Review by EmbraceChaos
Chrono Cross is a sequel to the fabled game Chrono Trigger. This game tried a different approach from most sequels by changing the focus of the story and characters completely. Like all Squaresoft games of the PS1 era, the battle system attempts to be unique and original to stand out.
Music: Generally good. It's rather exaggerated in how superb it actually was. The normal battle music, for example, has a terrible violin sound that ruins the overall charm of an otherwise a well-made RPG soundtrack. This was generally a positive for the game as many who might dislike the game will still praise its soundtrack because it is a step above the usual lethargic soundtracks in most RPG games. Yasunori Mitsuda isn't one to disappoint his fans and he proves that with this game's musical composition.
Plot: The story is not well executed. There is no way to sugarcoat this critical issue. Chrono Cross fails to hold the players attention or even adequately explain what is going on. Normally in role-playing games created by Square it becomes captivating almost immediately. At least with other PS1 Squaresoft titles, it keeps hold of the player's interest with mystery and character growth but unfortunately this game utterly dropped the ball in that regard.
Often times you're told to keep moving with no understanding of where, how, or what you're even suppose to be doing. Characters will randomly tell you vague hints on what to do sometimes but half the time you have to look through just about everywhere to find out what you're supposed to be doing at all. There simply isn't a rhyme or reason to any of the story events that make any of it sensible. It's tedious and just plain annoying to go through. The game simply fails at giving direction half the time and the times it does are basically tantamount to: "Oh hey! You know, we should go to THAT location! We might find something their at THAT location! Let's go to THAT location! Come on!". Two obvious problems are, It simply isn't given enough explanation on why you are even going there and the game gets the name of the location you need to go to wrong at times. That is absolutely infuriating as it worsens the entire issue.
Social issues that the game tries to focus on such as racism just degenerate to discourse that simply states: "All humans are at fault for all our problems!". There is just nothing more to it at all. No explanation of why, how, or what humans even did in the past. You would think there would be more to this but unfortunately there are no details given. The only explanation you will ever get is: "Everything in the entire world is the entire human races fault!". We're expected to take this statement at face value when your group, including your human hero, stops an ethnic cleansing of the the fairy population committed by fire-breathing mechanical dwarves (I wish I was joking), and are then blamed for causing the entire mess by both the dwarves and fairies with the only explanation being "Humans are at fault for everything!". I felt the game makers didn't take this volatile issue seriously. That is the only conclusion I could come to after having stopped a genocide only to still be blamed for it in the game. To be honest, I felt the game made fun of the problem of human genocides in the twenty-first century which are very serious issues of concern in real life.
Gameplay: The turn-based battle system is just wasted. It attempted to be 'unique' without any sense of pragmatism. Random encounters are rendered useless with no level-ups allowed outside of boss battles and any items or usable magic spells you may obtain are pointless because boss battles give you enough money to simply buy these items or magic spells in town shops. Participating in more than one or two of these random battles per dungeon will yield a wholesome supply of raw materials for forging items such as armor. But overall, it's a grand waste to even implement this armor forging system because none of these items are really all that difficult to obtain. It makes the entire forging system feel tedious.
To be more in-depth: The magic system gives you a tree of customizable options to put magic spells you want in a particular section of this tree so that the more physical attacks you use, the more open this tree becomes in battle, and the more magic points you get to unleash stronger magic attacks. It sounds interesting but the execution is dreadful. You must wait at times to attack if you've run out of stamina which makes the gameplay feel slower. It has a "magic field" system that makes using the same "magic element" stronger in battle. The field can go up to 4 dimensions but this only creates a system where spamming the same magic elements will make you win the battle quickly. There really isn't much engagement required despite the so-called deepness of this game that was touted by its developers.
This magic system is just a downgrade from the standard turn-based role-playing battle systems of other turn-based games. How many normal attacks you accurately hit on an opponent determine the level of spells you can cast and there is no restraint to stop you from using your strongest spells all the time in this framework. In fact, the more of the same spell type you use, the stronger it becomes on the field making use of different spells rather useless for normal battles. Even then, you won't need any of this because the random battles are easy and, as mentioned before, don't give you any experience points and are thus a waste of time.
The physical combat in battle is just an annoyance. It's the three-point system. Weak, medium, and strong physical attacks. The weaker hits are more accurate and for every hit all of your attacks will become more accurate by small incremental percentages. Unfortunately, it's poorly executed. It really just means you have to click the attack button three times instead of just once for normal enemies to go down. Accuracy against weaker enemies never does increase so you'll have the same accuracy against enemies no matter what because there is no leveling outside of boss battles.
This makes the gameplay an aggravating chore. It should be called many things but fun definitely isn't one of them.
Cast of Characters: Out of 44 characters only 3 or so of them get any real development as characters. Even then, I'm being lenient in this regard. Most of them are just given funny accents to appear unique. The problem is that when all of them try to look unique they all end-up appearing bland. The characters outfits and accents don't really fit well with the story or the setting they are in either.
An example, A child died in a circus accident so a grieving luchador suddenly wants to suddenly join your party. He doesn't even know you and this is your first meeting with him. I wish I was joking about this. It really makes no sense. The most flummoxing part about all of this is that you can only have three characters in battle at a time so you won't even be using over half these characters.
Many of these characters have the same one-liner dialogue throughout the story. They all seem to be in favor of the mary-sue heroine at all times even when said heroine wants to kill you and a group of sick and dying innocent people. This is during a war of all things. The morality of the game seems to just be agreeing with anything and everything the heroine's horribly broken ideology says is right. This really gave me a negative opinion on this game. The story felt like a childish melodrama without any thought or consideration on tone, settings, or differences in opinion. The player is simply expected to believe that one person has all the right answers. It becomes a tad ridiculous when you're expected to defend her after she was gung-ho about killing the other party members while they were hiding from a military coup by the villain
As you play the story, you'll start to realize that common sense and intelligence just doesn't exist with any of these characters. I don't even mean this as an insult, this is a genuine examination of the game. Most of the characters are just RPG archetypes and have no interesting qualities to speak of. If you find one or two interesting then it might just be because you like the archetype that's being represented like the terminator-styled robot with super saiyan styled hair. However, there are no other interesting qualities and you won't even play over half the cast members if you're only going to play the game once or even twice. You only really have two character slots since the first character slot always has the main character.
The main character is one of the worst aspects of the game. He's a silent protagonist and just doesn't mesh well at all with his environment or the story. The player is given questions and concerns but all the main protagonist can really say is "...". This is particularly bad for a company like Squaresoft of the PS1 era. The simple fact is that games such as Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, and - to a lesser extent - Final Fantasy IX managed to pull off picking a variation of choices extremely well. The characters had some similar qualities to the silent protagonist type of style that was well thought out. In fact, Chrono Trigger was one of the most remarkable with this on the Super Nintendo. The plot didn't focus too much on Crono's characterization so you weren't met with expectations such as those required for characters like Cloud, Squall, Zidane, and the main protagonist of this game, Serge. They should have not made the main character a silent protagonist for this type of story. It honestly just doesn't work.
- The equipment system, as mentioned prior, is rather poorly implemented. To create armor and weaponry you must find raw materials to forge them. These materials, however, are very easy to find. You may wonder, as I did, why such requirements even exist instead of the standard and more efficient "buy and wear" in standard RPGs. It just reinforces the fact that this game tried to be different and edgy without any concern for common sense. It's just plain befuddling.
- The story itself, or rather whatever bits and pieces you are given, didn't seem too bad. It appeared to be interesting enough but the actual story segments are far too apart from each other to adequately recall. The story drags it's feet around. After you've finished your convoluted and confusing jumble of a journey the plot tries to resolve itself by large boxes of text at the very end of the game that tries to make sense of it. You just aren't given any understanding at all on what the events mean, why they're important, why you even need to be there, or what your actions have caused for 99% of the game. This completely ruins the tone, setting, and overall interest of the player. The worst factor in all of this is that because the game lacks any character depth in even the villains, their motives and actions don't make any sense either. So, you're left with a confusing mess of a so-called story by the end of it.
- Defenders of the game will tell you that it does make sense but when you question them individually, you'll find their just as horribly confused as you are. In the end, they'll probably direct you to a website filled with fan theories of information that contradict the game. The problem with that is the game's plot is self-contradictory (such as a certain character being referred to as "daughter-clone"). First issue is, the game's plot contradicts Chrono Trigger since Lucca was clearly homeschooled by her genius father, the Time Guru was Gasper and not Balthasar (rather damning contradiction since Gasper was very significant in Chrono Trigger), and the Dreamstone was never part of Lavos (in fact, Chrono Trigger explicitly shows that the rocks existed as a natural resource before Lavos even crash landed into the world). But of course, the worst plothole of the game concerns the pendant that the heroine has. Basically, without spoiling it, if the heroine really did have that pendant from a certain time anomaly then Marle couldn't have ever had that pendant since they're one in the same. As such, Chrono Trigger couldn't have even happened. If that's the case, then Chrono Cross couldn't have happened either because Chrono Trigger is integral for the events that created the islands of Chrono Cross. So you are honestly left with a gaping plothole that never resolves itself.
- Some of them you have to do extra sidequests to obtain extra story explanation. However, these in-depth events happen aren't delved upon enough and don't give much to go on either. The fact they had to rely on gigantic boxes of text cements this issue.
- Important information for any still interested in this game: There are bad batches of this game that will crash on you during the first dungeon. I had the unfortunate experience of purchasing one of these unplayable batches. I was able to continue on by using my PS3 to play Chrono Cross instead of my PS1 but this created the unfortunate glitch that locked my spells so that I couldn't use them during the entire first dungeon or boss battles. After the first dungeon, I went back to playing on my Playstation 1 and the problem appeared to stop. But, this is another nail in the proverbial coffin. This game is unplayable by normal standards. If I didn't have a PS3, I wouldn't have been able to resolve this issue at all and even then I encountered glitches because of it. So yes, this game does deserve this score because it is unplayable for some people who were unfortunate enough to get the bad batch.
Final Score: 1 out of 10. 1/10.
Reviewer's Rating: 0.5 - Unplayable
Originally Posted: 11/30/12
Game Release: Chrono Cross (Greatest Hits) (US, 12/31/01)
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