Posted in Retro Gaming

Chrono Cross part 1: Crossing between worlds

(This is part of my journey going playing through Chrono Cross. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

After putting it to a Twitter poll, I whittled down three possible JRPG retro gaming projects to a single one: 1999’s Chrono Cross, which originally came out on PlayStation and within the last year released to Steam. Now, I’ve heard the “Radical Dreamers Edition” wasn’t the best port, but hey, it WAS a port to the PC, so I’m not going to complain that loudly.

I originally played this back in 2000 on my PlayStation, giving it a couple of run-throughs before packing it in. My memories were fairly positive, with most of my praise going to the visuals and music, but I’m curious how it holds up to me today. So let’s get started on a journey with dimension-hopping adventurers!

For this playthrough, I’m really going to have to shove down that slight frustration/irritation that exists for fans of Chrono Trigger. The problem is that Chrono Cross is *sort* of a sequel (but not really) with many small connections to the original (but it’s not a sequel!). So it’s not as detached as it needs to be, but you’re in for a lot of disappointment if you go trying to connect the two games.

Small stuff leaps out at me right away — the oh-so-familiar beginning of a character waking up in his bedroom to open windows to a bright sunshiny day, or the victory music after a battle.

So our main character is Serge (not the ’90s soft drink), a teen who lives with his mom in this Polynesian-like town. I’ve always thought it was such a cool aesthetic to go with a tropical island theme for this game. That, paired with the music, makes for a very chill experience.

Speaking of the looks, this port had to make some compromises with the much lower-res background (non-3D) images, kind of stretching them out and muddying them a bit. It’s fine, as long as you don’t examine specific parts of the screen too closely, but it makes the 3D stuff pop out more than it used to.

Arni Village is a fun little place to run around, interact with the locals, and get a sense of Serge’s life in this fishing community. One neat little aspect of the game I like is that you can collect frames to customize how the chat box popups look.

Chrono Cross has a ridiculous 45 companion characters you can recruit, some taking as many as three playthroughs to get. I’m not going to be that insane, mind you. But I will start things off by grabbing the very, very pink Poshul — Arni Village’s slobbery watchdog — to join me on these early adventures.

Serge and Poshul fight their way across a beach area to collect three scales needed for their quest. I’ll probably talk about Crono Cross’ combat another day, but suffice to say right now that it’s definitely unique and quite engaging for a turn-based system.

After collecting the scales and heading to Odessa beach, Serge’s childhood friend Leena up and vanishes when a light show splashes over him. I’m not really spoiling much when I say that this is when Serge crosses over to a different dimension of the same world. Somewhere in the distance, A Link to the Past is shouting, “I did it first!”

In this version of the world, Serge’s alternate self died a decade before (shortly followed by his mother), which is the most significant change that I can see. It’s also the most clearly explained plot twist that this game will ever have. It gets a whole lot more convoluted from here, folks!

Serge goes to check out his tombstone (wouldn’t you?) and is accosted by a trio of knights: Karsh, Solt, and Peppor. I guess the latter two are the Biggs and Wedge of Chrono Cross. In any event, a spunky Aussie with the midriff to end all midriffs named Kid (the girl, not the midriff) shows up and defends Serge.

Now the interesting thing is how the game has all of these secret ways to collect characters, depending on your actions and inactions. For example, I’d wager most everyone agrees to team up with Kid when she offers here. But if you shut her down — three times, no less — than Leena from the Another World will join in her stead.

I also picked up Mojo, because who wouldn’t want to have a “lucky” voodoo doll with a giant nail sticking through it in one’s party?

Speaking of collectable characters, I found a clown skull in a canyon that wanted to be reunited with his other parts. That surely won’t herald the end of the world, right? Right?

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