Chrono Cross (2000) isn’t as widely beloved (or remembered), as its predecessor; the incomparable Chrono Trigger. This, despite being released at the climax of the JRPG golden era, and to stellar amounts of critical reception.
The game still holds a 94 Metacritic rating, which is a higher rating than any FF game (only FFIX has an equal 94 rating) to date, and even Chrono Trigger (92 rating).
So, the question that I continuously as myself during the all time great RPG ratings, and discussions (that often take place on our FB page) is: Why isn’t Chrono Cross brought up more often? Heck, even the average Legend of Dragoon (Metacritic 74), has garnered a loud cult following that rabidly argues for the game during said discussions.
So, what went wrong? It is hard to say. The game didn’t sell extremely well. CC sold about 1.5 million units, against an installed PS1 user base of over 100 million consoles. So, many RPG gamers didn’t play it. Second, many of those who did play it, perhaps were disappointed by the fact that they didn’t get a direct sequel to their beloved Chrono Trigger.
And Third, the game might have gotten lost in the 2000 shuffle, as Final Fantasy IX was released a few months later, and the JRPG market was crowded with quality titles during that time.
An incredible and refreshing direction in its visual art style, differentiated Chrono Cross from every other game in the genre. It was bright, and it was colorful. The Pre-Rendered backgrounds had hand drawn quality look to them that was exceptional.
Chrono Cross didn’t posses the budget of games like Final Fantasy VII-IX, and the Legend of Dragoon, but it look better than most of those titles, even at a technical level.
Perhaps, even more enduring, is the game’s soundtrack. A Score in which Yasunori Mitsuda shined as composer of personal, and more intimate tracks, that pulled my heartstrings in ways that even Nobuo Uematsu hasn’t been able to do in its FF series.
If high budget games like The Legend of Dragoon, seemed to lack a soul, then Chrono Cross had loads of it, and then some. It wouldn’t be stretch for me to say here, that Chrono Cross, and Final Fantasy IX are the apex of Square’s masterful craft in creating RPG experiences during the 32-bit era.
The combat system was innovative, full of strategic elements (as actual colored elements blue, red, white, black etc. had a huge impact on the game’s combat), and at same time, forgiving enough for new comers not to feel overwhelmed by the brunt of some of Chrono Cross’ complexities.
Complexities such as the diverse cast of characters available to the player (more than 40), and its time traveling, dimension hopping plot, which was a bit hard to understand (as all time travel related plots are), but was brilliant in the way in which it connected its plot line and characters, to the beloved SNES classic that had arrived five years prior to it.
It was a goose bump inducing moment, the very first time that game showed, through a few dramatic scenes, in which ways it connected its own plot to that of Trigger’s.
It was Square, taking us by the hand while we travelled down a complex path of storytelling based on alternate realities, and the consequences of certain actions in each one. It was mind-bogging, but at the same time Chrono Cross never spiraled into the nonsensical mess that Tetsuya Nomura’s Kingdom Hearts series has devolved into.
The Square/Enix of today, is a very different company (with different talents, and perhaps, culture) from the 90’s Squaresoft. Thus, I am actually glad that a third Chrono game has never been developed under the current Square/Enix environment.
This way, at least, the memory of Chrono Trigger, and Chrono Cross can never be tarnished, by an underwhelming sequel, a divisive remake, or an endless wave of nonsensical spin offs created in order to ‘milk’ a series’ good name for financial profit.
Chrono Cross is a game that every JRPG fan should play, at least once, it is that great of an experience. Chrono Cross, is also a nostalgic reminder of the genre’s glory days, when games as masterful, as this wonderful sequel, would get (unfairly) lost in the shuffle of a sea filled with very good games within the same genre.
The game deserves to be included in the ‘all time great RPG’ discussion that its more popular (and beloved) predecessor is in. Chrono Cross is easily a top three PlayStation 1 RPG, and that speaks volumes of its quality.
The Never Ending Realm rated Chrono Cross a 9.5/10 game back in 2005