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Chrono Cross - Review

The Greatest RPG of All Time, Space and Cross-Dimensional Existences!

By: Stewart Bishop


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 10
   Interface 10
   Music/Sound 10
   Originality 10
   Plot 10
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 10
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

30-50 (Single Play-Through)

 
Overall
10
Criteria

Our Main Hero and Heroine
 

    ...I am speechless. Actually, I'm not, but it's hard to speak correctly with a jaw gaping as far open as mine. After five years of waiting for a sequel to Square's titanic hit, Chrono Trigger, it has finally arrived. Chrono Cross is a phenomenal RPG experience that should be missed by no one, from the most hardcore RPG fan to that regular shmo that merely dabbles in the genre. What makes it so successful...?

    We begin with the Battle System. It is a tad similar to Xenogears with several exceptions. Consisting of the commands Attack, Element, Defend and Run Away, each character is given 7.0 points of Stamina to use at their leisure. Selecting Attack and then an opponent with prompt you with either attacking with a Weak, Medium or Heavy Attack, or Levels 1, 2 and 3. Each of these attacks takes a certain amount of Stamina away, which corresponds to the severity of the attack. For example, a Weak or Level 1 Attack would reduce your Stamina meter by 1. The Element meter however, charges as you attack. A Weak or Level 1 Attack would increase the Element meter by 1 while a Medium or Level 2 Attack would increase the Element meter by 2. Elements take away 7.0 Stamina no matter what, which can put you in - Stamina or "Out Stamina." The meter charges over turns.

    Spellcasting is a bit different than what we are used to in the normal RPG. There is no mana like in Final Fantasy VIII, and spells are stockpiled. In Chrono Cross, however, you must organize a grid of elements, as in you must choose from your large stockpile of elements and assign them to the characters of your choosing. Different grid levels are also available from 1 to (what I can tell) 8. Each Element is assigned a certain level, such as Fireball is a Level 1 element and AeroSaucer is a Level 2 element. Placing AeroSaucer (which is level 2) in a level 3 grid slot will increase the power of the spell but make it harder to use (your Element meter has to be at 3 to use a level 3 Element). Similarly, placing this level 2 element on a level 1 grid slot will decrease its efficiency while making it a much more simple spell to cast (meter only needs to be charged to one).


Great Game, Great FMVs
Great Game, Great FMVs  

    Did you think it'd be that simple? Of course not. There is also the innate color system, where each critter on the battlefield has an innate color (sort of like Pokémon, they have a specific 'type'). An example is that Serge has an innate color of white, which strengthens all of his White Elements, Techs and Summons, while making him more susceptible to its opposite color, black. The colors and their opposites are Black - White, Red - Blue and Yellow - Green. Now we move on to the Field Effect. The field consists of three rings, where each ring is colored depending on the latest color element that was used. Example; The meter has 3 white rings and someone uses a red element. It should now have 2 white rings and a red ring. Understanding the field is simple; if the field is flooded with yellow, then yellow elements, techs and summons will be more powerful. If the field is flooded with green, then green elements, techs and summons will be more powerful. A note on summon elements; they can only be used if the field is completely filled with that particular color, so a White Summon requires the field to be completely white before it can be used. If you find that you've selected an incorrect arrangement of your Element Grids, don't panic; you can run from ANY fight in the game. Neat, huh? All in all, this is the most balanced battle system that I can think of.

    Speaking of balance, Square has trashed the old level-up system. No longer can you continue to fight and fight and fight and make the next boss fight any easier. Instead, you are given a select amount of fights to gain statistics. After a battle, your statistics will slightly improve: Serge's HP could go up, Kid's Strength could go up, etc. After a few fights, however, the stat upgrades will cease until you defeat another boss and gain a "Growth Level." Once this new growth level is obtained, your stats will grow again for a few fights. Gone are the days of 'level up and I'll smackdown anything in my path.' Like its predecessor, Chrono Cross has no random battles. You can choose to fight opponents or not; they are represented by enemies on the field. After you've gained your stats, you don't need to fight anymore! This saves time...or...at least it lets you beat the game faster...So you can rev up your New Game + and start again.

    Did I say New Game +? If you don't know what this means, you have no idea what you're missing...Basically, it lets you begin the game all over with your previous characters' statistics, equipment and elements INTACT. Top this off with multiple endings, sidequests and an brigade of about 40 characters to train up to their max. Replay value, anyone? After starting your New Game +, you also get a few bonuses, like the Time Shifter, which lets you play the game in fast forward and slo-motion. Quite funny but also quite useful in battle when you're tired of watching spells. FF8 could definitely have used this one.

    The music is the finest music I have ever heard, in any video game...Ever. Songs ranging from upbeat to sad to confused...It's all there. Very emotional, very beautiful. I will never look down upon a string instrument after hearing these incredible songs. The sounds are very crisp, from the traditional blips and chimes to the cutting slash of Serge's blades as they slash against enemy armor and carapace. If you want serene, go to Guldove and just listen to the sound of the waves...Soothes my nerves...The Final Fantasy series has NOTHING on Chrono Cross. Mitsuda should be very, very proud.


It's Lucca!
It's Lucca!  

    Bringing us to the interface, which is pure genius. The Element Grid format is an excellent way of organizing one's Elements, and helps us people who can barely see the screen. World map travel is also very simplistic and easy to get the hang of; Since it's a total World Map, you won't find yourself getting lost like you often would in the previous Final Fantasies. The lack of random battles on the map is also something that is usually very pleasing to the RPGaming community. The ability to forge your own weapons, armor and accessories, as well as disassembling OR selling the unnecessary ones makes your inventory much more neat, clean and tidy. You may also get rid of extra Elements that are cluttering your grids in exchange for materials to forge with. All in all a very friendly and in-depth interface.

    The plot is magnificent. While it is not necessary to beat Chrono Trigger to understand any of this, it makes the experience much more enjoyable, though I won't say how. A few bumps and turns in the beginning, but at the end, the entire plot is twisted into such a tight knot you wouldn't believe me even if I did include spoilers. Tip: Don't let ANYONE spoil the plot for you. At the end, everything pieces together so well. Another plus is that it's not too linear. It's chock-full of sidequests to keep you occupied while figuring out how to progress the story. Decisions you make can affect not only the characters you recruit, but even the ending. If you thought Xenogears had an awesome story, check this one out.

The visuals in Chrono Cross are stunning. It makes me ask myself, "Is this the Playstation?" Indeed it is. Beautiful skins accompany beautiful models. Marvelous elements, summons, techs and lighting effects dominate your TV screen. It'll make you drool all over. If you thought that Final Fantasy 8 took the Playstation to the max, play this game for five minutes. We'll see about that...Coupled with the incredible genius that is the Chrono Trigger team is Final Fantasy's CG team. They aided in the production of Chrono Cross's FMV sequences, and we know how well THEY can work, don't we?

Chrono Cross is the definition of the words "Quality RPG." Pick this game up as soon as physically possible. Just as I was beginning to doubt Square's ability to create RPGs, dropping rocks like Legend of Mana and to a degree, Final Fantasy VIII, this mammoth game dashed that thought like a hot knife through butter. Pop it in your Playstation and immerse yourself in THE greatest RPG of all time, space and cross-dimensional existences.




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