Are Chrono Cross’ problems fixable?

I am on record as saying that I love Chrono Trigger. It remains my favourite game of all time, but with the rumours of the Chrono Cross remake/remaster that could be in the works, I have been giving a bit more thought to the often-maligned sequel. Was Chrono Cross as bad as people say, or was it a victim of the hype of following one of the best JRPGs of all time? Is a remaster enough to salvage the game or does it need to be rebuilt from the ground up?

Buckle up, friends, cause we’re going down memory lane together to discuss Chrono Cross’ legacy and what the remaster needs to do to fix the problems it had.

Chrono Cross’ Complicated Legacy

Chrono Cross' Kid

There are few games that receive almost universal praise both at the time of their release and in the more than 20 years that followed, but that is the reception that Chrono Trigger has gotten. When a sequel was announced and released in 2000 (or 1999 if you lived in Japan), people had very high expectations for it.

In a lot of ways, Chrono Cross really does live up to the precedent set by Chrono Trigger. The art and graphics are amazing, considering the limitations of the PS1. It looks more akin to games released a generation later and the music is, once again, a highlight of its time. It pushed the PlayStation hardware as far as possible, and the work shows in every boss-fight and cutscene. Even the combat system is worth noting as a high point for the genre, which dismissed the turn-based combat that was prevalent at the time for a more complex system that involved controlling elemental fields for maximum effect and defence.

So why isn’t Chrono Cross met with the same universal praise as its predecessor? Part of that answer lies in the time that it was released. Its North American release (it never got an official release in Europe, it seems) (Nope, Square Enix deprived us of all their good stuff back then – Ed.) was a mere month after the Japanese release of Final Fantasy IX and a few months before its North American release, meaning it was caught in the middle of the hype for one of the better Final Fantasy games. Chrono Cross didn’t get the same attention and care from Square Enix, which led to it being overshadowed by a larger release.

Chrono Cross

The bigger problem with the game lies in the way it handles its characters. While Chrono Trigger had a small cast of seven playable characters who all got their own development and growth through the side quests or through the main plot, Chrono Cross has 45 playable characters that can be recruited. This huge cast just doesn’t allow the same kind of care and attention to be given to them. There are potential plotlines that are never explored, such as one party member being Magus in disguise or another even sharing the same name as Frog’s human form.

Such a huge cast prevented these and other storylines from being fleshed out and doesn’t give other characters the chance to have much development beyond speaking in all caps or folding laundry. Which is a shame because that might be the one issue that can’t be solved with a simple remaster. Developers would need to remake the game from scratch to rebalance it and expand a lot of the storylines that didn’t get explored in the original. Unfortunately, that isn’t likely to be on the cards for a niche game with a smaller fanbase.

Will I pick up any potential remaster? Absolutely. This is a series that means a lot to me and I’m excited for fans in Europe to experience it for the first time. The music is great and the graphics hold up much better than most games of the era. The plot, while somehow more convoluted than the original’s time travel based story, is strong enough to get excited about. But I don’t think that a simple remaster is going to fix the problems present in the game, meaning that this game will continue to be flawed, and fail to live up to the original’s high standard.

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