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Chrono Cross
Platform:  Playstation
# of Players:  1
Developer:  Squaresoft
Publisher:  Squaresoft
Features:  Analog Control, Vibration Function
Ratings:  Teen
Memory Req.:  1 Block
Info:  http://www.squaresoft.com
I know that a lot of Chrono Trigger fans will want to stone me, but I feel
that Chrono Cross isn't really a true sequel to the 1995 SNES classic.
Rather, it expands on a number of the themes and ideas set forth in CT, and
is a totally different and better game for it. And thanks to some really
fantastic art direction, music, and programming, it's also one of the most
beautiful games you'll ever see on the Playstation. This game moves at a
much different pace than the first one, and some diehard CT fans will
probably be disappointed by the long stretches of what seems like nothing
happening but a new set of gorgeously rendered locations to explore. But
when you take into account the fact that any action you take in one area
will affect that same area as you travel back and forth through time, you'll
find yourself paying very careful attention to every step you take.

And every person you talk to- where Chrono Trigger had a total of 6 playable
characters, Chrono Cross has 40, and you probably won't find or recruit them
all the first time you play. The game even throws you a curve right from the
outset- the playable opening sequence gives you a third party member at
random, so you can start and restart the game a few times just to check out
who you'll (probably) meet later in the game. 20 years after the first game
ended, you play as Serge, a young man who has a bit of a problem- he has the
ability to shift into a parallel version of his world, but not at will. In
one world, he's a normal guy in a small village with a girl who loves him,
but in the other world, he died when he was seven years old! It's in this
world that he finds new friends as well as a great many enemies who want him
for reasons of their own.

Without giving away any secrets, let's just say that you'll be glued to your
television set for a very long time- this is one game that doesn't
disappoint when it comes to a compelling plot. While your eyes and ears will
be flooded to overload from the wondrous graphics and music, your brain will
be taking copious notes about every little detail. Almost everyone you'll
speak to has something important to say, or can point you in a new
direction, should you wish to listen to them. A few times during the game
you'll acquire certain items that will help you meet other selectable
characters, some of whom have really interesting stories of their own to
tell.

Like the first game, the battle system is unique- rather than random
battles, you most always see just what you're up against, and you can run
from fights at any time, even when you're in the middle of a losing battle.
Characters have hit points, but don't level up like in other RPGs, and you
can have anyone attack, as long as they have enough stamina points to do so.
The magic system is pretty well thought out, based on opposite colors and
attached elements. It's not perfect though, and seems like another gimmick
added to prevent the boredom that comes from simply pressing one attack key
over and over. Personally, I don't care much for all the chaining attacks,
super long visually impressive summoning spells, tricky button combos, and
all the other "improvements" in RPG battle systems of late, but at least the
one in CC is done well. The story is so deep that at one point, I was so
engrossed in discovering a new area that the fighting seemed superfluous.
You can spend upwards of an hour or two hunting down information, items, and
other characters in each area, and it would be nice to actually see more
RPGs lean toward this style of gameplay.

As I said above, this is definitely one of the most beautiful looking games
on the Playstation, and definitely the most beautiful RPG. Characters are
solidly modeled with no blockiness, seams or odd-looking faces. the details
on the costumes is incredible, and even better, they all look simply greay
against the prerendered backgrounds. The battle scenes are even better, with
their cinematic angles and sweeps to accompany the rich detail in the 3D
backgrounds. Spell effects are well done, and don't take the better part of
a week to complete, like in the last two Final Fantasy games and the
overrated Legend of Dragoon. The music is beautiful, powerful, and haunting
at the same time and it fits the visuals perfectly. While the game doesn't
have any voice acting, the translation was handled so that most every
playable character you meet speaks a different dialect. Sometimes it works,
sometimes it falls flat, and a few times it gets dumb- early in the game,
someone offscreen says "oops, my bad!"- that had me groaning out loud.
Square should have taken a page or two from Dave Sim's great Cerebus comics,
and done the accents more or less phonetically. But this is the only
complaint I have about this great game.

Once more this year, Squaresoft has delivered the goods- another superb,
highly memorable and deeply replayable RPG that shows them at the top of
their form. Chrono Cross will be hard to top as far as overall impact, but
Square still has Final Fantasy 9 and Parasite Eve 2 on the horizon, so we
shall see. For now, this is THE RPG to own now, and forever.



Greg Wilcox


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