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Chrono Cross Preview by IGN

June 30, 2000 - "Home again, home again, jiggity jog."

- Miracle on 34th Street.

Or in this case, far from home again, although not in exactly the same way as before. Chrono Trigger sent you sailing from one end of time to the other, but in some ways, Chrono Cross sends you even further afield. Although you could argue that you don't really move that far at all...

I'm trying to decide whether to be excessively cryptic or dangerously explicit here, and I suppose I had better err on the side of caution. Chrono Cross springs some very unusual surprises on the player, even in the early going, and it promises to provide even more as its quest stretches onward. What it reminds me of, more than anything, is Xenogears - there are specific moments that very strongly echo similar events in that game, and there is the same sense of great events in motion that made Xenogears so fascinating in its earlier movements. In other words, I don't know exactly what's going on, but I know it's something I want to know more about.

As I play further into the English preview version, I'm sure things will gradually grow clearer; meanwhile, there's a world to be explored, regardless of the bizarre events occurring around and outside it. There's a remarkable number of corners to be explored in the towns and forests of the Nido Archipelago. The way exploration affects the development of your party in Chrono Cross is very interesting. Depending on who you see and visit, it seems as if certain characters will join you or avoid you. Some you'll only discover by going out of your way, while the acquisition of one may preclude the meeting of another.

Whoever you meet, you should have an interesting time talking to them. There are typos here and there, which is to be expected given that it's an unfinished game, but on the whole the localization is very readable - there's less humor as yet than characterized Legend of Mana, but there's a great deal of individual voice to each character. In fact, perhaps more than many might like - several cast members speak in very thick dialect. The biological researcher Luccia (relation of some other young lady with a technical bent, perhaps?) has the exaggerated German accent of a classic movie mad scientist. A couple of characters speak in very strong French accents, including a charming jester with an inexplicable fondness for the lead character. Kid, the female lead so far, speaks in dense Cockney slang, which is a decision that I expect may irritate a few gamers. The bring-me-the-head-of-Victor-Ireland crowd can generally get stuffed from my point of view, and I have no real problem with Chrono Cross' translation as yet - the accents are there, but they're consistently presented, and they're not yet detrimental to the meaning or emotional impact of the dialogue - but they're something you might want to look out for if you object to a little too much flavor in your translations.

As in Chrono Trigger, the only silent voice in the game is the most important one; Serge, the hero (well, he's DavidF now; old habit) communicates only via the occasional nod. It's a bit of an odd contrast to play through a story so reminiscent of Xenogears, but with a hero completely devoid of angst, insecurity, misery, or, well, more or less anything else. I can't say that I'm very fond of this particular stylistic choice, but I understand the reasoning behind it, and I suppose it does more easily lend itself to giving your characters silly names (which I'm quite fond of).

In the future we'll try and bring you updates on Chrono Cross - I don't plan to try and spoil anyone's experience of the story, but simply give an impression of what's in store later in the summer. As it stands now, however, Chrono Cross is quite intriguing, both on the level of its individual characters and that of its sweeping story developments, and we're all quite eager to see what it has in store.

-- David Smith

Of all the great role-playing games released on Super NES, Squaresoft's Chrono Trigger was arguably the most memorable and beloved of the bunch. The game was created by what was touted as a "Dream Team" cast, which included Yuji Horii (Dragon Quest), Hironobu Sakaguchi (Final Fantasy), Akira Toriyami (artist), and Nobuo Uematsu (famed composer). The yield of their work was one of the best role-playing adventures ever produced.

The demand for a sequel to Chrono Trigger began right when it was released, and now, Square has finally delivered it with Chrono Cross. Whilst the game's developers don't include all of the "Dream Team" members that helped create Chrono Trigger, fans shouldn't worry as the scenario writer and lead composer (Yasunori Mitsuda, who did the majority of the music in CT) of the original are once again part of the project.

Chrono Cross' graphics are made up with polygonal characters and 3D pre-rendered backdrops, just as was the case with both Final Fantasy VII and VIII. While the character models in FF8 were already pushing the PlayStation to its limits, Square has managed to push the envelope even further in this game.

While it's definitely debatable, it wouldn't be overstating it to say that Chrono Cross could be one of the most graphically impressive games on PlayStation. The 3D polygonal character models are extremely detailed and cleanly modeled. The pre-rendered backdrops are very colorful, much more so than in either Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy VIII, and have a very organic appearance to them, which help bring them to life.

In addition to the mind-boggling graphics, Chrono Cross features some remarkable audio. Yasunori Mitsuda has once again done a splendid job with the game's musical soundtrack, as it will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the best videogame soundtracks ever produced. The aural excellence doesn't end with the musical score, as the game also features some wonderfully crafted ambient sound effects that do wonders in bringing the game's world to life.

The story begins with the player in control of the hero, Serge. After a quick dungeon romp, which has him teaming up with Kid and a third (random) character, Serge wakes up to find himself in his hometown, where he's supposed to meet up with his girlfriend at the docks. Soon after, he is propelled into a parallel world where he finds out that he had died 10 years beforehand.

In this new strange world, Serge discovers that many things in his village have changed because of his untimely death and the current present is a far cry from the parallel world that he had been living in. This is the start of an epic adventure for young Serge that will introduce the player to over 40 different characters that will be able to join the heroic quest.

Fans of role-playing games that are tired of the excessive random encounters that plague most RPG's, will be pleased to know that Chrono Cross features enemy monsters that are visible onscreen. And more importantly, in most cases it's extremely easy to avoid unnecessary battles and pretty much all non-boss battles can be escaped at an extremely high success rate. This provides for an easy way to quickly avoid battles during moments where you're simply trying to progress the story as fast as possible.

During battles, players can choose to attack, cast an elemental spell, defend or run. When attacking, the player is offered three attack settings, including strong, medium, and weak. The strong attacks will cause more damage, but will be less likely to hit the target, while weak attacks will cause less damage but have a greater chance of connecting with the enemy.

Furthermore, the battle system makes use of a stamina point based system that starts the character out with a maximum of seven points. Basically, this system brings the effects of fatigue into the strategy of the battles. The battles are still turn-based in nature, but players will continue attacking until they use all of their stamina points. Weak attacks use up one point, medium attacks use up two points, and strong attacks use up three points. When attacking, it's possible to use any combination of attacks until all of the stamina points are used up. Elemental spell attacks use a total of seven stamina points.

Chrono Cross' magic system is based on a system of elements of different colors. As the character lands attacks, he or she gains the ability to start casting spells in that battle. The level of spell that can be cast is determined by an elemental magic bar, which increases as the player lands weak, medium, or strong attacks. The color of the element plays a key role, as certain elements are more powerful against characters of the opposite class. For example, if the enemy character has a special affinity towards white elementals, it'll be wise to use black elemental magic against him.

With the unique elemental system, use of fatigue in the battles, and the way the attacks and spells are intertwined ingeniously, the battle system in Chrono Cross proves to be one of the most intriguing and exhilarating of any role-playing game on the market. It's manages to be quite in depth, while not being overly cumbersome or too complex. Furthermore, the battles really move at steady clip, never becoming excessively long and drawn out.

Chrono Cross is without a doubt one of the best RPGs on PlayStation and will likely go down in history as one of the PlayStation's greatest games of all time. It's a role-playing experience that no fan of the genre will want to miss. North American gamers will have the chance to experience the glory of this wonderful gem when it's released on August 15, 2000.

--Dave Zdyrko

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