I've come close to being crucified for saying this before, but I didn't find Chrono Trigger
the end-all, be-all of the RPG genre. I mean, it was an extremely entertaining romp, with imaginative characters and an entertaining plotline. But the game was a touch too easy for my tastes, and I thought that it could have been a bit longer. I could feel that the game was a touch too incomplete for its own good. That's not to say that I wasn't expecting great things for Chrono Cross
. And, hallelujah, it has not proved my expectations wrong.
Chrono Cross is the tale of Serge, a generic punk kid who has a girlfriend and lives in a nice harbor town. Of course, all hell breaks loose within a few minutes of starting the game, and the game gets pleasantly convoluted from the get-go. To tell you the gist of the plot would be in the realm of giving away the ending to The Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense. It'll appeal to those who have played the original Chrono Trigger, but doesn't rely so much on the previous that those who didn't play the first won't enjoy this one.
And there are a -lot- of characters to enjoy. In the 40s. And it doesn't succumb to Suikoden Syndrome -- each character actually has a purpose in the plotline, and you won't be able to meet all of them with a single run-through of the game.
The battle system is similarly unique. There are no turns as such -- as you use different attacks (three levels) and spells, you use up your stamina. As other people do things, you regain stamina. This lets you wail on enemies with the people you like, as long as time is spent regaining energy in-between. Each character has an element that they are aligned to, and there are your basic black-fights-white setups. Since each spell has an element as well, and getting the field to be all one color is the only way to summon, you'll be managing colors a lot as you play. Good thing that it's fun to do.
Since, in the spirit of Chrono Trigger, you can see all the enemies, and you can dodge almost all of them, you can actually beat the game with a bare minimum of 'random' fights. The level-up system is reminiscent of the SaGa/Final Fantasy Legend series, where stats raise a bit after most of the battles. Since you never get any really massive stat boosts, you really don't need to do random battles for anything other than money.
This is all well and good. There are a few problems with the game -- the high-res menus take a bit to load, and slow things down a touch, and it takes some getting used to the battle system with its intricacies -- but the fun gameplay and stellar translation (accents? Woot!) make for a great experience.