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Chrono Trigger - Review

Endless Blue...

By: Red Raven


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 10
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 10
   Plot 8
   Localization 2
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Tough
   Time to Complete

60-80 hours

 
Overall
7
Criteria

Title Screen
 

   The sleeper hit Star Ocean: The Second Story surprised everyone when it was released by Tri-Ace in June of 1999. Not content with being "just another RPG," SO2 features groundbreaking new innovations and depth never before seen in this genre. New ideas are supplemented by an epic storyline, long playing-time, and over 80 possible endings. SO2 offers pretty much anything you could ever want in an RPG: a unique and deep experience each time you play.

   The battle system in SO2 actually lets you choose what type you want, whether turn-based, real-time, or a strange mix of both. The real-time mode is the type of choice for most people. Battles are between the enemy and up to four party members. Party members are prety much divided between fighters and magicians. Fighters will learn special attacks that you then assign to the L1 and R1 buttons, one attack per button; these attacks are used instantly and have varied effects depending if they're used at short or long ranges. When using magicians, the action will pause as you select which spell to use. The spells take a time to cast and during this time your magicians are very vulnearbale; an attack will interrupt the spell and it won't resolve. This condition is used often against the later bosses which can kill you quickly with their magic. In battle you only control one character of your choice, the others are controled by a pretty smart AI, but you may switch control of a character during the fight. The battle system also includes factors from outside battles. If you treat the party healer badly during the course of the game for example, that character will not heal you as quickly as the others. Conversly, if two characters are close, then one of them will go into a rage if the other falls during battle. Things like this make battling an extension of the RPG itself as in if you treat your party badly there would be noticable effects; whereas other games treat battles as just something to do to get money and experience.


That's good to know.
That's good to know.  

   Outside of battles, the game is equally as complex. A character receives skill points after leveling up and these points can be used to improve a variety of skills. There are Battle Skills, ones that directly related to battle, and Other Skills, ones that relate to Item Creation. These skills do not automatically give you anything; they just improve your chances of experiencing the benefits. Besides, Item Creation is far more complicated than just mastering skills. It also requires the given character to have a natural Talent for the action, which is determined randomly as soon as the character joins you. On rare occasions additional Talents can be learned, but it's unlikely. Item Creation is also more than just creating cures and swords; you can create books, paintings, and music as well. The whole system is handled in such a way as a to not be complicated, but not simple either. However you see it, you will NEED to learn the system, as it is the only way to get the best weapons and armor in the game. Heaven knows you'll need all the help you can get in this tough game.

   The music in the game is more than adequate in the fitting of the general mood of the game. While epic in nature, the game has a more leisurely pace, which is reflected in the musical scores nicely. The sound effect area is a little more complicated, and it depends if you consider sound effects to include the voice "acting" heard during battle. For each special attack and spell used in the game the character doing those actions will say something relating to it. Characters will also say things at the beginning of the battle, the end of the battle, when they get hit, when they die, and when other characters die as well. Generally speaking, they all suck, but some more than others. Not just in their inability to actually convey emotion, but some just hurt your ears. I consider the voice "acting" to be reflected under the Localization category, hence the low score there.


Anime-like emoticons adds to conversational fun.
Anime-like emoticons adds to conversational fun.  

   Even though some areas lack in quality, the sheer amount of innovations more than make up for it. In fact, this is the most innovative title that I've ever seen. Besides just the options, they also include little things like "collecting" the voice samples to unlock more secrets in the game. The Item Creation ability is one of the funnest additions to the game, as a lot of time can be spent making new things that may or may not help you. But the greatest and most promising innovation in this game are the Private Actions. These events are what happen when you choose to have the party split up when exploring a town. It allows your character interact with another on a one-one-one basis, not just to initiate side-quests, but to learn more about that character's personality. It creates a compelling back-story to the point where you'll start to actually understand the characters better. Besides, the Private Actions also determine the effictiveness of the party in battle and is also the key factor in what kind of ending you can expect. I defintely wish to see this kind of system used more widely.

   It is a bit unfortunate that some of the best qualities of RPGs, long playing time and multiple endings, contribute only to a somewhat average replay value. It's obvious that nobody is going to see all the different possible endings and this can turn some people away from playing it again even more than once. From a story point of view it is advised to play through as both main characters to get a complete view of the plot, which just so happens to be quite good. It is about two teenagers, Claude and Rena, and the struggles they face. Claude is the son of the hero from the first Star Ocean, and he is trying to get out of his father's shadow; this leads him to becoming stranded on the planet Expel. Rena lives on Expel, and after a chance encounter with Claude, she goes on a journey to figure out her true past and her future destiny. The two stories intertwine into a great overall plot.


Surf's up?
Surf's up?  

   The visuals of the game are pretty good as well. The character designs are unique, but at times the sprites do look a bit pixilated. The pre-rendered backgrounds are good and they match the sprites great as well. The CG movies are of a very high quality, not quite Square-like, but better than most.

   As one of the most innovative titles of the year, it would be complete folly to not suggest everyone to at least try Star Ocean: The Second Story. And while the horrible voice acting may turn off some people, I'd hope they would play long enough to experience the groundbreaking Item Creation and Private Action features. The rest of the game is equally as impressive, and should not be passed up for any reason. If you're in the market for a game that'll tide you over for a good month or two, Star Ocean: The Second Story is the game for you.





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