Chrono Cross is a sequel to the fabled game Chrono Trigger. This game attempted a different approach from most sequels by changing the focus of the story and characters completely. Like all Squaresoft games of the PS1 era, the battle system attempts to be unique and original to stand out from the rest of the games during their time.
Plot: The story is horrendously executed. I’m sorry to say that there is just no way around it. Chrono Cross fails to hold the players attention or even explain what the hell is going on. Normally in role-playing games created by Square it becomes captivating almost immediately. At least with other PS1 Squaresoft titles, it keeps hold of the player’s interest with mystery and character growth but unfortunately this game utterly fell flat in that regard.
Often times you’re told to keep moving with no understanding of where, how, or what you’re suppose to be doing in the story. Characters will randomly tell you vague hints on what to do sometimes but half the time you have to look through just about everywhere to find out what you’re suppose to be doing at all. There simply isn’t a rhyme or reason to any of the story events that make any of it sensible. It’s tedious and just plain annoying to go through. The game simply fails at giving direction half the time and the times it does are basically tantamount to: “Oh hey! You know, we should go to X location! We might find something their at X location! Let’s go to X location! Come on!“. Two obvious problems follow: It simply isn’t given enough explanation on why and the game gets the name of the location wrong at times. That is absolutely infuriating as it worsens the entire issue.
Issues that the game tries to focus on such as racism just degenerate to discourse that simply states: “All humans are at fault for everything!”. There is just nothing more to it at all. No explanation of why, how, or what humans did to warrant such hostility. The only explanation you will ever get is: “Everything in the entire world is the entire human races fault!” as if it were a given. We’re expected to take this statement at face value when your group, including your human hero, stops an ethnic cleansing of the the fairy population committed by fire-breathing mechanical dwarves (No, seriously . . . fire-breathing mechanical dwarves) and are blamed for causing the entire mess. Both the dwarves and fairies blame your group because you’re human with the only explanation being “Humans are at fault for everything!”. I’m left to honestly wonder if one of the themes of this game was misanthropy.
Gameplay: The turn based battle system is just a horrendously executed waste. It attempted to be “unique” and forgot common sense during the decision-making process of the gameplay. Random encounters are rendered useless with no level-ups allowed outside of boss battles. Any items or usable magic spells you may obtain are pointless because boss battles give you enough money to simply buy these items or magic spells in town shops. Participating in more than one or two of these random battles per dungeon will yield a wholesome supply of raw materials for forging items such as armor. But overall, it’s a grand waste to even implement this armor forging system because none of these items are really all that difficult to obtain. It makes the entire forging system feel tedious.
To explain more in-depth: The magic system gives you a tree of customizable options to put magic spells you want in a particular section of this tree so that the more physical attacks you use, the more open this tree becomes in battle, and the more magic points you get to unleash stronger magic attacks. It sounds interesting but the execution is dreadful. You must wait at times to attack if you’ve run out of stamina which makes the gameplay feel slower. It has a “magic field” system that makes using the same “magic element” stronger in battle. The field can go up to 4 dimensions but this only creates a system where spamming the same magic elements will make you win the battle quickly. There really isn’t much thinking required despite the so-called deepness of this game.
This magic system, which attempts to be unique like everything else in the game, is just a downgrade from the standard turn-based rpg battle system. How many normal attacks you accurately hit on an opponent determine the level of spells you can cast and there is no restraint to stop you from using your strongest spells all the time in this framework. In fact, the more of the same spell type you use, the stronger it becomes on the field making use of different spells rather useless for normal battles. Even then, you won’t need any of this because the random battles are laughably easy and, as mentioned before, don’t give you any experience points and are thus feel like a waste of time.
The physical combat in battle is just painful to play. It’s the three-point system. Weak, medium, and strong physical attacks. The weaker hits are more accurate and for every hit all of your attacks will become more accurate by small incremental percentages. Unfortunately, it’s poorly executed. It really just means you have to click the attack button three times instead of just once for normal enemies to go down. Accuracy against weaker enemies never does increase so you’ll have the same accuracy against enemies no matter what because there is no leveling outside of boss battles.
This makes the gameplay an aggravating chore. It should be called many things but fun definitely isn’t one of them.
The Characters: Out of 44 characters only 3 or so of them get any real development as characters. Even then, I’m being lenient in this regard. Most of them are just given funny accents to appear unique. The problem is that when all of them try to look unique they all result in becoming bland and forgettable. The characters outfits and accents don’t really fit well with the story or the setting they are in. Characters are defined by personality and none of these characters really have any.
An example, what is a Mexican wrestler doing in a circus and why does he suddenly want to join you just because some child died in an accident? I wish I was joking about this. It really makes no sense. The stupidest part about all of this is that you can only have three characters in battle at a time so you won’t even be using over half these characters. So what was the point in having a roster of over 40 characters?
Many of these characters have the same one-liner dialogue throughout the story. They all seem to be in favor of the mary-sue heroine at all times despite when said heroine wants to kill you and a group of sick and dying innocent people. The morality of the game seems to just be agreeing with anything and everything the heroine’s horribly broken ideology says is right. This really gave me a negative opinion on this game. The story felt like a childish melodrama without any thought or consideration on tone, settings, or differences in opinion. The player is simply expected to believe that one person has all the right answers and ignore the implications of human rights crimes. No, I’m not exaggerating. She tries to bomb refugees hiding in a secluded island at a certain point in the story and the refugees include two innocent children. We’re expected to believe that she’s just being innocently deceived into doing these actions by a villain in the story but that ignores a very fine detail: she tries to bomb refugees fleeing from a war. The “morality” of this game is significantly flawed.
As you play the story, you’ll start to realize that common sense and intelligence just doesn’t exist with any of these characters. Most of them are just RPG archetypes and have no interesting qualities to speak of. If you find one or two interesting then it might just be because you like the archetype that’s being represented like the terminator-styled robot with super saiyan hair but you can’t expect deep characterization from any of the characters here . . . or sanity.
The main character is one of the worst aspects of the game. He’s a silent protagonist and just doesn’t mesh with his environment or the story. The player is given questions and concerns but all the main protagonist can really say is “…” as an answer. It just shows how no critical thinking was involved in this game’s development. This is particularly bad for a company like Squaresoft of the PS1 era. The simple fact is that games such as Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, and Final Fantasy IX managed to make picking a variation of choices in a well organized manner. The characters had some similar qualities to the silent protagonist type of style and were well portrayed in the game. In fact, Chrono Trigger was one of the most remarkable with this on the Super Nintendo. The plot didn’t focus too much on Crono’s characterization so you weren’t met with expectations such as those required for characters like Cloud, Squall, Zidane, and the main protagonist of this game, Serge. It’s easy to see that this game was not developed by the original game makers of Chrono Trigger because of it’s downright shoddy handling of this story’s silent protagonist. Sorry Masato Kato, but Hironbu Sakaguchi, Akira Toriyama, and Yuji Horii have all proven to be more capable at creating a good plot and interesting characters.
– The equipment system, as mentioned prior, is rather poorly implemented. To create armor and weaponry you must find raw materials to forge them. These materials, however, are very easy to find. You may wonder, as I did, why such requirements even exist instead of the standard and more efficient “buy and wear” in standard RPGs. It just reinforces the fact that this game tried to be different and edgy without any concern for common sense. It’s just plain befuddling.
– The story itself, or rather whatever bits and pieces you are given, didn’t seem too bad in the beginning. It appeared to be interesting enough but the actual story segments are far too apart from each other. The story drags it’s feet around. After you’ve finished your convoluted and confusing jumble of a journey the plot tries to resolve itself by large boxes of text at the very end of the game that tries to make sense of it. You just aren’t given any understanding at all on what the events mean, why they’re important, why you even need to be their, or what your actions have caused for 99% of the game. This completely ruins the tone, setting, and overall interest of the player. The worst factor of this is that because the game lacks any character depth in the villains, their motives and actions don’t make any sense either. So, you’re left with a confusing mess of a so-called story by the end of it. The entire experience is a trainwreck.
– Defenders of the game will tell you that it does make sense but you’ll find their just as horribly confused as you are. In the end, they’ll probably direct you to a website filled with fan theories of information that contradict the game. The problem with that is the game’s plot is self-contradictory. First issue is, the game’s plot contradicts Chrono Trigger since Lucca was clearly homeschooled by her genius father, the Time Guru was Gasper and not Balthasar (rather damning contradiction since Gasper was very significant in Chrono Trigger), and the Dreamstone was never part of Lavos. In fact, Chrono Trigger explicitly shows that the rocks existed as a natural resource before Lavos even crash landed into the world. More importantly, if the time pendant was lost in the “Darkness Beyond Time” with a certain character, then Marle could never have inherited the pendant from her family line and thus both games could never have happened.
– Some of them you have to do extra sidequests to obtain extra story explanation. However, these in-depth events aren’t delved upon enough and don’t give much to go on either. Overall, a very pathetic way to rid itself of story gaps. The fact they had to rely on gigantic boxes of text at the end cements this issue. Chrono Cross forums may point you to fan theory websites that make-up their own stories based off poor analogies and not any honest attempt at thematic analysis. Most fans are left arguing over fanon, fan-made theories about the game, than any genuine criticism about the contents of the game itself . . . to the extent that they’ll contradict events in the game because they like their fanon theories.
– Important information: There are bad batches of this game that will crash on you during the first dungeon. I had the unfortunate experience of purchasing one of these unplayable batches. I was able to continue on by using my PS3 to play Chrono Cross instead of my PS1 but this created the unfortunate glitch that locked my spells so that I couldn’t use them during the entire first dungeon or boss battles. After the first dungeon, I went back to playing on my Playstation 1 and the problem appeared to stop. But, this is another nail in the proverbial coffin. This game is unplayable by normal standards. If I didn’t have a PS3, I wouldn’t have been able to resolve this issue at all and even then I encountered glitches because of it. So yes, this game does deserve this score because it is unplayable for some people who were unfortunate enough to get the bad batch like I was.
Final Score: 1 out of 10. 1/10.