Chrono Cross This! 2 is now up! While I shamelessly bring the first one back into some attention. As a side note, you can totally read the second blog without ever having read the first one. I'd appreciate it if you read both though!
So, as a forward for this, I want to get a couple of things out of the way. This is a result of a couple of things, 1) the Chrono Trigger endurance run. 2) a poll on these forums asking which was better, Cross or Trigger. 3) me beating the special ending added to the DS version of Trigger.
Now, what does the bonus ending of CT:DS have to do with this? For those of you that haven't seen it, or haven't played Cross, or haven't beaten Trigger, the important thing to know about this extra ending that they went through extra effort to create specifically for the DS version of CT is that it only serves a purpose to connect CT and CC. The ending literally serves no other purpose than to justify the existence of CC as an actual sequel. I just want to reiterate that one more time - Square Enix went back to CT and added an ending to the game to try and better justify the existence of a sequel that is (now) 11 years old. How fucking crazy is that? Not like, crazy awesome, just, crazy. Was this a regret that someone at Square Enix had that CC was viewed as a non-sequel because for all intents and purposes it WASN'T a sequel until the end of the game? Was this something they had wanted to do back in the day but just couldn't get around to it/fit it into the game? This is like them adding the anime videos to the PS1 version of CT that also tried to 'support' the existence of CC (the ending video of Lucca finding the child in the basket in the wild) and shouldn't be that offensive or anything? I dunno.
I will say it felt like a real shitty ending. It took me from a great high of fighting Dalton YET AGAIN and him escaping YET AGAIN, to probably the lowest of lows I've felt during a CT play through (wait, I don't get to go fight Dalton again even though he specifically told me where he was going and what he was going to go do? wait, I got to fought Lavos-Schala and WON but then they just one-shotted me? And then Schala teleports me back to my time and this all becomes a non-issue? Oh, and other-Magus (because an alternate reality Magus is there, by the way, because alternate realities are a thing in Chrono Cross, and that needs to be addressed) gets teleported to a new place where he loses his memory; forgets who he is, where he's from, everything, and then vows to do everything in his power to remember who he is. And that's the end. We have no idea where he ended up, what happens to him, anything. He could be a character in CC, and maybe this is an attempt to say that he IS the same character (a man named Guile. No, not THAT Guile, a different Guile) as that was the original intention with Guile in CC, that it would be Magus, except then they added way too many other characters to CC and scrapped that idea and made him his own new character. So what was the point of having other-Magus get thrown into a different dimension and lose all of his memory? Ugh.
Ok, sorry, my disgust over that ending still kind of lingers in my mind.
So, back on topic. This blog is going to be my return visit to the sequel of Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross. I played through Chrono Cross once when it first came out. Now, however, I barely remember anything at all about it other than feeling kind of ripped off that they called it "the sequel to Chrono Trigger!" Now that I'm older and can potentially appreciate the game some more, and maybe follow it's rather absurd and complex plot better, I want to take a look back at it and see if it is really as bad as I remember, or if I was just being too harsh on the game at the time. Hopefully, one way or the other, I'll be able to make it all the way through CC so I can have a better idea of what this game truly is, isn't, was trying to be, where it succeeded, and where it failed. So without further ado-
So, Chrono Cross, where to start.
I put the game in the PS2, turned it on, and it worked. And then the game started and I watched a cinematic that is undoubtedly full of spoilers, that talked about fate and cogs turning and was being all melodramatic. Then I got into the game. I kept the main character's name the same, Serge. I hate his name so much already. Serge. But whatever, games are great and naming characters poorly and who am I to argue with the creators of the game.
The game starts in a dream sequence where you're, undoubtedly, already much farther into the game (about a forth or halfway through the game, if I had to guess) and are in some strange tower with two other companions (who you didn't get to name.) One is a really obnoxious female character named Kid. For some reason she has an over the top Australian accent. The other is an older guy with a mustache, named Fargo (he's not special enough to have a page in the wiki, apparently.) I have no idea, at all, what I'm doing in this tower, just that I should be playing. So, I run around, find a balcony overlooking a crystal thing I'm supposed to get to. Kid makes some comment about how "we're so close to the crystal but so far away still." I just shouted at my screen "Then how about you jump over the fucking railing and hop down to the room below where it is. I bet that would work really well and save me a lot of time." But nope, no such luck, so, I had to leave the room and go explore and fight some more in the tower.
At this point in the game the fighting system isn't explained at all, in any way. But it breaks down like this (and this is really an overly complex system for little to no reason) -
When you attack you have 3 levels of attack; 1 (weak), 2 (standard), and 3 (strong.) Your have so much energy to spend on those three different strengths of attacks. So, you may have 7 stamina, for example, and a strong attack will use up 3 stamina, leaving you with 4 to spend. So then you use a weak attack, which uses up 1 stamina, leaving you with 3. So then you use a standard attack, which uses up two, leaving you with 1. Then you do a weak attack since it uses up 1. Ideally, you start with a weaker attack (which has higher accuracy) and build up to a strong attack (which has lower accuracy, but gets better the more times you hit an enemy in the same attack.) Now, while all of this is going on you're building up elemental levels. It's sort of complicated, but, the important thing to know is that you assign elements (or magic) to slots on your character, after you attack you build up power to use those elements. Each element can only be used once per fight (unless otherwise noted.) So if you have 3 bars, like this - - - you have 3 different levels of elements. When you attack, those bars fill up, granting you access to those bars, and thusly, their elements (bars go both horizontally as well as vertically. The power level being horizontal, vertical slots granting you access to more than one element of that level.) Also, there's an oval in the upper left hand corner of the screen that isn't explained at all, but has different colors to it. I later find out that that has to do with the element affinity of a fight and that casting elements of the same element increases the power of that element while weakening the opposite element. Don't worry, some old guy in a village later explains this all to me.
Ok, so, gameplay is confusing and a bit needlessly complex it seems. But that's ok. I keep on fighting and murdering stuff and collecting a crystal and listening to this Australian girl ramble on with her terrible accent. Then we get teleported through the floor. This causes Fargo and Kid to FLIP THE FUCK OUT. I don't know WHY in a world where I can call down meteors from outerspace to hit my enemies inside of a building being teleported causes these two to lose their shit and be unable to comprehend what just happened. Maybe it was an excuse for Kid to talk some more with her Australian accent and to give Fargo a chance to say something, ANYTHING. Then I reach a door and I find out I was dreaming.
So, then I wake up. The exact same way that Crono in CT frst wakes up. In his bed, eyes closed, text on screen of his mom calling out to him. Then I open the blinds to my room. And then I go downstairs, and meet my mom, and my two cats. That's how you can tell it's different than Chrono Trigger, there are TWO cats, not just one. This felt like it was trying too hard to give a wink and a nudge at CT fans, but, whatever. I found out that my friend Leena has stopped by, but because I was sleeping I missed her and she went off somewhere, and that I should be nicer to Leena because girls something something... I dunno, I stopped listening to her.
I make my way out of the house, I'm in some sea-side tropical village. I don't remember any place like this being in CT, but, whatever. I'm sure it will ALL get explained EVENTUALLY, right? Aaaaanyhoo. I wander around town, there's a guy talking about a dragon castle under water (I'm sure that won't come up later) and a guy talking about the Porre army (for those that don't know, Dalton escapes and goes off and makes an army from the town of Porre in CT:DS to get back at you. You never get to see ANY of that, by the way.) So, Porre army, something something, all very vague and kind of useless information other than to have another CT callback. Speaking of CT references, I then meet Toma the 14th (Or, The Great Explorer Toma, as he likes to be called) who insists that he's exploring for treasure, not gardening (he seems kind of insecure about the matter.) And then I have a long conversation with a guy talking about taking alternate paths and wondering what life would be like if he made a different decision a long time ago (this is a really long, drawn out conversation that only serves as foreshadowing for the whole alternate realities thing.) It's briefly mentioned somewhere that Serge was attacked by a panther demon when he was a kid, but was saved and he used to be afraid of cats because of it, but not anymore. So far there's just a whole lot of CT references and foreshadowing. Also, there's something known as a cube of fate, or the fate something something that records everything. They felt the need to explain save points in the game (and I'm sure this won't become a thing later as a result of that either) for some reason. Anyway. I also hear a lot of talk about girls, and some kid asked me to break his sister in to make her more ladylike? What the fuck was that about, it seemed kind of creepy, to be honest, and maybe a bit sexist, I'm not sure.
Ok, so, lots of exploring, finding useless items, people telling me about komodo scales and love and blah blah, fight tutorial, blah blah, a girl gives me a foreshadowing hint about how to recruit her dog as a character later, blah blah, so much pointless talking that seems bent on trying to suck me into the world or to make me want to keep playing because "don't you want to know more about this thing that was mentioned in passing now?" It all feels kind of weird and maybe a bit forced. But we'll see, maybe it all pays off. So I find Leena down at the docks babysitting (since because I was sleeping she had to babysit instead? I'm not sure how that logic worked, but, it is what it is. Then she breaks out the whip and tells me to go fight some komodo dragons so I can make her a love necklace.) I guess this Leena is my love interest and childhood friend.
So, I go off to fight some komodo dragons and get their scales (after getting some advice from an old man about how to catch them all.) Honestly, it's all pretty boring, standard combat. I stab stuff, stuff dies. It's at this point though that the combat is actually starting to frustrate me. Not because it's too complicated or anything though. Remember how I was explaining that you have stamina and you have to spend that stamina on attacks and that you have varying levels of attacks? Well, let's say I attack something, I tell the game to do - 1, 1, 2, 3. Except that after I hit the second 1, before it gets to 2, the enemy's turn comes up. The enemy INTERRUPTS MY ATTACK and gets to hit me in the middle of me doing these bloody combos (because I can't tell it what combo to do ahead of time or anything) and then after the enemies attack I'm forced back to the original action menu screen of "Do you want to attack, cast spells, use items?" meaning every time I'm in the middle of attacking, if an enemy interrupts me, it's like I have to start all over again. It's frustrating as all get out and it has no reason for being this way.
Ok, anyway. I trap some dragons, kill them, for ONE scale each (I need 3, and apparently each dragon only caries one scale on its entire person. Sometimes only one scale for TWO dragons. This seems pretty brutal, actually. My love interest wants me to massacre an entire species just so she can have a necklace that proves that I love her?) Then after I kill the third one the MOTHER komodo dragon comes out. She's probably pretty pissed that I've been murdering her children in cold blood. So I kill her. This is all really easy so far. After every battle you also get to heal back up to (if not full, then almost full, using left over unused elemental energy and the cure element/spell. So I'm not even being drained of resources as I do all these fights.)
Next I make my way down to the beach where I'm supposed to meet Leena and give her the scales of the innocent dead. She takes the scales, talks about how if I remember when we were kids and used to sit at the beach and listen to the water, and how water is as old as time, and then talks about having kids, and wonders if we'll remember this when we're older, and how memories are funny because when you've forgotten them they then come floating back up to the surface. Then a strange voice started talking to me. Then I had a flashback to when I was a kid and a demon leopard attacked me. Then there was a tidal wave, some magic, and I passed out. Leena was mysteriously absent for ALL of this cutscene. When I awake Leena's gone and some strange man is standing over me wondering if I'm ok. I ask where Leena is, he says "oh, I think she's in the village babysitting. if you're a friend of hers you should go visit her."
Ok, I already know what happened, but they lay this on pretty thick about what just happened without showing it to you yet. I'm in an alternate reality. Plain and simple. I know this. The guy talking about "other possible futures", the mention of me being attacked when I was a kid and that I was lucky to survive, the flashback to that event, the mysteriously missing Leena, the fact that she's still babysitting despite the fact that I know she's not babysitting anymore and that she wouldn't have just left me to go back to babysitting. I'm positive, however, when Serge finds out he's in another reality, he will be flipping his shit (as much as a silent protagonist can) an be dumbfounded and confused about what's going on.
This is where I stopped.
So, I haven't been hating the game so far, but it seems very uninteresting at the same time. I guess it's an RPG though and I shouldn't expect for anything genuinely exciting to be happening so far. The game seems to be relying so much on foreshadowing so far though that I wonder if they realized that there was nothing compelling about the events that start the game off that they want to try and dig some hooks into you to make you want to see all of the hinted at stuff to get you to keep playing instead of just giving you good stuff from the start. I mean, think of it this way, if Lavos, Zeal, and Magus were all hinted and nudged at in the first half hour to hour of play in Chrono Trigger, would that have made it any better? Or would it have tainted the fun of everything that was going on? I'm thinking it would have made for a worse experience. But who knows, maybe things will get turned around at some point. I don't have high hopes though, know what things I already know about CC, but, I'm trying to keep an open mind and to keep on playing regardless.
So join me next time as I find out that I'm in a parallel world! And that Leena thinks I'm dead! And that nothing is as it was! And combat continues to be just sort of annoying and mediocre!