Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chrono Cross Review!

I played through Chrono Cross again recently. I didn't remember much of it which is why I wanted to do a second run through it. It, unlike FF8, is still fun to play after ~9 years.

I posted this review to 1up.com's User Reviews for the game. (Their site says it'll show up shortly. I'm not sure if somebody actually reads and OKs it first or what, so it's not up yet there at the time of this post.)

I'll probably submit it to RPGamer.com to see if they want to publish it as a Reader Retroview in the near future.

I should probably proofread it first.

Anyway, here:

You're going to be disappointed. Maybe.

It's 2009. The year of the rat. Or something. As an avid RPG fan I have many RPGs on the shelf unfinished and many others that haven't been played in years. Chrono Cross being one of the latter. So, I recently played through it for the first time in going on ten years and reviewed it. So, here goes...

Chrono Cross is the indirect sequel to the recently re-released on Nintendo DS Chrono Trigger. It came out years after Trigger and features an entirely different presentation, setting, and characters. Many fans hoping to go on another time-spanning adventure with Crono, Marle, and Lucca will be disappointed as those beloved characters only show up very briefly rather late into the game.

This time around, the player takes on the role of Serge, a 17 year old boy from a small fishing village. On a trip to the beach with his girlfriend, Leena, Serge finds himself sucked through a portal to a parallel world very much like his own with but one small difference: It doesn't include him. He was killed ten years earlier by a panther demon.

The game distinguishes between the two worlds calling them "Home World" and "Another World." As time travel was Chrono Trigger's hook gameplay mechanic dimension jumping is with Chrono Cross and Serge and pals will go back and forth countless times for a variety of reasons.

Almost as soon as Serge lands on the beach in "Another World," he meets the spunky, Cockney-accented thief, Kid. Serge's journey will eventually allow up to 44 other characters to join the party, if the player can find them all and makes the right choices throughout the game. Unfortunately, the active party can only hold three people and one of them is always Serge, so the large cast will mostly sit on the sidelines. Many of them also suffer from the ridiculous JRPG convention of "Oh, I know we just met three minutes ago, but of course I'd like to go on a dangerous adventure with you!" tagging along for no particular reason and having little or no backstory. Others, notably some of the Acacia Dragoons, have significant backstory in the form of optional quests that can be tricky to find and complete. Being present when the final boss is defeated also provides a few lines of additional information about some characters as well.

The way battles work is quite different than it was in Chrono Trigger. Similar to its predecessor, nearly all enemies are visible on screen before you fight them. Many are avoidable and can be carefully walked around. Others will give chase if Serge walks near them. This can be particularly aggravating as multiple enemies can all pile on resulting in multiple battles in a row. The party no longer simply unsheathes their weapons and goes at it with monsters either. When attacked the screen does a swirling framebuffer effect and battle takes place on a separate screen in 3D "arenas" of sorts in style of whatever the prerendered terrain is in the area.

Battles aren't as fast paced and short as many 16 bit era RPGs, but don't drag out that long either compared to other Playstation RPGs like Final Fantasy VIII. Using Weak, Strong, and Fierce attacks depletes the character's stamina bar and landed blows provide points to use special attacks. The special attacks are called "Elements" and can mostly be assigned by the player or Auto-Allocated by the game. They range from a powerful melee attack, to elemental magic, to recovering HP and most can only be used once per battle. Saving up those points lets the player use them to auto-heal HP after fights saving a trip into the menu screen.

Boss battles tend to be fairly easy as their elemental affinity (like all characters' and monsters' in the game actually) is displayed when they are targeted. Hammer away on their weakness and they provide only moderate challenge. The elemental strengths and weaknesses are a double edged sword though, because unlike many RPGs all the player's characters have one as well.

Perhaps the most lasting and truly stunning thing about Chrono Cross is its music. Yasunori Mitsuda was at his finest. The lively, full orchestral mix of Scars of Time in the intro FMV is amazing. The "Home World" theme might sound entirely new to a Chrono Trigger fan, but listening carefully will reveal one of the previous game's tunes woven in intricately as an accompanying melody. Leaving Opassa Beach for the first time in "Another World" will instantly calm an excited gamer eager to see the alternate world with its almost New Age, except good, theme. Later in the game the almost mournful Scars of Time sets the mood as the player finds out all was not actually set right as Crono and pals went off happily into the sunset.

As a follow-up to a game that didn't really need a sequel Chrono Cross has taken quite a bit of heat over the years. It takes place after Trigger and in the future in an indirect, convoluted sort of way. There's also a feel that either the game was rushed or its budget was not big enough to do it justice. Chrono Cross unfortunately has a bit of the tell-rather-than-show problem that afflicted Xenogears's second half. "And here's something cool that happened..." doesn't work well in games. Players who want to read a plot synopsis look to gaming websites not NPCs in the game they are playing.

Thankfully, the problem is much less severe than in Xenogears and Chrono Cross is still quite enjoyable. A tarnish on a game that's still a gem worth picking up. For the scant price asked for one of the many brand new copies still available on Amazon and wherever else it's definitely worth a look.
I'm pretty sure he's warning players about The Last Remnant.Leene's Bell. <3
Hope you found it interesting!

2 comments:

  1. I never wanted to play this abortion. After playing trigger and seeing how wonderful the game was, it would only tarnish its reputation for a true fan of the one and only chrono game. This game should have stayed exactly what it was then, an abortion and should be thrown away immediately.

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  2. :O how can you say that?!!? Chrono Cross is awesome! its no where near as good as Trigger but its still hugely enjoyable. i must have played through this game like 8 times to get all the characters available. and the music is the best on any game i've ever played.


    Xerxesthegrave

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