Review by Ranma

"Hands down, the best PlayStation game ever made, and a hands-down contender for best RPG and/or game ever made. This is it."

Yeah, it's been a while since I've written a review for GameFAQs. But there is just no way I could not share my views on this literally perfect video gaming experience. Those of you who have read my Chrono Trigger review know how much I admire that game, and consider it one of the best creations of all time. I've been waiting for its sequel for almost five years, and it's finally here. Of course, I bought it on its release date, but I didn't want to review it until I got a good way into the game. Here's what I've got to say.

Graphics: 10+/10

Are there better visuals on the PSX than this? No, I don't think so. This is just incredible. You've got to see the character models, especially on the status screen, to believe them. On the status screen, your characters look like Dreamcast polygon models - and even though the PSX can't attain that quality in battles, it comes DAMN close. On the field screens, the models are somewhere in between. Another high point is the character animation; I've never seen such unique animations for attacks and the like. They'll blow you away. The Spells in battle are, of course, your typical Square quality - nothing short of spectacular, but also not gratingly long like the FF VIII summons. There ARE summons in CC, but not horribly long ones, and they look just as cool. The point I'm trying to make is, THERE AREN'T BETTER VISUALS ON THE SYSTEM. The pre-rendered backgrounds are just breathtaking, and are much more ''alive'' than Final Fantasy VIII's. Don't even get me started about Legend of Dragoon - that game sucked badly, and even though its graphics were outstanding, they come NOWHERE close to Chrono Cross'. Effects like rippling and sparkling Water, blowing leaves, and dancing Fire are commonplace in the backgrounds of Chrono Cross - and more astonishingly,in the battle backgrounds themselves! People, the battle landscapes have to be seen to be believed; I've NEVER seen such detail! I can't even explain it there's just so much detail - they look strikingly similar to the pre-rendered counterparts, or at least as close as the PSX can handle. The FMVs, done by the same people who did Final Fantasy VIII's, are just incredible and easily match FF VIII quality, if not in fact surpass it (and again, don't get me started on Dragoon, which comes nowhere close to comparing to Chrono Cross in ANY way). The only way I can think of to close this section is a repeat of my earlier statement: there aren't better graphics on the system.

Music and Sound: 10++/10

Those of you who have read my reviews know how important a game's music is to me, especially in a RPG. In most instances I know the composers by name, and Chrono Cross is no exception. Yasunori Mitsuda, the composer of the original Chrono Trigger (as well as Xenogears) has truly soared into perfection with his latest Chrono Cross soundtrack. It definitely matches up to his other works, which is hard to say, considering they're both so truly awesome. However, the game's soundtrack is not for your typical taste in music. It is VERY heavily Celtic-influenced, and although I love it, many of you might not. You get a lot of other ethnic influences too, such as Indian, Arabic, Eastern, and more, and a lot of music is your regular orchestral fare too. In fact, there are actually VERY few upbeat tracks in the entire game - so beware, if you like rockin' music in your games. That's not to say there is at least one mistake in the soundtrack; there is. The battle theme, ''Gale,'' in particular is pretty grating and repetitive... which is not to say it's entirely bad, it's just not very good. The boss theme, though, is such an awesome song that it easily makes up for its brother's shortcomings. And for Chrono Trigger veterans - many of the songs are influenced by the original game, and a lot of songs are remixed versions of Crono's Theme... and just wait until you hear the victory fanfare for the first time. ^_^ In all, Mitsuda has outdone himself once again and possibly become his own worst enemy with a soundtrack that will probably never be surpassed by anyone but himself - not even by the famed Nobuo Uematsu. So, in all? Easily one of the most elite soundtracks for all RPGs and video games in general.

The sound effects are particularly well done in Chrono Cross - actually, VERY well done. I'm never good at commenting on sound effects... all I can really say is that they're crisp and a lot of them are unique, and not ''normal,'' especally the battle sounds. I've actually noticed how realistic they are, which is something I don't usually notice about games. All in all, very well done.

Plot: 10+++/10

Possibly Chrono Cross' greatest area is its storyline, which is easily one of the best storylines I've had the pleasure to experience. The way the story has been written is sheer genius; Chrono Cross takes place in the same world Chrono Trigger did, though in an unexplored part and 20 years later. The story is not simply a sequel to the CT story with the same characters and setting - nor is it an entirely new game with absolutely nothing to do with the original game, a la Final Fantasy. It is a mixture of both, and the way the game starts out entirely new but starts weaving in plot elements from Chrono Trigger early on into the story is sheer mastery. Trust me when I say this - those itching like I have for a sequel to the CT story will NOT be disappointed; Chrono Cross in fact has a LOT to do with Chrono Trigger, a lot more than others might have you believe. But, Chrono Cross doesn't so much as CONTINUE the CT storyline as much as EXPANDS it. But whatever CC does with CT's storyline, it does it extemely WELL, and you'll find yourself going giddy (and probably a little emotional too!) with deja vú many a time. The story stars Serge, a relatively normal teenager (17) who, like Crono from the original, defines the personality of the player; he's silent except for certain points in the game which you will find out why when you get there. However, Fate was a dark mission in store for Serge - early in his quest he will be thrown unwittingly into a parallel dimension where he has died 10 years ago. It's his intention to find out why, and along the way, he will meet a huge cast of other characters, most notably the main heroine in the game Kid, a spunky thief with a bad attitude and one thick Australian accent. The Chrono Cross story will take you through many surprise twists and will glue you to the characters as if you were related to them as it deals with mainly the dark sides of time and dimensional travel, love, betrayal, life, and death. I don't think I've ever experienced a more wonderful storyline in any RPG, ever. Just beware - Chrono Cross' story is exactly like Chrono Trigger's in that it appears to be lighthearted on the outside, but underneath is deep, and VERY dark and VERY foreboding and is not for people who don't like extremely deep and complex storylines, or don't like sheer freakiness, because Chrono Cross can get quite frightening at times (although that may have something to do with the fact that I play it in a dark room, at night, with the music very loud ;). Say goodbye to your loved ones - you won't be seeing them for a good, long time.

Gameplay: 10+/10

You know, I'm not going to even try to get into this game's battle system, because it's such sheer genius that an explanation from me couldn't do it justice. The system, whose name escapes me at the moment (something like the Cross Sequence System), deals with Stamina, Elements, Fields, and Colors. Let's start with Colors. Each character and enemy in the game has an Innate Color, which stands for one of the Elements: Red (Fire), Blue (Water and Ice), Green (Wind and Earth), Yellow (Lightning and Earth), White (Light), and Black (Darkness). A character with a Red Innate can use Red Elements more effectively and can't use Blue Elements as well, and has an advantage against Blue enemies, but adversely, a weakness against them too. The other pairs are Green and Yellow, and White and Black. Next, I'll explain Elements. ''Elements'' are basically Spells. You ''equip'' spells in Chrono Cross, not learn them. You equip them by putting them in a Element Grid, of which each character has one. Each Grid has eight Levels - there are less slots to put Elements in as you reach the higher Levels. Of course, the Elements you insert into Level 6 Slots will be much more powerful than those in Level 1 Slots. And in the same way, there are different-leveled Elements. For example, ''Fireball'' is a Level 1 Red Attack Element, but ''Magma Burst'' is a Level 4 Red Attack Element, and also more powerful. You can ususally put any Level Element into any Element Slot, but they either lose or gain power depending (a Magma Burst inserted into a Level 1 Slot would be labeled ''Magma Burst -3'' and be weaker than if it was inserted into a Level 4 or higher slot). It sounds overly complicated, but it really isn't. It's easy to learn but extremely tough to master. In battle, each character starts with 7 Stamina Points that you can use any way you want. The three attacks - Weak, Medium, and Fierce - use 1, 2, and 3 SP effectively. Each time you hit an enemy with one of those attacks, your Element Grid becomes accessable by the same number of Levels - 1, 2, or 3. Therefore, if you hit with a Weak, Medium, then Fierce, you'd be left with 1 SP left and able to cast up to Level 6 Elements that turn. Or, if you wanted to use a Level 7 Element, you could end your turn, Defend, let another character attack, and let that first character recover Stamina. Switch back to the first character mid-turn, use one more Weak, and then use a Level 7 Element. Voila. It's simple, yet at the same time extremely deep and complex. Fortunately, mastery isn't necessary to beat Chrono Cross, only a good understanding. Finally, the Field can be turned different Colors in battle depending on the Elements used. Say you wanted to use a Blue Summon Element. Summon Elements ALWAYS require the whole Field to be that respective Color. So you'd have to cast three Blue Elements to turn the field all Blue, and then you could use the Summon Element. However, that's easier said than done, as enemies will usually try to stop this and cast another color Element, effectively stopping you in your tracks. Additionally, when the Field is all a certain color, Elements of that Color will be more effective and Elements of the opposite Color less effective. Finally, I'll get into the EXP and leveling up system - of which, there actually is none. There are no Experience Points and Levels in Chrono Cross - your stats raise randomly after normal battles, but they'll stop increasing once you've battled enough, effectively stopping you from turning into God at the beginning of the game. When that happens, you need to go find the next Boss and defeat it; that will raise your Star Level and allow your parameters to grow a little more. And that's all there is to it. In fact, it's your CHOICE to have strong characters - you can avoid all the random battles you want. You're not required to fight any - unless, that is, you want Gold and treasures. Then, of course, you have to fight - but if you see fit, you may skip random battles at any time, which is one thing that makes Chrono Cross so uniquely appealing to RPGamers everywhere. Weapons, armor, and accessories are not bought in Chrono Cross. They are forged, a la Final Fantasy VIII, and found in treasure boxes and won after battles. The forging system is basically the same as FF VIII’s - you find raw materials to do the forging with by winning battles and such - but it’s much deeper, as there are over 40 characters to forge weapons and armor for... although you can’t realistically use that many, so you’ll end up forging for maybe five or six characters, which ususally turns out about right. It can be quite tough to find the materials you need to get the better weapons, so there’s absolutely no way you’ll get more powerful weapons before you’re supposed to. In addition, Elements can also be bought, not just found in dungeons and won after battles. In all, Chrono Cross has one of the deepest and most ingenious gameplay systems you’ll ever find in any RPG. Have fun. =)

Fun Factor: 10++/10

Chrono Cross is just plain fun. In most RPGs, random battles especially are a nightmare. I cannot think of one RPG where battles are actually FUN to play out, except maybe Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which isn’t even a full-fledged RPG anyway. It’s not the fault of the creators or the games; it’s just that many RPG battles, though they strive to be different, are all just the same. Granted, not all battles are boring (the FF series usually has well-paced battles), but some of them really are (Wild Arms 2, etc.). The Chrono series (I love how I can say that now) has always excelled in this area. Chrono Trigger had a battle system that no one had ever seen before, and battles were damn fun. They were quick battles that took place on the same screen as the actual walking around took place on - not a different screen altogether like most RPGs. Now, granted, Chrono Cross does stray from this formula just a bit - battles DO take place on a separate screen - but, ironically, one of only a handful of RPGs where you can choose to avoid random battles altogether is one where the random battles are extremely fun and you WANT to play them out. There are not many, if any besides Chrono Trigger, RPGs I can say that about - I can only think of one other, and that is the awesome Front Mission 3. Exploring Chrono Cross’ world is a joy too - the environments are very inspired and the truly thorough RPGamers will find a secret area that’s basically Chrono Trigger all over again, even if its name is a bit messed up. One other thing I should mention - the translation. Do not fear - it’s totally perfect. In literally every way. I really feel sorry for the localization team of Chrono Cross - not only did they have a massive amount of text to translate, almost every one of the 44 playable characters has a unique accent to them. For example, Kid is Australian, Harle is French (VERY French), and Korcha... well, just adds “CHA” to words wherever he can. You might think this adds up to an annoying reading experience, but the game is so well translated that unless you have a very thick skull, you’ll be able to understand what even Harle is saying. Overall, this is the best translation I’ve seen from Square Soft - I’ve not found one mistake so far, except for the POSSIBLY mistranslated accessory “Daemon Charm” - which might be supposed to be “Demon Charm.” Not sure, though. In all, an extremely fun experience - trust me, you won’t get bored.

Overall: 10+++/10

I sincerely wish I was allowed to put 11, 12, 13, or 14 out of 10 on GameFAQs reviews; because really, no 10 does Chrono Cross justice. With Chrono Trigger links abound, a New Game + feature (a REAL one, not the ‘fake’ ones like in FM 3, VS, LoM, and ToF), and 10 different endings that are accessed the exact same way as in Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross is the one RPG that you should buy this year, if you could only choose one. It will undoubtedly be a whole lot better than Final Fantasy IX - and FF IX looks awesome. I sincerely pray, that with the awesome success of Chrono Cross in both Japan and the US, that Square will bestow upon us one more Chrono game that ties in with both Chrono Trigger and Cross to make it a trilogy. Chrono Cross is enough of an incredible, classic game in itself that IT deserves a sequel in addition to Chrono Trigger. Absolutely no other series can simply match up to the sheer perfection that is the Chrono series - not even the Final Fantasy series. Long live Chrono, and may we see a third game in the series in the near future - and for the PSX 2, to boot!

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/26/00, Updated 08/26/00

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