Chrono Cross

Barely qualifying for this list, released in November of 99′ in Japan, but August 00′ in the states, the highly anticipated sequel to Chrono Trigger was met with universal critical acclaim. Rather than simply taking what was perfected with their previous effort and cashing in on a Trigger 2, Misato Kato and his team at Square aimed to take the series into a different direction and keep the ties to its predecessor rather loose.

You play as Serge, who you learn as the story unfolds is at the center of  a dimension-tearing, time-travelling struggle. The plot, though convoluted at first, is well crafted and thoughtfully written. It does a great job of taking the story of Trigger and grounding it in reality,  bringing to light that every action has a reaction, and consequences. By the end you might still be a little in the dark as far as what you actually just witnessed, but a second play through and attentive play should help cement the details of this profound story. It’s worth noting that the foundation of the story is actually based on a text-based game made by square a few years prior called, Radical Dreamers.

The battle system is vastly different from its predecessor, almost taking a complete 180 in terms of design. Where Trigger focused on fast-paced, easy to use technique based battles, Cross takes a slow, methodical approach to its combat. The results are mixed, but ultimately make for one of the more unique systems allowing for a high level of strategy.

Where Cross really shines though, is in its aesthetics. They made the decision to take the art in a completely different direction, and the world they created is vibrant and enthralling. The character designs are striking and the environments are colorful and enticing. The visuals are tied together with possibly the greatest original soundtrack created for an intellectual work of any medium. The score was done by famed composer Yasunori Mitsuda who also worked on Trigger. It’s whimsical, beautiful, and each track captures the emotion of  it’s scene, setting, and characters. It’s full of  sweeping strings and celtic-inspired arrangements. It ultimately leaves you wishing more games put this much effort into crafting its soundtrack, this being a prime example of how much it can add to your overall experience.

Fans of the original sometimes dismiss Cross based purely on the fact that it didn’t turn out the way they wanted, more specifically that it wasn’t Chrono Trigger 2. There’s no denying however, that based purely on its own merits, that Chrono Cross was one of the best RPGs of the Playstation era, and perhaps of all time. It still stands today as the one of the series with the most fans clamoring for a sequel, and even though the likelihood of its happening lowers as every day passes, theres still that glimmer of hope. Square had actually registered a trademark for Chrono Break, an alleged third in the series, but the title never came to fruition and the trademark was dropped in 2005.