co. affected the world.
The story of this game is excellent, full of surprises and surprising references to Chrono Trigger. The main problem is the delivery of the story, which is sometimes sparsely placed between side-stories.
Related to the story somewhat. This game has a rather interesting character set, in the fact that there is a grand total of 44 playable characters, as opposed to Chrono Trigger's eight. Unfortunately, this means that many of the characters are superfluous, both ignored story-wise and weak in battle, which is an unfortunate oversight on the part of the game developers. There is a handful of very memorable, very well developed characters who are all important to the game's plot, though. More could have been done with the size of the roster, but this is more a superfluous feature than a detrimental feature of the game. The characters include some tributes to Chrono Trigger characters. Note that not all 44 characters will join your party in a single playthrough, as different choices you make cause different characters to join your party.
Well, it is a game, right? So how does the gameplay stack up?
Well, I personally think it's excellent. Gameplay outside of battles is the same as in any RPG. A character travels through the world map and through towns, buying and finding items, solving puzzles, and triggering battles, just as in every game. Controls in the map are fairly intuitive, although I find that the placement of the "cancel/run" button (circle) is rather bad, and the role of the square and circle buttons would probably be better were they reversed. The world map is scaled down, meaning exploration is not tedious, and there are no battles in the world map. Getting from place to place on the map takes little time.
The major thing the map exploration has over some other RPGs is the lack of random battles. No, this was not new, and was also done in Chrono Trigger, but it's nice. All battles, whether boss battles or regular monster battles, are on set places on the map and are usually visible from a distance. This way, battles are avoidable.
The battle system, while confusing at first, is very well done, and lends itself to a very strategic style of fighting. This combines with a highly customizable "element" system, giving you almost total control over what abilities your character can use. The battle system is based neither on character's agility or time, but on stamina. Each character has a stamina meter that depletes every time a move is used, and can keep attacking until that meter reaches 0 or less. Once this happens, command moves to the next character while the previous character recovers its stamina. I won't explain what you can do with that stamina, however, since it's very difficult to explain without a lot of time and many words.
The way characters level up is different as well. Instead of gaining experience points and leveling up once a certain number has been reached, characters gain star levels, which raise their stats and expand their element grids, after certain boss fights. Characters in the main party will also receive a few smaller stat boosts after normal monster battles, but when this happens is completely random, and will only happen a few times per star level. This means that grinding is impossible, and that fighting monsters just to train your characters is never necessary. Money, though, is still earned the traditional way, but it's not hard to afford the equipment and elements you'll need in this game.
This is the part where the game falls on its face. This game is very, very easy. Such a deep story, interesting battle system, and limiting leveling system, could lend itself to a much more strategically demanding game. As it is, though, little strategy is needed for most fights, and element placement isn't essential to winning boss fights. In fact, towards the end of the game, physical attacks end up doing more damage than elements, removing yet another strategic element of the game. Also, low level elements are not worth using towards the end of the game, removing yet another element of strategy. This game could have done with a better balance of power, and perhaps could have done with a hard mode, which would have made some use of the large number of stat-changing elements in the game. As it is, though, the game is a little too easy. It's still a lot of fun though.
Yes, this game continues the New Game + tradition that Chrono Trigger had. It also has many, many bonus endings that you can get by beating the final boss at different points in the story in the New Game + mode. Also, those who want the entire character roster will need to play the game at least 3 times. There's even a bonus boss (or rather, 3 bosses in 1 battle) only available in the New Game + mode, which Chrono Trigger fans will recognize. All in all, this game will keep those who wish to collect everything, and those who simply love the game, busy for a very long time after they first beat it. Not that beating this game for the first time can be done quickly anyway. This game will take approximately 40 hours to complete the first time, more than twice the time it took me to complete its predecessor, Chrono Trigger, for the first time, even with all the side-quests.
This game's graphics are excellent. Some of the best you'll see on the Playstation. The environments are pre-rendered, and look almost like paintings, in a good way. The character models are well done and detailed, and move fluidly. Monster models are very rarely re-used (only re-used for powered-up versions of a monster in a similar location), and a lot of design and thought was put into each of them. The character illustrations are very nice and very detailed, and far better done than Toriyama's character illustrations in Chrono Trigger. Although some are offended that Toriyama wasn't signed on as the character designer in this game, the new character designer's drawings are superior.
The cutscenes are just gorgeous. Everything is incredibly detailed, and almost looks like a Playstation 2 game. The world map was also beautifully designed, and is a joy to explore as such.
The quality of the sound effects is good, sound effects are convincing and unintrusive. This game's music is rather excellent, fitting the environments and moods of the different parts of the game very nicely, and some of it is even fun to listen to. It's not the most sophisticated music ever, but video-game music never is. It's one of the best video-game soundtracks I've ever heard, though, and although most of the themes lack the "epic" feel that much video-game music has, it has a measure of beauty and peace that really adds to the game's experience, especially in the tropical paradise environment this game boasts. The music is all excellent from the fast, adventurous themes of the introduction and the title screen right to the reflective, calming guitar and vocal song that plays during the game's credits. All in all, the music and sound are both excellent.
Overall, I'd rate this game somewhere between an 8.8 and 9.1. It's an excellent game, and I highly recommend that RPG fans pick it up. If you enjoyed Chrono Trigger but generally don't like RPG's, this game is probably not for you, as it's quite a bit deeper than Chrono Trigger. I personally enjoyed it much more than I enjoyed Chrono Trigger, even though I played CT first. Also, fans of Chrono Trigger who aren't too attached to the characters and gameplay system will love what this game adds to the story. I did.
Note that I do recommend playing Chrono Trigger before this game, as with any original-sequel pair. Although it's not necessary for enjoyment of the game, it will make it easier to understand certain parts of the game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/11/08
Game Release: Chrono Cross (US, 08/15/00)
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