Review by neo_underwear
"I donít know what their problem is, but this game is nothing short of perfect."
I don't know what their problem is, but this game is nothing short of perfect.
I've heard and I've also read a lot of things that badmouthed this timeless classic, and I just don't get it. Ten years after its release (and three years after I've played it) I just thought I'd give it the little justice it deserves. There are a lot of fair reviews out there for this game and not to mention, a lot of unfair ones. I'm not expecting this review to be noticed in the long run, but just for the sake of gratifying my hunger to give this game the respect it deserved, I thought Maybe a detailed review isn't a very bad idea.' Ladies and gentlemen, whoever you are, let me just say that this game is one of the unforgettable journeys you'll ever make, a journey you'd take again and again, like a book you just can't put down. It's vivid display and projection of story and gameplay makes it almost perfect. Allow me to begin;
Chrono Cross is an RPG and any gamer will know that for a good RPG to work it needs a good story. Chrono Cross does a little bit of both, maybe even more. Let me begin first by telling you that Chrono Cross' story is something someone will not immediately appreciate. When I first played through it (and I was only a sophomore in High School) I kept asking myself, What the heck is going on?' Adding to the fact that I haven't played the original Chrono Trigger, some events of the story just seemed so distant. But after several playthroughs I found the story to be more beautiful than beautiful, more compelling than compelling, and more complex than Lord of the Flies mind you.
Slight spoilers ahead, so I suggest to those who want to save the slight suspense, turn away now.
You start out as Serge, a silent protagonist from the tropical village of Arni. Serge had a dream where he and a couple of other friends were storming an ancient tower to try and stop a humanoid feline known as Lynx from doing something very malevolent. Before he gets to confront Lynx however, he awakes from his slumber. It was near noon when he woke up, and then he remembered he had a date with his girlfriend Leena. As punishment for his tardiness, Leena sent Serge on an errand to fetch her lizard scales on a nearby haven of rock and corral, known as Lizard Rock. Serge did so and he met up with Leena at the shore of Opassa Beach. Having met her, they talked about some trifling things, and that was when everything began. In a sort of nauseating state the waves started to roll towards Serge, inching closer and closer to his perspective. All of a sudden, the ground opened up and swallowed him. He fell unconscious in an Opassa Beach not quite similar to the one he knew and loved.
In a nutshell, a wormhole opened and took Serge away from his Home World to Another World.
The story's just beginning. As you progress, you'll tread past different environments and dimensions, even ground-time zero. You'll transcend space (though unfortunately, not time) and travel back and forth between the two worlds and you'll even infiltrate the fortress of time itself, Chronopolis. Many are the individuals you'll meet along the way, and you can even take them across the dimensions to meet their other selves! You'll encounter traps and surprising plot twists along the way (so many I've lost count) and though at first it seems very confusing, you'll learn to appreciate it along the way.
Although there are indeed a lot of people to meet and encounter, the story only revolves around four people: Serge, Kid, Lynx, and Harle. I just find it disappointing that although there is a hefty ton of people to talk to, after you've finished their scenarios, that's it. It's done. Character development is minimal to the whole majority of the cast, and with a cast of over forty characters, it's a big no-no. Some characters don't even have a scenario. You just talk to them, ask them if they want to join and save the world, and you get an immediate yes. It's ridiculous, I know. That being said, Serge and Kid are the main protagonists, for a good part of the game. Lynx and Harle are the antagonists, also for a good part of the game. They're all trying to retrieve the Frozen Flame, rumoured to be found in the lush greenery in the islands of El Nido. For what purpose I'll let you find that out yourselves. A standing feature in the story is probably the fact that it also revolves around Fate. I found it an exquisite addition to the entire novelty of the thing and it just inspires you to think of thought-provoking thoughts. Being merely a sophomore in High School, it led me to think of different things which deviate from the standard of the norms. Trust me when I say this, but I used the theme of Chrono Cross and the concept of Fate it led me to perceive as an oration piece when I turned junior, and I got a 100%. But enough about my personal life, once you grasp and absorb the story of Chrono Cross you'll be obsessed and engrossed with the themes it projects that it's just so hard not to be influenced by them.
And did I ever mention that there are dragons in the game? Seven of them? It just keeps adding cherries to top it all in...
Chrono Cross is a game and every gamer knows that for a good game to work it needs to have good gameplay. Chrono Cross, per se, does things fairly well. It's not something that anyone could call new, but it's not old either. Maybe a revamped innovation of older gameplay, but whatever it is, it seems to work perfectly well. If there is ever a word to describe Chrono Cross' gameplay, it would be non-linear.
You can have up to three characters in the field.
The field system is still the same, routinely speaking. You have a town, you have people and shops, and you interact with them. It's nothing new really. We've seen it all before. You have a town and in this town you have an inn, pharmacies and smithies, and other interesting locales. You wander around it until you progress with the story. By pressing the square button, you can open up the items (key-items) section and you can use it to present certain articles to people for cerainly effects or you can use them in cerainly places to progress with the scenario.
Characters have statistics of their own. They have overall HP, strength, defence, speed, etc. Nothing new either.
The battle system however, has the potential to pique interest or antipathy towards a gamer. The battle system is a complex web of Stamina Points intertwined together to give you freedom in your decisions. First and foremost, the game has one of the most easy-friendly encounters there is. Dungeon levels are very forgivable. One, you can choose whether or not to encounter. Monsters are visible in the field, and it is up to you, the player, if you want to touch them and fight them. Boss fights are still mandatory though. Second, you can flee from any battle, regardless of whatever it is. Even boss fights! You still had to fight them eventually though, and there are some cases where you run only so you can reorganize your party and then fight again. You can even run away from the last battle!
Every time you start a battle, your characters begin with 7.0 stamina points. Each action you take costs a certain amount of these points. There are four options to choose from when in engaged in battle: Attack, Element (Magic), Defend and Run Away. When you choose to attack, you are presented with three choices of attacks: Attack 1, Attack 2, or Attack 3. Each has their respective hit rates and damage, with 1 having the highest hit rate and lowest damage output, 2 having the medial hit rate and medial damage output, and 3 having the lowest hit rate and the highest damage output. Attack 1 costs one stamina point, 2 costs two stamina points, and 3 costs three stamina points. If you have say, only 2 stamina points, you cannot perform an Attack 3, and so and so forth. You can shift between any of these three attacks in any combination as long as you have at least the stamina points to spare. Each attack landed successfully will increase a character's accuracy, so don't be afraid to give Attack 3 a chance. Also, whenever you hit an attack, your element level goes up, with a maximum of seven per attack combo, and a maximum of nine in the long run. If you do an Attack 1, your element level goes up by one, Attack 2 by two, and Attack 3 by three. Assuming you do an attack combo of Attack 1, Attack 2, and Attack 3, if all attacks landed except for attack two, your element level goes up by four. What do I exactly mean by element?
Element is just a fancy term for magic. It takes up no MP so they can be used indefinitely in a dungeon but they can only be used once per battle. Each character has a grid (will be discussed later) which can be equipped with elements in the menu. The grid has slots in it and levels. Each character has a specific limit in slots and levels. Some may not have a lot, while some may have. Elements can be categorized into seven: Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, White, Black, and Aether, the long lost element dubbed as Chrono Cross in the game. Each character and monster in the game has a respective elemental attribute. When it comes to weakness, elements contradict each other; Red beats Blue and Blue beats Red, Yellow beats Green and Green beats Yellow, White beats Black and Black beats White, so don't say that you have an advantage because you're fighting a boss with a Red elemental with a Blue character. The Aether element does no damage, but it's very essential to get the best ending in the game. The element grid has nine levels of elements. The elements of higher levels deal more damage than their lower counterparts but all of the elements are useful in their own special way. Assuming that a character's speed is ten (speed will be discussed later) and assuming that it's element level is zero. You want to cast a level four element. In order to do that, you issue commands Attack 1 and Attack 3 to increase your element level by four. All attacks were successful so now you are able to cast it. Since your element level is only four, you can't cast elements whose levels are 5 and above. Also, should you choose to cast an element lower than four, the element level does not reset. Assuming you cast a level 2 element, you'll save up to two element levels. This can be used to reach those higher level elements. These little saves in element levels add up, so use those to your advantage. If you calculate, you'll find that you only had three stamina points left because Attacks 1 and 3 were performed. Casting an element costs seven stamina points, but as long as you have at least one stamina point, it doesn't matter. You can still cast an element as long as you don't mind seeing your stamina bar go to negative digits. Don't worry; they go up, but how?
As I have said, stamina points act as a type of currency for each action in the game, in the same way ATP acts for cells. To regain stamina points, one can defend, or one can switch to another character, have that character perform an action, and everyone else will gain a certain amount of stamina points based on the action performed. Speed is also a contributing factor in stamina gain. Each character has a fixed amount of speed. The normal speed for a character is ten, though sometimes it can go down to seven and go up to 14. If a character performs Attack 1, all other characters with a speed of ten will gain one stamina point (note that the maximum is only seven). Attack 2 will net two stamina points. Attack 3 will yield three stamina points. Casting an element will only give one. If a character has a speed value below ten the stamina gained will be subtracted by .x, depending on the deviated amount from ten. This also counts if the speed value exceeds ten, although the deviated amount is added to ten. Assuming a character has a speed value of eight, the stamina point it will gain from an Attack 1 performed by a different character will only be .8. Attack 3 will have it yield 2.4 stamina points only. A character with a speed value of 12 will gain 1.2 stamina points for every Attack 1 performed and Attack 3 will have it yield 3.6 worth of stamina points. So as you can see, speed is better when it is higher. Defending will almost always net you one stamina point (once again dependent on the speed value), although it varies.
When you defend, you defend. You become tougher, more resistant, though it still leaves you susceptible to status ailments. There's not a lot of them but poison has never been this annoying.
The spontaneity of the battle system can also ignite curiosity or hate towards a casual gamer. This game's battle system is not turn-based, nor is it even active-battle (in my humble respects towards the tried and true Final Fantasy systems of old). The fact is, as long as a character has a stamina point to spare, that character can always perform an action. With the simple press of the D-pad, the player can immediately shift to another character to perform an action. This can be used for strategic planning. Assuming you want to cast a level nine element, but you can't cast one immediately because the element level can only go at a maximum of seven per attack combo. Let's also assume the element level is zero and that each character's speed is ten. Character 1 performs a six hit combo, namely Attacks 1, 2, 3 respectively, and all attacks hit. The element level goes up to six. The character can still cast an element but you want to cast a level nine. You switch to Character 2 and have it perform an Attack 3. Character one's stamina gauge goes up by three, giving Character 1 with a total of four current stamina points, and you switch back to it. You have it perform another Attack 3 and it also hits. The element level goes up by three, amounting to a total of nine. The character has one stamina point left and now you can cast your level nine element, doing a swell amount of damage. Character's stamina bar goes down to negative 6. You let Character 3 take all the actions now, all the while refilling everyone's stamina bar with the respective actions it takes. It may sound a little confusing, but it's not. Take the time to study it for yourself, and you'll find it to be quite simple. Of course the monsters move too. Don't be surprised by constant interruptions from them that disrupt your infallible plan.
An addition to the battle system is the elemental field. It is a sort of circular indicator at the top left corner of the battle screen. It is divided into three parts, and each part is shaded with a particular colour which corresponds to an element. If it a part is shaded blue, it obviously corresponds to the Blue element. Each indicator has a default shading of elements in it which is heavily reliant on its environment, but each element casted (even those of the enemy's) will add a new colour to the indicator. If a Red element is cast, the first level of the indicator will be shaded red. The colour on the third level of the indicator will be pushed out, replaced with the colour of the second level, and the second colour will be replaced by the colour of the first level. If the indicator is shaded fully with a single colour in all three levels, say red, the field will designate that it is red (no change in colour though) and Red Elemental Summons can now be casted. Red elements will also increase in power and damage output, characters with Red innate elements will become stronger in attack and defence, and its elemental counterpart, in this case blue, will be weaker. Blue innate characters will also be more vulnerable to attacks. In order to change the field, an element of the same colour must be cast three times in a row. Sounds easy, but is actually not. Enemies frequently use elements of their own, and it's very rare to see a monster cast an element which contradicts its own innate attribute, but if you do manage to level the field just be aware that it can backfire on you since the effects of the field affects both your characters and the enemies themselves.
Techniques are also available in the game, and from what I've heard, they are a distant reminiscence of the beauty that they were back in Chrono Trigger. Now I may not have much to say about the latter since I haven't played it, and the fact that I may not be able to relate with the old school gamers who were able to play the predecessor, I find nothing wrong with it. Each character has a technique of its own, and a technique is also found in the elemental grid with an elemental value of its own. A technique can only be found at the level three, five, and seven slots of the element grid. A technique can only be gained as you progress through the game, though occasionally it requires you to find it in the field and to equip to the right character. Like elements, it can only be used once in battle. Unlike elements however, once equipped (will be discussed later) it can no longer be removed. I say that it is a far cry from Chrono Trigger because from what I've heard, the techniques were used in a versatile array of endless combos between characters to dispatch a foe. In Chrono Cross however, it's not pretty much the same scenario. The techniques in this game are mostly, in my experience, of one-man use. Although there were some cases were the techniques were synchronized with each other to resemble the classic that was in Chrono Trigger, it just wasn't the same.
In this game you, your characters don't level up. Instead, you gain stars. What? I said stars. Stars allow you for stat growth and summons. To be able to summon, one must need at least a star. A star is consumed each time a summon is cast. The stars can be replenished by simply sleeping at inns. Now, for the much more interesting stat growth, unlike other games where you gain exp, in this game you gain stats. To discourage the player from buffing up their characters to completely overthrow the game's levels, the developers devised a furtive way to become stronger. Whenever you defeat a boss, you gain a star, and as long as you have an active star, you can have stat growths. Every time you encounter enemies, no matter how weak or strong they are, at the end of the battle, you gain stats, mostly in HP and in areas where a character excels by minute digits ranging from 1 to five. These stat gains don't last forever though. You can have up to three to five stat gains per star. You'll know that you won't be getting anymore stat gains when you get an exceptional boost in growth, such as a plus 10 HP growth. If you want to get stat gains again, you have to acquire another star, which isn't as hard as you think it is unless there are no more stars to get. This compensates the fact that that you don't have to fight if you don't want to. You can choose to fight until you acquire no more stat gains and then just avoid every monster in the field. I highly encourage you to participate in battles as long as there are stat gains though. The growth may be minimal at first impressions, but they add up.
This is the first time in a game where inns aren't truly necessary unless you want to replenish stars consumed in a summon. You are prompted to heal your characters after every battle, should you choose to include consumables or not. After a battle, you retain your element level. Should you choose to heal without using consumables (a type of element) the game scans which elements capable of healing are available within the level and use them on your injured characters to max health as much as possible. It doesn't matter if the element was used in battle. If you choose to include consumables, it will include the consumable elements within the element grid or the inventory and use them to heal your injured characters to max health as much as possible. The healing can only go as far at the amount the available elements can recover, but as long you have sufficient healing items, you'll be healed mostly to full health. This nifty feature saves a lot of time and energy from going to the menu to heal. It's a very useful feature indeed.
I guess that's all I can say about the battle system. Now, on with the menu!
The menu system is divided into four major categories: Elements, Items, Equips, and Save/Load. There is also the status menu, but it serves little except maybe give you a cool avatar projection of your character and their statistics. Let's start with the Elements.
The Element menu is as deep as the elements themselves. As I have said earlier, it has levels. The first grid is the first level. With the simple pressing of the D-pad, you can go to another level of the grid. Elements are equipped here. To gain elements, you can either find them in the field or you can buy them directly from a shop. Each element has a corresponding level which the game will immediately tell you by bringing you to the respective level area of the grid the element has by simply selecting it. Most characters can equip elements of all kinds, but only up to level six. Level six and above elements can only be equipped by the characters of the same colour. However, one can freely choose in which level an element can be equipped. If you opt to equip a level four element to a level one slot you can do so, but the power of the element will significantly decrease. Should you choose to equip it a level higher however, you can expect the power to increase. This can result to an element grid with many different coloured elements from levels one to five which can also lead to flexible strategies and tactics to face an opponent. There are three types of elements. There is your normal element (offensive and healing), your consumable and your technique. A consumable is an element that can be used for a certain amount of times. Think of these as your potions and antidotes and other remedies for status ailments. Techniques are elements found in the field and can only be equipped to a corresponding character at a corresponding level. Once equipped, they cannot be removed. At the start of the game, a character can only equip a few elements at a time at low levels. However, as you gain stars, you can expect the grid to branch out to higher levels, as well as gaining more slots to put in an element.
In the Equip section, well, you basically equip stuff, from weapons, to armour, and accessories. A character can only equip one type of weapon of his/her specialty. Weapons, armour and accessories can only be made by forging them by acquiring materials and by giving them to a crafter for a fee, though sometimes you can find them in the field. Weapons boost attack, armours boost defence, and accessories boost certain attributes of a character.
In items, you can see all of the key-items you have obtained. You can read their description and see them up close and personal, but aside as being a novelty they are just there for viewing and for a reference. They have their uses, but sometimes you only use it to track your progress or for the sake of viewing them. Once you've used them, they have little purpose left; much like the character development in the game. Oh, the irony!
In save, well, you save the game! There are certain objects in the game known as the Threads of Fate. These are triangular shaped objects found in the field which you step into to save the game. They are in dungeons, in towns, and in certain places you'll just find uncanny. You don't find them in the overworld though, as you can save anywhere.
The overworld in Chrono Cross, like dungeons, doesn't have random encounters. There are no monsters too. There are two overworlds in the game since you travel in two dimensions. Both are highly different in their own way. The overworld teems with various destinations where you simply choose to go to and to enter. Unlike other RPGs, there is no delay in going from place to place. It would be unwise for me to call the overworlds small, since what it lacks for size it makes up for its depth and creativity.
Well, I guess that's it for the gameplay. That's a lot of text, and I only used my memory as a basis, but the gameplay seems perfectly solid for me. Did I ever mention that once you finish the game you can actually speed things up literally? It saves so much hassle...
Graphics aren't really needed to make a great game. I've played a lot of games that doesn't have a lot of eye candy, and I know everyone is typically aware of games such as Final Fantasy VI and Earthbound. Anyways, the graphics of this game is excellent, even more. It exceeds the Playstation's limits, thus it exceeds far beyond being excellent. Flawless? Not really, but more or less, it is perfect. I can confidently say that it is even better than Final Fantasy IX and Vagrant Story, just to name a few.
To start off, the graphics bring the entire game to life. Whether you are in the field or in battle, the graphics will stun you and make you ask if this really is a Playstation game. The details of this game, from lighting to smoothing edges, make everything appear realistic. The game will take you through beaches, through forests, through manors, and it will take you through space and everything will just seem so real. Never have I played a Playstation game before where I was blown away to my very last breath with its graphics. The CGI is also excellent, although my only complaint was that it lacked voice casting. The effects of the elements leaves a devastating wake upon its use and sometimes the exaggerated display of their animation can make you feel the pain your opponents feel too. The characters and the monsters move fluidly in their own, without making them look static in their movements. Everything is as detailed and as fluid as virtual reality can be in real life.
Honestly, I really can't find the right words to say for the graphics. I think I've said too much. It would be best if I left you to see them for yourselves and to express your own view of it. Just don't forget that it's a Playstation game.
The sound effects of this game seem to work. Fire sounds like fire, a creak sounds like a creak, and mostly everything seems to be in place. The sound effects do their job well. If there was a flaw, then it's because it was too simple. When I say simple, everything sounds programmed. Perfect sound effects should sound like normal sound where one can't differentiate it from an artificial one to a real one. However, this game stands out incredibly in music.
The atmosphere of this game is greatly intensified by the music. Every theme suits perfectly well. The ambience grows deeper into darkness as you crawl deeper in a manor infiltration, the strings climb to an urgency during a battle, and you will be moved to tears at the heart-wrenching moments of the game. The opening track of this game evokes you to perceive a journey you won't soon forget. There are many memorable tracks in the game, and there are some you just can't forget. The song Garden of the Gods perfectly match up to its title as a track of benevolent theme fluctuating between graceful crescendos and decrescendos. Once you hear Radical Dreamers, it's hard not to let the blending of the voices at the last stretch of the song get stuck in your head. Hear the tracks for yourself, and relax. Forget about life. Listen to the sea. Listen to Chrono Cross.
For a game to be really valued, one must experience it firsthand and enjoy it to the extreme. The story itself paints a picture so big you'll be completely engrossed with it. The game averages a solid 20+ hours to complete; not a lot for a hardcore RPG fan, but this doesn't include side quests and the other miscellanies of the game. There are no mini games worth mentioning to increase replayabilty, but the game HAS multiple endings. To get them all, you need to play through it once, get the best ending, and then play all over again. Experiment with the scenarios, fight the last boss, then see the result. It's time consuming and it isn't really all that necessary, but multiple endings are fun. If you allow yourself to be influenced by the story, then you'll value this game a whole lot. Take it from me, once a confused little sophomore, and this game made one of the biggest impacts of my life.
As a final say, the game is almost perfect. Whatever the others say, it would be best that you play the game yourself. It doesn't matter if you take my word or not, but this game will take you to places you never thought real, it will lead you to think of things you never thought of as possible, but mostly, this game will take you through the pages of a wonderful book in a story that is as deep as the sea, defying an entity which in my humble opinion is stronger than anything else. It's up to you should you give this game a chance. Ten years after its humble release, whatever can stop you from playing this jewel of a game?
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 03/25/10
Game Release: Chrono Cross (US, 08/15/00)
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