Prior to the creation of this article, I have never beaten Chrono Cross. Why? Well, it’s because I always got lost shortly after the events of Viper Manor in the beginning of the game. Well, to change this I flew out to San Diego to consult one of the United States leading experts in the Chrono series, Ron Fulton. With his assistance, I managed to DOMINATE and put this article out on a truly amazing game. With that said, let’s take a look at Chrono Cross.
Chrono Cross takes place roughly 20 years after the events of Chrono Trigger. The world has changed significantly due to the fall of the Kingdom of Guardia after a violent war with the Porre Region. Now, I’m sure a lot of you seasoned vets to the Chrono series would call this an assumption wrapped up in scrutiny. But, experts(Yes, there are experts who analyze the hell out of this series) say that is what indeed happened prior to the events of Chrono Cross based on character and NPC dialogue. It just goes to show that you CAN learn something if you PAY ATTENTION! Anyway, Chrono Cross has you going through 2 dimensions as opposed to multiple timelines like its predecessor. But, don’t let that deter you from playing it as it’s quite innovative and very challenging.
In Chrono Cross you play as Serge, a seventeen year old boy who lives in the fishing village of Arni. One day, he slips into an alternate world in which he drowned ten years before. Determined to find the truth behind the incident, he follows a predestined course that leads him to save the world. Like its predecessor, you’ll get a cadre of unique characters to assist you in this task…45 of them. I shit you not boys and girls, there are 45 playable characters in this game. Unlike the Suikoden series where you can acquire all 108 characters in a single playthrough, you are unable to do so in Chrono Cross. However, by utilizing the lovely New Game+ feature, you can obtain all playable characters and witness all events on 1 save file.
Getting all the characters is absolutely vital as a majority of them tie into crucial plot-lines within the Chrono Cross game and this is a worthy challenge to all you “Collectathon” gamers who have to get EVERY SINGLE THING in any game you play…and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Also, the fact that you are going into 2 different versions of the world you’re in has a unique effect on the characters, especially if they meet their opposite-world counterpart. It’s an interesting feature to say the least, but we’ve barely scratched the surface on the mechanics of this game. So…umm…I should probably do that, yeah?
Chrono Cross features your basic RPG gameplay with certain innovations, some of them unique to this game. Players advance the game by controlling Serge through the game’s world by foot and boat. Navigation between areas is conducted via an overworld map, depicting the landscape from a scaled down overhead view. Around the island world are villages, outdoor areas, and dungeons, through which the player moves in three dimensions. Locations such as cities and forests are represented by more realistically scaled field maps, in which players can converse with locals to procure items and services, solve puzzles and challenges, or encounter enemies and recruit characters. Like Chrono Trigger, the game features no random encounters; enemies are openly visible on field maps or lie in wait to ambush the party. Touching the monster switches perspectives to a battle screen, where players physically attack, use Elements, defend, or run away from the enemy. Elements? Yes, in Chrono Cross elemental utilization plays a vital role in keeping your asses alive. Chrono Cross’s developers aimed to break new ground in the genre and this is where the explanation of Elements begins. The game’s magical system focuses on Elements, which unleash magic effects upon the enemy or party and must be equipped for use(Very similar to the allocation of Materia in Final Fantasy VII). Elements can be purchased from shops or found in treasure chests littered throughout areas. Once acquired, they are allocated to a grid whose size and shape are unique to each character. They are ranked according to eight tiers; certain high level Elements can only be assigned on equivalent tiers in a character’s grid. With each level up, the grid expands, allowing more powerful Elements to be equipped. Elements are divided into six paired oppositional types, or “colors,” each with a natural effect. These pairs are Red (fire/magma) and Blue (water/ice), Green (wind/flora), Yellow (earth/lightning), White (light/cosmos), and Black (darkness/gravity). Each character has an innate color, enhancing the power of using same-color Elements. For example, Serge’s innate element is White. So, if he were to use a white Element called ‘PhotonRay’, then it would do significantly more damage then say a yellow Element attack such as ‘UpLift’. Also, Chrono Cross features a “field effect”, which keeps track of Element color used in the upper corner of the battle screen. If the field is purely one color, the power of Elements of that color will be enhanced, while Elements of the opposite color will be weakened. Characters also innately learn some special techniques, called “Techs”, that are unique to each character but otherwise act like Elements. Like Chrono Trigger, characters can combine certain Techs to make more powerful Double or Triple Techs.
Another unique aspect of Chrono Cross’s battle system is its stamina bar. At the beginning of a battle, each character has seven points of stamina. When a character attacks or uses an Element, stamina is decreased according to the potency of the attack. Stamina slowly recovers when other characters and enemies perform actions in battle or of you choose to defend. Characters with stamina below one point must wait to take action, and Elements require all seven stamina points to use (if you use an Element at any number less than seven, the character’s stamina gauge falls into the negative and the character must wait longer than usual to recover). With each battle, players can enhance statistics such as strength and defense. However, no system of experience points exists(Almost like SaGa Frontier, though nowhere near as convoluted and difficult); after four or five upgrades, statistics remain static until players defeat a boss. This adds a star to a running count shown on the status screen, which allows for another few rounds of statistical increases. Players can equip characters with weapons, armor, helmets, and accessories. Consumable Elements may be used to restore hit points or heal status ailments after battle. Certain accessories can be equipped to provide special effects in combat—such as the Power Seal, which upgrades attack power or the Profiteer Purse which increases monetary gain by 1%-15% after battles. Honestly, you’re better off dismantling the Profiteer Purse for materials as gaining funds in this game is actually quite easy. Items and equipment may be purchased or found on field maps through thorough searching, often in treasure chests. Unlike Elements, weapons and armor cannot be purchased; instead, you must obtain base materials, such as copper, bronze, or bone, for a blacksmith to forge for a fee. The items can later be disassembled into their original components at no cost. Not too bad, considering materials aren’t that hard to harvest and you can break down unneeded items and accessories into base materials you can use to forge much more powerful items! Of course later on in the game, you’ll start learning about Rainbow Pieces and how incredibly vital they are in order to forge everyone’s ultimate weapons!
Also, the existence of two parallel dimensions plays a significant role in the game. Players must go back and forth between worlds to recruit party members, obtain items, and advance the plot. Much of the population of either world have counterparts in the other; some party members can even visit their other versions. The player must often search for items or places found exclusively in one world. Events in one dimension sometime have an impact in another. For instance, cooling scorched ground on an island allows vegetation to grow in the other world. This system assists the presentation of certain themes, including the questioning of the importance of one’s past decisions and humanity’s role in destroying the environment. On a New Game+, players can access twelve endings. Scenes viewed depend on players’ progress in the game before the final battle, which can be fought at any time, much like it’s predecessor.
So, where does it go from here? The Chrono series is littered with plot holes and lots of “What if?” scenarios. Like I explained in my Chrono Trigger review, fans have desperately tried to produce games explaining the “Holes in Time”, but Square-Enix won’t allow it, which I completely understand as it’s their property. I recall that there was a game prior to Chrono Cross that was supposed to explain the more confusing events in the game and that was Radical Dreamers. Radical Dreamers is text-based adventure game in which the player takes the role of Serge, a young adventurer accompanied by Kid, a teen-aged thief, and Gil, a mysterious masked magician. The game is part of the Chrono series and is a side story to Chrono Trigger (If not a full-blown sequel), released to complement its predecessor’s plot, and later serving as inspiration for Chrono Cross. It features text-based gameplay with minimal graphics and sound effects, and was scored by legendary composer Yasunori Mitsuda. So, there have been numerous attempts by Square-Enix to merge stories, fill in gaps and otherwise better explain the numerous events within the Chrono series.
Back to Chrono Cross, this game is absolutely fantastic. The innovations, the story, the…EVERYTHING are just amazing. The change-up from Time Travel to Inter-dimensional Travel was well received and it really does make you think about how past events could effect the future and how your own personal life could be effected, be it in a positive or negative way. Very few games have ever made the player question their existence in reality. Based on that, it just goes to show you how closer video games are getting to being real. If that’s the case…then sign me up!