Review by D'Hoost
"This game seems to be hit-or-miss... I happened to like it"
I look at the reviews for this game, and it is most definitely a love/hate relationship. While the majority of the reviewers absolutely love this game, some folks find this game to be disgustingly bad, oftentimes doing the typical "THIS IS TEH SUX!" garbage that serves no purpose, and other times they make some dead-on points about why Chrono Cross can be considered a bad game.
I, however, found Chrono Cross to be a very enjoyable game.
NOW, before you brush me off as naive (or graphic whore, as one writer "aptly" put it), I don't take well to a game that only focuses on graphics. Squaresoft is and always has been a company that took pride in their storyline and character development. Thus, I'm not about to write a review that fabricates "well, gosh! The graphics were so awesome! I was so enthralled by the music that I didn't pay attention to the game!"
Quite the contrary- I plan to hit every aspect that Chrono Cross presents, and nail down the pros and the cons of the game. In the end, I think you will find that I've done my best to view both perspectives, and to give you a review that is NOT so biased in either direction that you might as well have not read it at all.
SO, let's begin with our gameplay. Chrono Cross gives control to Serge, who dutifully follows Crono as the strong and silent hero. He never says a thing, and it for no other reason than it's classic, it had some Chrono Trigger appeal (although you often are asked questions by other characters and told to pick a response. I suppose that means that he's talking, but you never see it.)
Now, as Serge, you do what you'd do in any Squaresoft game - you walk around, talking to the folks in the surrounding area, trying to figure out what to do. This game poses quite a problem right from here; far too many times in this game, they leave you NO direction as to where you need to go next. Honest to god, you find the next location by pure chance much of the time. My brother and I, both die-hard FF fans, have played this game 5 times, and we STILL can't get through the game without having to ask each other what to do next... it's VERY confusing, and a real drag on your enjoyment.
To make matters worse, the game has two dimensions (explained later), and it's oftentimes a real hassle to manipulate both worlds. Some things are happening in one world, but not in the other. So, you have to visit one to do certain things, and visit the other to do the rest. It's not uncommon to have to visit a place in one world and then switch to the other to visit it on THAT side. It takes a good minute (Yea, laugh, but a minute in a videogame is a long time, really) to switch worlds, and can get rather trying, especially when you don't know where to go. Switching back and forth, back and forth... augh, you could drive yourself utterly mad.
STILL, despite going absolutely nuts, the game flows pretty smoothly. There are probably... oh, 100 to 150 events in the game, and 8 of them leave you lost. So, about 6% of the time, you'll be lost. However, for the remaining 94%, you can cruise right through the game without any difficulties.
Overall, the gameplay is somewhat irritating. However, battle system makes up for that ENTIRELY
Before I begin, just be aware: I am going into some extreme depth for the battle system. Bear with me- I thought the battle system was PHENOMENAL, but you really cannot appreciate it unless you understand every aspect of it, because it's a tremendous achievement of balance that makes the battle system work, and if you don't know every aspect, it will fall apart.
Those of you familiar with Chrono Trigger will remember the battle system in which battles spontaneously come upon you due to the landscape that you're in. Chrono Trigger had NO random battles; every battle was predetermined.
Chrono Cross holds to a similar principle. While on the map, you can see enemies walking around. By touching the enemy, you will activate the battle. In this way, you can choose to either fight EVERY enemy, or for the swift-footed, you can simply not fight a single enemy.
Now, that leads to what I would consider the one downside to Chrono Cross: It's not a good idea to skip every fight, because if you don't fight enemies, how can you level up?
Chrono Cross DOES have a level system, but it's not quite the same. Rather, your characters level up every time you defeat a boss. EVERY character receives a level up, and the levelup increases your stats, as well as your elements. The ONLY advantage to random battles is that after random battles, you (randomly- haha, figures) gain a stat point up, or two. +1 HP is fine and dandy, but you get +20 from a boss, so... It makes random battles somewhat pointless, and that does take away from the fun, somewhat, although it does guarantee that some bosses will be hard, no matter how you try to prepare, because you can't really level up.
Now, I said that leveling up increases your elements... Well, what are elements?
Now it's time to dive into the true genius of the battle mechanics for Chrono Cross.
SO, where to begin... Let's start with the basics. You get three characters, and enemies vary from one to five per battle. The game is turn-based, like most of the earlier FFs were- no ATB this time. TO ATTACK- Your character has seven stamina. This stamina is lowered by the attacks you perform and refilled as other players perform attacks. Each character has a stamina recovery rate unique to them, but generally speaking, for every stamina that your teammate uses up, the other two characters recover 1 stamina. A level 1 attack consumes 1 stamina, a level 2 attack, 2 stamina, and a level 3 attack takes up... care to guess? It takes up FIVE! (kidding- it takes 3)
Once you run out of stamina, your turn ends, and the next character gets to take his turn.
Elements, which I will explain later, consume seven stamina.
These three levels of attack have some variables, of course. Level 1 attack does less damage than the other two, but it's also much more accurate (90-95% on average). As for level 3, it's easily more than 3x the strength of a level 1 attack, but the accuracy on it is 65-75%. Now, it gets more in-depth than that. As you do damage with your attacks, the accuracy of all three attacks increases. For successfully connecting with a level 1 attack, your accuracy will increase about 5% for all three attacks, whereas if you use a level three attack, you can expect all three levels of attack to raise to 95-99% accuracy.
This system of damage versus accuracy is brilliant, and forces the player to give some thought to how he wants to attack before doing so. Not much, mind you, but it's better than the mindless attacks in other Final Fantasy Games.
For example, let's say you've attacked and connected with two level 2 attacks, taking your stamina down to 3, and giving you an element level of four. Element spells normally take up seven stamina, but you've only got four left over! However, Chrono Cross has a lending system of sorts- you can cast your element spell with only four stamina, and you'll simply have to regain 10 stamina on your next turn instead of 7. This means that you can use combinations of physical attacks and elements to find the most effective killing strategy.
NOW, on to elements:
For every attack that connects, your element level will raise. A level one attack will raise your element level by one, and a level three will raise it by three. Are you seeing their system yet? Special points if you can guess how many element levels there are... EIGHT!... wait, what?
Yea, I know- Eight levels. That means that if you successfully connect with every attack in a turn, you come up one level short of maxing your element levels... bizarre, I know, but that's the truth.
SO, what's the point in raising element levels?
Spells are revolutionized in Chrono Cross. Rather than using MP, or even spells that you learn, each character equips their spells. Now, it's not like junctioning... not REMOTELY, so don't shy away from this system just yet.
You pick up spells throughout the game as items. Each spell can be equipped to a character. You can only equip the spell to one character, but don't fret- you can get up to 99 of each spell.
Once a spell is equipped, the character can use it in battle. Each spell can be used once per battle- that's it, just once. After the battle ends, the spell recharges and you'll be able to use it in the next battle. There are also item spells. That is, spells that you cast that do not come back after battle. Generally, these spells are healing spells that are a quick fix to your regenerative healing spell.
I still haven't explained element levels, or why leveling up increases your elemental abilities.
Your ability to cast elements is set up as a grid. At level 1, you have the ability to cast a few spells- generally, two level 1, two level 2, and one level 3 spell. As you level up, your tree of elements increases, up to 8 slots in any given level. Serge winds up with 5-8 slots in every single level.
Now, as you may have guessed, level 1 spells do less damage than level 3 spells, and those in turn do less damage than level 8 spells. By logic, level 8 spells are (like in all final fantasy games) the only spells you'll use at the end.
NOT QUITE. Here's another brilliant aspect of balance for you; when you use a level 8 spell, your element level goes back down to zero and must be recharged. On the other hand, a level 6 spell leaves two levels leftover for a quick healing spell if you need it.
Once again, it's a brilliant strategic aspect to the battle system that requires the gamer to do more than mindlessly use one spell or one attack.
PHEW! And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the battle system. Are you totally confused? I would imagine so. Don't worry- it's a remarkable system that takes very little time to learn and master, and few walk away displeased, as it creates an amazing depth to your strategies in battle.
The storyline to Chrono Cross can be very well received, or it can be totally detested. That's for you to decide. I'm not gonna pull any punches here; I'll just tell you what the story is about and end. No opinion, OK?
You begin as Serge, the lovable mute who lives in a small town by the sea with his mother. Your nextdoor neighbor is your pseudo-girlfriend, and life couldn't be sweeter. One day, Leena (your neighbor/girlfriend) asks you to go down to the beach and collect some komodo scales for her necklace. They're iridescent green and stunning- as if you could tell her no?
However, upon reaching the beach, a tidal wave rips across the coast and knocks you out.
When you regain consciousness, you find yourself somewhat confused; everything seems to be normal, except for one tiny detail- no one in your village recognizes you! Worse yet, they tell you that Serge was a little boy that drowned seven years ago. Upon doing some investigation, you learn that this is an alternate dimension in which several things happened differently than in the world you grew up in, notably the fact that you didn't survive.
Now, a mysterious guy named Lynx (he's a half-cat, half-human in a pirate suit... Yea, laugh if you want) is chasing after you. You're not entirely sure what he wants from you, but he's willing to kill, so we can assume it's NOT a good thing.
That's the storyline in the first couple of hours. However, unlike most games, the plot doesn't have an end that you can see from miles off. Rather, you have smaller objectives that slowly grow into the bigger picture. It culminates in "kill the enemy before the earth is destroyed!", but the enemy doesn't even arrive on the scene until the very end.
That sounds bad to most people- The enemy only appears at the end? What a horrible development of story!
Not really- I won't spoil much, but let's just say that the enemy fits into the storyline that you've traveled along perfectly, and it's simply an enemy that wasn't apparent until you gathered all of the facts.
OH, and I almost forgot- there are 30 characters at your disposal, and unlike many games (such as final fantasy tactics), EACH character has a sidestory to be pursued. You also cannot get every character in a single playthrough. Based on the actions you take throughout the story, you pick and choose certain characters, and leave others behind.
I can't promise that you'll like the story, but I can tell you that very few people are dissatisfied. Some people find that the storyline isn't long enough for them, and that it's too many short stories wound together into one larger story.
... if you want that, go play Final Fantasy X
Chrono Cross followed Chrono Trigger's tradition- upon beating the game, a New Game+ option appears, which allows you to start your game over again with the same stuff that you started with. Everyone is still leveled up, and you have the same weapons and elements.
The one downside is that you must find every character again. So, while you're all powerful, you're now all by yourself.
(On a side note, you gain the ability to fast forward the game, so you can run through it in half the time, as well as slow the game down to admire the special effects)
This game was released in the year 2000, and it was nothing short of breathtaking. For an original PlayStation game that was a two disc set, it was amazing.
-The elements are culminated by summons at level 7 and 8, and the summons are all extravagantly rendered. ALL spells are magnificent, but it's especially so with the summons. Using the slow-motion of New Game+, you can see them in all of their glory; even in slow motion, they're REALLY cool.
-The video sequences were crisp and clean; it wasn't PlayStation 2, but it was very close.
-The backgrounds were all rich and well done; so many different themes across El Nido, each with a unique background.
I don't think that anyone was disappointed with what they did in 2000. Even today, with PlayStation 3, these graphics aren't going to be a flop.
One of GameFAQs' more prolific writers rated Chrono Cross as having the second best music of any video game. He's not far from the truth. This game has some incredibly variated music, all of it spectacular.
From the introduction, with its wicked violin solo to sweep you up in the magic, you're always listening to different music that is befitting of the area.
It's almost all done on a synthesizer, so there are all kinds of interesting sounds that are oddly appropriate for each area. There are also your classical symphonic pieces, though. All in all, there ought to be a little bit of something for everyone- they've even got a rock-n-roll concert, and while it's no Led Zeppelin, it's some pretty good stuff.
I think that just about covers everything. This is just the tip of the iceberg, too- Chrono Cross has lots to offer beyond what I've mentioned here. I can't stress enough that many people disliked this game, and there's no denying that I can understand their point of view. However, those people who played early Final Fantasy (especially IV and VI) will appreciate the flaws in this game, because it's not a whole lot different from any old FF game, which requires you to do some exploring before you can figure out your next destination.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/29/05
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