Review by rxfang6
"This is the kind of masterpiece that can send a person into clinical shock"
Chrono Cross is the sequel to Chrono Trigger of SNES fame. Chrono Trigger followed the story of Crono and friends as they ventured through time in search of a way to prevent a parasitic life form known as Lavos from destroying the world in 1999. As the journey almost comes to a close, in the final showdown with Lavos's true and final form, shocking realizations occur about their existence and fate to their planet's well-being.
Many similar elements occur in Chrono Cross, but in a more darker and detailed form.
Chrono Cross follows the story of Serge, a 17 year old guy who unwillingly becomes a pawn and victim of ''Fate''. He is forced to go on a quest through dimensions, the most dangerous areas of his world, and into the face of danger in order to save and keep his mere existence in check. Creeped out yet? This freaked me out a lot first time I saw it - whenever you get a game over, it reads something creepy like this: ''Thus, the Life Force known as Serge was not even allowed to be born. Fate has no mercy for those who go against it.''
Serge comes across many friends and many allies, including Kid - the second main character, per say. The enemy, as in most well-written rpgs such as Chrono Cross, is a mysterious and unknown assailant. The possible manifested form of this evil takes the form of the mysterious Lynx, who's role becomes more and more prominent as the game advances.
Sound good so far? Chrono Cross might just be the very best Playstation game ever released, and soon you will find out the many reasons why.
Where the Final Fantasies get my pick for the best technical achievements in terms of graphics and FMV, Chrono Cross earns my pick by having the best design in graphics/artwork, and even best direction for Full Motion Video.
First things first, the characters models are incredible..... in battle. Outside of battle, they are a tad bit blurry, but in the battles, they are as clear as you could possibly imagine.
Something that stays true in both battles and outside of battle is the immaculate animation - it rivals even dreamcast rpgs such as Grandia II and the oddly clunky Skies of Arcadia. Square is the master at this kind of stuff, aren't they?
Square is also the master of FMV, no doubt about that. Chrono Cross has a fresh take on this graphical medium, even though it wasn't really needed in the first place - FFVII, FFVIII, and the many other rpgs out there had excellent FMV in their respects.
Chrono Cross is different when it comes to FMV, and although one of my FF fan friends said that he didn't like it, I went right for it. The FMV focuses solely on the characters and their emotion instead of the surrounding action. The surrounding action isn't completely forgotten, that's for certain; the rendered environments are high in detail and aura, with volumetric fogging for good measure.
The characters in FMV, of course, look spectacular. Serge, Kid, Lynx, and other characters/non-human characters look stunningly detailed and brilliantly animated (yes, again). Best of all, they show a gigantic amount of emotion. There is no spoken speech during these sequences, but I felt that they didn't need speech - the characters faces do all of the talking required for full emotional impact.
The sequences are also unique in what they show. A few of these sequences are surprisingly not action-orientated, as you'd expect any FMV in a game like this to be. Some sequences just are about showing the main character's face show determination when looking ahead to the next dangerous destination. It truly touches the soul, the way (yes, this again) only Square can!
Other aspects of Chrono Cross's top-rate graphical presentation are the battle effects. The characters may look and animate too good to be true, but what about all the fancy lighting and the such? It's a step under FFVIII in my opinion, but still excellent in my mind.
The spells are great, kind of blurry though, but the best part of all is that they don't last too long (like in FFVIII) and end too soon (like in FFX). The more advanced spells and the summoning animations also take the exact right amount of time and look even better.
The techniques of Chrono Cross (shorted to just “tech“), specialized character specific attacks, are the highlights of the Chrono Cross battles - they are stunning, chock-full of them fancy particle effects, lighting, and the whatnot. Flashy.
Other highlights of Chrono Cross’s battles are the environment that they take place in. Almost always they have gorgeous textures, smooth surfaces, high detail and the what-not. They look as good as the actual characters, and some battle areas even outdo the character models (one particular boss fight with an “Eye” comes to mind, for the arena is surrounded by waterfall-caliber water gushing).
So, how do the enemies look? Sadly, not as good as the characters. If an enemy doesn’t take much effort to kill, then they generally don’t look that great.
An exception, though, is the bosses - they are often very detailed, sometimes large, sometimes as smooth a texture can be. My favorite looking one is “Sun of a Gun”, which is a flying, rotating sun capable of unimaginable evil (he puts characters to sleep by making out with them! I’m serious!)
If there's a truly sour point to Chrono Cross's graphics, it would have to be with the prerendering. Just like in the Final Fantasy Playstation games, most of the world is represented in prerendered form. But, sadly, on a technical merit these pieces of work are a step behind what seen in the Playstation Final Fantasies. Most prerendering is either somewhat/very blurry, which is really a shame.
On the bright side, they are artistically gorgeous - many different kinds of colors are used, there is often some kind of ambience such as fog or an insect in the foreground or background, and you can even seen lands far into the distance in some of them.
The overworld is one of the best looking aspects of the prerendering - it's more crisp and just as lush in color and design.
Another graphical treat worth mentioning is the artwork. In dialogue with important characters they are represented by a hand-done drawing - that usually looks awesome. This technique is used in many rpgs, and it's just as effective in Chrono Cross.
Sound and Music - Oh, the godly music! rxfang6's best ever pick for an rpg
The music in Chrono Cross, in a word, is godly. It's god-like. It really is. Especially this song, titled Dragon God Theme (which I'm listening to now, for maybe the 100'th time). When Chrono Cross starting winning awards, I decided to take notice - and I lent an ear to a music sample on Gamespot's 2000 awards page. Chrono Cross beat out Majora's Mask for best game music of the year, and gosh darn it, I wanted to know why! The song I listened to (it was Dragon God Theme) eventually became a strong reason why I bought Chrono Cross, and became my all-time favorite rpg song (even beating out FFVI's ''Awakening''). I thought to myself, ''If a developer goes through all this effort for a game's soundtrack, then the game must be god-like itself!'' I already had a deeper understanding of how a game's music can affect a game, and of course I knew of it's importance in an rpg through experience. Chrono Cross is the best soundtrack so far since soundtrack greats like Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, and the whole entire Donkey Kong Country series (especially Diddy's Kong Quest). Do yourself a favor, go to your favorite music-downloading product, search ''Dragon God Theme,'' and become intrigued yourself.
So what's so good about it? Chrono Cross is a soundtrack that doesn't seem to work to get your attention like Final Fantasy soundtracks do; the sounds just automatically do. These songs can be considered ''Celtic''; there is a lot of interesting instruments used, there is plenty of excellent vocals, and these songs have a very, very special energy to them as well.
Vocals do a lot for a song, which was apparent for games such as FFVIII and FFVII. Sure, it's in Japanese so you don't have a clue about what they are saying - but hey, it sounds really awesome! Chrono Cross outdoes the FFVIII human chanting by offering more, and even cooler, vocals. Sometimes they are used in character themes - and boy, do they help out a lot. It's another reason why Chrono Cross doesn't need speech! Anyway, Kid's theme strikes a chord for me in particular. The vocalist seems youthful, as Kid is, so the effect is near-perfect.
Other vocals represent suspense and tension, as the vocals do in the tracks ''Times Scar'' (the one played in the title screen FMV blowout) and ''Dragon God Theme'' (the one during that particular Dragon God battle. And no, I'm not telling who the Dragon God is! You'll just have to find out for yourself!)
Other songs, even non-vocalized ones, contain more to them than just instrumentals. Some songs may take on a life of their own, such as another one of my favorite tracks - the Boss Battle theme. The boss fights are spectacular in themselves, but this bustling track adds a whole new level of suspense and excitement. These battles sent me into awe countless times, and mainly because of the enchanting song. Freaky.
Be sure to download it, too!
So, the music's good? Definitely. It's enough to spark anyone's interest, that's for sure (it happened to me and it happened to one of my friends as well.)
The Chrono Cross music is a new level of audio clarity and well-done game music that won't be topped for a long, long time.
Now the sound effects. The level of clarity of the sound effects in Chrono Cross are astonishing. Different kinds of weapons, accordingly, sound different from each other. They always sound crisp and terrifically realistic.
Other effects include walking (which changes depending on what you walk on), lots of great FMV sound effects, and even a terrific water-like ambience in some of the more mysterious places (and FMV scenes).
The sound effects are truly awesome in Chrono Cross. As with the music, the level of effort and detail is through the roof. I haven't seen this dedication since the SNES days with games like DKC2: Diddy's Kong Quest, FFVI, and of course Chrono Trigger. Even one of the title screens that says ''Chrono Cross'' in big blue has its own special effect (that sounds quite cool, by the way. Download that too!)
The Battle System
Even though I love the highly polished Final Fantasy battle system, it's growing old. Grandia had a cooler, faster battle system, but it wasn't polished enough to make a full impact. Chrono Cross just happens to combine some elements from these two rpg legacies. It's fast, and very cool. But it's also very, very polished. Sound good?
First, I'll go over the kinetics. As I said, it's fast and cool. Attacking an enemy doesn't take a whole lot of effort out of the player, and all the fancy techniques this game has is definitely a very cool thing.
Here's how it works: Attacks are split into 3 groups; weak, strong, and medium. The more powerful the attack, the more stamina it takes and the less likely it will actually land a hit.
''Stamina Points'' are a unique rpg idea - you get 7 of them, and you can do whatever you'd like as long as you have 1 left standing. Attacks don't suck up all 7 at a time - strong attacks take 3, medium 2, weak 1.
Magic sucks up 7 at a time, though, and so do Techs.
Leveling up is an absent event in Chrono Cross - it just doesn't exist. Instead, your team earns status boosts at the end of certain battles. This is a good thing, in my mind - you get to see how and what a character is powering up in, be it in strength, magic, or a defensive status.
Controlling the status leveling up is what's called ''Growth Points.'' When you receive a growth point, Serge and team can boost status for a certain amount of battles. Hate it or love it, you gotta admit that it makes things a touch more interesting and even easier to keep track of.
But is Chrono Cross an easy game? No, not really. Strategy is a prominent factor in the outcome of most battles. There is quite a lot of different aspects to Chrono Cross's battles, that full attention to every one is required if you want to beat the challenging bosses and side-quest bosses. I'll leave the discovery of these many aspects up to you - you'll be pleasantly surprised by most of them.
If you want a good idea about the difficulty level of Chrono Cross and you’re lucky enough to have played Chrono Trigger, then here’s the death rate estimate: You’ll die 2 times less or 2 times more than you did in Chrono Trigger. That makes my count about 8. Painful.
Are there any aspects that I don't like? Not really. Something that bugged me though is that some characters are just plain weak. I hope I didn't forget to tell you that there are over 40 characters in this game - yes, that's a lot. Sadly, a large chunk of them are weaklings, but then another large chunk may appear to be weak, but truly aren't. You probably won't be able to fully understand their special traits at first, but if you give them some time, they could come in handy. You never know when you'll come up to a boss where you'll need a character with extraordinary magic defense to just keep someone alive enough to dish out some damage.
Most “good” characters excel in one or two fields, but the ones who are truly worth playing with as a part of the team are the ones who excel in many.
Some characters have extraordinary magic abilities, such as Leena and Riddel. Some have high attack power, such as Leah and Zoah. Some are unusually good at defending magic, such as Irenes. Some have an unusual amount of room open for equipping magic spells, such as Radius. Some have unusually powerful techniques, such as Guile. And one is unbelievably powerful in all of these traits - that one just happens to be the main character, Serge. Good thing - you'll be using him throughout the whole game! Or most of the game! Or half of the game! You’ll find out for yourself!
So, when it comes down to it, you'll probably find a few ''favorites''. These usually are strong attackers and strong technique users, since these are what you'll be using most often in Chrono Cross. As I said before, they generally excel in more than one area. I haven't gotten every character in Crono Cross (yet), but so far these three were my favorites: Guile - a ''masked magician'' who is possibly the strongest Tech user; Karsh - A prominent axe-wielding ally that is very strong, and has great magic stats; and Viper - An overlord gone into exile that is nearly as strong as Serge in some respects. There are even stronger characters that I haven't gotten, such as the hard to get Glenn (no connection to Chrono Trigger's Frog, may I add).
Overall, I really liked the battle system of Chrono Cross. The spoils, which I consider stuff such as beautiful summoning magic from Final Fantasy to Special Attacks like in Grandia II and Skies of Arcadia, are aplenty in Chrono Cross in the form of the lovely techniques. Each character has three, each tech dishes out lotsa damage, and most of them look spectacular (though sometimes blurry).
Chrono Cross battles have a certain zest to them that makes them almost addicting; Boss battles are very, very, very fun and they can be quite the challenge too. My word of advice about the flow of battle: if you are to spend most of the battle keeping your characters alive, what damage is being done? If you dish out as much damage as you can before your team starts dying, then the battle might be over for the bad guy by then. Don't do what I did for a large part of the game - that is wimp it out and spend each character's turn on keeping a weaker character alive. Attack the bosses; they'll die eventually, what is there to worry about?
Although they are addicting, are the battles and the battle system of Chrono Cross fully engrossing? Surprisingly, no. Although it may seem like everything works, I wasn't totally immersed into the gameplay, except for maybe a couple memorable boss battles. Final Fantasy still remains king for me on this one, but I know many that would like to differ and they are probably more right than me. I think that my problem is that some characters, no matter how much you like them, can't go past a certain limit of power until you receive your next growth point. Remember, after a while the status boosts stop, and so does your opportunity to boost up your character.
Besides this flaw, the Chrono Cross battle system is one of the best in terms of pure enjoyment. It's about just as good as the rough-and tumble battle system of Chrono Trigger, in my opinion.
Story and Characters
For me, this is the faltering point in the game. It's not necessarily bad or anything - Chrono Cross has one of my favorite stories and cast of characters, actually, but the game has some problems that tend to be a blemish on possible story writing bliss.
The story is full of twists, epic events, and strange discoveries.
Okay, that can be said about every rpg (the good ones, at least).
Chrono Cross, though, does this kind of stuff truly, truly well. The plot twists WILL catch you off guard. You won't believe what happens to Serge almost halfway through - I did a jaw-drop it both pure awe and fright. Some of these twists and themes seem to come straight from popular movies, TV, and literature - it's really good writing, I'll tell you that.
So the story is good - extremely awesome good, may I add.
You'll probably like the characters, as did I. Serge, just Crono of Chrono Trigger, doesn't say a single word - and that's okay. You are the main character, after all! And, just like Crono, some of the worst stuff happens to Serge - the poor chap.
Kid is also a great character. Remember, she got a cool vocalized theme - that's enough right there. But Kid is also a unique personality - she has an Australian accent and says ''bloody'' a lot. She also has some deep connections to Chrono Trigger, and to Chrono Cross baddie Lynx.
Lynx is mysterious, cool, deadly, and feline. Scary.
So where does Chrono Cross go wrong? Yes, it does have those plot twists that would usually be game-defining, and a matter of fact they are. Sadly, that's where a lot of the substance ends, at least for me. The story just doesn't seem ''involving.'' No, not player involving - character involving. There is rarely ''group moments,'' like those in most other excellent rpgs, where the group goes over the current story status and just ''talk'' about the world changing events and misfortunes. It can be a bit discouraging, and worst of all, the same thing happens in the final 2-3 hours of the game (the final dungeon, final battle and etc.) No one has a conversation about what's happening around them (except for maybe the bad guy himself and the prophet from Crono Trigger that I won't name because it's a spoiler). You have your own thoughts, but that's it. Throughout most of the game, as I mentioned before, mere FMV held all the emotion needed to represent Serge's and other characters' thoughts, but truthfully it's not enough in some plot instances. Chrono Trigger had a little bit of a problem with this too, but it wasn't as bad because Crono was constantly with big talkers (ladies *cough* *cough*) through most of the game, and even in vital parts they would be there to ''talk'' about the story. It seems so basic, but it's so lacking in Chrono Cross in certain parts of the game.
And that's where it ends. That's my single most prominent problem with the game. It has several others too - the sometimes blurry graphics and some battle system flaws - but really, that's about it for the bad stuff in Chrono Cross. The rest is generally all, really good - some of the best gaming you'll have on the PSone, anywhere for that matter. Chrono Cross may not be a full fledged masterpiece in my eyes, but it sure comes close.
Other Aspects of Chrono Cross
New Game+ - once you beat Chrono Cross, you receive the option to start a new file with the same stats and items as you had when you slaughtered (or whipped out da Chrono Cross on) the final boss battle.
Secret Characters - as I said, there's 40 of them. But you won't be able to get all of them with one run through of the game. If you utilize New Game+, you'll be able to get all of them.
Secret Stuff - Let's see.... There’s hidden techniques, plenty of hidden magic spells (they're called ''elements'' in Chrono Cross, if you really wanted to know), and hidden weapons.
Side quests and multiple endings - some characters have special back stories that you'll have to go out and look for. The multiple ending comes only with the help of New Game+, so prepare to use that option a lot.
Connections to Chrono Trigger - there are aplenty, so Chrono Trigger fans will be in rpg bliss.
Game Length - It’s pretty decent.
It took me 48 hours to beat the game for my first time. But, was that 48 hours spend backtracking a lot instead of plot movements and new battles? Yes. I did a lot of backtracking and the such (I guess I get lost a lot!), so really, Chrono Cross isn’t that long of a game. It’s actual length is maybe a little less than Chrono Trigger’s length, which was somewhere in the 20’s.
Other stuff I forgot to mention - like any rpg, Chrono Cross is big. Thus, I probably forgot some important stuff....... Sorry!
+Stunning, excellent, immaculately directed FMV
+A fresh battle system
+The great story moments that will make you go into clinical shock
+The amazing, stunning, awe-inspiring music
+Making your ears the happiest they've ever been..... priceless (yes, the music in Crono Cross is deserving of two + signs!)
+Dedicated sound effects
+New Game+ and all of that tasty replay value!
-Some shoddy prerendering
-Story does leave a little to be desired
-I never felt really, truly, connected to Chrono Cross the way I have with many other rpgs
Sound and the godly Music: 9.75
Battle System: 8.5
Story and Characters: 8
rxfang6's game grade: A-, although parts of me strongly want to give it an A
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/02/02, Updated 08/02/02
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