A little over a year ago, I wrote my first Looking Back post on my favorite games of all time and one of the big things that played a huge role in my fascination with narrative. Chrono Trigger was (and still is in my opinion) the greatest RPG ever made. After I finished it, I wanted more. I wanted to know what happened to Frog and Crono and Magus. I wanted to desperately experience that world and that story, or a similar story, again for the first time. I wanted a sequel. And I wasn’t alone.
In 2000, Square answered our requests. Chrono Cross, a sequel to the best RPG ever made, hit the States. But I had a lot of problems with it. It was too different, too alien. It threw away the carefully crafted characters for a bunch of bland, lifeless cardboard cutouts. Over forty different party members, and only a handful of them interesting. I was disappointed.
Well, it’s been a while since I’ve thought about this game. Several years have gone by since I last played it (as the only copy I know of is owned by a friend who is about two hours away), but let’s take a look back anyway.
The more I think about Chrono Cross, the more I honestly believe I was wrong. It wasn’t that the game was too different. It wasn’t that the story was bad. It wasn’t that… Actually, no. A lot of the characters were bland as hell, so I stand by that. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought back then. The game changed, certainly, but I clung to the past.
I have to say, aside from the infuriating as sin requirements for the True Ending, the gameplay and battle system wasn’t that bad. They tried something new, and it didn’t stick. It was an experiment and they took a shot at it with a much-loved series. I have to give them points for that, it was a risky move. Did I like it as much as Chrono Trigger’s battle system? Hell no. I still don’t. But I respect what they tried (except for the True Ending, in which case I kinda hate them).
I think my biggest problem with the story as a kid was that it wasn’t the good, relatively simple (on the surface, check out Chrono Compendium for the really complicated stuff) plot that I loved. It was new, it was confusing. It took the upbeat ending of Chrono Trigger and brought a dark future for that world and those characters. From my understanding, everything I worked for in Chrono Trigger, defeating Magus, killing Queen Zeal and destroying the Black Omen, ridding the world of Lavos… It all meant nothing. Everyone died in the end, anyway, or so I believe. And it honestly kind of hurt. I mean, if anything, I probably screwed it up by helping to create the Time Devourer after Lavos’s death.
I guess what I’m saying is that I looked for reasons not to like it, aside from the subpar choices the development team made, like including a massive cast. My view is always going to be skewed toward Chrono Trigger, even though Chrono Cross was absolutely beautiful and well-done. That’s sort of the point of these Looking Back posts, we take a little trip into the past and see how things we used to love (or hate, but I like keeping these posts kind of positive) have changed. Or rather, how we’ve changed.
I’ll never be able to give Chrono Cross a truly fair shot. But if someone’s out there reading this who hasn’t played either of those games, give them a try. Chrono Cross isn’t as bad as I made it seem and I’m willing to admit that not everyone will feel like Chrono Trigger is the best thing to grace the consoles, but you should definitely give them a shot. Don’t hold onto one and defend it to the death while attacking the other because it’s new and strange.
… Man, that was kind of depressing (and it doesn’t help that I’m listening to the softer songs of the Chrono Trigger OST during writing). Well, hopefully I’ll have something more upbeat, new, and a bit different for you folks next time. I’m really hoping you’ll enjoy this next mini-project of mine, because I’ve been wanting to do something like it for a long time.
As always, thanks for reading, have a good’un, and take it easy.