Wumbo Wonders: Part 4 (Chrono Cross)

Wumbo Wonders is series of blog posts in which I talk about my feelings and general thoughts about a video game I’ve recently completed. These are just random musings about the game, so I may be jumping all over the place. There will definitely be spoilers so read at your own risk!

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I think my earliest memory of Chrono Cross was watching my brother fight the final boss of the game. I distinctly remember Crono, Lucca, and Marle at the beach and thinking to myself, “Who are these people?” Another thing I remember was the hubbub over GameSpot giving Chrono Cross a 10, when only two games before it received a perfect score. Even in 2012, Chrono Cross is surprisingly playable and I can confidently say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this heady RPG.

Although it may go a little wild at the end, the story of Serge, Kid, and Lynx enraptured me from start to finish.
Although it may go a little wild at the end, the story of Serge, Kid, and Lynx enraptured me from start to finish.

I feel like ambitious is the perfect word that describes Chrono Cross. It starts off as a relatively simple adventure, but the tale it is trying to spin eventually spirals out of control, for better and for worse. Near the end of the game, the story advances far too quickly and presents the player with way too many confusing concepts. Even after finishing the game and consulting a dedicated Chrono Cross wiki page, I was unable to make heads or tails of this convoluted story. What I did get out of it though, was that the developers really wanted to convey a meaningful message. Most people that are making games today have no significant thing to say, but are merely trying to entertain. Chrono Cross attempts to articulate something important without managing to be hokey. Whether or not that came or across to every player I really don’t know, but to me it was refreshing to see a developer go outside of the usual video game comfort zone.

Another defining feature of Chrono Cross is simply the ridiculous amount of party members you have at your disposal. There are approximately 45 playable characters you can recruit, although many will require going out of the main path and completing side quests. Having the ability to choose from such a wide range of characters to bring into your party was definitely cool, but it ends up being a double edged sword. A huge selection of party members ends up diluting how meaningful they actually are to the main story. If there were only a handful of characters, then they would have been more carefully fleshed out and integrated into the fiction. Many times you end up stumbling across some random dude/dudette in the world, and then they gleefully join your party for a weak and uninteresting reason. Of course, some party members were properly characterized and given legitimate motivation. There were just 30 others that weren’t.

Was I the only one who thought the path to getting the good ending was completely random and weird?
Was I the only one who thought the path to getting the good ending was completely random and weird?

Trying to explain how the gameplay works in text is almost impossible. Although there are a lot of systems that are functioning during the battles, the fighting becomes second nature once you get the hang of it. Elements, stamina, managing your percentages… all of it becomes intuitive, even when the encounters begin to get harder and longer. Huge props must be given to the Chrono Cross team for making a totally unique combat system that is not only layered with a number of mechanics, but also something that doesn’t become utterly complex.

It’s kind of disappointing that when people reminisce about the Chrono franchise, Trigger seems to get the bulk of the love while Cross shies away in a dark corner. Although I believe that Trigger is the better game, Cross is definitely a game where you can see that the developers had a specific vision and went on to try to fulfill that vision as best as possible. The possibility of having a third game seems almost nonexistent at this point, and that disappoints me mightily. The Chrono games had some great, innovative ideas and I would like to think that they would push the boundaries as well if they made a new game. I’m only speaking for myself here, but JRPG’s on the current generation of consoles, like Final Fantasy XIII and Lost Odyssey, did absolutely nothing for me. But a third entry in the Chrono series can be the spark that I believe the genre desperately needs.

And one more thing. The soundtrack is downright beautiful. They just don't make 'em like they used to.