3/2 - I dreamt I was a furry.

Chrono Cross

     If you had a Super NES and never played Chrono Trigger, you're clearly either some kind of sociopath or just very, very unfortunate. To summarize, Trigger was the story of a young man of indeterminate age and very, very few words, traveling through time to stop a gigantic planet-eating hedgehog from destroying the future. A cast of cool, likeable characters, revolutionary non-random battles, combination attacks, and a subtle touch of humor poking through at all times.

     Fans waited for Chrono Cross with baited breath from the moment they found that secret ending where the robot in drag said "Would you like to see a Chrono Trigger 2? That would be nice, huh?" And finally, it happened- Chrono Cross came out in the United States. The buzz was louder than a hive full of yellow jackets. It was like the Hive Full Of Yellow Jackets Rave Mix with tooth-rattling bass and that radio static sound all the remixers seem to think sounds really neat. All I heard were raving reviewers and gamers screaming about the number of playable characters, and all the gorgeous graphics. And until recently, I had simply assumed that the game was the most awesome thing ever. Then I got to play it and was amazed... at how utterly frustrating it was.

     Don't get me wrong. The graphics are absolutely beautiful. They opted for a more stylized, cartoony feel on characters as opposed to the nearly lifelike looks Square has enforced on their other games. And for once it looks good. The characters actually look like they belong in the backgrounds (unlike certain parts of Final Fantasies VIII through X). The music is great in most scenes, with a sort of mellow Caribbean or Celtic ring to it that suits the 'tropical islands' theme of the game perfectly. The battle theme is kind of a sleeper, but that's made up for by the return of Lucca's theme as the victory fanfare. The problems are mainly with the gameplay itself.

     First I must bring up something Cross fanatics have to grudgingly admit: This game doesn't really have a hell of a lot to do with time travel. The story follows young Serge, a mute man-child who beats up two worlds worth of monsters with a giant oar. Whil making fishy faces with his Square standard issue childhood friend/love interest Leena, he gets phased into an alternate universe where he died in an accident as a kid and soldiers are trying to capture him. To the rescue comes scantily-clad, cockneyed Kid. She then proceeds to either lead or follow Serge on his journey. I'm not sure of which.

     It gets hard to summarize the story from there as it splits off into odd tangents depending on who you ask to help you get into the castle. Ultimately, you end up in the castle whether you chose the KISS reject, the odd, effeminate sorcerer/thief, or the gay guy from Saber Marionette J. There you meet the villain, Lynx, a betrenchcoated cat person who is so the villain it's not even funny. Stuff happens, Serge hops between the two worlds fetching things and killing other things in a traditional RPG fashion, except the heroes have only the vaguest clues of where to go. When you're told to get something, you'd better have written it down, because people don't like to repeat useful details. If not for GameFAQs, I would have never passed the Hydra Marsh sub-subquest.

Spoiler Section

     Yeah right. Like anyone who's still reading this hasn't already beaten the game. After an odd, irrelevant couple of scenes involving a chronically flirting, francophonic female jester (Harle, presumably as in 'harlequin') Serge and his ever-growing BATTALION of characters storm Fort Draconia to face off with Lynx- I mean, General Viper, since Lynx is only a mysterious visitor and couldn't possibly be up to anything. You fight both of them, then Lynx pulls a stunt that puts his mind in Serge's body. Kid and (insert name of random party member) don't notice Lynx has lost the ability to speak and Serge is now licking himself and help Lynx-Serge defeat Serge-Lynx. Then Lynx-Serge stabs Kid in her eternally bared midriff.

     Stuff happens. Serge-Lynx meets up with Yoda and Harle in the astral plane. Harle, at the same time charming and terrifying in a way I don't understand, paces up and down walls and sort of explains the connection between Serge and Lynx. Back in one of the real worlds (god it's so confusing) Serge... Lynx... Hell, let's just call him Zap Rowsdower. Zap Rowsdower and pals discover that they need to get into the Dead Sea so they can go back to the other other world, and to get in there they need to get rid of the now-evil Masamune by getting the Einlanzer from Garai, a warrior who was betrayed by Radius, the old man from the beginning of the game who happened to be a former Dragoon. That last sentence was purposely worded to convey the sense of frustration and hopeless confusion the game instills in the player. Let's take a brief intermission from said sentence.

      Getting back to the game, the new combat system made the game feel more like a very expensive 3-D card game, not unlike Magic: The Gathering, except cuter. There are six Elemental colors, and all characters and enemies in the game has an 'innate' element. This basically amounts to characters themselves being nearly useless vessels to carry more powerful like-colored Elements into a battle. You can use each Element once per battle, so once a character has exhausted their special Tech attacks, they're more or less doomed to spend the rest of the battle casting healing spells and stuff. You can run away from any battle, any time though, even bosses, so if things aren't going your way, you can run away and 'reshuffle the deck' so to speak.

     The difficulty of enemies in the game varies to the point balance doesn't exist anymore. Levels have been done away with, adding a new system involving Star Power (flashbacks to Super Mario RPG and Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, anyone?). That means there's really not a lot of incentive to fight the wandering non-random encounter enemies except to steal elements and build up gold (you also gain like an extra hit point for every victory). Some bosses are incredibly easy (the Hi-Ho Dwarves) and others are maddeningly hard (Garai, Miguel). Maybe it's just me, but should a spindly man in a pith helmet with a very small role be able to kill me easier than any of the Six Dragon Kings?



While browsing for Chrono Cross images to stick in this piece, I stumbled across a treasure trove of cosplay pictures. Some of them were even relevant, which is remarkable considering nine times out of ten, when I get cosplay pictures during a Google image search, they're not even from the same series. Actually, typical Google results go something like "screenshot, same screenshot, same screenshot, fanart, cosplay, automobile, same screenshot again, food product." Two things stand out in my mind about this girl though, the fact that she can almost pull off the look (hair needs that 'my head is made of straw' look, though) and, like in the game itself, the miniskirt never reveals her underwear from any angle. Sadly, shortly after this picture was taken, the girl was brutally murdered by what witnesses described as a seven-foot tall cat. Mute, blue-haired boyfriend wanted for questioning.

By the way, if you ever need to clear the room at an anime convention, a cheap extendable plastic sword and impying you're about to give a prostate exam will usually do the trick. If my art teacher were here today, she'd probably scream at the sight of 'Yuri's' proportion-defying right arm. "Mister cameraman, can we try that shot again? I was biting my lip and my friend seems to be about to start laughing or hurling or something." (Apologies to longtime Third Half fans: I'm not really used to criticizing anime-loving girls in skimpy outfits who are under 300 pounds. Rest assured next time I make fun of cosplayers, I'll pull no punches.)