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Chrono Cross
Score: 98%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Media: CD/2
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
Statically-rendered 3D backgrounds have never looked as gorgeous as they do in Chrono Cross. They've never looked so un-static, either. The game is awash with brilliant hues, dark undertones, and everything in between. I simply gaped at a few areas the first time I entered them, oblivious to what I actually meant to do. People heard me mumbling something that sounded like 'pre-tty col-ors' as I played.

The character models are very nice as well. And considering that there's a whole lot of them, it's nice that they're easily differentiable. They look especially nice when you view them in the status screen, since the game kicks into high-res mode whenever you go into the menus. I liked it at first, but the extra load time that it seems to cause gets to be something of an irritant. That's minor, though.

The music in Chrono Cross is excellent, although the only bit that's really stuck in my head is the overworld theme you hear after getting back from the beach. Fantastic piece, that. It doesn't have quite the memorable qualities that, say, Final Fantasy IV did (I can still hum half the tunes from that game), but it's quite delectable nonetheless. The sound effects are nice as well; not too tinny but not overly rambunctious either. You probably won't notice them -- the way of the good sound effect.

You will, however, notice the first time you go into battle. Your required bleeding-shaky-battlecam fades into a beautiful landscape, with birds flying overhead, calling, and the sun glinting in your eyes. I got into scads of battles just to see what the arenas would look like. They're that good.

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.

Chrono Cross consists mainly of boss battles, and as such, the first ones are usually quite a bit tougher than the later ones. Of course, the first game wasn't all that hard either, so I wasn't expecting a deathly challenge. A little more on the diff-o-meter would have been nice, but it's not so cheesy that you'll just give up the game for beat. And since the game itself is so intriguing, you'll want to beat the game a time or two anyway.

Game Mechanics:
As stated before, the menus are in high-res and the battles are sweet. You can also customize the spells, er, Elements that your characters use to a high degree, making it so that your healing spells become available early on in the battle, and your major damage ones come up later. The whole Element system is very nice, and the fact that you can have the game auto-magically set them up for you is even nicer. Usually it's faster to do that and then tweak it a touch than start it up from scratch, especially as you get later into the game.

It may be a bit too easy, and the menus may be a tad slow, but nothing can keep Chrono Cross from being the best traditional RPG experience available on the PlayStation today. People are going to complain about it being too much/not enough like Chrono Trigger, but ignore them. If you're at all a fan of the genre, you must pick it up. It's a Square masterpiece in the classic vein.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

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