Chrono Cross is very much hit-and-miss. In technical terms, it's excellent. Environments are vivid and gorgeous or suitably dramatic, the special effects are the best the PS 1 can offer, and the soundtrack is one of the greatest ever, video game or no. Combat uses an interesting weak/medium/strong attack system that builds up your characters' ability to use magical Elements, which can be swapped out or even purchased. And instead of level grinding, each boss fight levels you up so you stand a chance against the next one. Cross's biggest problem is its plot, even ignoring how it deals with Chrono Trigger. For the first few hours of gameplay the story seems understandable enough, even if it involves hopping between timelines. But as the game progresses, more and more bosses seem to come out of nowhere, the rate of info dumps increases exponentially, and all of the scheming and backstabbing becomes bewildering, until you find yourself being shuttled from location to location and fight to fight without knowing why. It's as if there's two games' worth of story being crammed into one-and-a-half discs of gametime, like the developers had a ton of neat ideas they wanted to show you all at once. The game's other problem is its characters, all 45 of them. Whereas Trigger gave us a core cast of seven to know and love, it seems like every other person you meet in Cross winds up in your party. And we must ask: why was the Mexican wrestler/medium included? The bubble-helmeted alien? The sentient turnip? Maybe a quarter of the cast are PC potential, with half at most usable as supporting NP Cs. The rest serve no purpose plot-wise, often feel completely out of place, and keeps the game from focusing on relevant characters. The fact that Guile's story was thrown out to make room for the talking dog and mushroom man is particularly baffling. If Cross was just another RPG, it would be mediocre, as its merits and problems roughly balance out. But as the sequel to Chrono Trigger, it's infuriating for learning nothing from its predecessor. Chrono Cross has its enjoyable moments, but ends up feeling rushed and unsatisfying.
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