Chrono Crossin’ the streams

18 04 2010

In the spirit of last week’s update, here’s another fellation of a game I love. (Shut up, the term makes me laugh)

Let me temper this post first by saying I wasn’t really an RPG gamer in 2000. I played Pokemon Gold and that was about it, as far as RPG’s go. I didn’t own a PS1, nor did I ever own a SNES. Yes, hiss and boo at me, call me a fake gamer. I accept it. One of my good friends has always claimed Chrono Cross to be her favorite game of all time. I never played it once until a few years ago. When I did, I never understood why it was her favorite. The graphics are your typical PS1 polygonal nightmare and the combat seemed far too different from what I was used to to handle. However, it took me another year or so to finally get into the game.

Now, I know to many out there, the argument over what game in the Chrono series (a whole two games!) is the best is, well, nonexistent. Ask your typical gamer friend and they’ll immediately say Chrono Trigger, the SNES classic. Now, I have more of a history with Chrono Trigger than I do with Cross. I first played Trigger in high school on an emulator, and I liked the idea, I liked the characters (or at least the ones I saw) but I just couldn’t play it all that much. I’ve never really been too big a fan of the active time battle system so popular in Final Fantasy and other RPG’s. So I never played through that whole game until last year. Same with Chrono Cross.

I’ve known Ashe for about six years, and despite constant requests for me to play the game, I refused. Until last summer. School was out, I wanted a game to play, so I picked it up, thanks to my girlfriend owning a copy. My ass was blown off.

It really will blow your ass off.

What at first struck me as an ugly, rather dull game opened up to be one of the most amazing experiences in gaming I’ve had in my life. The game starts out very simple: You play Serge (that’s the one in the blue hair), a normal boy in a sleepy fishing village. Your girlfriend (of sorts) asks you to go and fetch her some komodo scales to make a necklace. The game immediately takes a major jump. Something happens and Serge is tossed to a separate dimension, one where he died 10 years earlier. The game goes from there, never quite explaining what or why this happened until the later stages, but suffice to say it’s very engrossing.

To anyone who played Trigger, they know the “hook,” if you will, is time travel. In Cross, it’s inter-dimensional travel. You later get the ability to freely travel between Dimension A, where Serge is alive, and Dimension B, where Serge is dead. While it may seem sad that there are only two main “overworlds” in the game compared to Trigger’s five or six, but let me assure you, it’s plenty. For starters, the world seems much more realized, since there are only two facets to it. Yes, the game looks rather ugly thanks to PS1’s horrible polygons, but artistically speaking, it’s rather pretty. I don’t even really like tropical settings and this game’s vistas were breathtaking, even in 2009.

A lovely beach scene from the game's beginning

So yeah, if you can look past the rather ugly polygons and instead that art design in the game, it’s amazingly pretty, no matter how many triangles Serge may be made up of. However, even if you still can’t find yourself admitting that the game has beauty in its visuals, the storyline may very well keep you hooked. Like any good RPG, the story is what really drives the experience in the game, and boy is it a doozy. Given the nature of the two dimensions, it seems existentialism would be a natural theme, and it is. Serge is a typical silent protagonist, but the chatter between the other characters over what happened drives the story. You never quite know what’s happening in the game until the end, and even then it can be confusing. If anyone played Chrono Trigger, they know exactly what to expect.

Speaking of Trigger, yes, this game is a sequel. Sure, it has none of the same characters, but they all do appear. There is even one very pivotal scene about halfway through the game that takes place in a very familiar location to any fan of Chrono Trigger. On top of that, the events from that game’s plot are carried along here, so the final boss may or may not surprise fans of the series. I would tell more, but spoiling this game’s story would be a crime. There are simply so many moments that will always stick with me, not only as a gamer, but as telling a narrative, all of which this game has created.

So ok, storyline is solid and graphics are great (yes, they are). This game’s music is in an entirely different league. Whether you’re a complete music snob or someone who simply idly listens to the music as it plays, this game has one of the best soundtracks of any game ever. EVER. The game’s tropical theme carries into the music, with several tracks sounding very uplifting, happy and fast. For example:

Of course, the game doesn’t skimp on other types of music. You have your share of epic-sounding violins and other instruments, but some of the game’s songs carry an immense deal of sadness and sorrow, playing perfectly with what happens. One of my all-time favorite video game songs, for instance:

Beautiful, isn’t it?

The game’s music is all like that. Every track stands out on its own and it could easily be placed with a movie soundtrack or even on a CD shelf and no one would bat an eye. Sure, it may carry that stupid stigma that, “It’s just video game music, wah!” but even the snobbiest musician has to admit it’s at least decent.

Despite all these amazing things, the game is still overshadowed by its predecessor, Chrono Trigger. After I beat Cross I immediately went to play Chrono Trigger, this time actually playing the whole thing and beating it. Now, call me spoiled by time, spoiled by hype, whatever you prefer. I say I was spoiled by Cross, but Trigger simply didn’t wow me as much. Sure, it was a great game, had an amazing story (especially for 1996) and plenty of memorable moments, but I just wasn’t as amazed as I wanted to be.

Chrono Cross unfortunately never got the respect it deserved. It sold well enough, but not enough to warrant a sequel. The Chrono games are amazing examples of games that simply do not appeal enough to the masses to garner the sales they so deserve *coughunlikeFF7cough*. Fans have wanted a continuation of the game, but until the game sells more copies, it will likely never happen. Chrono Trigger saw new life as a DS remake, but even that didn’t sell well enough to make Square-Enix consider a sequel. Chrono Cross isn’t even available in the U.S. PlayStation Network Store, so the only option to play the game is on PS1.

In my opinion, everyone who dislikes Chrono Cross simply didn’t play it enough. Of course the game isn’t perfect, of course it has its flaws. Like any game, however, it is to be taken in as an experience, and given the complexity of the story (which even gave me headaches at times), the beautiful scenery and the ear-meltingly good soundtrack, Chrono Cross is a game that should be experienced by everyone. Even if you don’t like video games, even if you don’t like RPG’s, there is simply no excuse to pass up this wonderful piece of media, and there is no excuse for why it isn’t as (or even more) fondly recalled than Final Fantasy 7 or Chrono Trigger.




2 responses

19 04 2010

Twas the best experience I can remember with a game. I worry that a large chunk of it was nostalgia, but it’s good to hear that even in 2009 it can make tremors in your list of favorites. There’s still enough meat in the story to warrant another title in the series. Just one more; I don’t think that’d be milking it like a lot of people claim. The OST is still something I listen to nearly every day, and have been for years. Aside from brushing my teeth and taking showers, it’s the only daily ritual that I’ve ever stuck to.

Just one thing, though. The Japan-only Radical Dreamers for the SNES bridged the gap between Trigger and Cross, so technically the series is already a trilogy. You’d think Squenix could at least afford to port THIS to the DS, no? Well, General President Bushbasher will doubtfully put up with Squenix’s dawdling for much longer.

19 04 2010

Some of it may indeed be nostalgia, but that’s completely inescapable. If you have feelings about anything, you’ll remember it more fondly than someone who didn’t care about it, no matter how universally appraised something is. There are scenes in that game (and songs, of course) that’ll likely stay with me until the day I become old and senile. Of course it isn’t the only game to do that, but it certainly is a very powerful little piece of media.

I didn’t forget Radical Dreamers, I just chose to omit it because America will NEVER see it. Fewer people know about it than people who know (or have played) Chrono Cross, so it may as well not exist outside of Japan. General President Bushbasher should crack some skulls down at Squenix’s floating zepplin of doom.

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