Review by Halbarad
"Chrono Cross-a worthy sequel to Chrono Trigger?"
Let's see: where to begin? Chrono Cross, for those of you that have been living under a rock for the past year, is the long-awaited and much-prayed-for sequel to 1995's SNES hit Chrono Trigger. While eager to purchase the game, I was somewhat leery after beginning the game; it seemed far too simple to catch on to, and (at first) only very loosely connected to the original CT. The story starts out quite simply, as did the original's: The hero, Serge, has gone to collect some Komodo Scales to make a necklace for his girlfriend, who he meets on a secluded beach. While talking with her, he notices a strange voice, speaking his name, and sees a strange light on the ground. When he investigates this light more closely, he blacks out and is awakened by a strange man. When he returns to his home village, he discovers that he has been dead for 10 years(!) At the direction of his girlfriend, who doesn't recognize him for some odd reason (wink wink), he goes to see his own gravesite, where he is attacked by soldiers searching for a ''ghost'', and there is assisted by a mysterious girl, who he comes to know as ''Kid''. From this simple beginning, a grandiose tale is spun that, despite any impressions you may get at the beginning, is intimately tied in with the story of the original Chrono Trigger. (Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, none of the heroes of the original truly appear in the game.) While a few faces, and quite a few names will appear familiar to those who have played CT, most of the game is set in an area of the world unknown to most-the El Nido Archipelago, which itself is tied up in the story as well.
The cast of characters is quite varied and diverse; reminiscent of Suikoden in the number of characters selectable, including everything from a bunny-eared beast trainer to a pan-wielding cook from Hell. Each character has an innate ''element''; of the six elemental types (Yellow, Red, Green, Blue, Black, and White), and the innate color of each member indicates which type of element they are strong (and weak) against, and those that they have advantages in using. Some elements (the more powerful ones) can only be used by characters with affinities of certain types, so party selection plays an important role in your strategy: should I take the weaker character with low magic power who can use these powerful elements, or should I take a more balanced character that may be more useful in generic situations?
The battle system, while a little strained on the use and maintenance of elements, is fairly easy to learn. The attack system is reminiscent of Xenogears, with a maximum of 7 points to spend on attack types: weak, medium and fierce. Each successful attack allows the use of higher and higher element levels, with the Summon Elements being the most powerful level 7 and 8 magics available. The Summons, powerful elements of the six elemental types, are quite the opposite of the hyper-powerful GF's of FFVIII: they are invaluable in defeating tougher enemies, but can be quite challenging to use due to their unique limitations. In a refreshing twist from most RPG's these days, every battle can be run from with a 100% success rate, including bosses; this makes the game much easier, as you may realize in the middle of a boss fight that he uses an element type that one of your party is particularly susceptible to, or that he uses an element that you can ''trap'' and gain for your own use.
The story is a cut above most recent RPGs; the plot of Chrono Cross, contrary to current trends, contains not one but THREE major plot twists, each of which totally changes the player's perspective on what has occurred up to this point. While the majority of the plot centers around the main figures (Serge, Kid, and Lynx), each of the other characters in the game has some background information and/or ties to other characters in the game, which makes further exploration refreshing every time. Taking a different character to an area which you have already visited, or talking to some characters with other characters in your party, reveals new dialogue (which, by the way, is VERY well translated-check out Kid's Aussie accent, or the -cha family's distinctive ''American'' accents.) And, in the tradition of the original Chrono Trigger, beating the game unlocks the New Game+ mode, where countless new endings can be discovered. And the music fits the game very nicely, with several places where tunes from the original can be heard under their new wrappings (listen to the Home World main island map theme or the Chronopolis theme to hear variations on the main CT theme, and the victory music is a variation on the fanfare from CT).
To sum up:
Overall: 9.75-about as close to perfect as it's possible to get!
My advice for those interested in this game: If you like RPGs even a little, CC is a worthy purchase, as it will provide hours of excellent gameplay; however, if you were a fan of the original Chrono Trigger, CC is sumply a MUST BUY. Enough is the same to get you to remember the original, while enough is different that it doesn't simply seem like a rehash of old material. Some moments in the game even found me sniffing back tears (and I am hardly an emotional person). After having just completed the game for the first time, I am already well into my second play-through, and enjoying it immensely. It currently ranks on my personal charts as my favorite RPG, and quite possibly the best sequel to anything that I've ever seen (though Empire Strikes Back is pretty stiff competition, lemme tell ya.) Just my 2¢ worth.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 09/26/00, Updated 10/07/01
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