Chrono Cross
  • Genre:
    • RPG
  • Platform:
    • PlayStation
  • Developer:
    • Square
  • Publisher:
    • Square
  • Released:
    • JP 11/18/1999
    • US 08/15/2000
Score: 80%

This review was published on 07/09/2013.

Chrono Cross is a role-playing game developed by Square and originally released for the Sony PlayStation in 2000. It's a sequel of sorts to Chrono Trigger, which was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1995. Chrono Trigger was an incredibly successful and well received venture of Square, so it made sense to make another game like it. Because Chrono Trigger is one of the most beloved RPGs of all time, the hype for Chrono Cross was off the charts. Even though it got high marks from most reviewers at the time, many fans were disappointed by the fact that Chrono Cross wasn't a direct story sequel to the first game. It does make minor references to the previous game, but Chrono Cross is an overall new experience with new characters, a new world, a new story, and new gameplay. Time has a sobering effect on people, however, and plenty of fans have grown to appreciate the game over the years. It by no means surpasses the timeless classic that is Chrono Trigger, but Chrono Cross is still a good game.

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The story starts out right in the thick of things, allowing you to control a party of three unknown characters inside of some ancient ruins. This area is technically the game's first dungeon, complete with enemies to fight. It's a tutorial area that lets you get familiar with the game's most basic mechanics. A fancy FMV scene initiates once you reach the top of the ruins. In this scene, you witness a young man stab a young woman in the gut with a knife. That very same young man wakes up, realizing that it was all a dream. The young man in question is Serge, the protagonist of this tale. Serge lives in a tropical village with his friends and family. It's at this point where the game starts mimicking the intro of Chrono Trigger, with the main character being woken up by his mom, and she informs him that a lady friend of his is waiting. Serge quickly goes to meet his girlfriend, Leena, and the two lovebirds go on a date at the beach. Their date is interrupted when Serge is mysteriously pulled into another world. This world looks awfully similar to the one Serge came from, except everyone thinks Serge died when he was a kid, and therefore, nobody recognizes him. It is here that the adventure truly starts. Not as cool as the premise to Chrono Trigger, but it does grab your attention. The problem with the story is that it's nearly impossible to decipher later on. It helps to have played Chrono Trigger first, but even then, things are difficult to digest.

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Whereas Chrono Trigger's story centered on time travel, Chrono Cross explores the concept of parallel worlds. The world that Serge gets sucked into is an alternate dimension in which most of the same people exist, but having made slightly different choices. Some things are nearly identical in both dimensions, while other things are completely different. For example, the lizards Serge hunted to get the scales for Leena are bountiful in the regular dimension, but they're extinct in the other dimension. As for Leena, she exists in the other dimension, but she isn't his girlfriend there. There are tons of other differences, most of them minor, but some of them are major. Early on in the game, you don't have the ability to switch between dimensions at will, but you do acquire that ability a bit later. At that point, you'll have to frequently jump between dimensions to accomplish certain tasks, much like how you had to jump around time in Chrono Trigger. The dimension hopping thing is nowhere near as cool as time travel, but at least they tried something different. It all feels pointless in the end, though. There's not much sense in having two nearly identical copies of the same world. Later in the game, the differences are so minor that you'll sometimes forget which dimension you're in. The game tells you that information on the world map, but ultimately, the parallel worlds just aren't interesting enough. Chrono Cross should've either made the two worlds more unique, or stick to a single world. As it is, the concept doesn't provide much impact on gameplay.

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Thankfully, much like Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross eliminates random encounters. Fights are turn-based, like they usually are in Japanese RPGs, and you're allowed up to three characters in battle. Unlike Chrono Trigger, each character has stamina points in battle that allows them to perform actions. Different actions deplete different amounts of stamina, and when the stamina hits zero, that character's turn comes to an end. It's actually possible for characters to perform multiple actions in a single turn, provided they have the stamina for it. That's pretty darn cool, if you ask me. Stamina automatically replenishes itself over the course of battle, but in the event that you don't have enough stamina to do what you want, you can defend to replenish stamina at a much faster rate. As for the combat itself, physical attacks are divided into three categories of strikes: weak, medium, and strong. The three types of attacks each have a hit percentage, with the weakest attacks having the highest accuracy and the strongest attacks having the lowest accuracy. Stronger attacks also waste more stamina, meaning they can't be used too many times. This battle system is actually really cool, and it's one of the best things about the game. There's a lot of depth to it, much more than the battles in Chrono Trigger. The graphics in battle are also really good for the PS1 era, on top of the cool music.

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Magic in Chrono Cross is referred to as Elements, and like the battle system, it's rather interesting. Elements are like Materia from Final Fantasy VII; they're found in treasure chests, bought at stores, won from battles, etc, and they must be equipped to a character before they can be used in battle. Each character has an Element Grid where the Elements are equipped to, and the number of slots in the grid depends on the character. Characters gain more slots to their Element Grids as you progress through the game, allowing you to equip a large amount of Elements at one time. Like magic in any RPG, Elements can heal allies, inflict major elemental damage on enemies, and impart other kinds of beneficial or harmful effects. Characters also have a few innate skills that count as Elements, which cannot be unequipped from the grid. As for how you actually use Elements in battle, that's the cool part. You need to perform enough physical attacks to build up your grid, allowing you to access the higher level spells. Once that's done, you're free to use whatever spells you have equipped. There's no MP stat in Chrono Cross, though there still is a price to pay. Elements can only be used once per battle. That's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you never have to worry about replenishing MP in between battles, and you can use all of your strongest spells at the start of every fight. On the other hand, you'll find yourself in a dire situation if you used all your Elements during a long boss battle. Even given that issue, the Elements system is pretty cool, since it allows you to make quick work of most normal battles. Chrono Cross has one of the best magic systems out there, up there with Materia.

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One of the defining aspects of Chrono Cross is that it has a very large cast of playable characters. A large majority of these characters are totally optional and are recruited via side quests, much like the Suikoden series. Just to give you a ballpark figure, there are over forty characters that may join your party in Chrono Cross. That's quite a lot for an RPG. It's not possible to recruit all the characters your first time playing through the game. That's where the New Game Plus feature comes in, which was first popularized in Chrono Trigger. The New Game Plus lets you start a new file with all your stats, equipment, and money intact, which lets you speed through the game another time. Your game file remembers what characters you recruited on a previous playthrough, so you'll be able to recruit the characters you missed. If you decide to recruit everyone, then you're looking at many hours of extra play time. While it might not be worth it to recruit every single character, there are points in the story that result in diverging paths, and these different paths are worth experiencing. You need to play through the game at least twice to see all the paths the story can take. Anyway, the downside to the game having so many characters is that they don't all get a good amount of development, and some of them seem really out of place. For instance, a talking pink dog can join your party. She's not at all important to the story, and she just comes off as inappropriate during the more serious parts of the game. The large amount of characters adds variety and replay value to Chrono Cross, but there are a bit too many.

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Chrono Cross is a solid PS1 era RPG that's fun to play. It's not on the same level as greats like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, and Final Fantasy VII, but it's still pretty enjoyable. Chrono Cross has a lot of interesting mechanics to it, like the battle system, magic system, the leveling up mechanics, and so on. It's experimental in that regard. Unlike experimental games like Final Fantasy VIII, however, Chrono Cross is actually good. It's got great graphics, good music, an intriguing story, and some cool mechanics. As long as you don't go into Chrono Cross expecting it to be exactly like Chrono Trigger, then you should have a wonderful time with it.

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