Chrono Cross Review

For PlayStation

Rating: Awesome
   After a wait of five long years, the sequel to Chrono Trigger has 
finally been released.  Chrono Cross is either deeply fulfilling or hugely 
disappointing, depending on what you're expecting.
   If you're expecting a true sequel to Chrono Trigger, you will 
undoubtedly be disappointed.  Square could have easily called Vagrant Story
or Final Fantasy 9 "the sequel to Chrono Trigger" and it wouldn't have made
much of a difference.  The combat is completely different from Chrono 
Trigger, and the characters are also completely different.  
   Even the game world is completely different, despite the fact that 
Chrono Cross supposedly takes place just 20 years after Chrono Trigger.  
Sure, a few re-mixed songs from Chrono Trigger are in Chrono Cross, but 
that hardly makes it a true sequel.  The only thing that Chrono Cross 
really has in common with Chrono Trigger is that it's a phenomenal game 
with the word "Chrono" in its title.
   If you look past the fact that Chrono Cross isn't a true sequel to 
Chrono Trigger and judge the game on its own merits, you'll find that it's 
yet another masterpiece from the kings of RPGs at Square.  Before the story 
line begins to get going, you'll notice that the combat system is 
innovative and easy-to-grasp at the same time.
   Standard physical attacks can be executed with one of three strengths, 
with weaker attacks having higher hit percentages and stronger attacks 
being more likely to miss.  This adds a strategic element to combat even 
when you're just hacking away at enemies, as you have to decide in each 
individual battle whether the risks of powerful attacks are worth the 
   Using magic (or "elements") is just as strategic because all enemies 
have elemental alignments that can be exploited to your advantage.  If you 
use the automatic feature and don't delve into the intricacies of the 
element system, you'll still be able to do well in combat, just not too 
well.  To give you an idea of the difference that elements can make in 
battles, I once went into a boss battle completely unprepared and got 
annihilated.  After strategically changing my elements, I went back to the 
boss and kicked its ass, simply because I had switched some elements around 
in the right places.
   The standard battles aren't as entertaining as the boss battles, but 
they're still remarkably fun.  Square did a very good job of walking the 
fine line between character customization and character individuality in 
combat.  You get a nice amount of character customization because any 
character can be equipped with any element, and you also get a nice amount 
of character individuality in combat because every character has a few 
unique attacks that no other character has.  Many RPGs give you one of 
these two things; Chrono Cross gives you both.
   It makes a huge difference to be able to see the enemies in the 
environments before you encounter them.  It's also nice that the magic 
animations are kept faily short, unlike those in FF7 and FF8.  My sole 
complaint with the combat system is that you can't select the next command 
while the current command is being executed.  This makes the combat in 
general somewhat slow-paced, but this isn't too big of a problem.
   The graphics in Chrono Cross are truly beautiful.  I'm not just 
referring to the cut scenes; the "in-game graphics" as beautiful as well.  
While Final Fantasy 7's graphics were beautiful because they were 
technologically incredible at the time, Chrono Cross' graphics are 
beautiful in an "amazing artwork" sort of way.  Every single area in the 
game, from the overland map to the towns to the dungeons, is bursting with 
color and detail from the top of the screen to the bottom.  
   The music is also memorable, with a wide variety of tones ranging from 
happy to dramatic to somber.  The music adds to the mood and feel of many 
scenes in the game, which is exactly what RPG music should do.  The sole 
exception to this game's musical excellence is the annoying Scottish music 
in the town of Termina.  I thought "Rowdy" Roddy Piper was going to appear 
when I first entered that town...
   The biggest problem with Chrono Cross is that there are simply too many 
characters (over 40 in all).  When you first get a new character in your 
party, you're treated to a decent amount of character development, and in 
fact, this character development is very good and will often pull at your 
proverbial heart strings.  
   The problem is that after this initial character development is complete 
for a particular character, that's it.  Odds are that there will be very 
little additional character development for the rest of the game in this 
character's case.  They will tag along with you if you have them in your 
party for combat, but they won't say or do much for the rest of the game.  
   Most of the story throughout the game focuses on Serge, Kid, and well... 
Serge and Kid.  This is really a shame, because many of the side characters 
could have been truly classic if they had been explored further.  I would 
prefer that the game have 15, 10, or even five characters that are 
prominently featured throughout the game, rather than having over 40 who 
are mostly left to the player's imagination.
   Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Chrono Cross has a bad story or 
even a "just good" story.  What I am saying is that in one important way, 
it could have been better.  The character development that is in the game 
is excellent, and the story as a whole is very deep, with surprising plot 
twists throughout the game.
   I also like how the game gives you real story-related choices for once.  
This is much preferred over the old RPG method of appearing to give you 
multiple choices, when in fact you can only choose one.  This game also 
gives you lots of choices at any given time when it comes to where you go 
next, making the whole experience very non-linear.  At the same time, 
though, the game still has focus, unlike some other non-linear RPGs like 
the original SaGa Frontier.
   If you're looking for a perfect game, Chrono Cross isn't it, but then 
again, neither is any other game on the market.  Sure, it's not a true 
sequel to Chrono Trigger and it has too many characters for its own good, 
but don't let these two flaws prevent you from enjoying one of the greatest 
RPGs ever released.

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