Review: Chrono Cross (PS1)

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Developer: Square Product Development Division 3
Publisher:  JP Square, NA Square Electronic Arts
Genre: Role Playing
Rating: T
Price: $11.49 (PSN)
As a JRPG fan since I was very young, one of my favorite games was Chrono Trigger. I always wanted a sequel to come out, and it eventually did in the form of Chrono Cross, though it didn’t feel like much of a sequel as I played it. However, after completing it and spending hours discussing it with friends, replaying it and reading over some of the dialogue and hints given throughout the game, it’s more than a sequel—it is a conclusion to all the chaos caused by Lavos. On the other hand, many fans Chrono Cross did not accept it as a sequel because Crono is neither the main protagonist, nor is found anywhere in the game (except in one area, won’t spoil that). And yet this game stands on its own two feet in regards to story and gameplay whether one feels it succeeds CT or not.

Story

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Chrono Cross is a game about a boy named Serge who lives in El Nido. He gets transported to Another World (the other dimension you can travel to, while his native one is called Home World) and discovers that he has died there. Nobody knows who he is since in that world he passed away as a baby, so he starts to search for answers. Eventually, he meets up with a girl named Kid who explains how the world was split ten years ago into two dimensions, and that she has an Astral Amulet that can lead him back to his original world. Using this tool, they are able to travel between both places at will through a portal that appears on Opassa Beach.
Their adversary, a cat-man with a large coat named Lynx, is after Serge and wants to kill Kid as well. As the story progresses, you learn about the Frozen Flame which is a powerful artifact from the past that can grant its wielder any wish or ability. Serge gets involved in the plot to stop Lynx and FATE itself from controlling the world, and stopping time itself from being devoured. Eventually you learn about the mistakes that the heroes from Chrono Trigger failed to prevent, how Kid and Serge play the most important roles of saving a Princess from the ancient Kingdom of Zeal, and how to put an end to a plot that is already in motion to destroy everything.

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Chrono Cross is definitely a family friendly game that all ages can enjoy, with that said there are a few cuss words here and there like d*** or hell, but overall the game is clean in its dialogue. Some sexual references are given by Harle in ze French (you will understand when you play the game, non?). Aside from Kid’s revealing clothing, there isn’t anything sexual to be concerned over. There are some points in the game where the characters will be drinking alcohol but it’s more referenced than pointed out.
Spiritually there is a lot going on. There is the worship to the dragon god later on in the game and discussions of life and death without a Heaven or Hell. Fate plays a large part in the game and somewhat negates the free will of the characters, having them instead follow a pre-determined path (best way I could explain it without spoilers). This is very important to the plot but it shows that God is not part of the plan nor of any importance.

Gameplay

Serge is the main character that you control throughout Chrono Cross. You can go travel on the map with an overhead view similar to Chrono Trigger, and battles occur when you touch a monster that is roaming the area. If you don’t touch them you’re fine, but often they are placed in such a way where you have to fight them to make progress. Battles are turn based and you have all the time in the world to decide what action you want to do, unlike other RPG’s where you are timed. You can also run away from any battle, even boss battles.

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Elements play an important role in battle, as you need to equip them to each playable character. Each element is like a spell or ability, and there are different levels. They also have colors that represent real life elements like red is for fire, blue for water, green for wind, etc. You can use attacks that have the opposite element of an enemy, but you need to check which is your characters base element so that you match them with the right ones for extra power! Field effect during battle is when a battle has an element attributed to it, if you use that color, the attack will get a boost. So if you are on a white element battlefield, you should focus on white element attacks for the win.
Traveling throughout dimensions is at the core of Chrono Cross, just as time travel was in Chrono Trigger. Instead of jumping between eras, you must go between Home World and Another World to different locations to complete the game. It’s very interesting to see each one because they are generally the same places with the same people, but they often have different dialogues and interactions. You can also recruit new characters between both worlds, and what you do in one dimension affects his or her persona in various ways. There are 45 characters you can add to your party, and they come in all shapes, sizes and races.

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Like Chrono Trigger, there is also the New Game+ option which is available once you beat the game for the first time. There are 12 endings you can watch depending on different decisions made throughout the story, so you can go through it several times. Think it might take too long to beat repeatedly? No worries! There’s a fast forward feature that you can use after you beat the game, and you retain your levels as well so you can pound through the game in less than half the time it took you.

Presentation

This is a PlayStation One game so the graphics are old-fashioned, but you will enjoy the beautiful artwork for each character and the dialogue that goes along with them. What’s also great is that many characters have accents or use slang when you read their dialogue, so you get a personal feel for each one. The few cut-scenes are spectacular even though they are outdated. The layout of the map when you go from place to place is like walking on a watercolor painting; each location has its own atmosphere to it; as the music flows well depending on where you are or what’s going on.

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The soundtrack, done by Yasunori Mitsuda who also did the score for CT, goes to another level with this one. Just by hearing the music you could almost tell what kind of place you are in, from the villages to the dungeons to the somber pieces there’s a lot of emotion to each track.

Conclusion

I have spent a lot of time looking over all the loose ends this game ties up, how it relates to Radical Dreamers (which was an old Japanese text based game that was meant to wrap up a plot hole in CT) and watching all the endings to understand everything that is going on. When you get to a certain technological place in the game, you get all this information thrown at you that you will have to figure it all out to put the pieces together, but as the game starts to come together you will see how intriguing it all was.

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This is a game that every RPG fan needs to pick up and enjoy, as thousands of others already have. It will forever be in the hall of fame of games that changed the genre and took risks instead of doing the same thing over again. For those that wanted a literal sequel that looks and feels exactly like its predecessor, you’re in for a surprise as this took the game to another level. Chrono Cross stands alone as a great game without anyone’s help with an amazing soundtrack, memorable characters, and a plot that is deep and complex.
You will be in for a great experience full of mystery, drama, light-hearted fun and tons of adventure when you pick up Chrono Cross.
For more information about the game (MAJOR spoilers) please check out Chrono Compendium. I used this site to help me understand a little better what was going on in the game’s plot.

 

The Bottom Line

To the JRPG fan, this is a gem that needs to be part of your library. A true sequel to a game that deserved it, it's a gaming experience that forever changed the format of the traditional RPG.

 

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Michael M.

Michael is a child of God, husband, teacher, business owner, anime lover and a life long gamer. When not conquering distant world's via console, he can be found reading, watching anime or Netflix, writing, or just enjoying life as a geek in the city of Miami. He aspires to travel to Japan and possibly...never leave.

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