Tag Archives: chrono cross

The Rise of SquareSoft (Part 3) – It’s Hip to Be Square

Following their success on the Super Nintendo, Square had originally planned to continue to develop for Nintendo systems. They even created a tech demo rendering some of the Final Fantasy VI characters in 3D for which many thought would be a preview of what Final Fantasy might look like on the Nintendo 64. These plans would soon change though, when a partnership between Nintendo and Sony fell through which ended with Nintendo staying with cartridges for its new system and Sony deciding to enter the video game market with its CD enabled PlayStation. With Sakaguchi and his team looking to push themselves with the expanded storage space offered by the CD format, Square controversially announced they would develop Final Fantasy VII for the Sony PlayStation.

PlayStation Logo

Yoshinori Kitase was concerned that the franchise would be left behind unless it embraced 3D graphics like other new games at the time and so Square made many advances with the new technology and Final Fantasy VII was the first in the series to feature a 3D world map, 2D pre-rendered backgrounds and character models rendered with polygons. Most famously though was the introduction of higher quality Full Motion Videos (FMV’s) that became a staple of the series.

Final Fantasy VII Cloud Midgar

Square didn’t just focus on graphics though, as the fantastic story of Final Fantasy VII was a joint effort written by Kazushige Nojima, Kitase and Masato Kato, based off an original draft by Sakaguchi. Previous Final Fantasy series artist Yoshitaka Amano was limited during the production due to other commitments and so Tetsuya Nomura, who previously had worked on Final Fantasy V and VI as a monster designer, was promoted to lead character designer. Even composer Nobuo Uematsu utilised the PlayStation’s internal sound chip to create songs with digitized voice tracks.

Final Fantasy VII Aeris Death

Final Fantasy VII was one of the most expensive games of its time and Sony advertised it heavily, especially in North America. It was also the first mainline title in the series to be released in Europe. The game was met with critical and commercial success upon its release and went on to sell 10 million copies worldwide. Final Fantasy VII is often regarded as one of the greatest games ever made and is recognised as the catalyst for popularising RPGs outside of Japan.

Final Fantasy VIII Squall

Final Fantasy VIII followed soon after VII and expanded on its foundations, presenting a more modern and futuristic world, as well as realistic and highly detailed characters again designed by Nomura. With Square’s experience with 3D graphics growing, Final Fantasy VIIIs presentation was much more consistent and it allowed the designers to make more experimental game play mechanics, such as the junction system and the addictive card mini game Triple Triad.

Final Fantasy IX Zidane Moogle

Final Fantasy IX was the last main installment to be developed for the PlayStation and returned the series briefly to its medieval, fantasy roots. Hiroyuki Ito returned as director while the character designs were handled by Hideo Minaba and were made more cartoonish to reflect the older games in the series, it also included black mages, crystals and lots of moogles . Sakaguchi has stated that Final Fantasy IX is his favourite in the series and that it most closely resembles what he initially visioned Final Fantasy to be. The soundtrack is also said to be Uematsu’s favourite composition.

Chrono Cross Kid Artwork

Square seemed to be on roll with the PlayStation and as their popularity grew overseas more of their other games found success as well. Masato Kato was handed directorial duties on Chrono Cross and with returning composer Yasunori Mitsuda they created a bright and wonderful game that dealt with parallel dimensions and featured a cast of 45 different characters to recruit. The action RPG Legend of Mana released with some of the most beautiful art work ever seen in a video game and highlighted the talent of up and coming composer Yoko Shimomura who would go on to score the two Parasite Eve games and many other big name franchises in the years to come. Showing the enormous depth of talent at Square, Tetsuya Takahashi, who had smaller roles on games like Final Fantasy VI directed the amazing Xenogears. It featured one of the most intricate and fascinating stories ever conceived and utilised a battle system that incorporated game play mechanics like combos found in a fighting game. It seemed like Square could do nothing wrong.

Xenogears Combos

Sakaguchi was also a big fan of a small development studio known as Quest who made the Ogre Battle games and he convinced the director Yasumi Matsuno and his team to join Square. Their partnership created more mature and complex games such as the classic strategy RPG, Final Fantasy Tactics and the dark and cinematic Vagrant Story.

Vagrant Story Title

With a whole new legion of fans from around the world, SquareSoft re-released some of their classic games to a new audience and PlayStation ports of Final Fantasy I and II, Final Fantasy IV and Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy V and VI were given new life and their quality was appreciated all over again. Square was now a household name and Final Fantasy was one of the biggest video game series ever, could anything stop their seemingly endless supply of talent and creativity…?

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Top 5 Songs From Chrono Cross

The soundtrack found in Chrono Cross is often regarded as the epitome of video game music. Its combination of Celtic, Mediterranean and African themes produced some of the most mystifying music that can be appreciated regardless of one’s connection to the game itself. These are my top 5 songs from Chrono Cross:

1. -Scars of Time (Time’s Scar)-

What starts out as a haunting and beautiful introduction soon erupts into a flurry of violins and percussion, transporting the listener into another world. It’s impossible not to be mesmerised by its intensity and energy. This may very well be the best piece of video game music ever written.

2. -The Dream That Time Dreams (Time of the Dreamwatch)-

Played alongside scenes from the game if you wait for it at the title screen, I always thought it perfectly summed up the entire game. It builds up throughout the song into a magical melody. Like other pieces from the Chrono Cross soundtrack it includes arrangements from original Chrono Trigger music. It is an inspiring and motivational piece.

3. -Radical Dreamers-

The swirling melody is very thoughtful and emotional. The vocals fit the mood of the song well and will give you shivers the first time you hear them. I always envision reminiscing about the past when I listen to this fantastic track.

4. -The Girl Who Stole the Stars (Star-Stealing Girl)-

A touching and chilling piece that highlights the darker side of some of the music found in Chrono Cross. It evokes a sense of sadness and mystery and serves perfectly as Kid’s theme in the game. It is simple and beautiful.

5. -Chronomantique-

Like many of the tracks in Chrono Cross, it gives off an easy going vibe of a tropical island paradise. It is warm and inviting and it’s easy to just get lost in its melody as you start to daydream. It flows so well that it can get stuck in your head for days.

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Review: Why You Should Play Chrono Cross

Chrono Cross is a turn-based RPG released on the Playstation which provided an unexpected and unique experience.

As a sequel to the SNES classic Chrono Trigger, the game took a slightly different approach in it’s design, that produced an unforgettable adventure. Some of it’s mechanics are unconventional, but it’s these risks that keep the game play fresh and original. The wonderful organic backgrounds and detailed character models give the game a mystical and exotic atmosphere. Chrono Cross is filled with an amazingly vivid and colourful world and the beautiful soundtrack elevates the game to a work of art.

The plot of Chrono Cross is instantly intriguing, dealing with the concepts of parallel worlds and alternate realities. The main character Serge finds a parallel world in which he died as a child and he must discover the truth about the differences of the dimensions and how to reconnect them. The story is compelling and emotional and while featuring a huge cast of central and optional characters, the narrative is constantly interesting and thought provoking.

Battles are initiated by coming into contact with monsters roaming around the world and all battles can be escaped from, even boss battles. The battle system is turn-based and utilises a stamina gauge that allows party members to attack multiple times during their turn. Elements can be equipped on all characters to allow them to cast spells similar to the Materia system in Final Fantasy VII. Techs return from Chrono Trigger, in which characters can combine their unique abilities to create powerful combo attacks.

The soundtrack of Chrono Cross is an amazing composition. It’s melodies are both complex, yet simple, but are always mesmerising. The Celtic inspired music compliments the two dimensions found within the game, offering both dark and bright themes. Some of Yasunori Mitsuda’s tracks are among the best ever released in a video game, from the passionate introductory theme “Scars of Time” to Kid’s haunting theme “The Girl who stole the Stars”. The soundtrack of Chrono Cross is so pleasing that you don’t even have to play to game to be enchanted by it.

Chrono Cross is an innovative RPG that comes together brilliantly. If you wish to play a moving and beautifully realised RPG, then you should play Chrono Cross.

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Top 5 RPG Composers

The musical scores of RPG’s do so much more than just provide some pleasant background tunes. Some tracks give life to the fantasy worlds, while others provide personality to the game’s characters and some of the best pieces leave players with their fondest RPG memories. Many composers are as legendary as the games their soundtracks appear in and here are my top 5 RPG composers:

1. -Nobuo Uematsu –

Uematsu found fame scoring the magical soundtracks of the Final Fantasy Series. Uematsu’s strength lies in his ability to convey emotion, through his music, in a variety of scenes and situations. His most memorable compositions usually include character themes and battle music. He consistently pushed the limits of RPG music throughout the years and has delivered some of the most recognised tracks in video game history.

Best works: Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX

2. -Yasunori Mitsuda-

As a young composer at SquareSoft, Mitsuda was given the responsibility of providing the soundtrack to Chrono Trigger. After producing one of the best RPG scores of its time, he went on to establish himself as one of the greats of the genre. His celtic and jazz inspired music tends to define the world of the game it appears in and makes every location both unique and exciting. Mitsuda’s soundtracks leave a lasting impression both on the game and on the player.

Best works: Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Xenogears, Xenosaga: Episode 1

3. -Yoko Shimomura –

After starting her career with SquareSoft before going freelance, Shimomura has provided lots of different melodies to many RPG series. Her style lends itself perfectly to grandiose main themes and adds a sense of fun and adventure to any RPG her music appears in. Shimomura has provided plenty of diversity in her soundtracks, ranging from traditional compositions such as the Kingdom Hearts series to more experimental ones found in the Parasite Eve series.

Best works: Legend of Mana, Kingdom Hearts, Parasite Eve, Radiant Historia

4. -Hitoshi Sakimoto-

Sakimoto’s style is complex and translates differently to each of his soundtracks. Able to provide great ambiance in his musical compositions, his scores convey mystery and intrigue to perfectly accompany the narrative of the RPG, such as his score for Vagrant Story. His more recent orchestral soundtracks found in the likes of Final Fantasy XII, have taken this style to a grander scale and the outcome has been magnificent.

Best works: Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy XII, Valkyria Chronicles

5. -Masashi Hamauzu –

Used to working with other composers on many soundtracks Hamauzu developed his own style working on the SaGa series. Hamauzu was the sole composer for Final Fantasy XIII and he produced his finest work. His beautiful soundtracks add enchanting melodies to their respective games, but when the need arises he creates epic musical pieces to compliment the expanding nature of RPG video game development.

Best works: SaGa Frontier 2, Unlimited Saga, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XIII

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Chrono Shift – An Idea for a Chrono Series Sequel

After the release of Chrono Cross, it was rumoured that SquareSoft had planned to create a third Chrono game under the name of Chrono Break. It never materialised and some 10 years later there has never been a continuation of the series. I enjoyed Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross so much that I wondered what a third game in the series would have been like if it had been made right after the release of Cross. So here is my idea for a sequel to Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross.

Firstly, I thought about a more direct sequel to Trigger. The first thing that came to mind was Magus and his continuing journey to find Schala. This could bring a lot of new travels for Magus in new locations, but Schala’s ultimate fate is shown through the ending of Cross. Next, I moved on to a story following Crono and Marle straight after the ending of Trigger leading up to the fall of the Kingdom of Guardia. This could set up an interesting narrative with an expected tragic ending, but again Cross shows what events are like later in that timeline anyway. So I needed something new.

This led me to think differently about the main story overview of both Trigger and Cross and look at the bigger picture of what both of the games represent. While the personal stories of the main characters are what we as the players are attached to, the games are really telling the life of another character, The Planet.

When I thought about it like this, the concept used by the designers of the story in Chrono Cross made a lot more sense. So, like Cross, the third Chrono game must expand on the story of The Planet and feature a new cast of characters discovering more of The Planet’s life-cycle. A few general ideas connect the games that should also be used in the third game to retain the spirit of the series. As far as mechanics, time travel and alternate dimensions are a must, as well as multiple endings. For the story, The Planet’s life must be in danger from some form of Lavos and the actions of the characters in the past must be shown to have consequences in the future.

The most interesting idea that Cross hinted at, is that while the original cast of Trigger saved The Planet from Lavos in the first game, it made an entire future cease to exist and now people from that reality never have a chance to be born. A plot could then be constructed, that the new main cast of characters are originally from that now alternate timeline and would find out about Crono’s team stopping Lavos from destroying the world in AD 1999. They would then need to formulate a plan to travel back in time and across dimensions to again rewrite history to preserve their timeline’s existence. While travelling across time they would find out more about The Planet’s history and I could see it ending up as being a choice of selfishly wanting to protect their own future, or once again making sure Lavos is defeated for the greater good of The Planet’s life-cycle. They could freely travel between timelines through the use of an invention left by
Belthasar know as the Chrono Shift which allows access to various locations much
like the time gates from the original Chrono Trigger.

With that general plotline in place the story could have the characters view events from the various time periods and alternate dimensions from the previous games as well as discovering new ones. This would enable the ability to have old characters make an appearance, have a variety of interesting locations, both old and new and make a definitive ending to the series story. It also gives plenty of opportunity to create both serious and comedic multiple endings, if the new characters mess around with events from past too much and radically change the timeline’s history.

I think it would make for an appropriate conclusion to the Chrono series universe, letting the fan’s experience another great RPG in the franchise as well as showcasing the classic games to a new generation of players.

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Top 5 RPG Experiences

There are plenty of great RPG’s that are wonderfully designed. These are my top 5 RPG experiences:

1. -Final Fantasy VII-

The combination of interesting characters and an intriguing narrative is what keeps this as my favourite game ever made. It has so many memorable scenes and dialogue that has kept me thinking about it long after I finished it. I also never get tired of playing it, with such a fun and intuitive battle system and variety in gameplay, from escaping Midgar on a motorcycle to snowboarding down the Great Glacier. The world feels alive with such distinct locations and atmosphere which is highlighted perfectly by the classic music. Final Fantasy VII is an experience I will never forget.

 2. -Chrono Trigger-

I first played this game over ten years after it was originally released. I was bored with modern RPG’s and so went back to play some of the classics from the 16-bit era. It is a testament to its ingenious design that I had more fun with it than any current day game. The characters and time-travelling plot are memorable, the music is some of the best of all time, but it’s the timeless gameplay and fun turn-based battle system that could keep me enjoying Chrono Trigger forever. The fantastic pacing and the art of simplicity in it’s design is what has been lost in the development of today’s games. Chrono Trigger represents what games used to be and what they will unfortunately never be again.

  1. -Chrono Cross-  

Like Chrono Trigger I also played Chrono Cross years after it was first released. It reminded me that RPG’s made during this time period will always be my favourite. The art direction is wonderful and the use of pre-rendered backgrounds make you feel like you are living in this strange and beautiful world.  The plot has always intrigued me with the concept of parallel worlds and the question of what if? Many of it’s design choices are unconventional, but it’s these risks that keep it original. The soundtrack is a masterpiece and again shows that music can create emotion in scenes that voice acting can’t seem to match. Chrono Cross is a work of art.

  1. -Final Fantasy Tactics-

Having never played a strategy RPG before, this was a new experience for me. At first I found it complex and difficult, but I was instantly hooked by the deep political plot of corruption and deception.  Once I opened up the vast possibilities of the customisable battle system it gave me more control over the makeup of my characters than I had ever experienced.  Final Fantasy Tactics’ story reached a level of maturity that made every epic battle feel like you were fighting for a purpose. The differing motives of the cast and the realism of Ramza’s character is what make this narrative one of my
favourites.

  1. -Final Fantasy IX-

While originally a jarring experience after the more sci-fi settings of Final Fantasy VII and VIII, this game made me appreciate the wonder of a fantasy world. It returned the series to it’s roots, while keeping up with the progressions made in mechanics and presentation of the series and created a special journey mixing the old with the new. The gameplay is very consistent and conservative, but my favourite part about this game is the themes it portrays and the development of it’s characters. With a whimsical musical score and magical fantasy art, it takes you on an adventure of discovery of both it’s world and it’s characters.

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