Review by Macolio
"Probably the best RPG on Playstation"
First of all, let me start off by saying that although I liked the original Chrono Trigger (CT) game, I'm not as crazy about it as other people seem to be, so I have no bias against Chrono Cross (CC) for not being a true sequel. Gamers nowadays dont seem to understand that sometimes games can have a game with characters or endings that dont require a follow-up, or it might ruin what you had before.
On to the review.
The story is relatively good. Serge is enjoying his life, when he is suddenly transported into an alternate world to the one he lives in. You're trying to go back to your world, and also understand why you were thrust in this new world. Soon you are given the ability to switch between both worlds, and most of the quests (and story, of course) are based on that because some things you require in one world might only exist in the other. There aren't many holes, and when there is, its mostly stuff that is bound to be found in a story that tries to be too complex for complexity's sake, and involves time travel as well.
I cant say anything more or I'll be spoiling, so I'll just comment on one particularly annoying main character: Lynx. He isnt what I'd call a good villain. I hate it when you're given the stereotypical ''Ah, Serge, I knew you would come! Ah, Serge, I didnt expect you to get this far, but everything is going according to plans!''. I can't stand such bull. And then you're given the inevitable ''plot twist'' where the ''true'' identity of the villain is revealed while you're in shock. Of course, if you're like me and played most Square games, it's not a shock because you saw it coming a mile away, because you know how Square's amateur writers think, giving you a plot twist without any sort of build-up, and trying to make it as shocking as possible. I call it the Metal Gear syndrome.
And worry not, oldschool fans, Square did not give CC the horrible ''teenybopper melodrama'' treatment that they've given to the recent installments in the Final Fantasy series.
And here you have a gem of a battle system. This is probably the best battle system I have ever seen in an RPG of any kind. Its a little too complex for me to explain it here, but I'll just cover a few of the areas that make this better than your average RPG battle system.
Stamina is the name of the game. Every action you take consumes stamina (except defend, which increases it). Bigger actions (Heavy Hit, high-level spell) use more stamina than smaller ones (Weak Hit, low-level spell). As long as a character has stamina, he can act. That means a Serge with 7s can cast a 4s spell, and even though the game moves to Kidd's turn, you simply re-select Serge and be able to do a 3s turn. Or you could do 7 1s actions. There's much more to this because its directly linked to the spell system.
For magic, instead of learning spells, you can equip an element (think Materia), and that element can be cast as a spell. As you go up in levels, you gain more slots to equip elements in. As to how those elements work, it's a hybrid of the D&D spell memorization system, instead of the MP system. This means that your battles will no longer consist of casting your most powerful spell over and over, then using an MP-restoring item and rincing/repeating. Every element can only be cast once per battle. This is a great thing because it forces you to use strategy to win a fight.
I wish I could go more in-depth about the battle system but it would make this review overly large. Just trust me, its great.
There are no Random Enemy Encounters. You have no idea how much of a relief this is. Remember how in RPGs with REEs, you're always hesitant to explore an optional passage that shows up in a dungeon? You weigh the choice, try to decide if the possible treasure is worth the 5-10 minutes of fighting that are bound to occur? Well no more. You'll actually BOTHER EXPLORING, because once you kill an enemy it stays dead until you leave the zone.
CC also foregoes the EXP system in favor of ''growth limits''. Everytime you defeat a boss, your growth limit increases, so that the next time you fight normal monsters, you WILL obtain stat bonuses, until that limit is reached (about 10 fights, so don't worry about being forced to fight). This, of course, makes the fights much more strategic: the developers know specifically how strong you are, or rather how strong you should be, and programmed the bosses accordingly.
Regarding the huge amount of possible companions, I have to say it's a nice change, but too many of them are pointless. When you have two different fighters that are both equally strong and both Yellow-innate, what's the point? They should've split the game in alternate routes where only half of the cast will join you depending on your choice.
Consider this a bull**** score. I'm a PC gamer at heart, and I absolutely hate the PS hardware. To me this looks worse than a SNES game, because at least the SNES had fast loading times and it didnt take you 10 minutes to get to point A to point B. As I always say, good 2d is better than bad 3d.
The graphics are mediocre, just as you would expect from a PSX game. Pixellation, ugly special effects, slow loading times...the works. When you go to the Status menu, you can see the character portraits slowly loading AFTER the menu has opened. That's how bad it is. You can't blame the developers for this though.
I refuse to believe this was made by the same person who did the CT soundtrack. Although it's good, it's way below the high standard Square set with games like CT or FF4 up to FF8. I'd say it's 3 or so great tracks, 5 or so good, and the rest generic. Still far above most games that come out these days, but when it comes to music, it's hard to forgive merely ''good'' Square works after being given aural exstasy with past ones.
Keep an ear out for the music that plays when you're fighting the holder of the Masamune (People Seized With Life), and the one that plays at the next-to-last boss (Dragon God).
The sound effects are rather nice, they did a good job at that. Footsteps sound different when walking or running, spell effects sounds are good, and so on and so forth. There are no complains about the sound.
Multiple endings, but most importantly, there's New Game+ which makes playing the game a second time more enjoyable. It lets you keep your HP, stats, and equipment, and most importantly, allows you to Fast Forward (this makes the characters run faster, the spell animations finish faster, etc). You can also do plenty of small things that you didnt think of doing the first time around, such as forging the Rainbow Shell items.
Basically, more replay value than any other RPG I can think of, including Chrono Trigger. I only wish there was an option to give the enemies a bigger amount of HP (a difficulty option, basically). Squashing bosses in 3 hits isn't very fun.
This is a great game, and definitely a must to everyone. Its an RPG reminiscent of the SNES days when it was more about gameplay than about horrible commercial dialogue or flaky ''character development'' that all the RPG kiddies seem to be obsessed with recently (I think its pretty funny when a user review on this site gives a score to a ''character development'' section). I mean, it has all those little touches that let you know that whoever made it, cared more about gameplay than flash (the best example of this being the fast-forward feature to skip cutscenes when you're replaying the game). If you liked the RPGs of the SNES days, you have got to try this game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 08/22/01, Updated 01/05/03
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