Review by DJellybean
"Obviously the best PSX game to date."
Chrono Cross, in what is one of the most anticipated games to come to the US since Final Fantasy VIII, is obviously the clear cut choice for the best Playstation game to date, or ever for that matter.
Imagine, taking the Anime 2-D backgrounds of SFA3 and turning them into 3-D, that's how good the graphics were in this game. While not in a sense the same use or time period of graphics, that's literally the interpretation of the graphical genius of Square. You have very smooth looking backgrounds and areas, full of rich texture that blends out of the crowd but blends with the environment...much like FF8 had done with its game. Its not much of a show from FF8 but they do look better, and mainly its the lighting in the game. Instead of using bright colors 80% of the time in FF8, Chrono Cross uses a lot of lighting effects. For example, you walk into a house and look around during daytime, the sunlight seers through the windows and its so bright that it can even hurt your eyes, the lighting in this game is that good. Aside from the backgrounds and areas, the whole place is rather dead in most areas and you would use polygonal figures in backgrounds to give it a more lively atmosphere, but it's not Square's fault, it's the system's weak power. Real time battles are abundant in this game, heck its the type of battles used in all PSX FF games. Whenever a battle starts, the screen sorta distorts, giving the feeling that you are really zooming into battle quickly in a rapid motion. The backgrounds in these battle scenes are mainly polygonal, making battles always active even when you are looking for a element to use or just waiting to attack. There is some small noticable slowdown in the game though, like when you walk around Telmina in a 3 member party, the screen shows a significant drop in frame rate but not too much to distort from the overall feeling of the atmosphere and gameplay since this only happens less than 5% of the time. My only bother about the game is that when you enter buildings, you would have a pit black outer background, making it seem as though the room is in some sort of abyss, maybe it's laziness on Square's part but it's really just a nit picking detail that should be avoided.
Music and Sound: 9/10
Definitely not Chrono Trigger, but suits the game well. It seems apparent that Square wants to move forward towards the classic, movie type atmosphere music rather than a journeyistic music we all loved from FF 1-6 and Chrono Trigger. That's probably my only complaint about the music, it's not nearly as catchy as Chrono Trigger nor as good. A favorite theme can be heard at the end of each battle when your party wins, the classic Chrono Trigger music is used again, much like the FF battle victory music, but sadly it has been altered to a less likable tune. It also appears that Square once again decides not to use voice acting as the game is mostly text reading for the Japanese literate. Sound effects are a dismal in this game, mainly used in battle but are often soft and not as loud as they should be. However, the sound quality is as natural as you can get along with pleasant music that favors the ears of pleasant listeners rather than the ears of some rock band. The music has nice transitions from place to place, very little skipping and much to the adore of the gameplay atmosphere.
Replay Value: 10/10
Replay wise, this game is quite possibly the best RPG to replay over and over(besides some earlier Final Fantasy games and Chrono Trigger). The NewGame+ opens up a few options like battle 3 main characters from Chrono Trigger along with acquiring all 44 characters. The down side to acquiring the 44 characters is that it's quite tedious and becomes reptitive...forcing you to play the game 3 times over(unless you hack the game with a code). Mainly, this game is like a tree, you come to a branch, but then there are limbs leading to other directions. The game basically has 11 endings, but these endings are only acquired through the New Game+ as you can travel back and defeat the final boss at anytime. Two new gadgets are given to you after you beat the game as well...there really there for fun rather than actual storyline purposes. Obviously if you don't find replay in this game, you don't understand the meaning of 'Chrono' Cross.
This game might worry a lot of readers and fans of Chrono Trigger. First off, the Dragon Ball Z artist and Dragon Quest producer did not help any in this game, which is probably why Chrono Cross is not as good as its prequel. However, Square alone proves that they can follow up on their own games without the help of others. Much like Chrono Trigger the world map is a shruken version of the overall world and there are no random encounters in the world map. If you go over a entrance to an area or a town, text would show up and designate what the place is. Much like Earthbound and Chrono Trigger, you can see your battles ahead of time(except for a few occassions) instead of having random encounters. Load times for these battles are great, very little and digests well with the player. New to the game, or I should say 'modified' to the game are Elements. Elements are similar to Materia, heck they are Materia. However unlike Materia is divided by use, the Elements are divided by element and effect. Either it be healing, elemental elements, or even cause and effect magic like steal. Your opponents can also have combos of their own as well, but it's only the AI that becomes smart enough to use combos near the end of the game. The HP in this game doesn't reach into the thousands like FF games, your HP remains in the hundreds(YAY!)...just like Chrono Trigger and Earthbound. After battles you can heal your party members automatically using the elements you may have and as usual, all dead party members after battles(just so long one character remains alive) are revived automatically to 1 HP, saving you the use of Life elements and such. Story wise, this game isn't a complete sequel to Chrono Trigger, although only a SMALL number of characters make a return, this game is indeed a sequel...but the game is so good at hiding it that you may think you are playing a completely new RPG. Heck the game is good at hiding who the last boss is! Unlike certain games(FF6, FF7, ahem).
In terms of the most important aspect of this game(story), Chrono Cross easily delivers. In Chrono Trigger, you dealt with Time Travel but in Chrono Cross you deal with alternate realities that effect each other. Like I said before, the game pretty much branches off...there are only a few key decisions along the way but they can no doubt, affect a good portion of the game and the order that it transpire to. It's really difficult to not spoil the game without telling you the story, but let me just say that, Chrono Cross easily has the most intriguing, most interesting, and most complex storyline that you will ever find in an RPG.
The battle system in Chrono Cross has completely changed from the last game. Chrono Cross sorta takes the step of Legend of Legaia and instead of just attacking once...you can attack several times, much like in a combo. You have three sets of attacks, a fierce, strong, and weak attack. The weaker the attack the more chances you have of landing a hit. While the stronger the attack, the less chances you have of landing a hit...this is all indicated by a percentage next to the attack. Each attack is divided up into levels, 1-2-3. Depending on the strength of the physical attack you used, you will gain element levels that allow you to use elements in your grid. You can even use elements between attacks and Square basically eliminated the use of MP...but unfortunately, you can only use elements once per battle(assuming of course the element is a non-curative element). Each time you do anything however, you lose Stamina. You start with 7 Stamina points and each strength of attack drops your stamina and elements are almost guaranteed to use up your entire stamina guage...no matter how powerful they are. You can regain that stamina back on several conditions.
1) You are the only party member in your group, with that you gain back your stamina automatically...but your opponent still gets to attack.
2) You defend.
3) Your other party members land a direct hit on your opponent or use an element.
Battles are pretty much turn based actually instead of the Active Time Battle where the speed of your guage determines when you get to attack next. Dual techs and triple techs do exist in this game as well. You can only use Dual and Triple techs once however, and your characters have to be at a certain element level to do so. However, there aren't nearly as many multi-techs as there were in Chrono Trigger. All 44 characters in the game(except for Sprigg) have 3 single techs of their own divided into lvl3, lvl5, and lvl7.
Aisde from New Game+ is the Continue+, which lets you continue your current game with the new gadgets and the availibility of the Bend of Time(the battle against three main Chrono Trigger characters) last battle. It's nothing much really but it's nice to see it there.
You'll find yourself playing this game for years to come...and your probably wondering why I don't describe the storyline more. Well unless you want me to spoil the game for you, but I'll try to be as superficial as possible, besides I already mentioned that this game is a semi-sequel to Chrono Trigger. Some people complain and BS that Crono is not in the game and such, but to be quite honest, Serge takes the place of Crono quite nicely...Serge pretty much is silent and he mainly talks with body language...but the game does such a good job the characters since it does actually seem like Serge is talking with them by their reactions, even though you do not see a single dialogue from Serge displaced in the game. This sequel was not a Square sequel, it was a fan sequel as you can obviously tell from reviews everywhere that Chrono Cross definitely has the potiential to be the best Playstation game to ever grace the 3rd generation grey box.
This is Square's biggest RPG other than Final Fantasy. With rich storyline, multiple routes(and I do mean multiple), embracing music, and endless replay value, its safe to say that it would take a heck a lot from Square to try and top this RPG. We've seen a lot of RPGs released in the US from Square lately, but I can guarantee that this is the RPG to beat and is several steps above all other Square RPGs presently...after playing through Final Fantasy IX, I'm pretty certain Chrono Cross will be the game of the year, despite the fact that FF9 is one heck of a game.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/30/00, Updated 08/30/00
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