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Chrono Cross Preview

Johnny_Liu By:
PUBLISHER Squaresoft 

Human organs, Grandmas, and more: Going, going, GONE!

Thanks to online auctioning and exchange sites, old games are getting a second lease on life. Old games can now come out from drawers and shelves and into the hands of greedy collectors willing to pay vastly huge markups. It's a tough call. As a gamer, perhaps an emulator will suffice, but there's still just something about having the original game. Sometimes things will be good, like the beautifully mint Genesis set I recently scored; and then there's the bad, like the first born child you'll give up for Dracula X or the rare PC Engine LT.

One of the higher priced games is Chrono Trigger. But the reason behind the inflation is that this is one damn good game. In fact, it's my favorite RPG, bar none. And now a sequel cometh our way.

Chrono Cross is the follow up to the SNES original, taking place 20 years after Chrono Trigger. You'll find some nostalgic references to the original. For example, there's still money hidden under the bed. The hero is still silent. And the room you start out in is oddly familiar. Nonetheless, the story is self-contained, meaning you won't have to play through Trigger to understand Cross.

Serge is a typical boy, growing up along the coast in a sea side town. He has a childhood sweetie, friends and neighbors who cherish him. But the vision of a blood covered sword in his hand and a dying girl before him sets in motion events that will change his life. Everything that he knew will crumble away.

The original Chrono Trigger featured battles that started immediately. You would walk around on an overhead map, and battles would take place on the same screen. Chrono Cross opts for the familiar 'screen dissolve' that we see in nearly every RPG today. It still has those overhead style maps, but as the colors melt away you are brought to a 3D battlefield. The dissolve happens quickly and time isn't wasted on too many pre-battle tracking shots. You get right into the action. I like the cut of that jib.

Chrono Cross is turn-based without any timing mechanisms. You have a choice between a light, medium, or heavy attack. Each of these is listed by the percentage chance of connecting. Choose a light attack and you will have a 90% chance of hitting. But choose heavy and you only have 70%, with the increased risk of completely missing. The light attacks will help you build up your attack percentages, but it isn't always as easy as 1, 2, 3. This limited randomness creates a solid sense of strategy and gameplay that's more than following the same sequences.

And the graphics? Square sure can do those FMVs. We know that. Thankfully, the FMV is less overblown, now seemingly employed as more of a storytelling tool.

The in-game graphics do a great job of matching the FMV. This allows for better transitions between the two. Backgrounds are well detailed and characters are well animated. The use of 3D and 2D graphic composites work really well. When major characters talk, a little picture of their heads is shown in the text squares.

Chrono Cross does look very impressive. If the final version continues what I've sampled so far, then this will be one to wait for. But while you're waiting, there's still Chrono Trigger. Just don't pay too much for it, if you know what I mean.

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