Chrono Cross (クロノ・クロス Kurono Kurosu?) is a console role-playing game developed and published by Square for the Sony PlayStation. It is the sequel to Chrono Trigger. Unlike its predecessor's "Dream Team", Chrono Cross was developed primarily by scenarist and director Masato Kato and other programmers from Chrono Trigger, including art director Yasuyuki Honne and sound planner Minoru Akao. Composer Yasunori Mitsuda scored Chrono Cross and Nobuteru Yūki designed its characters.
The story of Chrono Cross focuses on a teenage boy named Serge and a theme of parallel worlds. Faced with an alternate reality in which he died as a child, Serge endeavors to discover the truth of the two worlds' divergence. The flashy thief Kid and forty-three other characters assist him in his travels around the tropical archipelago El Nido. Struggling to uncover his past and find the mysterious Frozen Flame, Serge is chiefly challenged by Lynx, a shadowy antagonist working to apprehend him.
Upon its release in Japan in 1999 and in North America in 2000, Chrono Cross received high ratings and critical acclaim, earning a rare perfect 10.0 score from GameSpot. The game's 1.5 million copies shipped worldwide led to a Greatest Hits re-release and continued life in Japan as part of the Ultimate Hits series. A "Millennium Edition" featuring a calendar, clock, and music sampler disc was also released.
Chrono Cross (like Trigger until its recent DS port) was never released in PAL territories.
Chrono Cross features standard RPG gameplay with certain innovations. Players advance the game by controlling Serge through the game's world by foot and boat. Navigation between areas is conducted via an overworld map, depicting the landscape from a scaled-down overhead view. Around the island, the world is villages, outdoor areas, and dungeons, through which the player moves in three dimensions. Locations such as cities and forests are represented by more realistically scaled field maps, in which players can converse with locals to procure items and services, solve puzzles and challenges, or encounter enemies. Like Chrono Trigger, the game features no random encounters; enemies are openly visible on field maps or lie in wait to ambush the party. Touching the monster switches perspectives to a battle screen, where players physically attack, use Elements, defend, or run away from the enemy. Battles are turn-based, allowing the player infinite time to select an action from the available menu. For both the playable characters and the CPU-controlled enemies, each attack reduces their number of hit points, which can be restored through Elements and Consumable Elements. When a playable character loses all hit points, he or she faints. If all the player's characters fall in battle, the game ends and must be restored from a previously saved chapter—except for specific storyline-related battles that allow the player to lose.
Chrono Cross's developers aimed to break new ground in the genre, and the game features several innovations. The game's magical system focuses on Elements, which unleash magic effects upon the enemy or party and must be equipped for use (much like the materia of 1997's Final Fantasy VII). Elements can be purchased from shops or found in treasure chests littered throughout areas. Once acquired, they are allocated to a grid whose size and shape are unique to each character. They are ranked according to eight tiers; certain high-level Elements can only be assigned on equivalent tiers in a character's grid. With each level up, the grid expands, allowing more powerful Elements to be equipped. Elements are divided into six paired oppositional types, or "colors," each with a natural effect. These pairs are Red (fire/magma) and Blue (water/ice), Green (wind/flora), Yellow (earth/lightning), White (light/cosmos), and Black (darkness/gravity). Each character has an innate color, enhancing the power of using same-color Elements. Chrono Cross features a "field effect", which keeps track of Element color used in the upper corner of the battle screen. If the field is purely one color, the power of Elements of that color will be enhanced, while Elements of the opposite color will be weakened. Characters also innately learn some special techniques, called "Techs", that are unique to each character but otherwise act like Elements. Like Chrono Trigger, characters can combine certain Techs to make more powerful Double or Triple Techs. Players can run away from all conflicts, including boss fights and the final battle.
Another unique aspect of Chrono Cross is its stamina bar. At the beginning of a battle, each character has seven points of stamina. When a character attacks or uses an Element, stamina is decreased according to the potency of the attack. Stamina slowly recovers when other characters and enemies perform actions in battle. Characters with stamina below one point must wait to take action, and Elements require all seven stamina points to use (if you use an Element at any number less than seven, the character's stamina gauge falls into the negative and the character must wait longer than usual to recover). With each battle, players can enhance statistics such as strength and defense. However, no system of experience points exists; after four or five upgrades, statistics remain static until players defeat a boss. This adds a star to a running count shown on the status screen, which allows for another few rounds of statistical increases. Players can equip characters with weapons, armor, helmets, and accessories. Consumable Elements may be used to restore hit points or heal status ailments after the battle. Certain accessories can be equipped to provide special effects in combat—such as the Power Seal, which upgrades attack power. Items and equipment may be purchased or found on field maps, often in treasure chests. Unlike Elements, weapons and armor cannot be purchased; instead, the player must obtain base materials, such as copper, bronze, or bone, for a blacksmith to forge for a fee. The items can later be disassembled into their original components at no cost.
The existence of two parallel dimensions plays a significant role in the game. Players must go back and forth between worlds to recruit party members, obtain items, and advance the plot. Much of the population of either world have counterparts in the other; some party members can even visit their other versions. The player must often search for items or places found exclusively in one world. Events in one dimension sometimes have an impact on another—for instance, cooling scorched ground on an island allows vegetation to grow in the other world. This system assists the presentation of certain themes, including the questioning of the importance of one's past decisions and humanity's role in destroying the environment. Rounding out the notable facets of Chrono Cross 's gameplay is the New Game+ option and multiple endings. As in Chrono Trigger, players who have completed the game may choose to start the game over using data from the previous session. Character levels, learned techniques, equipment, and items gathered copy over, while acquired money and some story-related items are discarded. On a New Game+, players can access twelve endings. Scenes viewed depend on players' progress in the game before the final battle, which can be fought at any time.
Chrono Cross features a diverse cast of forty-five party members. To create characters, developers brainstormed traits and archetypes. Originally, sixty-four were planned. Each character is outfitted with an innate Element affinity and three unique special abilities. The presence of six elements is a departure from Chrono Trigger 's limit at four, and Chrono Cross does provide an explanation for the change, that Chrono Trigger 's magic involved manipulating four basic universal properties, and that Chrono Cross's magic employs manufactured tools to effect changes in nature. If taken to the world opposite their own, characters react to their counterparts (if available). Many characters tie into crucial plot events. Since it is impossible to obtain all forty-five in one playthrough, players must replay the game to witness everything. Through the use of the New Game+ feature, players can ultimately obtain all characters on one save the file. Several characters speak with unique accents. Done manually in the Japanese release, implementing accents the same way in the English version would have been impossible due to size restraints. As a result, developers coded a system for the North American release that produces accents by modifying basic text. The system changes the text template based on the character speaking.
Serge, the game's protagonist, is a seventeen-year-old boy with blue hair who lives in the fishing village of Arni. One day, he slips into an alternate world in which he drowned ten years before. Determined to find the truth behind the incident, he follows a predestined course that leads him to save the world. He is assisted by Kid, a feisty, skilled thief who seeks the mythical Frozen Flame. Portrayed as willful and tomboyish due to her rough, thieving past, she helps Serge sneak into Viper Manor. Raised by Lucca as a child, she vows to find and defeat Lynx, an anthropomorphic panther who burned down Lucca's orphanage. A sadistic and cruel agent of FATE, he is bent on finding Serge and succeeds in taking his body. He travels with Harle, a mysterious, playful girl dressed like a harlequin. Created and sent by the Dragon God to shadow Lynx and one day steal the Frozen Flame from Chronopolis, she painfully fulfills her duty though smitten with Serge. To this end, she helped Lynx manipulate the Acacia Dragoons, the powerful militia governing the islands of El Nido. As the Dragoons maintain order, they contend with Fargo, a former Dragoon turned pirate captain who holds a grudge against their leader, General Viper. Their home base, Viper Manor, is also infiltrated by Serge, Kid, and one of these three characters—Nikki, a musician, Pierre, a hero-in-training, or Guile, a mysterious magician. Though tussling with Serge initially, the Acacia Dragoons—whose ranks include the fierce warriors Karsh, Zoah, Marcy, and Glenn—later assist him when the militaristic nation of Porre invades the archipelago. The invasion brings Norris, a heartful commander of Porre, and Grobyc, a prototype cyborg soldier to the islands, respectively. As they too seek the Frozen Flame, the plot unfolds amidst tens of other characters.
The story of Chrono Cross begins with Serge, who must collect komodo dragon scales on the beach for his friend Leena. The setting is El Nido, a tropical archipelago inhabited by ancient natives, mainland colonists, and beings called Demi-humans who are often prejudiced against. While meeting his friend, Serge slips into an alternate dimension in which he drowned on the beach ten years prior. While searching for the truth behind his supposed death, Serge meets a thief from the infamous group called Radical Dreamers, Kid, who is intent on finding the mysterious Frozen Flame. Serge joins her search, and they recruit help and infiltrate Viper Manor, rumored to host the artifact. Viper Manor is home to the Acacia Dragoons the combative, affluent, and revered protectors of the island. While in the manor's library, a mysterious old man known as the prophet of time reveals that ten years before the present, the universe split into two dimensions one in which Serge lived (Home world), and one in which he perished (Another world). The shadowy antagonist, Lynx, foils the break-in, poisoning Kid and causing the would-be thieves to flee.
Kid eventually recuperates, and Serge prepares to journey to Fort Dragonia, an ancient ruin left by Dragonians, a mysterious race gone extinct a hundred years before. There, the Acacia Dragoons intend to make a stand against an invading continental army of Porre. While preparing, Serge gains the ability to travel between the dimensions and secure further assistance and items, including the Water Dragon's breath, capable of freezing lava. He attempts to voyage by boat to the fort's shores but is interrupted by the pirate Fargo. Initially imprisoned, Serge is freed when the ship comes under attack from ghosts. After earning Fargo's respect, Serge enters the fort and ascends to its highest floor. Through the use of a Dragonian artifact called the Dragon Tear, Lynx switches bodies with Serge. Unknowing of the switch, Kid confides in Lynx; he stabs her as the real Serge helplessly watches. Lynx boasts of his victory and banishes Serge to a strange realm called the Temporal Vortex. He takes Kid under his wing, brainwashing her to believe the real Serge (in Lynx's body) is her enemy.
Serge escapes with help from Harle. Discovering that his new body prevents him from traveling across the dimensions, he is marooned in the Home world. He sets out to regain his former body and learn more about the universal split that occurred ten years earlier. He speaks with his mother and recruits new members to his cause. Hearing that a Demi-human sage confined on a cruise ship may be able to help him, he journeys to the S.S. Zelbess. He gains the sage's favor and is given an artifact that allows access to the Dead Sea, a mysterious body of water. While attempting to enter, he discovers the evil sword Masamune and must counter it with the holy sword Einlanzer. Once inside the Dead Sea, he finds a wasteland frozen in time, dotted with futuristic ruins. At the center, he locates a man named Miguel and presumably Home world's Frozen Flame. Charged with guarding the Dead Sea by an entity named FATE, Miguel unsuccessfully battles Serge. To prevent Serge from obtaining the Frozen Flame, FATE destroys the Dead Sea. Still, in Lynx's body, Serge is rescued by the Sky Dragon, one of six mythical entities that inhabit El Nido.
Able to return to Another world, Serge finds the Acacia Dragoons in dire straits from Porre's invasion and rescues General Viper's daughter, Riddel. After collecting six relics from the Dragons, he locates that dimension's Dragon Tear and travels to Fort Dragonia to initiate a ceremony to recreate his body. He succeeds after staving off Lynx at the base of the fortress. With the Dragon relics in tow, he enters the Sea of Eden, Another world's physical equivalent of the Dead Sea. He finds a temporal research facility called Chronopolis; inside are Lynx, Kid, and the Frozen Flame. Confronted by Serge, Lynx bonds with the entity FATE, the main computer of the facility, to defeat the boy in battle. He is unsuccessful, and with FATE's capitulation, the defense systems of Chronopolis fall. After uniting in air, the six Dragons fly over the facility and scoop up the Frozen Flame. Kid falls into a coma, and Harle bids the party goodbye to fly with the Dragons. The new villains soar to Terra Tower, a massive structure raised from the seafloor.
Serge regroups his party and tends to Kid, who remains comatose. Continuing his adventure, he obtains and cleanses the Masamune. He then uses the Dragon relics and shards of the Dragon Tears to create the mythic Element Chrono Cross. The spiritual power of the Masamune later allows him to lift Kid from her coma and prepare to assault Terra Tower. He outfits his boat with an anti-gravity device and travels to battle the Dragons. At Terra Tower, the prophet of the time, revealed to be Belthasar from Chrono Trigger, visits him and imparts the boy's history. This information is later expatiated by accompanied apparitions. Serge learns that the time research facility Chronopolis created El Nido thousands of years ago after a catastrophic experimental failure drew it to the past. The introduction of a temporally foreign object in history caused the planet to pull in a counterbalance from a different dimension. This was Dinopolis, a city of Dragonians parallel universe descendants of Chrono Trigger's Reptites. The institutions warred and Chronopolis subjugated the Dragonians. Humans captured their chief creation the Dragon God, an entity capable of controlling nature.
Chronopolis divided this entity into six pieces and created an Elements system, which individuals could use for combat or trade. FATE terraformed an archipelago, erased the memories of most Chronopolis's staff, and sent them to inhabit and populate its new paradise. Chronopolis remained obscured from view by clouds and surrounded by poisonous reefs. Thousands of years later, a panther demon attacked a three-year-old Serge. His father Wazuki, took him to find assistance at Marbule together with Miguel, but Wazuki's boat blew off course due to a raging magnetic storm caused by Schala, the princess of the Kingdom of Zeal, who had long ago accidentally fallen to a place known as the Darkness Beyond Time and began merging with Lavos. Schala's storm nullified Chronopolis's defenses and allowed Serge to contact the Frozen Flame. Approaching it healed Serge but corrupted Wazuki. By touching the Flame, Serge was designated it's Arbiter by the Prometheus Circuit, simultaneously preventing FATE from using the artifact by extension. The Dragons were aware of this situation, creating a seventh Dragon under the storm's cover. This Dragon was Harle, who manipulated Lynx by serving as his accomplice.
After Serge returned home, FATE manipulated Wazuki to try and kill the boy, which would release the lock on the Frozen Flame. Wazuki drowned Serge and became Lynx. However, ten years after the event, the thief Kid—presumably on Belthasar's orders—went back in time to save Serge and split the dimensions. FATE, locked out of the Frozen Flame again, knew that Serge would one day cross to Another world and prepared to apprehend him. Lynx switched bodies with Serge to dupe the biological check of Chronopolis on the Frozen Flame. When Serge defeated FATE, the freed Dragons snatched the Frozen Flame and raised Terra Tower. Belthasar then reveals that these events were part of a plan he had orchestrated named Project Kid, and that its final purpose would soon be revealed. Serge continues to the top of Terra Tower and defeats the Dragon God.
Continuing to the beach where the split in dimensions had occurred, Serge finds three apparitions resembling the original team from Chrono Trigger. More of the game's history is revealed, such as the revelation on that Belthasar planned the entire plot to empower Serge to free Schala from melding with Lavos. The resulting fused being called the Time Devourer would consume and destroy space-time. Lucca explains that Kid is Schala's clone, sent to the modern age to take part in Project Kid. Crono entreats Serge to use the Chrono Cross to free Schala. Serge uses a Time Egg given to him by Belthasar to enter the Darkness Beyond Time and vanquish the Time Devourer. He separates Schala from Lavos and restores the dimensions to one. Thankful, Schala muses on evolution and the struggle of life and returns Serge to his home, noting that he will forget the entire adventure. She then seemingly records the experience in her diary, set upon a desk on which a wedding photo of Kid and Serge appears. The meaning of the scenes shown during the credits, depicting "Kid" seemingly searching for someone in modern times, is confirmed as a means to make the players think of their own reality and the possibility that a version of "Kid" exists in it and would one day meet them. The ambiguous ending leaves the events of the characters' lives following the game up to interpretation.
Chrono Cross employs story arcs, characters, and themes from Radical Dreamers. An illustrated text adventure, it was created to wrap up an unresolved plotline of Chrono Trigger. Though it borrows from Radical Dreamers in its exposition, Chrono Cross is not a remake of Radical Dreamers, but a larger effort to fulfill that game's purpose. The plots of the games are irreconcilable. To resolve continuity issues and acknowledge Radical Dreamers, the developers of Chrono Cross suggested the game happened in a parallel dimension. A notable difference between the two games is that Magus, present in Radical Dreamers as Gil, is absent from Chrono Cross. Director Masato Kato originally planned for Magus to appear in disguise as Guile, but scrapped the idea due to plot difficulties. As Richard Honeywood translated the game for its North American release, he worked with Kato to rewrite certain dialogue for ease of comprehension in English.
Before 1999, Chrono Trigger 's scenario director Masato Kato was asked to develop a new Chrono game in the style of Radical Dreamers. At the time, he had also been considering a direct sequel to Chrono Trigger intended to wrap up certain unfinished plot threads. Kato and the game's producer, Hiromichi Tanaka, decided to pursue a different course as Chrono Trigger would soon be ported to Final Fantasy Chronicles to create a sense of continuity. Kato remarked that setting the story of Chrono Cross differently with a new cast would allow those who had forgotten or never played Chrono Trigger to take up the game without feeling confused. Developers decided against integrating heavy use of time travel into the game, as they felt it would be "rehashing and cranking up the volume of the last game". Kato confirmed that aside from parallel worlds, the central theme of Chrono Cross was the fate of Schala, which he was previously unable to expound upon in Chrono Trigger. He overall aimed to make the player realize that alternate futures and possibilities may exist with the ending sequence, desiring to have the realization "not...stop with the game".
Chrono Cross was scored by freelance video game music composer Yasunori Mitsuda who previously worked on Chrono Trigger. After being contacted to compose the score by Kato, Mitsuda decided to center his work around old-world cultural influences, including Mediterranean, Fado, Celtic, and percussive African music. To complement the theme of parallel worlds, he gave Another and Home respectively dark and bright moods. Xenogears contributor Tomohiko Kira played guitar on the beginning and ending themes. Noriko Mitose, as selected by Masato Kato, sang the ending song, "Radical Dreamers - The Unstolen Jewel". Ryo Yamazaki, a synthesizer programmer for Square Enix, helped Mitsuda transfer his ideas to the PlayStation's sound capabilities. Mitsuda was happy to accomplish even half of what he envisioned. Certain songs were ported from the score of Radical Dreamers, such as "Gale", "Frozen Flame", and "Viper Mansion". Other entries in the soundtrack contain leitmotifs from Chrono Trigger and Radical Dreamers. The melody of "Far Promise ~ Dream Shore" features prominently in "The Dream That Time Dreams" and "Voyage ~ Another World."
Once production concluded, Mitsuda played Chrono Cross to record his impressions and observe how the tracks intermingled with scenes. Players who preordered the game received a sampler disc of five songs. In 1999, a three-CD official soundtrack was released in Japan. The soundtrack won the Gold Prize for the PlayStation Awards of 2000 In 2005, Square Enix reissued the soundtrack due to popular demand. Earlier that year Mitsuda announced a new arranged album of music was scheduled for release on July 2005. It did not materialize, though at a Play! A Video Game Symphony concert in May 2006, he revealed it would be out "within the year" and would feature acoustic music. Later in 2006, Mitsuda alleged that the album would actually be released in 2007, though it still has not been released.
Reception and criticism
Chrono Cross shipped 850,000 and 650,000 units in Japan and abroad respectively. It was re-released once in North America as a Greatest Hits title and again as part of the Japanese Ultimate Hits PlayStation series. Critics praised the game's complex plot, innovative battle system, varied characters, moving score, vibrant graphics, and success in breaking convention with its predecessor. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the game a Gold Award, scoring it 10/10/9.5 in their three reviewer format. GameSpot awarded the game a perfect 10, a rare score from the site, and its Console Game of the Year Award for 2000 Famitsu rated the game 36 out of 40 from four reviewers. As of July 2008, Game Rankings and Metacritic rate the game Cross at 92% and 94/100 respectively.
In terms of negative criticism, some reviewers claimed that the game's flaws were its vague ending, confusing plot elements, and narrative pacing problems. Fan reaction was largely positive, though certain fans complained that the game was too far a departure from its predecessor and/or that it possessed a multitude of problems, including a lagging battle system and a lack of character development. It should be noted that producer Hiromichi Tanaka and director Masato Kato were aware of the changes in development, specifically intending to provide an experience different from Chrono Trigger.
There are currently no known plans to continue the Chrono series. In June 2009, Shinji Hashimoto, who was Senior Vice-President of Square-Enix at the time, cited low sales as the reason why the company was no longer interested in the series.
In 2001, Hironobu Sakaguchi revealed that the company's staff wanted to develop a new game and were discussing script ideas. Though Kato was interested in a new title, the project had not been greenlighted. Square then registered a trademark for Chrono Break (Chrono Brake in Japan) in the United States, causing speculation concerning a new sequel. Nothing materialized, and the trademark was dropped in the US on November 13, 2003, though it still stands in Japan.