Cult of Kefka
Chrono Cross is the latest game in the Chrono series from Square. Boasting a big roster of more than 30 characters and promising non-linearity, Chrono Cross is certainly a big break from Square's normal RPGs.
Chrono Cross is set around 20 years after Lucca's time in Chrono Trigger. You take on the role of Serge, a native of Aruni village. True to tradition, Serge is practically mute like Crono was in Chrono Trigger. At first look, not much has changed since Chrono Trigger. You can still see all members of your party while exploring, all monsters are visible and can be avoided, and you can still fit only three characters in your party.
However, the differences really stick out after you play for a while. The first thing you'll probably notice is the non-existence of experience. Unlike normal RPGs, there are no experience to be gained, no levels, no nothing. Instead, after battles, you will be given some power-ups, such as increase in strength, HP or defence. These power-ups are never the same, and they vary between each battle. Naturally, bosses offer more power-ups than normal monsters.
Another significant difference is the disappearance of normal items i.e. Potions, Ethers, etc. This means that for any recover purposes, you'll need to use magic spells. Fortunately for you and everyone else, after every battle you will have an option to restore the whole party's HP. However, this will not solve the problem of dead party members or those affected by status disorders.
Besides that, the battle system and magic system have been totally revamped. The widely used active time battle system has been thrown away, replaced by a battle system that smells of Xenogears' own. Magic in this instalment is being given more emphasis than was in Chrono Trigger, with more than one hundred spells at your disposal. Most of these spells can be bought at shops, whilst the rarer ones are usually obtained by defeating bosses. Also, Chrono Cross features summons, something that is so common in Final Fantasy but was never in Chrono Trigger.
Done by the same people who brought you Xenogears, you would expect a complex storyline, and that's what you get. This is the best and also the worst aspect in Chrono Cross. The story is arguably one of the best stories I've ever played through in an RPG. It was done superbly, with a lot of interesting concepts that will leave you saying "Wow! I never thought of it like that!". However, just like Xenogears, there's a lot to digest in one go. You'll probably be asking yourself questions on what is really happening in the game. There will be a lot of elements that seem confusing to the gamer, just like Xenogears was with its rebirth concept.
Graphically, Chrono Cross is almost flawless. The game features pre-rendered backgrounds, same as FFVII and FFVIII, with 3D characters. The characters themselves look good, and do not suffer the pixellation problem that FFVIII had. In terms of music, Chrono Cross really shines. Featuring probably some of the best works of Yasunori Mitsuda, the music is truly something to remember. The opening theme was excellently done, and complements the intro quite well. Other notable tracks are the overworld themes, as well as the boss theme. My only complaint is the final boss song, which....well, I'll let you hear it yourself.
All in all, Chrono Cross is a very good RPG. It has everything a good RPG should have: interesting story, challenging battles, excellent music. However, compared to most RPGs today, Chrono Cross is quite short. Even the creators admitted that you can finish the game in 30 hours. Besides that, Chrono Cross is probably not suitable for those searching for a simple story, as the story is anything but that. Some of the major battles are also almost downright impossible to win, which gets frustrating sometimes. But if you don't mind any of these, then rest assured: Chrono Cross is the excellent game it is hyped up to be, and delivers much more than that.
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