So, as promised todays blog post is about Chrono Cross. It was released for the Playstation back in 1999 as a spiritual sequel to Chrono Trigger. Now Chrono Trigger was one of my favorite games of all time, but I didn’t get around to playing Cross until this week. I am only about half way through the game, but I think it is already safe to say that this game is better than anything I have played for years. Yes, I love it.
As I sat down to play the game for the first time I couldn’t stop smiling, and that smile still hasn’t worn off. The game brings back the light hearted and playful feelings of childhood. It isn’t just nostalgia either. It is the dialog, which never takes itself too seriously, the art style, which is bright and impressionistic, the music, which is simple, yet emotional, to finally the story, which is creative and unique. I understand just how much hyperbole I put into that last sentence, but it is all true. In an era when soul less shooting games are a dime a dozen, and multiplayer means more than story, this 11 year old game is the biggest breath of fresh air I have experienced in a long time.
As bad as I think the gaming industry is, perhaps even worse than the film industry, I used to still have some hope. After all, there were still people making role playing games, namely Square-Enix, the same people who made Chrono Cross. Like I said, I used to hope, that was until I played Final Fantasy XIII. When I played Final Fantasy XIII I thought it was a good game, but I felt that something was missing. It wasn’t until today that I realized that everything that makes Chrono Cross amazing is what makes FFXIII a lifeless shell of an experience. In Chrono Cross the story is complex and deep, but the characters never take themselves too seriously. The game is always okay with some self-deprecating humor and silliness. As a result the world feels more alive for it. In FFXIII on the other hand there is almost never a fun moment; the characters are constantly dead serious, regardless of the situation. It felt like they were whining, like their problems didn’t matter, and I didn’t really care. A lot of people criticized FFXIII for its linear world. I didn’t realize how linear it was until I was dropped into the wide open space of Cross. In Chrono Cross you can talk to everyone, you don’t have to, but you want to. Everyone has something to say, some quest to send you on, some hint to give you, and if you are lucky: even a story to tell. The cities feel alive, and the characters feel real. FFXIII lacks both cities and other people. Maybe Square-Enix though no one would notice?
There is so much more I could bring up. How Cross has a battle system that forces the player to actually think about each and every move they make, or how the games multiple branching story lines have almost certainly ensured another play through, or how the games themes of man’s effect on nature, along with the nature of reality itself has left me actually feeling bad for my in game actions. For now though, I think it is sufficient to say that Chrono Cross is a shining diamond in the crumbing mines that is the gaming industry. My only regret is that it took me this long to finally play it.