Review by Bkstunt_31
"Don't expect more Chrono Trigger here!"
Few games have likely been as anticipated as Chrono Cross. I mean, Chrono Trigger is widely considered a classic, so when Chrono Cross was released five years later in 2000 I have to think that RPG players everywhere jumped on it. However, Chrono Cross is definitely not Chrono Trigger: it doesn't use the same battle systems at all and you won't be controlling your team from Chrono Trigger.
This has obviously let to a HUGE rift in people's opinions about the game. Heck, I just glance at the review page on GameFAQs.com and I can see all of the top-rated reviews are either 10/10 or 1/10. Sure, some people just love to be extremists (the general populace loves extremism and not reason) but it is still interesting that opinions on the game are so divided. I guess that's what you get for being a high-profile game. Personally, I had never had a chance to play through Chrono Cross back in the day. I've of course played Chrono Trigger several times (SNES, PS1, Nintendo DS) but never Chrono Cross. I've remedied this fact recently, so if you're looking for an honest opinion on what to expect out of Chrono Cross (and not some extremist view) you're in the right place.
Honestly one of the most confusing plots I've ever seen...
The first thing you should know about Chrono Cross is that the plot behind the game is not for the faint of heart. The game honestly has one of the most confusing plots that I've ever seen. Of course that's when you look at the grand scheme of things, since the game starts out simply enough...
You control Serge, a young man (naturally) living in a village called Arni Village, which is a small coastal fishing community. After collecting scales to make a necklace for your girlfriend, you meet up with her on a beach outside the village. Here Serge falls through a dimensional hole and lands back on the beach, with his girlfriend nowhere in site. He then travels back to town to find her but she has no idea who Serge is! She does remember one thing though: there was a young boy named Serge that used to live next to her, but he died years ago...
From there you will go on a journey to find yourself... literally. Ever since that incident on the beach it's like you've fallen into a new world. Serge will go on to get wrapped up into things much bigger than himself and naturally goes on to have a grand adventure that spans time and space itself. The story does a good job at keeping the player interested in what's going on, and while the plot as a whole is undoubtedly very confusing your immediate goals that drive you from one area to another make sense. The game could still use a journal to document previous plot events as well as current objectives.
While the story is interesting enough to keep you going from start to finish, the best stuff is definitely saved for the end. Several bombshells are dropped on you near the game's ending, one right after another. The game also has two different endings you can obtain (on a first play-through, anyways). However, the best part of the game, story-wise, is how much detail and extra-curricular dialog you can find and hear. Throughout the game you will be interacting with a LOT of different characters. A lot of these characters will have their backgrounds fleshed out as you play through the main story but many more will have their backgrounds fleshed out only by your incessant snooping. There are quite a few side quests to find and complete throughout the game and dozens of optional characters to find and recruit. Then each of those characters (50+) have special techniques and snippets of story to hear.
There is literally tons of story to be had in Chrono Cross, with something to be had for everyone from the very serious players to people looking for the most goofiest thing they can. You have complex dimensional theory (including several plot holes that can and do get argues about even today) to characters magically being turned into fungus. So while the plot may be one of the most complex plots I've ever played through the story is interesting and has plenty of diversions to be had. Any RPG fan should find the story in Chrono Cross to be worth hearing.
Ugh, I don't have enough stamina for this.
One big reason why I think some fans are so bitter against this game is that the game play is nothing like Chrono Trigger at all, but who said that "sequels" (I use that term loosely) have to have the same game play?
With that said, don't expect to see you're standard RPG game play here. Chrono Cross has no experience points whatsoever. Instead, characters will only really get stronger by acquiring "summon stars", a unique and non-tangible item that you only acquire after you defeat certain bosses. After you acquire one of these stars, you will then randomly start receiving statistical increases after battle for awhile, but there's a limit to that as well. Granted, there are a LOT of these stars in the game but this system ensures that you just plain can't grind and get TOO powerful (something that was very easy to do in Chrono Trigger).
With that note out of the way let's look at the game play. You'll only ever control up to three party members at a time. These party members take turns fighting with the enemy based on agility, although given how you fight and the fact that enemies can interrupt your attacks to make their own that is a fairly simplistic statement. In a nutshell the game uses Xenogear's fighting system by giving each character 70 Stamina at the start of each fight. You can use this stamina for weak, medium or strong attacks with each type of attack costing 10, 20 or 30 stamina respectively. You can also choose to stop attacking and defend, or use an element.
The element system is rather interesting. There's six elements in the game: fire, water, air, earth, light and shadow. Each of these elements is simultaneously weak and strong against its opposite element. You'll buy, find and gain elements as you play through the game. Each element has several different spells that fall under its group. For example "Fire" can have Fireball which is a lower level spell or Volcano which is a higher level spell. As you gain those summon stars we talked about earlier you will gain new slots to equip elements to. And not just slots, but tiers as well! This adds in another layer of depth as well: as you use your physical attacks you'll gain element levels as your hits connect. Say I connect on six out of seven hits. Well on my next turn I can cast an element spell and pick from tier 6 downwards. If I cast a tier 4 element I will have 2 ranks left. You can also use your turn by spending 60 stamina on attacks and then cast an element. The game also includes a system where the field is influenced by the elements you are casting. Turning the field all red by using nothing but fire elements makes that element stronger. There's also some elements *summons) that you can only use when the field is a single color. This type of strategy with elemental choices, using stamina wisely and equipping elements wisely really makes the boss fights throughout the game enjoyable.
That's really all there is to the game play. You'll buy and sell elements like items throughout the game. For an RPG, there is a general lack of equipabble items. I mean you still can find and equip weapons, armor and accessories (up to three accessories on each character) but the variety is rather lacking. There's really only five tiers of item quality throughout the game. Another interesting note: the game DOES INDEED have dual and tri-techniques, like its predecessor Chrono Trigger, however only VERY few characters can actually use them and there's no way to track what techniques you can do outside of finding them randomly and remembering them.
The fact that the game play definitely isn't your generic RPG fare should be your main determining factor on whether or not this game is for you. Again, don't expect to just grind and overpower anything and everything. That said I didn't find the game TOO hard (it felt like I was just waiting for the next boss to challenge me). The game play likely isn't for everyone, but once you get into it its easy to understand and fairly engaging.
Enjoying the island culture.
While the graphics in Chrono Cross will definitely show their age compared to what's out there today there's still no doubt in my mind that this game looked GOOD in its day. Character designs are well done (and there's a LOT of characters) and animations are pretty good. They CAN be pretty choppy and awkward at times, but they look good more often than not. The elemental attacks in particular are animated well. They start off pretty basic with the weaker spells but the higher level spells and summons are a sight to behold. The world of El Nido where the game takes place is really an archipelago, and must be around the equator as everything in the island cluster is fairly temperate. That said the game does have a good variety of locales. A few of the islands are often associated with the elements, such as "Water Dragon Island" or "Earth Dragon Island". Many of these locations are cleverly designed. In fact you'll often find yourself revisiting places with new items and opening up new pathways. See, clever design!
Man I love Yasunori Mitsuda!
Chrono Trigger has an amazing soundtrack. That's a fact. What gamer among us can't listen to the main theme of Chrono Trigger without feeling a rush of emotions flowing through you? Well, a big chunk of that soundtrack was done by Yasunori Mitsuda and he returned to compose the soundtrack to Chrono Cross as well.
And oh boy, am I glad he did! First of all, the soundtrack to Chrono Cross is HUGE. There is a lot of music in this game. If you do go to play this game pop the disk in and let it sit there to hear the fantastic "Time's Scar", which is in my opinion the crowning jewel of the soundtrack. But that doesn't mean the rest of the soundtrack is bad! Songs like "Lost Pieces", "Frozen Time", "Reminiscence", "Dreams of the Shore" and "Dreamwatch of Time" are all fantastic. I could name more but I think you get my point. So much of the soundtrack is just so thoughtful and well-done. The timing is excellent and common musical themes are reinforced throughout. Certain areas bring out odd instruments and provide some tribal flair from time to time. There's the occasional forgettable tune, but most of them are just fantastic. After listening to the soundtrack it is now easily in my top ten.
Multiple Endings R'Us.
Like Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross is all about multiple endings. After you beat the game once you'll be able to play through on a New Game + and you can then unlock one of multiple endings by defeating the final boss at certain points in the game's main plot. These endings often offer unique and/or humorous points of views as well. And let's not forget that there are literally dozens of characters to find and recruit throughout the game. In fact you can't even recruit them all unless you play through the game three times at least! We have to remember all of the side quests as well. Trust me, if you wished you could play this game for quite awhile and still discover new things.
Chrono Cross isn't for everybody. The game play systems are definitely unique and I can definitely see how certain people who want a generic RPG experience may not like this game. Nevertheless, I found the game play that is in the game to be good while other aspects of the game such as the level of detail to the story, the good graphics and the FANTASTIC soundtrack to be high points of the game. If you can accept the new game play system and are a RPG fan at heart, you owe it to yourself to give Chrono Cross a try. Don't be like me and put it off forever, either! You can thank me later. Have fun and keep playing!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/14/13
Game Release: Chrono Cross (US, 08/15/00)
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