Double Agent
Le Trésor Interdit - September 20, 2000 - Chris Jones

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this column are those of the participants and the moderator, and do not necessarily reflect those of the GIA. There is coarse language and potentially offensive material afoot. If you ask me, most sports could benefit from an infusion of rocketry. Don't say we didn't warn you.

I got numerous letters today complaining there was nothing worth talking about in CC that wasn't a spoiler... which of course means this column will have to be extremely long. And there shouldn't be any real spoilers in here, but if you haven't started the game yet and don't even want to know character names, proceed with caution.


Not even top 5. Ouch.
Hey Chris,

Alright then, Chrono Cross. To be completely honest, I was a bit disappointed with it as well. Don't get me wrong, I still think it was one of the six best games for Playstation, but there was something missing nonetheless.

The game's biggest flaw is its exploratory nature. At several points in the game, I didn't feel the story had much direction. I did have a broadly defined goal, but the individual steps were unclear, leading to visit upon visit to each and every isle, in both worlds. It wasn't SaGa Frontier, to be sure, but it was too vague for me : I wasn't gripped enough.

Second, there are too many loose ends and outright plot holes by the end of the game. I can't reveal them now, but look at for a complete list (crono 228's Story Guide). Even after finishing New Game+ twice and getting all of the hidden endings, I couldn't even guess at most of the answers.

Lastly, but this is most of all a matter of personal taste, I thought the resolution of the story quite weak. I won't spoil it here, of course, but suffice to say, it feels completely tacked on to me, especially the inclusion of you-know-what-or-who[vague statement made vaguer - ed]

Still, although its story was a bit of a disappointment (except for some brilliant plot twists, but more on those monday), its gameplay was the best I've ever experienced in an RPG. The game was too easy, but I still thought it was fun to allocate all my elements manually (probably spent ten hours of game time on that my first play through) and physical attacks are sooooo satisfying in this game (especially with Serge's best weapon). The characters, although I don't like their portraits a whole lot, aare moostly chaarmiing aas weell (Star Child). But most of all, I loved the references to CT. It was like coming home.

So there you have it! More on The Monday of Revelations...

Sir Farren, removing his spoiler-muffler.

It's way too soon for me to rank CC against the rest of the PSX bestiary, but I think it will place towards the top in the end, if only because it's been produced at the tail end of Square's learning curve for the system. A lot of your comments don't hold true for me - only once or twice was I confused about where to go, which is not an unreasonable amount for a 40+ hour game, and I won't complain about plot holes until I've made a concerted effort to see everything and do everything in the game, which will probably never happen.

The gameplay, however, was really great. Kudos to Square for pulling of a menu system even I enjoyed, and filler battles that didn't feel tedious (probably because they were largely optional.) CC was easy, and given the freedom provided in the game maybe that's a bad thing - I would have liked to have been challenged to find the right elements and party members to get past a few bosses - but it's livable.

You tell me that it's evolution, well, you know...
Although I have not completed Chrono Cross yet (I'm about 25 hours into it) I will voice my opinion of it thus far: Chrono Cross is an amazing game. It excels in all aspects; the graphics cannot be improved upon using Playstation hardware, the music is uniformly excellent with some real classic tracks, the gameplay is deep and well thought out, the story (so far, at least) is deep and well thought out. However... this game is not perfect (no game is) and suffers from the presence of seemingly inescapable RPG conventions (you freely enter people's two room homes to find them milling around aimlessly, they're more than happy to tell you the exact location of where the next plot catalyst will take place even though you just broke into their house and took an Element from a treasure chest they kept in clear visibility, guards blocking entrances to important places have business to attend to there only until that's where the plot directs you, etc.) .. I suppose these are the elements which distinguish RPGs from other types of games, and they're done exceptionally well, just like everything else in Chrono Cross, but I think the genre is ready to evolve. Does a "city" really need to consist of three stores, an Inn, and a few "hint giver" houses? Games like Metal Gear Solid (which wasn't a true RPG, but had a plot to rival one) and Vagrant Story (which was a true RPG and did away with many of the tired conventions I speak of) are, in my opinion, a step up the evolutionary ladder. So, to put an end to my rambling, Chrono Cross is a fabulous, immaculately conceived game with some slight innovations, but does not produce the same sense of excitement you get when experiencing a game brimming with radical ideas and major innovations.

- Clever Alias Derived From A Personally Beloved Video Game

Er, yeah, what he said. CADFAPBVG's dead on about a lot of the issues that are starting to bug me about RPGs after playing them for years, and that's as good a summation as I could come up with as to why I prefer VS to CC. Still, the graphics and music and even gameplay in CC were brighter and more colorful than VS, and in some vague way the game was "funner", so I suspect I'll be in the minority on this one.

Zany accents and other such stuff

Rembember back several weeks ago when Square Europe announced that they wouldn't be localizing Chrono Cross? Remember how they said that "language difficulties" and other such stuff was keeping them from effectively localizing the game for our European friends? Everyone thought they were blowing smoke. Everyone thought that Square Europe was too lazy, didn't have enough money, was hiding something from the public, etc. Well, after playing through the game and seeing the sheer *volume* of text in the game, I think I can sympathize. And almost every character has his/her own specific accent/dialect. Also, if you paid attention to the credits and/or got the hidden "developer's" ending, you'll notice that many of the accents were generated programmatically on-the-fly from a generic-English base. As a programmer, that just sent shivers down my spine. That's some pretty heavy duty parsing/translating I would think, not to mention the at least cursory knowledge you would have to have of German, French, etc., to be able to generate a believable accent. Anyway, my point is, everyone should take a step back and realize that Square Europe was not trying to pull something over on us after all. Localizing Chrono Cross into English looks like it was an order of magnitude more difficult than the average RPG. Trying to do this for *several* European languages is almost unfathomable. Still, none of this changes the fact that our European friends are still missing out :(

Mad props to Richard Honeywood, the English localization director/specialist and auto-accent generator programmer. Sorry all you Ted Woolsey fans, but Mr. Honeywood is my new hero :)


Yet again, a letter nails what I wanted to say better than I could have said it. The precise excuse Square gave at the time was "Chrono Cross has a particularly complicated text system which does not suit the syntax and morphology of German and the romance languages" which did indeed seem like a crock at the time. No longer - even had the game been straight text and not some form of on-the-fly accentuation, I'm not sure how they could have done so many accents for European languages. (As far as I'm aware, only English and Japanese tend to pay a lot of attention to accents in writing, but I could be wrong. Readers are welcome to correct me here.)

Regardless, major props to Square for even bringing the game over to the US, because once upon a time such a mammoth translation job would have instantly deterred them. And a good translation overall, I might add.

I used to care but... things have changed

I'm sorry but now I must shock you by saying that chrono cross is the bane of my existence. It sucked more than I can articulate in under 500 words or without spoilers, therefore I won't even really try. I will simply say that I was extremely dissapointed with this game. It was the most anticipated game ever for me and I just thought it strayed way too far from the origional and got too farfetched. Xenogears was farfetched, and it rocked. Chrono cross on the other hand just didn't make it happen. It would have worked well as a standalone title, but to tack the chrono trigger name on this piece of garbage has forever shattered my love for square. What am i to do? weep silently and wait for ff9 to suck just as hard as CC did.

-punkdude-who has forever lost faith in good gaming.

p.s. Maybe i'm a freak, I HATED ff8 too. Go figure.

I had a good reply to this all worked out, but then realized with a little judicious cutting and pasting I could make somebody else provide the answer for me. Read on...

Don't believe in stuff, you'll just be dissapointed

Why are so many people disappointed with Chrono Cross? Simple. Their expectations were WAY too high for this game. They looked back five years to see Chrono Trigger and thought that it would have the same charm it did when they were 13 years old. Speaking of CT, I thought it was pretty funny how everyone suddenly loved it so much after they found out a sequel was coming out. I had never heard of so much praise for that game before. Where were these people two years ago when everyone was hailing that FF6 was the best RPG ever? I guess direct sequels have that kind of effect on people.

Good ole Drew had a nice saying: "You know the thing about us pessimists, we're either right, or pleasantly surprised." As for CC, I'm happy to report that I was indeed pleasantly surprised.

-Red Raven, who hasn't tried to get the other endings yet

Exactly! I don't think there's as much CT revisionism as you seem to, but there's no question in my mind that some people have canonized CT far beyond what it really is (a truly excellent RPG, but nothing more.) In a strange kind of way, games like CC and any new Final Fantasy are cursed by their own legacy, as people expect the same experience they had in the good old days. The only way to escape this is to stick close to the original, but that has it's own particular kind of curse.

I don't think complete pessimism's the way to go - why play RPGs at all, if you can't get a little excited about them - but in this case you probably got more enjoyment from the game overall than people who started drooling over this game from day one.

Still, I should note that I still think people who tried the game and hated it are to be commended, because at least they gave it a chance rather than condemming it immediately because it wasn't 2D.

Dictatorship now!
.....what kind of wuss ASKS PERMISSION to discuss something in his own column? I'm starting to picture you as Ziggy or Charlie Brown here, Chris...


I guess we just have differing perceptions here, because I tend to think of the column as belonging to you guys, the readers, more than me. If it wasn't for your letters, this would merely be a daily rant from me about insufficient innovation in handheld RPGs or something, and that would be Bad.

So when something comes up that I don't know your feelings on, I'm gonna ask. Simple as that.

It's not worthy! It's not worthy!
I also want Toriyama and Horii back for another CT too. Not because I like Toriyama in the least - I think his style generally sucks - huge musclebound guys and vaguely masculine looking women, all extremely disproportionate, and not because I like Horii because I think Dragon Quest has to be the most static and uninteresting RPG series ever made.

But I think that they really did bring something to 'Trigger. Toriyama's designs were surprisingly great. I mean, Crono was still the Iron Man Champion Teenager, but his style actually managed to imbibe the characters with a strange uniqueness... Crono doesn't say a word, but you still feel like he has a personality. It can't be the writing, because there is none. And the monster designs? Brilliant. Hell, everything about the game has a personality that you just can't mimic.

And Horii? I think he was responsible for the game's adventuresome spirit a la Dragon Quest rather than the brooding thematic "deep" spirit that Square seems to be fixated on. The Dragonball/quest influence in the game, while I despise those elements on their own, combined with the strength of design that the Square staff provided created probably the best RPG ever made in my eyes.

But Chrono Cross? The designs are boring. 80% of the characters are useless or jokes, and very few have any personality whatsoever. Serge has the personality of an exceedingly uninteresting brick, doing nothing but occasionally shaking his head. Hell, most of the characters personalities only go as deep as their accents. Whereas Chrono Trigger had the exact perfect number of characters (in my opinion) for an RPG, Chrono Cross falls victim to the stupid faux-depth "gotta catch 'em all" syndrome that a lot of games have incorporated these days. So we're basically left with 42 stock or undeveloped characters, a mute and a girl who gets a little more development... But not much more. Ties to 'trigger? Tenuous, at best, and a lot of them were akin to the revelations about The Force in Star Wars Episode 1, or "Did they really have to ruin it for us?"

Don't get me wrong, though. I enjoyed the game. The battle system was unique and actually BALANCED, although the game wasn't a huge challenge. The experience system was absolute brilliance, being able to run away from everything was a godsend, the graphics were mind boggling and the music... Um... Not Mitsuda's best. But decent.

So, well, Chrono Cross was a tad disappointing, but it was enjoyable and kept me out of trouble for a week or two. So the world is better for it.


Again, I'm gonna have to suggest that maybe it's not the game that's lacking, but just your nostalgia getting in the way. Serge and Chrono are almost exactly the same character, which is to say, they aren't really characters at all. CT and CC may be the truest Role Playing RPG's created in the past decade on a console, because the lack of any verbalized emotion or thought on the part of the main character forces the player to come up with their own, thereby pulling them further into the game. Really the only thing that Chrono has over Serge is a slightly arrogant grin on his character portrait, which may be all the edge he needs for you to say that Chrono has personality where Serge doesn't. Personally I felt I could get into Serge's head a bit easier than Chrono's, but there really isn't anything to differentiate the two when all is said and done.

Characters I'll get to in a bit, but let me just take this opportunity to say you're dead wrong about the sound track. CC is by far Mitsuda's best work, and it's obviously something he's been growing towards if you look at his past stuff. Creid almost feels like CC OST-lite, in retrospect. And if I say it, it must be true. End of discussion.

Which character was that, again?
The problem isn't with the character designs if you ask me. (Can anyone honestly look at Akira Toriyama's bubble-headed creations and acclaim them as VASTLY SUPERIOR?) The problem is that there are TOO MANY CHARACTERS. Such that they become indistinct from one another.

Have Akira Toriyama create a 40 character cartoon and eventually you're going to forget who each one is. Heck I get that feeling watching the absurd Dragon Ball Z cartoon. Who's this green alien / reptilian looking one again? How is he different from the last green alien / reptilian looking one?

With CC I don't feel like I'm managing a party of individuals. It's more like I'm swapping out items from my inventory. And since the only unique thing you see is usually the character's accent, party members become even less significant than the window frame style you choose for your dialog boxes. "Yes," "Aye," or "Oui" -- which do you prefer, Chris?


I'd take "Sì", personally, but that's just because I've got a thing for Italian girls. Some characters fared better than others, obviously, but there's no question that several were reduced to being a portrait and an accent. Even when I was able to get a little more story out of a character, it was a case of Gau-ism - take this otherwise pointless character to this otherwise useless place and a bit of backstory gets shown.

On the other hand, it is pretty amazing that out of 40-odd characters (of which I only saw 20-something, admittedly) none of them got confused with anybody else, at least on the purely visual level. So props to the character designer for that, at least.

Wow, man, that's like... deep, or something...
A sunlight dappled lake, surrounded on all sides by flawless sandy beaches, and towering vibrant pine trees.

The delicate petals of a rose, shaken slightly by a gently passing breeze.

A timid deer, it's mouth low to the ground as it innocently laps water from a crystal clear pond.

A couple in love, eyes only for each other, their hands folded together in blissful contentment.

The fluttering of a hummingbird's wings, blurring the edges of reality.

The laughter of children as they play beneath the sun, a golden glowing jewel in the sky.

And behind it's life giving rays, all the stars of the cosmos.

None of which compares to the awesome beauty that is Chrono Cross.


Well, it wasn't that great, but I remember feeling this way about RPGs once upon a time (ah, the passion of youth) so I put it up.

Not bad, by the way, but some of your imagery is a trifle cliche.

Age of Empires, by Homer
I know that I'm supposed to talk about Chrono Cross so here's my two cents (or sen since that's what it's called in Malaysia). I liked it better than Chrono Trigger. Not that I disliked CT or anything. With that out of the way (it was necessary to increase the chances of this letter being printed), I'd like to start bashing Microsoft/X-Box now.

I used (note the 'used') to love Microsoft. After all, but I practically grew up on Windows 3.1/95/98. I was even slightly (but only very slightly) happy when they annouced the X-Box. Now I'm praying that that infernal little contraption from Hell explodes in their faces. Why? Guess what words J. Allard, general manager in charge of the X-Box project, associates with PC games. Realism, solitary and cerebral. Okay...Console? Approachable, social and action. Fine as well. But here's the punch-line: "Console games have been more like comic books, and PC games more like the 'Iliad'." And check this one out: "Age of Empires is much more thought-provoking than any console game."

Now I understand that one person doesn't represent a company but he's the general manager of the X-Box project so what he says does reflect the company's policy in some way. And this is how he sees the console market. I felt like taking my copy of FFT and hitting him over the head with it. Does this guy even know what he's talking about?

I know that I'm not being at all coherent but I'm just so fed up of people slagging off console games but not knowing the first thing about them. What I'm basically saying is that people like Allard don't seem to have noticed that console games have moved beyond 'jump here and there using a cute animal character' type of games. Why is that?

TC (Rinoa's future husband)

P.S.: Age of Empires is a strategy game. The Starcraft type. Not to insult strtegy games or anything, but I doubt Age of Empires (or any computer game) is in any way more thought-provoking than Xenogears (or your favourite thought-provoking game :)).

Time for another Blasphemous Statement from Chris™: I think Mr. Allard's right about this. That is to say, console games are often bright and colorful while being capable of extremely deep and meaningful themes (think Maus or Watchmen) while PC games tend to have great original ideas but be totally unplayable. Everything works both ways.

The fact of the matter is, even the most "original" console games have often been done in one form or another on the PC years before. Where consoles actually shine is making the games enjoyable to play, because for me at least there's something about sitting on a couch with a controller that can't be matched by sitting at a desk with a keyboard. I'm all for console games being injected with a little PC ingenuity, and if the X-Box can bring me a story like The Longest Journey combined with Metal Gear Solid-type gameplay, I will personally kiss Bill Gates' feet. But in the meantime, I do think Mr. Allard needs to put up or shut up after making such statements.

The Rolls Royce of dungeon crawlers

Here's my two cents worth on why some might find Vagrant Story more exciting than Chrono Cross. Chrono Cross is a superb entry in a sub-genre which suffers from no shortage of strong entries whereas Vagrant Story is the first strong entry into its subgenre in many years. Post-Final Fantasy 7 most developers chose to follow the money and make games similar enough to Final Fantasy 7 to appeal to the audience it had created. The dungeon crawler subgenre that Vagrant Story belong too, by contrast, seemed be dying of neglect. They few companies that made dungeon crawlers were not putting their best people or investing a lot of money on the projects. To make matters worse, the vast majority of dungeon crawlers subscribed the 'random generation' school of though, which IMHO rather than enhancing replayability, destroyed playability by confronting the player with lifeless, arbitrary dungeon designs, characters without character, and plots that seemed like an afterthought. Square ignored common practice and not only put some of its best people on Vagrant Story, but spared no expense. So they ended up with a lavishly produced, brilliantly designed dungeon crawler with a compelling plot, strong characters, a revolutionary combat sytem, and unprecedented customization. Chrono Cross was also lavishly produced and also successfully addressed the flaws of its subgenre (there are no random battles and no other female lead remotely resembles Kid). However, because CC's subgenre is less neglected and less flawed, the gap between CC and the second best game in the subgenre is not nearly as wide as the gap between VS and the second best entry in its subgenre. I personally like Chrono Cross a like better than I like Vagrant Story, but both are superb games, and I can see how a reasonable person might disagree with me.

- Mark

I think Miki's not too far off in resembling Kid, but I take your point. Other than that, no argument here.

The last 765 words. On CC. Today.
Well, long-standing remembrance isn't ALWAYS a good thing; there's something to be said for mediocrity. I still remember "What? You beat me twice. GRR-BAAAAH!", but that ain't a glowing reccomendation for FF4's translation. Still, fair point. I thought about making some sort of joke involving how everything's muddled when you're drunk, but it didn't develop into anything.

Let's see, CC. My big problem, right off the bat, is the characters. They handled the cast better than I expected, but the fact is 44 playable characters IS TOO MANY. I would rather have a third that many with some depth. While I liked many of the added dialects, I felt they were mainly in there as an artificial method of giving the characters personality in leiu of air time and plot. This was made worse by the ultimate problem with the matter who you have in the party, the dialogue is exactly the same 99% of the time. Inviduality goes out the window and all you get is the EXACT same line altered to fit the dialect of the person speaking it, even if what's being said is utterly unsuited to the nature of the character saying it. In fact, I rather suspect that a lot of these lines were run through some sort of dialectizing script rather than done by hand for each person. That said, the game designers made a valiant effort with what little indivduality DID allot each character. It isn't enough, though. Preferences in CC characters are like preferences in go on their fighting style, dialect and appearance, because that's all you get for half or more. I *did* love Yuuki's art, however (except for his eyes, which are scary and make everyone look like Children of the Corn) - he's a brilliant costume designer and has a unique style I enjoy. Having a full portrait of every character added a lot to the game, but all in all the 44 characters were a classic triumph of system over plot in a place where plot should take preference.

That said, I loved CC. Loved. It's not the same as CT, but it IS as good, if not better. The plot is not only very cool and quite true to the original (albeit in ways that aren't immediately apparent), but also the only Square plot since FF7 that's made total sense to me when all was said and done. Hell, maybe even since BEFORE FF7 if I count that game's ending as a confusing aspect. I was very pleased to see a departure from the annoying Japanese trend of meaningless ambiguity as a means of adding artificial depth, and hope that Chrono Cross is the first of many RPGs to come that DON'T feel like a clumsily executed Kubrick film. The plot is balanced by a battle system which is extremely cool, but suffers from the sheer number of characters. Nonetheless, there's a lot of strategy there, and there are parts where you NEED it. It's complex without being quite as boggling as Vagrant Story seems to have been, which is a good thing, even though I liked VS's system too. And I don't recall hearing them touting it as the "Element System", which is good, because nobody likes it when games advertise their "Systems".

Graphics and music both blew me away in CC. The backgrounds have renewed my faith in predendering, though admittedly that's half just because there were no places that were either so scrolled out or so obscure that you couldn't see your character. Sad how design styles only become perfected as they approach obsoleteness, eh? So the graphics are good. But oh, the music. Look, there are only three game composers I actually care about: Nobuo Uematsu, Michiko Naruke, and Yasunori Mitsuda. That says something right there, but after CC, I'm willing to go one up and say that Mitsuda is my favorite of the three. He is, quite simply, a genius. I hate to demean the hobby, but he might actually be too GOOD for video games. Still, as long as he sticks around, he imbues anything that comes near him with immaculate class. He was amazing in the original Chrono Trigger, but I'm quite amazed at how much better he's gotten since then. I'll refrain from going on about him forever, but you can simulate the effect by reading the last eight sentences over and over again.

All in all, Chrono Cross is flawed, but wonderful. I don't think I've found a game that had me so rapt since...well...Chrono Trigger.


I know this is long, but I had to print anything with the phrase "[didn't] feel like a clumsily executed Kubrick film". It may be my new Favorite Thing Ever. Besides, it sums things up quite nicely, as many of today's letters have, but moreso. That is all.

Closing Comments:

Unless you still feel there's nothing to talk about with regards to Chrono Cross without spoilers, feel free to follow up on anything discussed today. Otherwise, I'd like to hear what you think about the "Summer of Adventure" now that it's over and done with. Massively great gaming, or massively overhyped? Did you waste too much time in front of your TV, or is this a period that you're gonna mark as a gaming high point for years to come? And did you feel that any other titles got shoved aside because of Square? Enlighten me, and I'll see you tomorrow.

-Chris Jones, wishes he had more time to enjoy the SoA

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