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Chrono Cross- Review

A Fitting End to A Summer of Adventure

By: Castomel


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 2
   Music/Sound 10
   Originality 9
   Plot 8
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 10
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Ridiculously Easy
   Time to Complete

20-45 hours

 
Overall
8
Criteria

Title Screen
 

   I briefly toyed with giving this game a seven out of ten when first scoring the various aspects of it, but then realized that such a judgment would be unfair solely on the basis of my disappointment with its ending. Chrono Cross is quite a polished piece of work; the team responsible for it, after all, had upwards of four years to toy with the notion of a sequel, making several games in the interim as they honed their skills. Chrono Cross is the end result of that process; certainly, a graphical masterpiece, definitely possessed of beautiful music, a deep storyline, and a sparkling localization. Unfortunately, it is also possessed of a hurried finish and an ending that verged on anticlimactic. It is these last two that prevent this game from standing out as impeccable; that said, it is still a very good game.

Chrono Cross, even with the big shoes it has to fill, usually doesn't disappoint. The story of Serge, a young boy in the El Nido peninsula, is compelling enough from the start to keep the player interested, and the game's mechanics do the rest. Central to the game is the new element system; the entire concept of the six opposing elements permeates the story, music, art, and most prominently, the fighting. Rather than a traditional turn-based system, or even the ATB system prevalent in many of Square's games, Chrono Cross utilizes the aforementioned element system, requiring the player to attack in order to build up element levels. Each attack drains stamina, but also adds the corresponding amount to the character's energy. Each energy level(there are 8) holds a varying number of spells, which correspond to the various elements. These can then be cast at the cost of both the energy points and stamina. Ingeniously conceived of, this system is fast, easy-to-use, and innovative. The only drawback, really, is the fact that once used, elements can't be used again in the same battle. Additionally, towards the end of the game, fighting becomes largely tedious, since it is so easy; even the final boss is fairly simple to defeat.

   Lamentably, where the battle system is so well contrived, the interface has all the grace of a heap of bricks. Clunky, ugly, chugging, impossibly time-consuming to navigate, and with a drab colour scheme, the menus of Chrono Cross have the navigability of a canoe going down a waterfall in a hurricane. Equipping characters is such a pain that often, element slots are easier to leave unfilled just as a means of saving time and irritation, and the wide array of items that can be collected, while very pretty, don't disappear after use, along the lines of FFT. As a result, you're left wondering just why you've got some of the things hanging around in your inventory(since some items disappear after use), and why they're even there. Switching between characters, while easier than outfitting them, is also a chore, and it is quite tempting to use only three of the more than forty playable characters. Finally, item creation, a recent theme in Square games, is present here, and is largely pointless. While it's fun to glue your own weapons together at first, the charm rapidly wears off, and I can't help but wish they'd just revert to normal items.


'What do you think, Kimodo-san... should we steal his wallet?'
Serge after having a little too much fun at the beach  

   Where the interface leaves off, the music neatly steps up thousandfold. With fairly laid-back tracks in some places, energetic songs in others, and great execution throughout, Chrono Cross' music is some of the best for the playstation. While not always memorable, (though in many instances it is), each track is perfectly suited to the scene in which it is employed. The quality of sound is also very high, as the samples used sound very good, particularly the guitar used in some pieces. Though lacking some of the memorable quality of Chrono Trigger's soundtrack, Chrono Cross succeeds in a different way with its music.

   Chrono Cross is about as original as a sequel can be. Retaining just enough connection to the original to be considered a true sequel, this game is radically different from its predecessor in a number of ways. The battle system is a great departure from Chrono Trigger, the only real common threads being the Double and Triple Techs that are featured in both games, as well as the inclusion of three characters in a party. The characters themselves are much different, if nothing else given much less individual attention and being greatly expanded in number. Finally, the storyline is entirely different than the original, making for a unique experience in this regard. While there are definitely elements of previous games inherent in its structure, Chrono Cross is a distinctly different game.

   The much-vaunted plot of Chrono Cross was, undeniably, very good- up to a point, which was near the end of the game, happily enough. At this unfortunate instance, things just started appearing out of nowhere, giving the impression of a rather hurried conclusion. While some elements were poignant, there were others that not only seemed out of place, but were actually disappointing. The ending(or at least the first one I got) was anticlimactic, and though other endings were on a more personal level, they lacked a satisfying conclusion to an otherwise excellent plot.

   Localization is something of a wild card here. On the one hand, the translation is effectively perfect. On the other hand, this perfection exhibits itself in a number of idiosyncratic accents, many of which seem to be employed in lieu of developing the characters that have them. This not only cheapens the characters to a degree, it also casts them in fairly stereotypical fashion, leaving me to wonder just how many times Australians actually say 'arse' in a given day. Other than this quibble, however, the translation is flawless.


Hmm... I wonder if I should tell her there's a scorpion sneaking up on her? Nah... better stick to '...'
Yep... that's the ocean, all right  

Chrono Cross, by virtue of the New Game+ feature, is inherently replayable. Not only can the game be played a number of times, but in order to fully complete it, one is almost forced to. To ease this along, the addition of features allowing walking and battles to be greatly sped up is made, and this is very effective, extending the longevity of this game enormously. Also, with nine different endings, there is no shortage to the number of times Chrono Cross can be played with variety.

Visually, Chrono Cross represents the pinnacle of the Playstation's capabilities. Though this translates into the occasional chug, it is an integral part of the game, and thus the sometime slowness can be forgiven. Quite simply, Chrono Cross is beautiful. The game's art has a certain style, and it remains consitstent throughout. Blues and greens, both very vibrant, are used throughout, and to great effect. The sea is in evidence everywhere, and the natural beauty inherent lends itself to the beauty that shines through this game's graphics. Even if everything else was lousy, this game might just be worth playing for the visuals alone.

Ever played 'go fish' with a little kid you didn't really like? Well, perhaps that's not such a good analogy, since I was soundly beaten by the little kid in question, but the basic principle applies: namely, easy like a 2-bit... arcade game. Ahem. The point is, there's really nothing difficult about this game. Through some freak of nature I managed to die twice, but that'll probably never happen again(and the only reason it did in the first place was because I decided to take up ecotourism in a volcano).


Funnily enough, I accidentally renamed Harle 'arle'... sounds like Harle in a french accent :)
Harle, tired of her overdone French accent, lapses into Japanese  

As seems to happen to me occasionally, I got jammed in this game. Walking through walls, while doubtless an enjoyable experience, should not be a necessity of life; as such, any estimate of time to complete this game I can offer will probably be off by just a little. That said, the first time through, it took me about fifty hours; remember, though, about 20 to 25 hours of that was spent banging my head in frustration till I finally cracked and went to a walkthrough. As such, I would tend to suggest 25-30 hours should be ample time to beat the game. That is, of course, only for the first time; once you're playing subsequent game+s, things go more speedily.

Chrono Cross is almost the perfect example of what a game should be. Not only is it enjoyable, but it has exceptional graphics, sound, and is inherently playable. Suffering only from a terrible menu system and a somewhat rushed ending, this is a fitting sequel to one of the best RPGs of all time.

 







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