Feature: Under Cerulean Skies

Featuring Serge, Kid, Lynx and *especially* Harle!

Chrono Cross (N.A. Box Art)

Released in Japan to unparalleled anticipation in November of 1999, Chrono Cross is the sequel to SquareSoft’s critically-acclaimed and much-beloved Chrono Trigger. Set in the years following the events of Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross charts the assembly, struggles, and efforts of a new group of adventurers. In the course of the game, they attempt save their world from a threat which extends beyond the scope of time and space into a different universe entirely.

The player takes control of Serge, a young boy from the village of Arni, located in the El Nido archipelago. His troubled past, and fateful dreams, prove prophetic for his destiny. As Serge is caught up in events beyond his control and imagination, he will gain the assistance of others who find their own stories entwined in Serge’s quest to understand himself, his past, and the part he has to play in the fate of his world. In especial, he must face down the threat posed by the mysterious Lynx.

Serge is not alone thanks to the sudden arrival of Kid, who has a score of her own to settle with Lynx. But just as he can count upon an ally who is dependable, so can Lynx: Harle, his mischievious and delightfully Gallic lieutenant, proves herself a formidable, if inscrutable, foe.

Pensive, thoughtful, and surprisingly loveable.

Kid is both perilous and inviting.

Use the comment thread below to discuss your approach to the game, challenges you have faced, tactics you are employing, and what you are getting out of your playthrough. Do you feel that the presentation of Chrono Cross has held up since its original release in 1999? Are there aspects of the game that you would change, or that you would hold up as an example for modern game developers to emulate? How have your experiences with Chrono Trigger, other JRPGs, and titles released after Chrono Cross changed your impressions of the game? Tell us all about it and join in our discussion below!

The aim in this playthrough is to complete the entirety of the game in three weeks. In the final week, the goal is to complete the last third of the game (through the end of the final battle). Feel free to join in, even if you are behind on the playthrough. Anyone and everyone is invited to participate, regardless of speed of play or familiarity with the series. Remember to comment, and please tell your friends!

Without further adieu, it is our very great pleasure to invite you now to join the Lusipurr.com staff members, guests, and readers as we travel to the El Nido Archipelago in Under Cerulean Skies: A Chrono Cross Playthrough!

37 comments on “Feature: Under Cerulean Skies”

  1. We talked a bit about Chrono Cross is TSM Episode 344, so be sure to check that out!

    I’ve already started my playthrough and I’m far ahead of this week’s stopping point–I’m at the Sea of Eden. Here are some thoughts:

    CC is very colourful, has an excellent soundtrack, and a very good localisation with lots of unique-sounding characters. The graphics are exceptional for a PS1 title, and the controls tend to be on the near side of Excellent. The menus are a little diffuse–items cannot be accessed through the game menu, only through the special items menu on the world map–and the sorting methods for elements aren’t great. But these minor issues pale compared to the vast gaping shithole that is the battle and levelling system.

    Since random battles cannot level characters, and only provide a few meagre stat points (before that, too, stops), each random battle becomes a needless chore. Moreover the battles are not quick; so a single battle can eat up several minutes against even weak enemies. This quickly becomes a recipe for frustration.

    Worse still, the element and field system is total garbage. Bosses typically have a built-in cheat so that if the player sets a field up for a summon, the boss will immediately get a free, interrupt turn, during which they will cast an element of a different colour so as to negate the field effect. Moreover, bosses (unlike characters) never run out of their elements (unlike in many other RPGs where one can osmose away boss MP for example). So, effectively, the field effect is not only difficult to employ, it is often impossible.

    Bizarrely, the game expects that players will use summons and fields quite often. In fact, the star system is set up so that each star is a ‘use’ of a summon, with stars being replenished by sleeping in an inn. Yet, having played through CC about ten times, I can count on one hand the number of times that I have voluntarily used a summon. Normally, it isn’t possible. \o/

  2. I plan on starting my playthrough tomorrow; this week has been kind of crazy.

    My last playthrough of Chrono Cross was over a decade ago. I have the same general opinion of it. I can appreciate that they tried to innovate with the element/field system in battles, but it didn’t improve upon the standard JRPG battle system in a way that made it fun. It was kind of a hindrance; I remember feeling like I was fighting the fields as much as the enemies, burning the rather limited charges that you get for spells just to maintain control. I don’t recall the battles themselves taking too long, but I do remember loading times being pretty lengthy, especially compared to Chrono Trigger’s brisk pace.

    It’s my understanding that you have to manipulate the element field in a particular way during the final battle in order to get the good ending. Suffice to say, I never achieved this. I also wanted to get a 100% completed save file, another thing that never happened due to some of the many(!) characters being easily missed, and also requiring multiple playthroughs. I think there are 40+ recruitable characters, and there isn’t a whole lot of functional difference between many of them.

    None of this is to say that I didn’t like the game; it’s not the Chrono Trigger 2 that I wanted, but I still enjoyed it. There were definitely challenges inherent to creating a story of a time traveling game’s sequel. It was a more complex tale than CT, I have forgotten many of the details, but I thought that the writing was decent enough. There is a much darker tone to the story, pretty much right from the beginning. It would have been nice to be able to visit locations and have more interaction with characters from the original game.

    The music is very good, though I prefer CT’s score. I remember everything being very colorful and pretty, from the battle environments to the world map and towns.

    I’ll post more once I get started and have more to go on than foggy memories!

  3. It looks like it might just be you and me, Defchaos. Lusi and DefChaos play Chrono Cross!

    Inverted Dragon Fortress!

    I think what most people wanted was a return to some of the locations in Chrono Trigger, so that one could ‘feel’ that one was in the world, and see the effects of the previous game. But all we got were references to Porre (much underplayed), and a few throwaway scenes in the Sea of Eden. This was a terrible waste of story resources given the connexion many people have with the original storyline to Chrono Trigger.

    The characters, as you point out, are much of a muchness. On the up-side, this means you can choose whatever characters, mostly without having to worry too much (unless they are all the same element and you are on an anti-element boss).

    I look forward to seeing what you think of it now that you’re returning to it after more than a decade…!

  4. The menus in this game are poor.

    There are merchants scattered about the place who will forge upgrades to your equipment or who will trade elements for materials etc. and I feel that the menus for accessing these services don’t provide the player with enough information.

    Additionally, the menu for assigning elements is just atrocious to use.

    Also, I didn’t remember the framerate being this bad, unless this is just a flaw in the Vita emulation…

  5. I really want to play through it again (I’ve only done it once), but don’t have the time to seriously play any games really. I tried starting it earlier this year, but the battle system, you know. I guess that’s why it’s not called Chrono Trigger 2, because of the inappropriate and unrelated stuff like that. Pretty game, nice environments, great effort… Maybe I’ll try to play a bit.

  6. It’s a huge personal frustration for me that SE remakes games that don’t need it like FFVII, when they could be remaking broken games like CC and FFVIII, which have strong foundations that are let down by design flaws.

  7. Korcha joinedCHA party!

    This is the silly sort of touch that I like in my games.

  8. Having not played through the game since 2001 I have only foggy memories going in to this play through (which I will be joining in the next day or two). I loved the music and artwork, and the graphics do hold up well today.

    I don’t remember enough of the battle system or character leveling to offer an opinion going in, but Lusipurr’s description of a vast gaping shithole doesn’t give me a lot of hope. I think I used mostly physical attacks and was always chasing a better weapon from a blacksmith(?) if I recall correctly. Regardless the game will be at least somewhat fresh after 14 years.

    CC was only the second RPG I ever finished having discovered them later in my youth, and I must admit that my first RPG was actually FF VIII. (And for some reason I kept playing them.)

  9. The menus are poor. Sometimes it is hard to tell if something is an upgrade. The element purveyors are the worst.

    As Sebastian recalls, the Blacksmith is really the bar which prevents the characters advancing, because the game needed another restriction on top of the stupid levelling system.

    Frankly, I am amazed that anyone would keep coming back to RPGs if the first two they had played were FFVIII and CC. At that point, one could be forgiven for writing them off as a load of old shit.

  10. Started my game, got to Termina..

    The battles are pretty slow, and I’m not even fighting anything close to a threat yet. I forgot how frequently attacks miss. It feels like I’m constantly missing attacks that have a 90+% chance of landing. All in all I doubt that I’m missing significantly more than the percentages indicate, but it just makes me mad. I absolutely hate just flat out missing with basic attacks in rpgs.

    The element and field basics came back to me quicker than I expected. Actually, the element system doesn’t bother me all that much, but the field system is just ridiculous.

    I agree with everyone on the menus. They’re pretty awkward to navigate, and managing large amounts of elements is a pain.

    When I played this game at release, I thought it was odd that Porre goes from a sleepy little town in CT to a military power in CC just a few years later?? I have since read why that is the case, but back then I had no idea why and the game never really explains it that I remember.

    The soundtrack is good. Really good. Nothing that tops Corridors of Time for me, but it deserves the great reputation that it has.

    Other aspects of the presentation have aged reasonably well too. Dialogue feels natural and has a fair amount of humor to it. The art is pretty. I particularly like the island map.

  11. I agree with SiliconNoob, this game and FF 8 would absolutely benefit from remakes. Though it’s not a Square title, Koudelka is probably the PSX rpg that I would like to see remade the most. It had pretty good production values, a very good story, solid voice acting and absolutely fantastic atmosphere. Unfortunately, the game itself is a pretty broken mess…

  12. The localisation is a lot of fun, and that [coupled with the gorgeous art and music] is really what’s pulling me through at this point.

    Missing attacks doesn’t frustrate me half so much as being interrupted mid-attack – which is infuriating!

  13. I remember Koudelka! It was promising, but terrible.

    Being interrupted mid-attack is vile. Especially as it resets your hit percentage.

    The battles are REALLY slow–that’s not a Vita issue, either. The game runs like that on the PS1 as well. We’re a bit spoiled nowadays that we see slowdown as a serious issue worth mentioning when, during the PS1 era (like in other eras before), slowdown was a natural thing that one encountered fairly regularly. FF8 is the same way; there’s even some slowdown in Symphony of the Night!

    Go back further in time and we start to run into sprite flicker being acceptable. Today, that’s definitely not on!

  14. Beat the boss at the end of the Sea of Eden this evening. I am beginning to remember that this game is not too hard if one loads up on healing elements and proceeds very, very carefully and methodically through most boss fights.Heal people immediately, keep the field from being the colour that the boss uses, and whittle away.

  15. But boy does it get tedious when you run out of high level elements!

  16. Hi new listener here. Great Site & Great Show

    I will play this game, once that I have finished with Chronno trigger.

    So many good games and so little time.

  17. @Pit: Welcome! We love new listeners and readers!

    I hope you won’t be disappointed with Chrono Cross. Chrono Trigger is one of the greatest games ever made, so it is a tough act to follow.

  18. Currently in the Hydra Marshes. Just spent about 15 minutes in one fight, that being the Beebas. It was pretty much my fault as I had forgotten to put elements on Korcha, but the whole sequence was infuriating.

    -attack (often a miss)
    -interupt (sometimes several in a row)
    -get one more attack in
    -interupts
    -healing round (why do consumables heal less in battle??)
    -repeat…

    All of it slow as molasses…

    I do like having the quick heal option after battles though. I wish more rpgs had that.

  19. The Beeba fights are annoying because they summon more Beebas if you take too long. Utterly garbage.

  20. One thing I’ve always thought was kind of funny about this game, was the flawed hit percentages in the battle system. I was constantly surprised how often a 94% hit chance would miss. Definitely more than 6 times out of 100. This same problem seemed to be in Final Fantasy Tactics as well. I remember being frustrated as a teenager, yelling to myself “Do the Japanese even know what percentages mean?!”

  21. I agree with DefChaos about the quick heal option after battles, though it has contributed to a feeling of laziness I’m developing with this play through. I’ve become ambivilant about healing in general, in battle my experience involves mostly mashing the X button as the battle system automatically moves the strength to the next level, and I haven’t encountered any foe even remotely challenging yet.

    The visuals and music are nice, as I remembered, but I’m not feeling engaged at this point. Perhaps I’m over-thinking this as I’m only part way through Viper Manor at level 6 (star 6?)… Still, I have been challenged from the beginning in other games (FF Tactics comes to mind) and it was the satisfaction of accomplishment after winning a tough battle that won my investment in those RPGs.

    @Lusipurr I think what saved me was FF7, which I owned first but had never played past the first boss, having no idea what an RPG even was. When I started playing FF8 at a friend’s house and then played through CC, I went back and played FF7 to the end, feeling very let down afterwards when I realized I had to find a new game that would captivate me as much. I still haven’t.

  22. Since I have kids, my time to play games is incredibly limited, and if the game is not on a handheld my chances to play it are even less so. That said, the endless gripes leveled at this game’s combat system, and the gripes about how it handles Chrono Trigger doesn’t get me excited to boot it up.

  23. It’s a Chronosplosion!

    @Ferchu, stop playing that bad game and play this very ordinary one instead!

    @Sebastian, if you ever find something that delivers like FF7, let me know. FFTactics is a fantastic game–it’s pretty close, even with its many translation woes–but it’s still no FF7. I think the thing about FF7 is that it manages to maintain its tone throughout, and to do so in a way that is consistent within its world and believeable to those without. Chrono Trigger is another game that does this–they are immersive in that they completely capture the player and make the player feel as though the game world is a believeable place in which they can be involved. Sometimes games go too far with what they want the player to accept, with the result that the immersion is broken; or the systems are aggravating, or the translation is awful, or the music is grating, and so on. All of these things conspire to draw the player out. But in the case of FF7, one sinks right into it. The game world becomes the world of the player, seamlessly.

    @RabidKitten: Well, it is worth playing a little bit (and it is on PSP/PSV), even if only to learn why there are problems with the combat system. I will say that, in its defense, it moves at a pretty quick clip up through the Sea of Eden. It doesn’t have too many places where it bogs down, except when it comes to dealing with the dragon gods near the end of the game (which I always find very tiresome).

    @Fumunshu: I HATE the Beeba Bros. >:(

  24. Replayed this game a little over a year ago for the first time since it came out and actually ended up having a really good time with it. You can tell that a lot of care went into the it as there are lots of neat little touches throughout, such as the lines when characters join that Julian was talking about on the podcast, or all the unique death animations the bosses have which I thought were pretty cool on my last playthrough.

    It’s also one of the most beautiful games on the ps1, and has perhaps my all time favorite video game soundtrack (to date the only one I own).

    The combat system is for sure the low point, along with the management of elements once you start acquiring them in large number.

    Overall though ,I think it is definitely worth playing at least once if you like jrpgs. I was debating about whether or not to join in on the site playthrough since I had completed it so recently (especially given how tedious at times it can be), but I think I am going to give it a go. I remember reading about Pip’s evolutions just after beating the game last time, so I might try using him since I never had a need for a white innate besides Starky or Serge. Actually in general think I might try messing around with some different party setups. The game has some pretty decent replay value in that way.

  25. The game has great graphics, great soundtrack, it could have a better battle system, the magic alocation can be a pain when you have to allocate everything again in a new party. And the enjoyment that I had with the game was much because at that time I never played chrono trigger.

    There are too many characters and most of them are forgettable, I would play the game again if not were by sonic advance 2.

    @Lusipurr- You never let me play a bad game, such shady behavior.

  26. I agree completely with Fumunshu. I actually had a sequence just a little while ago in which I missed with a 94%, missed with another 94%, finally landed a 94% which boosted my weak attack up to a 96%…which then promptly missed. Because of course it did. I don’t think the enemy hit percentages follow the same parameters either.

    Ok. I’m done ranting about hit percentages now (hopefully!). I actually discovered something tonight! You can actually switch active characters in battle by pressing left and right, as long as another character’s stamina is 1 or greater. I had no idea this was possible, always thought that you were just limited to selecting the actions of whichever character that the game dictates. It makes me feel kind of dumb for not realizing this before.

    The more I play, the more I enjoy the soundtrack. I forgot how much of it is rearrangements from Chrono Trigger, and I am definitely coming around to this soundtrack being stronger than CT overall.

    I just fought Captain Fargo and am currently on his ship.

  27. I haven’t progressed very far, just received the Hydra Humour to save Kid. I’m remembering everything vividly as I replay the game, and I really did love this game the first time through. Looking back now I couldn’t agree more with Ferchu’s comment here: “And the enjoyment that I had with the game was much because at that time I never played chrono trigger.”

    I do think games should be judged on their own merit, and while CC is a good little RPG, the battle system is really poor. But am I saying that because I ‘know better’? Is it possible to fairly judge this or any other game without bias? Is it not the nature of humanity to allow experience to color our perspective?

    Is it possible that the allocation of elements is less a stupid exercise, and more challenging a game-within-a-game? Does the 50-50 chance of a 95% attack hitting an enemy remind us of our own humanity, and teach us to cherish the attacks that actually land?

    No. Limited element allocation and constantly missing 90%+ attacks are stupid things.

  28. @Sebastian!
    I really did love this game the first time through
    HOW?

    while CC is a good little RPG, the battle system is really poor. But am I saying that because I ‘know better’?
    No, it was rubbish at the time, too. I wasn’t even a huge fan of Chrono Trigger when I played CC, but I still felt immediately that this game was mostly frustrating garbage, albeit dressed up and presented very nicely.

    Is it possible to fairly judge this or any other game without bias? Is it not the nature of humanity to allow experience to color our perspective?
    That’s not the same thing as ‘bias’ in the pejorative sense of irrelevant premises or conclusions. Experience can provide relevant knowledge, and knowledge is perfectly acceptable (indeed, it is the only acceptable thing) as the basis of a logical argument. If we are to rule out information gained as result of experience, then no information can be admissible (all information is at some level gained via experience). It is logically groundless or irrelevant matters that should not colour our perspectives. If we are trying to make an objective decision about a game, for example, we should not admit of subjective bias in the form of reminisces, where we were when we played it, etc., as these are facts about the subject and not about the game’s independent aesthetic or systemic merits.

    Is it possible that the allocation of elements is less a stupid exercise, and more challenging a game-within-a-game?
    No. It is not presented as one and does not meet the qualifications of being one in any case.

    Does the 50-50 chance of a 95% attack hitting an enemy remind us of our own humanity, and teach us to cherish the attacks that actually land?
    No. That a thing has probabilistic content does not automatically make that thing an intellectually significant examination of other things that also have probabilistic content. The national lottery is not actually an introspective commentary on lung cancer rates in rat terriers.

    No. Limited element allocation and constantly missing 90%+ attacks are stupid things.
    Indeed, and more saliently, they are the results of poor decisions made by the development team.

    As an aside, I have long suspected (although I have not cared enough to verify) that the percentage chance to hit is the chance before any enemy evasion is calculated into the equation. So, when a character attacks, the game ‘rolls’ a first ‘to hit’ roll based on the on-screen percentage. If that attack hits, the game rolls a second time based on the target’s (unseen) evasion statistic. Only if that roll also hits does the blow actually land at which point damage is calculated. This is purely speculative, but it would explain the observed behaviour of the game.

  29. @Lusipurr

    Your speculation as to the thinking behind the attack accuracy percentage leads me to the conclusion that you have devoted too much deep thought into this subject. Consider how many of the world’s greatest questions could have been answered with the brainpower wasted discussing Chrono Cross?

    I don’t mean to be critical, but I have to wonder if there will ever be enough time (or brainpower) left after pondering mediocre PS1 RPGs. What is the meaning of life? Are we real, or is life a dream, like in the Matrix? Was Neo really “The One”? We could have had these answers. Or perhaps the real question is, how much brainpower is used up per discussion? Is there a limit; a total amount of brainpower per person?

  30. @Sebastian!
    Your speculation as to the thinking behind the attack accuracy percentage leads me to the conclusion that you have devoted too much deep thought into this subject.
    Only true of everything.

    Consider how many of the world’s greatest questions could have been answered with the brainpower wasted discussing Chrono Cross?
    That’s my day job. In my time off, I prefer to engage in frivolity.

    Are we real, or is life a dream, like in the Matrix?
    Ah, I see. You want a good kick in the pants. NOW I understand!

    Or perhaps the real question is, how much brainpower is used up per discussion? Is there a limit; a total amount of brainpower per person?
    I don’t know about you, but my mana gauge is full.

  31. @Lusipurr

    I don’t know about you, but my mana gauge is full.
    Mana powers the brain? I thought it was used for magic. Please explain.

    Ah, I see. You want a good kick in the pants. NOW I understand!
    You would attempt physical violence? You cannot reach me as I exist only in a dream of my own making. Checkmate.

  32. LAST WEEK!

    Finish the game! Everything from the Sea of Eden to the end.

    Good luck!

  33. Speaking generally, the orphanage scenes make me angrier than nearly anything else in a SquareSoft or SquareEnix game yet, although destroying FF7 will change that.

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