Review by Archmonk Iga
"Ignore the haters. This journey through time is timeless."
I suppose this was a long time coming. I've played through Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger a good amount of times, but granted it has been many years. I finally replayed Cross again in 2010, with a fresh new perspective that was completely different than when it first came out. Speaking of which, do you remember when it first came out? The long-awaited sequel to one of the best RPGs ever. It had a lot to live up to, and I honestly think it did a swell job of keeping the magic alive so many years later. No game comes without its haters especially with the rise of the Internet but I think many of us Chrono Cross fans have realized how insignificant these haters are and simply block them out while we play a truly timeless RPG that we will all cherish forever.
What is an RPG without a story? To the devoted fans of the genre, an RPG with no story might as well be nothing at all. But at the same time, is it possible to have too much of a story? Many CC players have pondered this upon completing the game, and justly so.
Obviously, when creating a story based solely around time, it must be done extremely carefully and with as much attention to detail as possible. A time-based story is much like a knot of threads. The storyteller must make sure that all the threads are tightly knit into the knot and actually lead to somewhere significant. It goes without saying that such a feat is difficult to pull off 100%. With CC, the players can tell how difficult it actually is to tell such a story, but we can also see that it is not impossible.
CC stars Serge, a friendly young teenager from Arni Village. One day, he is at the beach with his friend Leena, when he suddenly passes out. Leena is gone when he wakes up, and when he returns to Arni, nobody recognizes him. In fact, they're saying that a young boy named Serge died ten years ago. What happened when Serge passed out? Where is he now, or rather, when is he now? How can he get back to his original timeline? These are only the first questions that drive Serge to fulfill his fate (but is it fate?) in this immense tale that thrusts our hero through time and space itself.
Along the way, Serge meets dozens and dozens of interesting people, some of whom will aid him and some of whom will try to stop him. In the end, though, there are four amazing characters who make CC's story worth witnessing. Serge is obviously number one, our silent protagonist who comes to realize that he holds the future (and past and present) of the world in his hands. Lynx, our antagonist, is the eerie panther-man with a subdued demeanor but corrupt intentions. Kid, who Serge meets right after his time-travelling incident, is a spunky young woman with a hilarious and abrasive personality but a mysterious past linked to the heart of the story. Last but not least, we have Harle, the French harlequin who seems to be Lynx's right-hand woman at first, but may eventually reveal a few surprises of her own. And while Serge and Lynx are two fascinating characters themselves, Kid and Harle, in my mind, are both two of Square's most interesting characters in their history. Instead of these characters acting all enigmatic and mysterious (which they are, don't get me wrong), their personalities speak otherwise. It seems that mysterious characters in RPGs tend to be loners who speak very little and are only involved in the story for their own personal agendas. Kid and Harle, however, are the complete opposite. They each possess their own quirks that both entertain us and bring us so much closer to them as characters. Square really deserve applause for such well thought-out characters in all four of these people.
But as I said before, dozens of people will come into Serge's journey, and over 40 of these people can actually join him. A cast of 40 characters is both a blessing and a curse for Chrono Cross. It is a blessing because they each have their own unique personalities to bring to the table, their own things to say, and their own skills on the battlefield. It is a curse because they lack any depth and mostly provide no benefit to the overarching story as a whole. Some join you because you need them to advance (Starky, Norris), but some have absolutely no business in tagging along (Riddel, Grobyc), and some are hidden and therefore optional (Funguy, Miki). Sure, it is cool to have so many characters to play around with and it adds to the replay value, too but there is no doubt that they detract from what could have been in regards to the overall story and to the characters who are actually important. How much time did we waste learning about Karsh when we could have had some time uncovering Kid's secrets? Thankfully, Turnip is the cutest little vegetable in the videogame world, so it's not a complete loss.
Another problem with the story was hinted at in the beginning of this section. Time travel is a very sensitive topic to base a story around, and when the time for answers finally comes in CC, we understand how sensitive it really can be. On disc two, we are almost bombarded with story, and there is no doubt in my mind that most first-time players (including myself) had no idea what just happened by the end of the game. It is simply too much, and if and when the player finally wraps his/her mind around it all, there are a handful of threads that do not lead anywhere, thus making the dreaded plot hole term come into play.
But despite Square possibly trying a bit too hard to make a complex story, it is nonetheless gripping. If you don't understand it all, don't worry about it. I mean that. It is at times too complex for its own good. Plus, with all these unnecessary party members it only gets more muddled. But at the same time, Serge's quest is nearly as masterful as Crono's, taking you through time to help change history and shape a happy future. Additionally, the writing is impeccable, and the translation was handled perfectly. Not to mention how well it ties in with Chrono Trigger. What's not to like about that?
Chrono Cross's graphics are an example of a PS1 gaming pushing the system's limits. The pre-rendered backgrounds are absolutely beautiful, if at times hard to navigate. Some of them even look like Van Gogh paintingsthat you can WALK on! I can't believe how much work was put into these environments. The character models are just as impressive, maybe even surpassing the ones from Final Fantasy IX. And with over 40 characters to give battle animations to, this is truly a remarkable job. The overall tropical vibe of Chrono Cross would be nonexistent if the graphics were any worse. I'm just speechless. CC is about as perfect looking as a PS1 game can get.
Another knockout, CC's soundtrack is breathtaking. While not all tracks will remain in your head, some of them are unbelievably well-produced. Dream of the Shore is the Another World overworld music, and I think it is one of the single best in-game songs that I've ever heard in an RPG. This song, which is basically just a finger-picked guitar part with a deep violin, actually made me mad when I had to enter a town, because it meant having to stop listening to such beautiful music. It's not the only amazing track on CC, but to me it is hands down the best. I'd also like to mention the battle music, which is great but tends to be a little overdramatic considering you're just fighting a normal battle. There are also a bunch of Trigger-inspired tracks, which is a huge treat for any good sequel. There are no voices in CC, but I don't think many people mind this (especially because the dialogue boxes are so cool). The sound effects are also great, especially in battle.
Is this where Chrono Cross falters? Is this the reason so many GameFAQs users gave it such ridiculously low scores? I don't know, because I haven't read any of them (and never will). But if this is the reason, it's a pretty crappy one, because CC has some of the deepest gameplay you can find on the PS1.
Despite the issues in story with over 40 characters, there is obviously going to be a lot to play around with. Each character has his/her own specialties, and while some (Glenn) are definitely better than others (Pierre), each one is a joy to fool around with for at least a little while.
The battle system is very original and can require tons of strategy. Thankfully, there are no random battles, because you can see the monsters onscreen (a la Earthbound). There is no experience or leveling up, either, but instead there are stars to collect (up to 99) that improve all characters' attributes. Both of these unique elements are amazing, bringing us a fresh new way to play an RPG.
When you do battle, there is a lot to take into account if you want to succeed. First are the elements, which each character and enemy has an innate of. These elements determine how well the combatants perform against one another and also affect the field of play. If fire is used, part of the field turns red, increasing the effectiveness of the fire element. There are also tons of different types of elements, such as consumables (basically what items are in any other RPG) and summons.
To be able to use elements, characters must first increase their usable slots by attacking. They can use a strong, middle or weak attack, and each of these attacks comes with a varying hit percentage. Oddly, even at 90% hits, the characters can miss several times in a row! Now what are the odds of that actually happening? There is no way these hit percentages are that high with all this missing going on, and it makes me wonder what the hell went wrong in the process of making this battle system. It just doesn't make any sense, and is very frustrating to watch your characters miss over and over again even when their hit percentages are over 80%.
Attacking and using magic also uses up Stamina, which is what allows characters to perform in the first place. This is restored as other people make their moves.
CC's battle system really is a force to be reckoned with. There is so much going on that it offers tons of strategy to be utilized. Unfortunately, strategy is completely unnecessary in the normal battles, which are incredibly easy. The only strategizing will be done in boss battlesand these bosses can be very tough! It makes the mundane normal battles more than worth it to face such formidable bosses (though some bosses are way too easy). And if things aren't going your way, why settle for a game over when you can just run away and come back to the boss after regrouping? Yes, another unique (and great) aspect of CC is that you can run from ANY battle, including boss fights.
Besides the complex battle system, there is still an overwhelming amount to do in CC. With loads of recruitable characters comes loads of sidequests, secrets, and exploration. I can't say just how much there is to do at any point in the game's storythere's no way you can do it all in your first playthrough. And while this is awesome, it doesn't come without its drawbacks. There are many fetch-quests, and warping from Home World to Another World back and forth all the time definitely gets annoying. There is also a main storyline part where we have to face the six dragon gods to proceed, which makes the gameplay very mundane and gives the story a long, boring lull. There are also points in the story where you are given almost no clue of where you're supposed to be heading next.
CC's gameplay was obviously handled with as much TLC as the rest of the game. While it can be aggravating at times, it is still quite addicting and involving, giving players so many options to explore and so many ways to play. It only makes CC that much more of a landmark in the RPG world.
Multiple story branches that can take Serge on completely different routes means players will almost NEED to replay CC multiple times. And trust me, these decisions that you have Serge make really do alter the progression of the story, so if you were thinking about making CC a one-time thing, think again. There is also tons of extra stuff to do, and no way will you be able to do it all in one playthrough. The New Game+ option is also back, which makes it that much more fungo for 99 stars! You also get the Fast Forward option, which EVERY game should have. Seriously, I love Fast Forward (there's Slow-Mo too). Tons of characters, tons of paths to follow, tons of story to try and comprehend One playthrough just isn't enough to really appreciate all of what CC has to offer.
REPLAY VALUE: 10/10
Chrono Cross is a beautiful game in nearly every way. The graphics are astonishing, the music is wonderful, and the huge number of things to do and see is unbelievable. The complex story can be difficult to understand for some, but it is nonetheless a timeless tale that will be remembered for, if nothing else, those four great characters I talked about in the beginning. Every game has its haters, and Chrono Cross is far from an exception. But I am not one of them. This journey through time is completely worthy of being called the sequel to Chrono Trigger.
Thanks for reading =)
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/22/10
Game Release: Chrono Cross (US, 08/15/00)
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