Friday, July 24, 2015

The Perfect Summer Game Pt. 3

It's been two weeks since I started playing Chrono Cross. In that time I've logged 15 hours, and 15 of it was spent on tropical islands. I don't plan to stop playing until I beat it but for now I think I've played enough to say my thoughts.


Chrono Cross is somewhat of a black sheep in the JRPG genre. It was the follow up to Chrono Trigger, a game that many consider their favorite game and some consider the best game ever. When a game gets everything right and it strikes a chord with so many people a sequel or successor is going to disappoint a few fans. A lot of people understandably consider Chrono Cross a letdown. While Chrono Cross might be a weak sequel, it's still a fantastic game.

I initially saw an ad in Electronic Gaming Monthly featuring Lynx. The game looked mysterious and intriguing. It wasn't out yet and I had to wait a few months to be able to afford a new game anyways (most of my PlayStation games consisted of Greatest Hits and Jampack: Underground demo discs). I quickly forgot about Chrono Cross. It wasn't until a few years later when I had a PS2 that I went back and shopped for forgotten PS1 games that GameStop now considered clearance-worthy. The double-sized jewel cases must've stood out to me because I remember buying Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories, Sim City 2000, Metal Gear Solid, and Chrono Cross (oddly enough, the first two games come on a single disc). I spent a lot of time playing video games that summer. Yu-Gi-Oh! and Sim City were amusing for a bit, but Metal Gear Solid and Chrono Cross left an impression on me. I remember Chrono Cross being set in a bright, sunny, tropical fantasy world. I remember the main character Serge going on an adventure with his Australian-accented friend Kid to save the world and stop the universe from killing him. I remember the beach-side villages and towns and the people who inhabit them. When I started thinking of perfect summer games Chrono Cross was one of the first to pop into my head. But I have a crappy memory. I wasn't sure if it was as good as I remembered or if I had built it up in my head. I never beat it before so I didn't know if the sunny beaches only appear at the beginning and are missing for the majority of the game. I decided to play it and beat it.

Remember when print media was the go-to source for information?

Upon popping Chrono Cross in a magical sound began to come out of my television. My girlfriend was in the room and stopped what she was doing to watch the intro. When it ended she asked me to get her the soundtrack. After starting the game Serge woke up in his home village. I had him draw the curtain and immediately there was a view of the ocean. I wandered through the colorful village and talked to the friendly neighbors. The people, the music, the color tone, everything was very warm. I went to docks, tropical marshes, beaches, and then the game got serious. Even still, the music remained peaceful and the blue ocean ubiquitous. There are large and small port cities that revolve around trade and travel from the various islands which you later get to visit. Each one is beautiful and distinct from the last. All of the people I encountered were friendly and relatable. Even the Dragoons you were just fighting make polite conversation with you (they're just regular people doing a job, after all). The governing body resides in Viper Manor surrounded by palm trees.

But that's enough about the paradise aesthetic of Chrono Cross. What really appeals to me is the relaxed approach it takes to RPG gameplay. The leveling is automatic. All you have to do is choose which weapons, accessories, and magic elements to equip each party member with. You can put a lot of time into getting the right element for the right character, but even if you don't know what you're doing the elements will still be effective. I kept accidentally walking into boss fights and came out victorious by using basic strategy. This is a key part of why I am able to enjoy the game. I love the story and presentation unique to JRPGs, but learning the battle system and perfecting gear and stats usually turns me off. Chrono Cross is incredibly accessible and makes it easy for a JRPG noob like me to enjoy the game. It might be too easy for fans of the genre, but sometimes it's nice to turn off your brain and enjoy a game.

So far this a great summer game, and I don't intend to put it away anytime soon. I'll continue to play Chrono Cross at a relaxed pace. If I didn't have more summer games to play through I would say this is the perfect summer game. Up next I'm going to explore games where you hang out with people and do stuff because that's a big part of summer.

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