Chrono Cross
"Then you suddenly reach the end and the designers went, 'DAMN!!! We forgot to explain the plot!! Ah, hell with it, we'll just explain everything that happened in a few long winded text boxes.' " - Best description of Chrono Cross' ending from GIA's letter column

Story: Serge The Mute starts his whole adventure while he was out hunting for lizard scales for his 'girlfriend' Leena. He passed out from listening to her talk too much, only to find out that things were no longer the way they were. That, and he's got a blonde pirate-girl with a funny accent and a demihuman named Lynx trailing him every step of the way....

Once upon a time, there was a game called Chrono Trigger for the SNES. It captured the hearts of many as it explained the paradoxes of time travel in a simple and comprehensible manner. Unfortunately, the people were not happy with just one game when Final Fantasy had several sequels. Square plugged their ears for five whole years before finally saying, "If we give you a sequel, will you promise to shut up?"  The overjoyed gamers agreed.

So in August 2000, they got their much-awaited Chrono Trigger sequel: Chrono Cross.

And MAN did the gamers shut up after playing it. The gaming magazines haven't learned to shut up about the game, though.

Plot: It's the simple story of a young man who was at the wrong place at the really wrong time. You can't go wrong with that. There's still the underlying theme of 'humans are perpetually evil' (which we are, anyway) and the fact that it's still a sequel to Chrono Trigger. While I haven't played much of CT, it was still enough for me to understand some of the basic things that occur in CC. In fact, a knowledge of CT isn't really necessary. You can still get through the game without knowing who Lucca or Schala really is.

However, this is a game made by the Xenogears team. And judging from Xenogears, this particular group of people always seems to have one BIG problem with their games:


That's right. They can never seem to pace their story properly. In Xenogears, disc 1 was fantastic. You explored a little, fought a little, and the story unfolded itself gracefully. Then came disc 2, where one could reach the final dungeon in 5 hours because there was no exploring, ridiculously few random battles and plenty of boss fights and lots and lots and lots of cutscenes in which people sat down in a chair and told a story with a pendant swaying in the background and still shots randomly plastered across the screen a la Evangelion. Brilliant, no? </sarcasm>

Kill me for saying this, but Chrono Cross actually *suffers* from the same problem as Xenogears, whether people realize it or not. Like the quote above says, the designers were having so much fun making the game that they forgot to unfold the story properly. So in the end before you fight the final boss, you get all the loose ends tied up by having these 3 ghostly apparitions explain the whole game to you in no less than 8 huge text boxes EACH. >_<  And after you get the 'good' ending while fighting the final boss, you get ANOTHER run of text, text, and more text comprising of nothing but philosophy and yadda yadda yadda with a shimmering Earth in the background. And this is the GOOD ending!

I liked Chrono Cross, believe me, but the ending really ruined it. I'm the kind of person who understood Xenogears' story in all its verbosity, but Chrono Cross is just too much.

On the brighter side, the translation is fantastic. Almost all of the 40+ characters have some kind of distinct accent, which doesn't make the game as painful as Xenogears. One way to tell if a translation is good is to imagine yourself voicing a particular character's voice. If it doesn't sound forced or inappropriate, then the translation fits. Chrono Cross' translation fits everyone. A few typos, but nothing severe.

Gameplay: Combat is mostly turn-based. Each person has 7 stamina points and also a grid of element slots to put elements in (think FF7 materia) which can go up to an 8 X 8 grid. Elements are used by using up 7 stamina points. For physical attacks, the power of each attack varies. An attack using up 1 stamina point will be weak but will have high accuracy, a 2-point attack will be average in terms of accuracy and power, and a maximum 3-point attack will be very damaging but will have low accuracy. The more times you attack with 1-point attacks, your accuracy for other attacks will go up as well. You can attack as many times as you want, as long as you have the minimum of 1 stamina point. Stamina points can go beyond negative, so a particular person can't act until he/she/it has regained at least 1 point of stamina.

Each character also has an innate colour of either white, black, blue, red, green and yellow. These colours determine the effectiveness of elements if you use them for attacking. If a white person uses a white element, the effect is stronger compared to a green person using the same element. In keeping in touch with the whole Yin and Yang thing, elements have their opposites. For example, red and blue are opposites, so if a red person casts a red element on a blue enemy, the blue enemy will take more damage. However, the blue enemy will also tend to do more damage to the red person. On the upper-right corner of the screen is an element field. Casting spells of different colours will change the field effect. Assuming the field effect turns into one colour completely, your characters can use summons. Changing the field effect, though, is easier said than done.

Sounds difficult and confusing? Hardly. Chrono Cross is the easiest game out there. I mean, what other game gives a 100% success rate escape from BOSS FIGHTS? You can run away from the final boss, just how easy is that? You can see your enemies and avoid random battles, which is nice if you hate random battles. Your characters don't even level up! After boss fights, you to get a star, which indicates 'level-up'. For each star you get, your stats increase. Getting stars is almost a sure thing because all boss battles are compulsory. Therefore, you don't even need to battle other things! Yay!

I'll never understand why everyone hates the fact that there are 40 playable characters. With so many of them, this gives me the chance to pick people I want to bring along. If there were only 7, the story might be tighter, but I might not like the characters. With 40, I can choose the type of party I want to play with. You want a harem of lovely ladies? You got it! Want a group of cutesy little cottonpuffs? You got it! Want to play with demihuman freaks? You got it! Want to play with a group of strong but ugly old men? You got it! Want to play with powerful magic users? You got it! Want a group of ludicrously powerful prettyboys? You. Got. It! And you get it all here!

Compare it with Chrono Trigger: You want a group with any of the types mentioned above? You. DON'T. Get. It.

One of the biggest problems in Chrono Cross is the equipment. No, not the fact that you collect raw material and glue them all together to assemble a weapon, no. It's the fact that you can't swap elements easily among one another. Sure, you can scroll left in the menu and equip a person in advance, but that's it. If you want to change characters, you have to remove the guy's elements and accessories and reequip the new person in your party. Very tedious. This is a good excuse for anyone to stick with 3 people for the rest of the game. Out of 40 people, I used a grand total of.......eight: 3 girls, and 5 overpowered prettyboys. ^^

Graphics: Chrono Cross is a colourful and vibrant game, with each and every prerendered location simply bursting with bright cheery colours, giving the two parallel worlds an environment of its own. Magic effects are short, but no less fantastic. The summons are brief and convey exactly what they're supposed to do. The characters are well-proportioned and have a distinct walking style. Conversations are accompanied by portraits of the person speaking. The conversation boxes can even be customized by collecting window frames! It's all so colourful!

.....Which is probably why I ended up almost colourblind after the first 2 hours of the game.

And of course, the FMV is nice. And the FMV characters have Escaflowne noses. I'm not kidding, really. >_<

Sound: I may not worship Yasunori Mitsuda the way I worship Hitoshi Sakimoto, but I do regard him as a fantastic composer. He makes everything sound so good. The opening theme is wonderful, the ending song relaxing, the in-game music a joy to listen to, with a lone exception: The normal battle music.

The normal battle music is a pain to listen to. A PAIN! It's as bad as Xenogears' battle theme! It's just not listenable. I can't stand it, and I'm silently thankful that there are no random battles in Chrono Cross. Otherwise I would've muted the sound. I'm afraid I have to say this: Yasunori Mitsuda still hasn't got the knack for good battle music, unlike Nobuo Uematsu. When I play any FF and a battle pops up and the battle intro kicks off, my feet taps uncontrollably, my head swings in time with the beat of the battle theme and I start humming along. When the battle music for Xenogears and Chrono Cross kicks off, I slump into my beanbag, my eyes glass over and I mutter, "Oh god," over and over again till the battle's finished.

However, Yasunori Mitsuda makes FANTASTIC boss battle music, be it a normal boss fight or the final boss. For that, I am blissfully happy.

Sound effects are...sound effects. Everything sounds right. Can't say much about that. And of course, no voice acting! Yay!

Everything else: Finish the game once and you get New Game +! When you start New Game +, you get a little key item that lets you fast forward/slow motion everything! Everything! Battles, conversations, cutscenes, but not FMVs. Sorry. In New Game +, you are also a badass, since you keep everything you had in your last game, including your stats. There's also a key item that allows the main character to be replaced by anyone you like in battle, and another item that lets you fight the final boss anytime you want. When you fight the final boss after particular cut scenes, you get different endings. This 'enhances replay value'. Yeah, right. There's only 10 endings anyway, how enhancing can it get?

One part I liked about Chrono Cross is that if you bring certain characters along for certain scenes, you might get a little bit of extra dialogue. Heck, take these people to see their otherworldly counterparts! See the confusion that ensues! It's these little touches that makes the game so replayable.

Something to note is that the character designs were done by Nobuteru Yuuki, the guy responsible for Vision of Escaflowne's pointy freakish noses, Dilandau Albatou the psycho pyromaniac prettyboy, the even freakier designs for the Escaflowne movie, the game Tail Concerto and character designs for X the Movie (confirmation needed) among others. If one were to compare the Chrono Cross original designs with the Esca movie's designs, one might come to the conclusion that both designs were done at the same time, judging for the colours used and the eerie fact that Serge looks like Esca movie's Van Fanel with blue hair. Heck, the Chrono Cross characters even have the Esca noses!

In my opinion, Nobuteru Yuuki's designs are infinitely better than Akira Toriyama's designs for Chrono Trigger. How anyone can say that the girls are cute, Crono is adorable and Magus is wonderful when the enemies all look like Emperor Pilaf and Nameckians from DB is really really really beyond me.

I still think the Xenogears should be a part of the Chrono Trigger/ Cross universe, though. More on that next time.

Verdict: I presume that all the people who've played Chrono Cross aren't screaming for a sequel because they're either still in awe at the game or they're still recovering from the shock that the game's verbose story gave them. Despite all the glaring setbacks (horrid pacing, worse battle theme), it's still a nice game in every way possible and one should play it, if not for the prettyboys and lovely ladies to drool over, then for a nice plot, good music and an interesting battle system.

In short: Buy it, play it, love it, but for God's sake, don't worship it. It's not THAT fantastic.

Grade: B

+ Character designs.
+ Most of the music.
+ Nice story.
+ Freedom of choice of characters.
+ Simple tactical system.
+ Great translation.
+ Replay value.
+ Prettyboys galore! ^___^
+ Nice and easy.

- The battle theme.....oh God, the battle theme....
- Too wordy! Too wordy!
- Tedious character management.
- The game isn't as fantastic as it was hyped up to be.