This is the first time I’ve played a game for more than an hour since, jeez, Final Fantasy VI on the SNES I think. In fact, I clocked in at just about five hours tonight! Oddly enough, while playing a great game helps, I think the biggest reason I was able to seat myself in front of a game for so long was my, well, seat. I finally rolled out my office chair and man does it make a difference in comfort over sitting on a foam pad on the ottoman…
Anyway, tonight I really started paying attention to what makes a game like Chrono Cross so much “better” than other good RPG’s like Wild Arms or Star Ocean, and I think it was during the events following Kid’s poisoning that it really hit me – the narrative. The way Chrono Cross tells its story, builds its characters and makes you grow attached goes miles in keeping interest in a game. I have no doubt that there will be a downturn, a boring patch at some point in the game, every RPG has them, but the way Chrono Cross takes you from moment to moment keeps you engaged the whole time. I want to see what happens to these, I want to see what happens next in the story. It’s a feeling I’ve been missing for a long while, and I’m actually kind of surprised that this is the game that brought it back for me.
As for th game itself, it seems I come up with a new complaint every night, and tonight it’s the leveling system. Granted, it’s very streamlined and feels very rewarding, but it’s also very restricting for people like me who like to grind. Every time a “Major Plot Event” occurs and a boss is defeated, you the player gains a star rank. At the end of every battle your characters will gain a small amount of stats, and they’ll continue to do so until they’ve capped out their growth potential for your current star rank. Additionally, with every star rank gained your characters (usually) gain an additional element slot. It’s a unique system that works really well and, again, feels really rewarding. My personal problem with it is that the ONLY way to increase your star rank is to progress through the story and defeat major bosses. In any other RPG if I would come up against a difficult boss, I could go out and grind XP and levels and become stronger until I was finally strong enough to face it. In Chrono Cross, that’s flat out not possible. There is no XP to grind and no way to really improve your characters, so you’re stuck with what you got.
On the flip side, I can see this as an excellent way to balance your game, forcing the need for tactical decisions and strategic element assignments. So basically, I’m conflicted… On an unrelated note, I always thought Chrono Cross didn’t have Dual Techs, like in Chrono Trigger. I was wrong.