Chrono Cross Review

Chrono Title

Title: Chrono Cross
Developer: Squaresoft
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: PS One Classic
Download: 776 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Currently Unavailable
PSTV Support:
Yes

There are tons of games out there that are praised as “The Greatest Game of All Time”.  I can list a lot of the big hitters than are more well-known for receiving this praise.  Final Fantasy VII.  The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  Lunar: Silver Star Story.  Metal Gear Solid.  The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  The list goes on and on.  But today we’re going to focus on a game from the SNES era that many people praise as the pinnacle of all JRPGs: Chrono Trigger.

Chrono Trigger was one of the most innovative and unique RPGs of its era because of many different things.  There was the Dragon Ball-like art design, non-traditional turn-based battles, and the ability to access the same world in different time periods.  That and the fact that it had way more endings than anyone would care to go for.  One thing that is often overlooked is the fact that Chrono Trigger had a sequel on the PlayStation.  This is what we’re going to talk about today.  Here is my official review of the PS One Classic, Chrono Cross!

Story

Chrono Story

About 20 years after the events of Chrono Trigger, a young boy named Serge is growing up on an island.  Not long after he spends a typical day of hunting for lizard scales for a friend, he is sucked into a dimensional rift and transported to an alternate reality in which he died 10 years earlier, as a small child.  From there, he goes with a flashy thief named Kid, whom befriends him and travels with him in the hopes of being able to return to his original world and solve the mystery of why he was transported there in the first place.

The story of Chrono Cross is often a subject for debate on whether it really is a sequel, despite not being named “Chrono Trigger 2”.  As you play through the game, there are a lot of references to characters and events of the first game, particularly early mentions of Lucca’s involvement with the characters of Chrono Cross.  By the time you reach the end of the game, a lot is explained as to how this is a sequel and how the events of Chrono Trigger ultimately affected and created the events of Chrono Cross.

I wouldn’t call Cross’s story as good as Trigger’s, but it expands a lot on the Chrono universe and is a nice story in its own right.  I just wouldn’t go about playing Cross before Trigger as a lot of the events towards the end of the game will be very confusing to weave together to show the games connecting with one another.

Gameplay

Chrono Game

Much like its predecessor and many other Squaresoft RPGs of the period, Chrono Cross is a turn-based console-style RPG.  As you play through the game, you will be exploring overworld maps and towns and dungeons.  Along with this, you’ll be participating in turn-based battles against enemies and bosses as you progress through the story.

There are a few things that make Cross’s gameplay unique.  Much like Chrono Trigger’s time-travel mechanic, Cross lets you move between the two realities to take part in and experience events in both worlds and is integrated into the game fairly well.  For example, if you go to an island to receive a Dragon’s blessing, the dragon may be dead in one world, but not in the other.  This adds a slight bit of puzzle-solving to the mix of exploring what is different in each reality.

The first unique aspect of the game is the fact that there are 45 recruitable party members throughout the game.  Although no team can be more than 3 characters, you can recruit 45 different characters you meet throughout the game.  Many of these characters will automatically offer to join you through the game’s stories.  Many of the others must have specific story events happen to be able to join your party.  If there’s a specific set of party members you want, it couldn’t hurt to look at a recruiting guide to make sure they’re not missable.

Chrono Game 2

The second is the combat system.  Chrono Cross uses an “Element” system that is very similar to the Materia system used in Final Fantasy VII, but a little more in-depth.  Elements are skills you can equip to characters but also items you can use.  Each element has a specific power level.  If you equip one above or below its normal level, it will either be stronger or weaker, depending on where it is placed.

In combat, you have a certain number of attacks you can perform on your turn, most commonly around 5 or 6.  The more times you hit an enemy, the higher your Element Level will go.  This lets you case elements instead of an attack during your turn.  If you manage to hit the enemy 4 times, you can use an element up to Level 4.  To balance this out, the game has very specific accuracy sets for each attack, making it so you can’t just automatically get up to 6 in every round.

Characters also have Innate Element colors associated with them.  This is where an elemental strength and weakness system comes into play.  Red and Blue are weak against one another, much like the aspect of Fire being strong against Ice and Water being strong against Fire.  If you use the color opposite your opponent’s color, you’ll do a lot more damage.  If you use the same color in an element, they may absorb the damage.  This adds quite a bit of strategy to your fights, especially considering each character’s unique elements (similar to Limit Breaks in Final Fantasy VII) are set to their color and cannot be changed.

One thing to note is that the game is difficult, but not impossible.  There is a stat-increasing system that happens after you do so many battles (which is put in instead of a traditional leveling system), and this balances out so you don’t ever really need to stop and grind for levels.  However, many of the bosses of the game are exceptionally hard, require some pretty fancy strategies to be able to take down.  It’s nothing you can’t do, but many times, you’ll have to sit back and think of what the proper elements are to use in each battle or which characters you should use.

As far as length is concerned, you’ll be spending quite some time in Chrono Cross.  I would clock the main story around 35-40 hours, depending on how quickly you proceed through the game.  Regardless of what you know about what to do, you’re going to be spending quite a long time with this game.

Controls

The control settings aren’t too hard to learn.  First of all, the D-Pad is used for movement which can be redirected to the Left Analog Stick.  Combining the movement with holding down Circle allows you to run instead of walk.  The game doesn’t use the L2 and R2 triggers so there isn’t a lot of redirecting you’ll need to do if you play this on the Vita rather than the PlayStation TV.

Other controls are just with the face buttons.  You use the X button to confirm options or interact with objects or people.  Square is used to pull up the Key Item menu that you’ll need to use to cross dimensions and solve puzzles.  Last, Triangle is used to pull up the customization menu to use items, check character stats, or reorganize the elements you’ve got on your party members.

Presentation

Chrono Pres

Here is where things get really tricky.  Chrono Cross was praised high back in its day, but many aspects of this game simply do not fly with today’s gaming standards.  The good news is that the game looks very nice.  It’s probably one of the nicest looking PS One games on PSN right now.  The character models have a lot of detail to them and the backgrounds are a mix of pre-rendered backgrounds and 3D renders.  It’s not perfect, but it looks pretty nice.

The first problem with the game is frame rate issues.  This has been the same on the PSN version and the original disc.  When you’re in combat or running through some dungeons, the frame rate tanks, badly.  We’re talking about huge drops that would probably make an action-oriented game nearly unplayable.  The Vita community complains about the frame issues in Resident Evil: Revelations 2, but this is much worse than that.  It doesn’t affect gameplay much since combat is turn-based, but it’s quite the annoyance.

There are two other major problems I found while playing the game.  On the Save or Load screen for managing your save data, the button input can mess up easily.  I found two major experiences with this.  The first is the X button suddenly disabling itself, requiring you to suspend the software and go back in for it to start working again.  The other is the D-Pad becoming ultra-sensitive to input, going two or three options down the menu for a single tap.

Finally, the audio screws up every once in a while.  This happened about 3 or 4 times as I played the game.  I would be going through a dungeon or a scene and the music would cut itself off for maybe 5-10 seconds and then resume.  This doesn’t happen terribly often, as I stated above, but it happens enough for me to know it’s not mere coincidence.

Summary

Chrono Cross is a sequel to what many call the greatest RPG of all time, and many say the same about Cross.  While this RPG does prove to be a fun and highly unique journey, there are a lot of technical issues shown in the game that simply would not pass as acceptable in today’s gaming world.  It’s still a great game, but you should know of those issues before you start playing. 

6/10

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