Chrono Cross can be labeled a "divisive classic." It reviewed exceedingly well when it launched for the original PlayStation. Its recent remaster, The Radical Dreamers Edition, serves as an excellent reminder as to why so many fell in love with the game in the first place — frame rate issues aside, at least. But for all its fame, it lives instead in infamy for a subset of the RPG enthusiast population, especially among certain Chrono Trigger diehards.
While a full analysis of why this is the case would be a significant undertaking, we can at least look toward several key aspects that the game's developers could have improved upon. Our thoughts will range from smaller fare that could perhaps be revamped should Chrono Cross ever be tweaked again to sweeping changes that might, admittedly, fundamentally alter the experience for folks who adore it as-is.
But then, as they say, you can't crack an egg without alerting the Dodos up in Fossil Valley.
5 Make Hidden Items Stand Out More
Okay, so yes. They're hidden items for a reason. We concede. Heck, we agree. But as many who have played Chrono Cross can attest to, there is a difference between hidden and downright invisible. Chrono Cross' world is gorgeous, and it holds up so well in HD. But there is so much you can interact with that just isn't clear at all.
If you're starting the game from scratch with no prior knowledge, you could feasibly make it from start to finish without ever thinking to press the confirm button in front of anything. This is "thanks" to the art style, which again, it's lovely, but it feels like such a backdrop relative to Serge and friends — especially in The Radical Dreamers Edition, it must be said. Those sharpened polygons don't always mesh well with the painterly aesthetic.
Whether it's the corpse of a giant fish or behind a cart when the shopkeep's not around (see above), even the very first town in Chrono Cross is filled with examples. What might be done about it? Maybe a slight glimmer to look out for, as Square Enix has done with the more recent Octopath Traveler. Or maybe a (very) slight change in graphical display for the items in question.
4 Improve the Grand Slam Tournament
And by improve it, we mean drastically overhaul it. It's not that the core is bad — selecting monsters and then playing as them in battle is awesome. The ability to expand the available pool of picks via Sprigg's Doppelgang ability is icing on the cake.
The problem, as anyone who has beaten Grand Slam to recruit Janice can attest to, is that after the three-round battle there's… nothing else to do here. Ever. For all its pomp and appreciatively down-and-dirty atmosphere, the Grand Slam Tournament fundamentally exists so that players can challenge Janice, win three static fights in a row, and that's it.
There's so much potential here. What about other opponents? What about more diverse lineups? You could spend the whole game using Doppelgang to assemble a veritable armada of monster pals only to use them in a three-round bout and kiss them goodbye. As it stands, Grand Slam isn't a "tournament" so much as a quick minigame with window dressing.
3 Chrono Cross, Explain Thyself
Part of the charm behind Chrono Cross is its wealth of content tucked away behind corners, outside the main questline, waiting for players to stumble upon as they explore the El Nido Archielago and its otherworldly counterpart.
We respect that. We can get down with it. We don't want that to fade away. But one of the perennial frustrations some have had with Serge's journey is that too much highly relevant subject matter remains on the peripheral unless the right conditions are met. There's a world of difference between missing tertiary (but wonderful) characters like Skelly and never learning the truth behind Kid's past.
While there are plenty of other solid examples, let's talk about that last bit. It's possible to play to the end of the game without learning what the deal is with Kid. You'll get half the story in Chronopolis, sure, but unless you engage in a sidequest, you'll never even get her back. Kid's on the game's cover. She's the focus of the splendid opening FMV. She's more than mere aspect regarding the backstory of Chrono Cross' final boss.
Kid, like the Mastermune and other top-shelf stuff, ought to be mandatory so that newcomers don't inadvertently rob themselves of some of the biggest bits of the game.
2 Fix the Frame Rate
We mentioned this in passing, but it warrants its own spot. The original Chrono Cross pushed the graphical capabilities of the PlayStation to their brink; applauded as one of the best-looking games on the system, it paid the price in performance. Slowdown was not uncommon.
Unfortunately, The Radical Dreamers Edition doesn't just leave this issue by the wayside — it amplifies it. The slowdown is worse than ever. Nowhere is this more apparent than Termina, where moving between different parts of the same area can cause the game to chug down into the single digits.
Game development is incredibly tough work. Developers often sacrifice entirely too much to meet painful deadlines. Budgets only stretch so far. Whatever allowed this to happen, it's undoubtedly linked to something more pressing, more real, than the common online refrain of "laziness." But regardless, it happened, and it's awkward to play an HD-remastered version of a decades-old game and watch as battle animations take longer than they should and simple exploration compels hitching even on beefy PCs and PS5.
1 Give It a Sequel
We're not kidding. This is genuinely something that would make Chrono Cross go from good to great. It's no state secret a sequel was in the early planning stages before Square nixed the idea. It would have been called Chrono Break, and to this day, hardcore Chrono franchise fansites lament the loss of what could have been a trilogy-capping sensation.
The Chrono duology is a strange one. Chrono Cross both provides added context to Chrono Trigger and also continues a handful of important plotlines without resolving them. It's that last part that stings. Though none of those continuations are pivotal to Cross' main plot, they're tantalizing. And left unanswered.
Not only could Chrono Break enrich its predecessor by furthering these points; it could also do for Cross what Cross did for Trigger, casting new light on preexisting ordeals.
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