When Square revealed that they were to release a sequel to "America's Favorite RPG," Chrono Trigger, there was an epidemic of people jumping for joy and making strange whooping noises. It's something they had been looking forward to for a long time - some fans had even set up an "Unofficial Chrono Trigger 2" project. But the question on everybody's lips was "Will it be a continuation of Chrono Trigger, or will it be a completely different world with different characters, a la Final Fantasy?" Well, it's here, but does it live up to its predecessor?
We must commend Square for their idea on making a sequel. We're all used to sequels meaning completely different characters in a completely different world, so Square has changed this. While it's not a direct sequel (which, lets be honest, is impossible to do and have a good story at the same time), it is set in the same world and has links to its predecessor. The story is set 20 years after the events in Chrono Trigger (that'll be 1020 AD then), and revolves around a teenager called Serge, who accidentally stumbles across a parallel world. However, in this parallel world, Serge died a while ago. How does he get home? Why is he dead in this world?
The graphics in the game are superb. The backdrops are detailed and organic looking, which is hard to do. There are only a few CG cut scenes, but they are extremely good and were produced by the team who did Final Fantasy 8's - so that's an instant sign of quality. The polygonal characters are detailed too, and the battle polygonal environments are incredibly detailed - spiders scuttle up the walls for example. It's very impressive, and shows that Square really is the master of the PlayStation graphics scene.
Like Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross defies convention when it comes to a battle system. There are no random battles (similar to its predecessor), and also no experience points. During the battle you accumulate stamina points over time. You then can do a weak attack (1 SP), medium attack (2 SP), or a strong attack (3 SP). Thing is, the stronger the attack, the less likely it is to succeed. But when you do a successful attack, the likeliness of your next attack succeeding increases. So you'll find yourself first doing a weak attack, then a medium attack, and then you are almost certain to be able to do a strong attack. Or you can risk it straight off and hope for the best.
When another person attacks, the other characters' stamina points increase. Therefore there is no waiting around for bars to fill up, because you don't have to wait until you are fully charged to do an attack. You can switch between characters at any time, so some real strategy can come into it if you like that.
The magic spells in this game are called "Elements." There are six colors of elements - Red (fire), Blue (water/ice), Green (plant), Yellow (power of nature), Black and White. Each of the characters in the game has an innate color, and so naturally they are better at casting that color spells. It also means that they will do more damage (in both physical and elemental attacks - the innate color affects physical attacks too) to enemies of the opposite color, but that enemy will do more damage to you. It also means damage will be less between entities of the same color.
When you buy an element, you have to place it on a character's "Element Grid." It's hard to explain, all I'll say is that depending on where you place the element on the grid, the power of the element changes. The characters can equip elements of any color, not just their innate color.
There's also the "Element Field." When an element is cast, its color is added to the element field, which is three "colors" long. If the element field is all one color, then elements of that color will be more powerful, and also, this is the only time when you can cast the summon spell of that color. This can be hard to do because the enemy is casting spells to, and some have complained that for this reason the summon spells are underused. I only used them a few times during the game, so I do agree with the above statement, but the summons really aren't very important in the game.
The entire battle system is a joy to use. The "no random battles" element is superb - when you're not in the mood, skip them. When you feel you should level up, then fight when you can. It's the best battle system I've ever used (but then my RPG experience isn't particularly varied).
The soundtrack is once again another masterpiece by Yasunori Mitsuda. The score combines brand new music with remixes of Chrono Trigger music, and fits the game brilliantly. While not as good as Xenogears, it's very, very good, and contrary to the IGN review there will be songs that will stick in your head - especially the intro music which is very memorable.
Similarly to Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross has multiple endings. The first time you play through there are 2 possible endings, then you get a New Game+ option, where you can start the game again with your characters at the levels they finished at. In New Game+ you can fight the final boss at any time, and depending on which point during the game you do it, you get a different ending. Also, at a select few points (I think about one or two, but there may be more) depending on what you choose, the next part changes. Also, by getting some characters you cannot get others. This all adds up to quite a bit of replayability in the game.
But, of course, there has to be some problems. However good the story is (and yes, it is, it fits in with Chrono Trigger very well), it is poorly paced. There are only dribbles of story for most of the game, and then it dumps loads on you. You have got to pay a lot of attention towards the end, otherwise you will be lost quickly. There are over 40 characters in the game. While this is very good, because you have a brilliant selection, it means that very few characters are actually developed - probably only about 4 or 5. It's a stark comparison to Final Fantasy 8, which was all character development. The game is also too easy; only a few bosses are hard, the rest you can do in under 3 tries. For a seasoned RPG veteran this game will be quite easy, especially if you are a fan of leveling up. The final boss is easy also - I did it first time - and I've never beaten a final boss in an RPG. Although to get the alternate ending the last boss is slightly harder to do, but not so much as to cause problems..
Also, many Chrono Trigger fans have said Chrono Cross is not as good as its predecessor. While I cannot comment on this, I must take this into consideration. However, much of the plot is quite reliant on the fact that you know roughly what happened in Chrono Trigger. So, while I was going to give it two marks - one for those who were newbies, and those who were Chrono Trigger veterans, I've decided against it, because the game is not as good if you don't know what happened. Instead, I'm going to compromise.
In summary, this is a superb game. If you do not compare it to Chrono Trigger it is a wonderfully fun game. To others, its the slightly disappointing sequel to "America's favorite RPG." If you haven't played the original, read up on Chrono Trigger and buy Chrono Cross. If you've played the original, buy it. It really is a game you cannot miss out on. You will be missing out on a unique, and most importantly, FUN RPG.
• Amazing Graphics
• Lovely Music
• Many Characters
• Battle System
• Links with CT
• Replay Value
Finally what you all have been waiting....THE GRADE!!!
Battle System |10.0
Replay Value |9.5
Fun Factor |10.0