GSQ6: Time’s scar

29. Chrono Cross

I wonder if this post can go live without spawning a violent argument in the comments section in which everyone has kneejerk reactions about how Chrono Cross is either brilliant or garbage? Probably not, but I suppose it’s inevitable. After all, the entire point of this article is that Chrono Cross is a deeply divisive game that rarely provokes a merely lukewarm response from gamers. So it is written, so it shall be.

ALSO: I have just received an email from Blurb informing me that the coupon code FESTIVE is good for free flat-rate shipping through December 10. (That’s for US dollar purchases. Add a 1 to the end for GBP, a 2 for Euros, or a 3 for Canadian dollars.) I know you guys like the deals, so I will post news of these codes as they arrive, per your requests.

ALSO ALSO: The bonus book for site subscribers is lagging a bit behind, partially because “vacation time” for me these days means “time in which I am not allowed to work on my own projects”… but also because this book has turned out to be, essentially, a quarter-length solo-author edition of GameSpite Quarterly. I think the results will be good enough to merit a few weeks’ delay, though. Expect to see that in your mail box early in the new year.

I really do appreciate everyone who helps support the site each month. Running GameSpite costs about $2000 per year, and your continued help allows me to keep the site and resource-hungry forums alive without plastering the place with ads. It’s so nice to have an ad-free place to read about games, don’t you think?

32 thoughts on “GSQ6: Time’s scar

  1. I won’t start an argument about the quality of Chrono Cross. no matter how many times I started the game, I never beat it. I got an alien space man. I got a fat pink dog. I thought Kid was super awesome when I was seventeen. But JRPGs often get the better of me, I burnt out, and this article has done an excellent job of making me pine for lost classics. Someday on the PSN, maybe.

    However, Time’s Scar is one of my favorite songs of all the time. I love the title, I love the catchy, frantic pace, and I love the memories it brings back of that unbelievably good looking CG intro. One of the many moments where I stopped and thought “games will never look better than this.”

    Great article! All those plot spoilers just make me wish I’d soldiered on and discovered it for myself. I remember seeing the ghosts of Chrono Trigger people and feeling that was a pretty heavy revelation after spending the whole game thinking it was just a spiritual sequel.

  2. Nice retrospective. I think it covers quite nicely the couple problems I had with the game (namely the way it dumps all over Chrono Trigger’s cast and the way-too-many playable characters, and perhaps the somewhat confusing plot). It wasn’t a bad game though, I need to go back and play it again sometime.

  3. I’ve always been curious why Kato went in the direction he did vis a vi the story. Has that question ever been put to him from someone aside irate fanboys of Trigger? Also, no Lucky Dan reference? For shame.

  4. Have been waiting for this one for a while. I tried playing it before but got horribly stuck early on and think it was a bug because it was impossible to advance the story and never went back. Hope this convinces me to try again.

    Now to look forward to the FFTA article, one of my most hated games ever but I want to read why I’m wrong.

  5. One of my biggest criticisms of Chrono Cross is also one that I’ve never seen mentioned by any of its detractors: that playing a game set across two nearly identical parallel worlds is confusing as all hell. Half the reason that I stopped playing CC was because I could never remember what I had done where, since there are few visual cues to distinguish the two realities. The other half is the horrible cast of one-note parody characters that follow you around based on the tiniest scraps of motivation. So I guess what I’m saying is that my distaste for the game isn’t really based on its relation to Chrono Trigger at all.

  6. I’m on the lovers’ side for this game, and I had played Chrono Trigger. I played it when it was relatively new, mind you. Games I played ten years ago are very different from games I play now, I was 14 years old and played whatever new game I could get my hands on.
    That’s not to say that it’s a bad game, I agree with Mr. Osterritter that the music is timeless, the visuals still hold up today and the gameplay is still pretty unique. No grinding and no battles where all you have to do is mash A (or X in this case).
    I don’t know what everyone’s problem was with the story. Instead of pushing out an obvious direct sequel, the game touches on some of the finer points presented in Chrono Trigger. Maybe a little bit clumsily, but it worked. The rise of Porre and it’s presence in El Nido, the fall of Guardia , the fates of Schala and the time-travelling heroes, and the fates of all the timelines they erased and rewrote.
    It does have its weaker moments, however. Out of a total of 40 playable characters, only a handful or two are useful and relevant to the story. Replaying the game now I find that some portions of the game are very tedious to play through again. The ghost ship, the Lynx part, and a couple of fetch-quests really drag out when you want to see the cooler moments of the game.
    Back then I just wanted to nostalge about Chrono Trigger, and I think I got my money’s worth. Especially that I still play it ten years later.

  7. The plot was terrible, the cast so large it made it all but impossible to relate to the characters, not to mention the blasphemy of giving a big middle finger to the entire chrono trigger universe.

    but still, this is my favourite game of ALL TIME and I really don’t know why.

  8. I really do need to start Chrono Cross up someday. I bought the thing like two years ago and never tried it…

    Anyway, looking forward to the bonus book. That is, of course, assuming I qualify for one – I think I’ve paid like a month or two Gamespite rent. Who cares. Worth it regardless of bonuses.

  9. Pretty much the only thing I *didn’t* like about Chrono Cross was the slightly obtuse method for merging character lists between multiple game runs, which I remember I managed to screw up and then threw up my hands in despair of ever building a “complete” roster. But regardless, I loved my first time through the game.

  10. “Notably, Chrono Cross is almost certainly the first English appearance of the term “daughter-clone”, making even the most unapologetic of Dr. Who fans cringe involuntarily. ”

    Pretty sure Heinlein beat Japan to it in Time Enough For Love, where the protagonist makes two opposite sex clones of himself to act as his daughters. And then sleeps with them because they want his kid. …yeah.

  11. I can agree that it’s a well designed game, and I too have the soundtrack.

    It just feels like an example of someone having a story they wanted to tell but lacking the opportunity to do it except as a “sequel” to an existing game. So they crammed it in and said screw the original game.

    Knights of the Old Republic 2 did the same thing with Star Wars.

  12. A fair assessment of a terrible piece of fanfiction that happens to have an intriguing battle system.

    I’m always interested that most people don’t bring up the dangerous loose-cannon writer Kato Masato, who’s responsible for the surviving faction of the Chrono team’s devolution into the storyline muck of Xeno and Cross. Without the moderating influence of Sakaguchi and Horii, the whimsy and straight-shooting that kept Trigger exciting without being expository and convoluted vanished; with Cross, Kato’s skilllessness is out in full force, scenario-wise. In a way, it’s all predictable: Kato had the most free rein in Trigger in the Zeal segment of the story—a chapter that is unique and clever (perhaps over-much) yet ultimately could easily have been edited out of the game entirely with little effect on the narrative. Without better creators keeping him in line, Kato wrote this vile story that does an injustice to its beautiful score and visuals.

    • It’s not like I disagree with you entirely, but man, I loved the Zeal scenario in Trigger. There’s plenty of good stuff in Cross’s story too, but yeah, the guy can use some editing. Or at least someone to bounce ideas off of. Maybe we should lock him and Kojima in a room together and see whether the result is exponential craziness or sheer genius.

    • Whoa, now, let’s not get carried away there. Not only was Zeal one of the most interesting and unique portions of the game, it was the linchpin of the entire plot. Without Zeal, you have no Magi, no Wings of Time, no dreamstone pendant, no Black Omen, no Magus, and no explanation of the nature of magic. It’s practically the fulcrum around which the entire plot revolves. I’d say Zeal is Kato at his best: the dude has imagination and a keen mind for plot threads, but he desperately needs an editor to keep him in check.

  13. Oh man, this takes me back. Well, not that far since I only beat the game a few years ago after buying this on Amazon for 8 bucks. I gotta say, only RPG plot I don’t understand, and how do I get the “good” ending? Those blasted music notes/colors don’t work….aggghhhhh!

    Anyways, that game was deep. Too deep, and way too many characters parading around like they’re the cat’s pajamas. Honestly, FunGuy, go home. Just beat it. Hit the bricks. Puns are lame, and so are your overalls.

    I once had a theory that Serge was actually Magus from a different time line, it didn’t pan out. I ran into some info that squashed the idea but I don’t remember what the info was. I’ve never been a CT fan boy so I didn’t care that much how much or how little the two games were related, although I was very surprised at how much they did indeed have in common, I’m remembering a certain semi-secret cut scene of a burning house.

    But right now I’m working on my theory that, once and for all, prove that Chrono Cross is a sequel/prequel/occurs at the same time but in a different time line to Xenogears. I’m telling ya man, Deus and Fate are the same thing!…….ahahahahahaa I kid, I kid. Only because I’m sad that Chrono Brake got the axe.

  14. The good: Best soundtrack of any game, ever. Awesome battle system. Gorgeous graphics.

    The bad: Confusing plot that was clearly rushed, especially on Disc 2. Unbalanced difficulty, where some parts are laughably easy and others are hair-pulling.

    Still, even with the flaws, it’s my favorite game of all time, although it’s clearly not the best.

    What can I say, I’m a sucker for a good soundtrack, and Chrono Cross was the first that really made me appreciate game music.

    • You really need to play through this game like 2 or 3 times to understand it. It’s like reading watchmen or something like that. It’s a lot to catch and understand. With that said, I hated this game until I played it the second time and I used my boy Staaaaaaaaaaarkey and the cyborg for as much of the game as i could. That made the game pretty hilarious.

      Still my the one unforgivable sin of this game was that the ending just weren’t as fun as Triggers. Yet, no one seems to talk about the endings, nor how ridiculous it was to get the best ending by doing the whole colors and chrono cross thing.

  15. i’m happy to continue supporting this site. god knows i spend enough time here to justify it.

    i might have to cut back, though. unemployment makes it hard to keep paying for stuff like this =(

  16. I can only grind my teeth in anger. Jesus man, it’s not a bad sequel in the slightest if the game is good. That type of gamer jargon needs to go out the window because it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

    Most of the criticisms aimed at CC are frivolous to begin with. So what if the three previous heroes passed away? So what if Schala’s hair color was changed? Does any real fan care about those things? The answer is no; it doesn’t matter and those are insignificant details hanging on an already dense, but intriguing plot.

    Damn. Now I feel like punching something.

  17. I thoroughly enjoyed the game when I played through it years ago, but again, it’s not Chrono Trigger. This certainly hits the nail on the head, in that as a game, it was great, but as a sequel, it’s pretty bad.

    In a lot of ways, it ends up being similar to the other Squaresoft-produced RPGs of the time. They were good, but never quite hit the highs that the late-generation SNES games did.

    Still waiting for that RPG to come along to dethrone Chrono Trigger in my mind. A few have come close. Part of me at least tries to acknowledge that nostalgia could be talking, but I usually play through CT once every couple of years, and I enjoy it every time, so there’s some _it_ factor there.

  18. Ah, Masato Kato haters. I’m impressed you guys are so open about not having the mental dexterity to handle multiple plot threads. I mean, god forbid you actually have to THINK about a story. *pats of back* Okay, let’s go play some God of War.

    • Man, I love Chrono Cross and even wrote a FAQ about the plot, but even so I STILL think this post makes you one of the douchiest people ever to comment at this site.

      • Perhaps I was out of line to criticize some of your commenters. I’ve just grown tired of how popular it is to tear into every game narrative that doesn’t lead you around by the nose. There’s also an utter lack of appreciation for the raw creative spirit. I truly believe Kato is a great storyteller and it’s heartbreaking to see him get so much hate.
        I apologize if I hurt anyone’s feelings.

    • This reminds me of a recent South Park episode about Inception: “Just because an idea is overly convoluted and complex doesn’t make it cool!”

      Whether leading by the nose or not, whether you dig the story or not, you can make strong objective points about the story being a confusing convoluted contradictory crapfest. No, it isn’t the worst thing ever, nor does criticizing something take away from the quality of its good points.

      Also, “lack of appreciation for raw creative spirit”:go watch “We Are The Strange”, or “The Phantom Menace”, or “AntiChrist”, or “Transformers 2” and tell me that “raw creative spirit” is pure gold.

      • Y’know, just because something is complex doesn’t mean it isn’t good either; the works of Kurt Vonnegut or Joseph Heller, for example.
        Whether you like Kato or not, I think we should all be more concerned about studios focus testing the soul out of game stories and less about writers having complete creative freedom.

      • I think it’s reasonable to want someone to have creative freedom and all, but sometimes, people’s unedited work just isn’t….very good. At least not as much so as it could be with a good editor—nothing is more important sometimes. Even as an actual fan of Xenogears, I would love to be able to take an editor’s pen to trim all the fat and clip about 10 hours. Kato’s need for an editor is all the more obvious in Cross because of the contrast with Trigger—the very definition of an extraorrdinarily tight, focused game with no bloat despite its elaborate care for detailed scenario-writing.

        To put it another way: I have an extremely difficult time seeing the preposterous 10 minute final exposition on Opasa Beach or the Time Guru’s rambling techno-jargon in Cross as an artistic triumph for Kato when it’s so clearly an abstruse, thoughtless kludge resulting from poor time management, poor writing, or both.

  19. I’ve always wanted to play Chrono Cross due to the fact that it sparks up so much debate, even to this day. The polarized opinions regarding PS1 RPGs have mostly given way to more reasonable outlooks, but Cross still seems to get people talking in terms of “best” and “worst”.

  20. I actually felt like I had a pretty good grasp on the first playthrough of Chrono Cross. Not an amazing one mind you, but good enough to understand what was going on.

    And I believe it was the first game I ever played that tricked you into thinking it was a “spiritual successor” for most of the game before SURPRISE, turns out it’s a true sequel.

    Yeah, the plot does suffer from being rushed, especially at the end. But if you sit down for a second and really pay attention to the wall of text that’s shoved down your throat near the ending, there’s actually a pretty damn epic story, and there is an (obtusely explained) happy ending to it all where you unify the timelines and essentially re-establish the happy ending to the first game.

    I also never really even paid attention to the fact that Kid is blonde. Sci-fi logic and all, I just kinda accepted it. Seems like nitpicking to me, to be honest. There are far bigger plot issues to be concerned about.

    Also someone mentioned the “Serge = Magus” connection (Spoilers ahead)… Serge is not Magus, and he doesn’t truly appear in the game, but in Radical Dreamers, Guile revealed to be Magus in disguise, still looking for Schala. Presumably this was cut from Cross due to budget or deadlines or whatever. In Trigger DS they kinda retconned this to say Magus lost his memory and took on the name Guile afterwards.

  21. Chrono Cross had a lot of flaws, but man, the music is one of the best soundtracks ever made, and the graphics can still beat out a lot of games made today. Xenogears is perhaps the only game to beat out Chrono Cross for the “Brilliant, but Deeply Flawed” crown of all games.

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