Saturday, October 21, 2000

Chrono Cross | 10

First, I must admit that I am not an avid video gamer, though I have seen others play plenty. I have played very few RPGs and even fewer held my interest. However, when I played Chrono Trigger on an SNES emulator, I was enthralled, finishing it within a week. When I discovered its semi-sequel was coming out, I could hardly wait the ten months for it to be released in the US. I ordered it in advance in April, received it the Wednesday it came out, and played it nearly straight through to finish by Friday evening. 60 hours of gameplay and about 15 hours of sleep. To say the least--it was all worth it.

First, gameplay-- It is one of the best battle systems that I have seen. It may seem complicated to begin with, but one becomes quickly accostumed to the strategies and nuances of the idea. In a game of chess, the rules are simple but the possibilities are endless. The same goes for Chrono Cross' element system. In addition, being able to see your enemies on screen allows you to fight when and where you want. This is a big advantage if you want to avoid them (if you don't want to fight piddling monsters) or find them (to retrieve extra spells and items). Cross pulls this off even better than its predecessor, Chrono Trigger.

Leveling-- I considered this such an important aspect of the game that I gave it its own category! The reason: you can advance through the entire game avoiding nearly all monsters and still beat the game. Not only is the focus on strategy (the types of spells, colors, and balance between physical attacks) in order to defeat bosses, but you only gain stat bonuses during about five fights between each boss. Continuing to fight others can help with items and extra spells, but does no good to "level up" your characters. I thought this a terrific idea. Your characters still become extremely strong towards the end, but not because of experience. It doesn't exist. Cross is plot-driven, not level-driven.

Storyline-- Speaking of plot, Cross' is pretty good. It can get convoluted at times, and having played Trigger is helpful, though not necessary. Characters are surprisingly three-dimensional and everything fits together if you think about it for long enough. The major ending(s) though, can be dissapointing and because of the plethora of characters, very few of their pasts and conflicts can be resolved. But, all in all, you will enjoy it as mystery after mystery is solved while other take their places. Like a good book, it's difficult to find a place to put the controller down--you want to keep going.

Music-- Outstanding. Better than many movie soundtracks I've heard, both in quality of composition and sound. I highly reccomend buying the soundtrack to listen to during the day, unless you want to leave your Playstation running while doing the dishes. Of course, it would be worth it to do that, too. It's that good.

Graphics-- The people that made the FMV sequences were the same who did those FFVIII. The graphics ares similar to those of FFVIII, in battle sequences, exploration, and the movies--but even better. The colors and attention to detail make the entire game simply . . . beautiful. Let the game run and stare at it if you have to, it can be the only way to appreciate the artwork. Plus, the spells have their own elegantly simple quality. No spell is too long or extravagent, letting battles to continue smoothly. And the detail! When a character pulls something from her pocket, the movements are very human and real. They leave footprints on the beach and the environment casts shadows as you walk through a dark cave or brightened room. Every detail draws you further into the Chrono Cross world.

Do not rent this game--you should definitely buy it. The developers of Chrono Cross claim it can be beaten in 35 hours. They're lying. It took me 67 hours total, including the few times I had to go back to an old save point. And that does not include the amount of time I will spend in the future finding the multiple endings and other storyline branches. (They are a total of 6 different paths you can take, each very different and effecting the outcome of the game) Buy this amazing title for your Playstation and give Square a hand. Or even bow. They deserve all the respect you can give for this fine game.

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