Review by Loopmeister
"A colossal failure"
Chrono Cross, the sequel to Chrono Trigger was eagerly anticipated. When released, it was met with lavish amounts of praise. Most of that praise likely stemmed from nostalgia and other comments were likely given thanks to Square's reputation mixed with the enormous hype for the game. But when you look past all this, the truth is that Chrono Cross is a terrible game.
The graphics are great. The backgrounds are well-rendered and the character sprites were good for their day. There are also a lot of creative monster designs, spells, and locales made. Rendered with such detail, it is easy to become immersed in their beauty. There are some problems in that some of the color schemes are downright ugly and faded but these problems are rare. There are also some weird and goofy designs, such as dwarves which essentially look like armored potatoes.
The score by Yasunori Mitsuda is surprisingly disappointing. Most of the music, even the deep revelation music and final boss music are only good, not great. They initially amaze but grow boring quickly. Most of the music is rather average, with typical town and dungeon themes that are fun to listen to but quickly grow boring. Then there's some music which is exceptionally bad such as the battle music and some other dungeon songs. Considering many of these songs are heard quite often, they quickly grate.
The gameplay is a mixed bag. It's a typical turn based system. However you have a set amount of attacks based upon whether you choose weak attacks, medium attacks, and strong attacks. Immediately using strong attacks makes you have very little attacks and at the same time, you're likely to miss. As you continue attacking, your chances of succeeding with your stronger attacks grow. The magic system lets you customize your characters to have whatever magic they want. They can use the magic once per battle but fortunately you won't need to use much magic to begin with. The battles are ludicrously easy once you get used to the battle system and figure out how to place your magic. Unfortunately one problem that is quite niggling is that your characters miss quite a lot when trying to attack the enemies, even when the game says that you have a 95% chance of hitting. You can also use double techs and triple techs in this game ala Chrono Trigger but the double techs are rare to begin with, not to mention unsatisfying, and the triple techs can't be utilized until you do some post-game secrets. Talk about suckering in an audience.
Weapons and armor can be found and improved through finding random materials. Oftentimes these materials are easy to find and makes you wonder why Square didn't just do away with the materials and just make it a standard, "Buy new weapon/Buy new armor system," without any of the unnecessary crap.
Leveling up characters comes through stats randomly being raised. Fortunately your stats always raise up so that you're strong enough for the next boss battle but the idea of stats being raised randomly is just bad period. Recruiting characters isn't so easy however as oftentimes you have to deal with fetch quests. Considering that most of the story gained characters are enough to beat this game and the optional characters are nothing special, you begin to wonder why Square would waste your time like this.
As typical with Square, the story is awful. You're Serge, just some ordinary kid killing lizards so his uptight girlfriend can skin them and make a necklace. But one day, you're suddenly transported to another world! Instead of any crazy reactions like, "Jumping jehozavats Batman, I'M IN ANOTHER FRICKING WORLD!" well, there really isn't much of a big deal made about the whole matter. Instead, Serge realizes that there are some strange people looking for him in this other world, calling him a ghost. He also learns that his alternate self died in this world. Eventually Serge comes to the conclusion that maybe these strange people know something about why he is in this whole other world and decides to raid their mansion.
Yes, it's pretty dumb. After all, it's not like this Serge they're looking for could be a criminal faking the identity of the dead other world Serge or maybe is the dead Serge who turned out to be alive and is a criminal. Or maybe he really is a ghost. Instead of considering these possibilities and testing them, Serge decides to storm the mansion anyway. The whole matter and shock of "HOLY CRAP I'M IN ANOTHER WORLD!" is quickly thrown aside. As implausible as this turn of events is (and the rest of the game is in the same pitiful straits), it turns out that storming the mansion really is the right solution. Of course, this is only because the game's plot requires it. There are a bunch of strange obligatory "revelations" about Serge and his situation from a random character which might not be that odd because the whole world change thingy might have happened to others and they might just be making a guess on Serge's situation. But there's nothing revealed about how to get home. You'd think to ask more but no, the characters just decide to "move forward," whatever that means despite this character knowing way more than they should. Eventually Serge does get back to his world but does he decide to stay home all safe and sound after nearly getting killed several times, not to mention encountering too many freakazoids for a day? No, Serge decides to continue his journey and go back into the other world, still none the wiser about his situation.
The story essentially isn't so much a story as it is a random chain of events loosely strung together and randomly given credence where there should be none. Later on, random people will start telling you where to go but give no reason as to why you should go to these places. Of course it all turns out that these places have significance but then again that's just because the game's plot requires it. Apologists will defend the game saying, "Well you just don't get the story!" and proceed to write some silly Story FAQ, which admits that they don't understand the story themselves, not to mention their explanation is poor. Any story should be decipherable on its own and lack of this quality is an indication of poor storytelling.
The dialogue and turn of events is exceptionally poor. Instead of people talking normally, the speech will be extraordinarily flowery and pretentious and usually makes no sense whatsoever. When that's not happening, the dialogue is insulting to one's intelligence. Example: A stranger you were acquainted with is poisoned and the poison is rare. Someone with you states that you barely know this person and that it's crazy to go and help them. You can refuse to help them. The same person who just said what a ludicrous idea it is to try and help them suddenly ridicules you for abandoning them and refuses to help you because you refused to help a "partner," someone you're just barely acquainted with. Also there will be tons of references to magic items and other things happening in the game's plot despite that you really won't know what's going on whatsoever and won't care either because you're too busy struggling to understand what's motivating these characters. By the same token, some dialogue is there for the sake of obnoxious exposition about character and plot background which is slightly more interesting.
Oh and the person you can refuse to help I mentioned is the main female lead. I know it sounds risky and groundbreaking but of course Square betrays their inferiority. They refuse to take a daring risk and make a gutsy plot development or story diversion. Instead they rescue her in a deus ex machina.
The game has 44 characters. Unfortunately a lot of them have poor character designs and poor storylines. For example, one character is a boy with a speedo and you can see the outline of his unit in his character design. No joke. Another character is a walking, talking sword fighting turnip. The US version also gave them ridiculous accents to give them character. Considering they felt the need to do this, I shudder at how bland they were in Japanese. Square turned something as innately cool as 44 potentially badass characters into a horrible mix of Lord of the Rings, Pokemon, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Terminator.
Chrono Cross is an enormous disappointment. The game is painfully easy, the story is a mess, and the music is decent to horrid. Avoid at all costs.
Reviewer's Score: 1/10 | Originally Posted: 03/21/08, Updated 03/24/08
Game Release: Chrono Cross (US, 08/15/00)
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