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Developer - Square
Publisher - Square
Release date - August 15, 2000

Chrono Cross
is a role-playing video game developed and published by Square. It is the successor to Chrono Trigger, which was released in 1995 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Chrono Cross was developed primarily by scenarist and director Masato Kato and other designers from Chrono Trigger, including art director Yasuyuki Honne and composer Yasunori Mitsuda. Nobuteru Yūki designed the characters of the game.

The story of Chrono Cross focuses on a teenage boy named Serge and a theme of parallel worlds. Faced with an alternate reality in which he died as a child, Serge endeavors to discover the truth of the two worlds' divergence. The flashy thief Kid and many other characters assist him in his travels around the tropical archipelago El Nido. Struggling to uncover his past and find the mysterious Frozen Flame, Serge is chiefly challenged by Lynx, a shadowy antagonist working to apprehend him.


Chrono Cross features a diverse cast of 45 party members. Each character is outfitted with an innate Element affinity and three unique special abilities that are learned over time. If taken to the world opposite their own, characters react to their counterparts (if available). Many characters tie in to crucial plot events. Since it is impossible to obtain all 45 characters in one playthrough, players must replay the game to witness everything. Through use of the New Game+ feature, players can ultimately obtain all characters on one save file. Several characters speak with unique accents, including French and Australian English.

Chrono Cross begins with Serge located in El Nido, a tropical archipelago inhabited by ancient natives, mainland colonists, and beings called Demi-humans. Serge slips into an alternate dimension in which he drowned on the beach ten years prior, and meets the thief, "Kid". He learns while infiltrating Viper Manor that ten years before the present, the universe split into two dimensions—one in which Serge lived, and one in which he perished. Through Kid's Astral Amulet charm, Serge travels between the dimensions. At Fort Dragonia the use of a Dragonian artifact called the Dragon Tear, Lynx switches bodies with Serge. Unaware of the switch, Kid confides in Lynx, who stabs her as the real Serge helplessly watches. Lynx boasts of his victory and banishes Serge to a strange realm called the Temporal Vortex. He takes Kid under his wing, brainwashing her to believe the real Serge (in Lynx's body) is her enemy. Serge escapes with help from Harle. Discovering that his new body prevents him from traveling across the dimensions, he sets out to regain his former body and learn more of the universal split that occurred ten years earlier. He travels to a forbidden lagoon known as the Dead Sea—a wasteland frozen in time, dotted with futuristic ruins. At the center, he locates a man named Miguel and presumably Home world's Frozen Flame. Charged with guarding the Dead Sea by an entity named FATE, Miguel and three visions of Crono, Marle, and Lucca from Chrono Trigger explain that Serge's existence dooms Home world's future to destruction. To prevent Serge from obtaining the Frozen Flame, FATE destroys the Dead Sea.


Chrono Cross features standard role-playing video game gameplay with some differences. Players advance the game by controlling the protagonist Serge through the game's world, primarily by foot and boat. Navigation between areas is conducted via an overworld map, much like Chrono Trigger's, depicting the landscape from a scaled down overhead view. Around the island world are villages, outdoor areas, and dungeons, through which the player moves in three dimensions. Locations such as cities and forests are represented by more realistically scaled field maps, in which players can converse with locals to procure items and services, solve puzzles and challenges, or encounter enemies. Like Chrono Trigger, the game features no random encounters; enemies are openly visible on field maps or lie in wait to ambush the party. Touching the monster switches perspectives to a battle screen, in which players can physically attack, use "Elements", defend, or run away from the enemy. Battles are turn-based, allowing the player infinite time to select an action from the available menu. For both the playable characters and the computer-controlled enemies, each attack reduces their number of hit points (a numerically based life bar), which can be restored through some Elements. When a playable character loses all hit points, he or she faints. If all the player's characters fall in battle, the game ends and must be restored from a previously saved chapter—except for specific storyline-related battles that allow the player to lose. Chrono Cross's developers aimed to break new ground in the genre, and the game features several innovations. For example, players can run away from all conflicts, including boss fights and the final battle.

he Element system of Chrono Cross handles all magic, consumable items, and character-specific abilities. Elements unleash magic effects upon the enemy or party and must be equipped for use, much like the materia of 1997's Final Fantasy VII. Elements can be purchased from shops or found in treasure chests littered throughout areas. Once acquired, they are allocated to a grid whose size and shape are unique to each character. They are ranked according to eight tiers; certain high level Elements can only be assigned on equivalent tiers in a character's grid. As the game progresses, the grid expands, allowing more Elements to be equipped and higher tiers to be accessed. Elements are divided into six paired oppositional types, or "colors," each with a natural effect. Red (fire/magma) opposes Blue (water/ice), Green (wind/flora) opposes Yellow (earth/lightning), and White (light/cosmos) opposes Black (darkness/gravity). Each character and enemy has an innate color, enhancing the power of using same-color Elements while also making them weak against elements of the opposite color. Chrono Cross also features a "field effect", which keeps track of Element color used in the upper corner of the battle screen. If the field is purely one color, the power of Elements of that color will be enhanced, while Elements of the opposite color will be weakened. Characters also innately learn some special techniques ("Techs") that are unique to each character but otherwise act like Elements. Like Chrono Trigger, characters can combine certain Techs to make more powerful Double or Triple Techs. Consumable Elements may be used to restore hit points or heal status ailments after battle.

Another innovative aspect of Chrono Cross is its stamina bar. At the beginning of a battle, each character has seven points of stamina. When a character attacks or uses an Element, stamina is decreased proportionally to the potency of the attack. Stamina slowly recovers when the character defends or when other characters perform actions in battle. Characters with stamina below one point must wait to take action. Use of an Element reduces the user's stamina bar by seven stamina points; this often means that the user's stamina gauge falls into the negative and the character must wait longer than usual to recover. With each battle, players can enhance statistics such as strength and defense. However, no system of experience points exists; after four or five upgrades, statistics remain static until players defeat a boss. This adds a star to a running count shown on the status screen, which allows for another few rounds of statistical increases. Players can equip characters with weapons, armor, helmets, and accessories for use in battle; for example, the "Power Seal" upgrades attack power. Items and equipment may be purchased or found on field maps, often in treasure chests. Unlike Elements, weapons and armor cannot merely be purchased with money; instead, the player must obtain base materials—such as copper, bronze, or bone—for a blacksmith to forge for a fee. The items can later be disassembled into their original components at no cost.

The existence of two major parallel dimensions, like time periods in Chrono Trigger, plays a significant role in the game. Players must go back and forth between the worlds to recruit party members, obtain items, and advance the plot. Much of the population of either world have counterparts in the other; some party members can even visit their other versions. The player must often search for items or places found exclusively in one world. Events in one dimension sometimes have an impact in another—for instance, cooling scorched ground on an island in one world allows vegetation to grow in the other world. This system assists the presentation of certain themes, including the questioning of the importance of one's past decisions and humanity's role in destroying the environment. Rounding out the notable facets of Chrono Cross's gameplay are the New Game+ option and multiple endings. As in Chrono Trigger, players who have completed the game may choose to start the game over using data from the previous session. Character levels, learned techniques, equipment, and items gathered copy over, while acquired money and some story-related items are discarded. On a New Game+, players can access twelve endings. Scenes viewed depend on players' progress in the game before the final battle, which can be fought at any time in a New Game+ file.


Square began planning Chrono Cross immediately after the release of Xenogears in 1998. Chrono Trigger's scenario director Masato Kato had brainstormed ideas for a sequel as early as 1996, following the release of Radical Dreamers. Square's managers selected a team, appointed Hiromichi Tanaka producer, and asked Kato to direct and develop a new Chrono game in the spirit of Radical Dreamers. Kato thought Dreamers was released in a "half-finished state", and wanted to continue the story of the character Kid. Kato and Tanaka decided to produce an indirect sequel. They acknowledged that Square would soon re-release Chrono Trigger as part of Final Fantasy Chronicles, which would give players a chance to catch up on the story of Trigger before playing Cross. Kato thought that using a different setting and cast for Chrono Cross would allow players unfamiliar with Chrono Trigger to play Cross without becoming confused. The Chrono Cross team decided against integrating heavy use of time travel into the game, as they thought it would be "rehashing and cranking up the volume of the last game". Masato Kato cited the belief, "there's no use in making something similar to before [sic]", and noted, "we're not so weak nor cheap as to try to make something exactly the same as Trigger... Accordingly, Chrono Cross is not Chrono Trigger 2. It doesn't simply follow on from Trigger, but is another, different Chrono that interlaces with Trigger. Kato and Tanaka further explained their intentions after the game's release: We didn't want to directly extend Chrono Trigger into a sequel, but create a new Chrono with links to the original.mYes, the platform changed; and yes, there were many parts that changed dramatically from the previous work. But in my view, the whole point in making Chrono Cross was to make a new Chrono with the best available skills and technologies of today. I never had any intentions of just taking the system from Trigger and moving it onto the PlayStation console. That's why I believe that Cross is Cross, and NOT Trigger 2.

When creating a series, one method is to carry over a basic system, improving upon it as the series progresses, but our stance has been to create a completely new and different world from the ground up, and to restructure the former style. Therefore, Chrono Cross is not a sequel to Chrono Trigger. Had it been, it would have been called Chrono Trigger 2. Our main objective for Chrono Cross was to share a little bit of the Chrono Trigger worldview, while creating a completely different game as a means of providing new entertainment to the player. This is mainly due to the transition in platform generation from the SNES to the PS. The method I mentioned above, about improving upon a basic system, has inefficiencies, in that it's impossible to maximize the console's performance as the console continues to make improvements in leaps and bounds. Although essentially an RPG, at its core, it is a computer game, and I believe that games should be expressed with a close connection to the console's performance. Therefore, in regards to game development, our goal has always been to "express the game utilizing the maximum performance of the console at that time." I strongly believe that anything created in this way will continue to be innovative.

Full production began on Chrono Cross in mid-1998. The Chrono Cross team reached 80 members at its peak, with additional personnel of 10–20 cut-scene artists and 100 quality assurance testers. The team felt pressure to live up to the work of Chrono Trigger's "Dream Team" development group, which included famous Japanese manga artist Akira Toriyama. Kato and Tanaka hired Nobuteru Yūki for character design and Yasuyuki Honne for art direction and concept art. The event team originally envisioned a short game, and planned a system by which players would befriend any person in a town for alliance in battle. Developers brainstormed traits and archetypes during the character-creation process, originally planning 64 characters with unique endings that could vary in three different ways per character. Kato described the character creation process: "Take Pierre, for example: we started off by saying we wanted a wacko fake hero like Tata from Trigger. We also said things like 'we need at least one powerful mom,' 'no way we're gonna go without a twisted brat,' and so on so forth.

As production continued, the length of Cross increased, leading the event team to reduce the number of characters to 45 and scrap most of the alternate endings. Developers humorously named the character Pip "Tsumaru" in Japanese (which means "packed") as a pun on their attempts to pack as much content into the game as possible. To avoid the burden of writing unique, accented dialogue for several characters, team member Kiyoshi Yoshii coded a system that produces accents by modifying basic text for certain characters. Art director Nobuteru Yuuki initially wanted the characters to appear in a more chibi format with diminutive proportions. The game world's fusion of high technology and ethnic, tribal atmospheres proved challenging at first. He later recalled striving to harmonize the time period's level of technology, especially as reflected in characters' garb.

The Chrono Cross team devised an original battle system using a stamina bar and Elements. Kato planned the system around allowing players to avoid repetitive gameplay (also known as "grinding") to gain combat experience. Hiromichi Tanaka likened the Elements system to card games, hoping players would feel a sense of complete control in battle. The team programmed each battle motion manually instead of performing motion capture. Developers strove to include tongue-in-cheek humor in the battle system's techniques and animations to distance the game from the Final Fantasy franchise. Masato Kato planned for the game's setting to feature a small archipelago, for fear that players would become confused traveling in large areas with respect to parallel worlds.He hoped El Nido would still impart a sense of grand scale, and the development team pushed hardware limitations in creating the game's world. To create field maps, the team modeled locations in 3D, then chose the best angle for 2D rendering. The programmers of Chrono Cross did not use any existing Square programs or routines to code the game, instead writing new, proprietary systems. Other innovations included variable-frame rate code for fast-forward and slow-motion gameplay (awarded as a bonus for completing the game) and a "CD-read swap" system to allow quick data retrieval.

Masato Kato directed and wrote the main story, leaving sub-plots and minor character events to other staff. The event team sometimes struggled to mesh their work on the plot due to the complexity of the parallel worlds concept. Masato Kato confirmed that Cross featured a central theme of parallel worlds, as well as the fate of Schala, which he was previously unable to expound upon in Chrono Trigger. Concerning the ending sequences showing Kid searching for someone in a modern city, he hoped to make players realize that alternate futures and possibilities may exist in their own lives, and that this realization would "not ... stop with the game". He later added, "Paraphrasing one novelist's favorite words, what's important is not the message or theme, but how it is portrayed as a game. Even in Cross, it was intentionally made so that the most important question was left unanswered. Kato described the finished story as "ole' boy-meets-girl type of story" with sometimes-shocking twists. Kato rode his motorcycle to relieve the stress of the game's release schedule. He continued refining event data during the final stages of development while the rest of the team undertook debugging and quality control work. Square advertised the game by releasing a short demo of the first chapter with purchases of Legend of Mana. The North American version of Cross required three months of translation and two months of debugging before release. Richard Honeywood translated, working with Kato to rewrite certain dialogue for ease of comprehension in English. He also added instances of wordplay and alliteration to compensate for difficult Japanese jokes. Although the trademark Chrono Cross was registered in the European Union, the game was not released in Europe.


Chrono Cross was scored by freelance video game music composer Yasunori Mitsuda, who previously worked on Chrono Trigger. Director Masato Kato personally commissioned Mitsuda's involvement, citing a need for the "Chrono sound". Kato envisioned a "Southeast Asian feel, mixed with the foreign tastes and the tones of countries such as Greece"; Mitsuda centered his work around old world cultural influences, including Mediterranean, Fado, Celtic, and percussive African music. Mitsuda cited visual inspiration for songs: "All of my subjects are taken from scenery. I love artwork. To complement the theme of parallel worlds, he gave Another and Home respectively dark and bright moods, and hoped players would feel the emotions of "'burning soul,' 'lonely world,' and 'unforgettable memories'". Mitsuda and Kato planned music samples and sound effects with the philosophy of "a few sounds with a lot of content".

Xenogears contributor Tomohiko Kira played guitar on the beginning and ending themes. Noriko Mitose, as selected by Masato Kato, sang the ending song—"Radical Dreamers – The Unstolen Jewel". Ryo Yamazaki, a synthesizer programmer for Square Enix, helped Mitsuda transfer his ideas to the PlayStation's sound capabilities; Mitsuda was happy to accomplish even half of what he envisioned. Certain songs were ported from the score of Radical Dreamers, such as Gale, Frozen Flame, and Viper Mansion. Other entries in the soundtrack contain leitmotifs from Chrono Trigger and Radical Dreamers. The melody of Far Promise ~ Dream Shore features prominently in The Dream That Time Dreams and Voyage ~ Another World. Masato Kato faced internal opposition in hiring Noriko Mitose: Personally, for me, the biggest pressure was coming from the ending theme song. From the start of the project, I had already planned to make the ending into a Japanese song, but the problem was now "who was going to sing the song?" There was a lot of pressure from the people in the PR division to get someone big and famous to sing it, but I was totally against the idea. And as usual, I didn't heed to the surrounding complaints, but this time, there was a pretty tough struggle.

Production required six months of work. After wrapping, Mitsuda and Kato played Chrono Cross to record their impressions and observe how the tracks intermingled with scenes; the ending theme brought Kato to tears. Players who preordered the game received a sampler disc of five songs, and Square released a three-CD official soundtrack in Japan after the game's debut. The soundtrack won the Gold Prize for the PlayStation Awards of 2000. In 2005, Square Enix reissued the soundtrack due to popular demand. Earlier that year, Mitsuda announced a new arranged Chrono Cross album, scheduled for release in July 2005. Mitsuda's contract with Square gave him ownership and full rights to the soundtrack of Chrono Cross. It was delayed, and at a Play! A Video Game Symphony concert in May 2006, he revealed it would feature acoustic music and would be "out within the year", later backtracking and alleging a 2007 release date. Mitsuda posted a streaming sample of a finished track on his personal website in January 2009, and has stated the album will be released to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Japanese debut of Cross. Music from Chrono Cross has been featured in the September 2009 Symphonic Fantasies concerts, part of the Symphonic Game Music Concert series conducted by Arnie Roth. The track "Dimension Break" was remixed by Mitsuda for inclusion on the charity album Play For Japan in 2011. That same year, the Chrono Cross theme "Time's Scar" was voted first place in Hardcore Gaming 101's "Best Video Game Music of All Time" poll. "Time's Scar" was also featured in 2012 by NPR in a program about classically-arranged video game scores.

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