Chrono Cross' Intro Movie is Perfect. Let's Watch it Again

18 years later, Scars of Time still gives me the shivers.

Analysis by Nadia Oxford, .

Today marks the 18th anniversary of Chrono Cross' North American release on the PlayStation. As much as we'll take any excuse to celebrate the life of any influential retro game here at USgamer, "18" is an odd number to commemorate. Why bother?

Its an odd number, yes, but Chrono Cross is also an odd game. I consider it a failure as a direct sequel to Chrono Trigger, but as an RPG? It's wonderful. It boasts good graphics, and intriguing battle system, and a large cast of characters that make party assembly lots of fun. I even find Chrono Cross' story intriguing, if baffling. I'm just sorry the cast of Chrono Trigger had to die to tell it.

Chrono Cross' intro movie alone is worth celebrating—even if the opening text is a little incomprehensible and cheesy. I've played Chrono Cross three times through, and I still have no idea what the first minute of the opening is trying to tell me. Plus, if I ever handed in anything containing the sentence "Whilst our laughter echoed under cerulean skies" to my old writing teachers, I'm sure they'd beat me with a sack of hammers.

"Yet, we pondered: 'Can Fate microwave a burrito so hot, even he couldn't eat it?'"

But I still catch myself watching Chrono Cross' intro movie on occasion because it's such a product of its time. All that flashy CG was still impressive towards the end of the PlayStation's lifecycle, and it made for one heck of an attract mode back when game retailers still set up their own displays in store windows instead of playing corporate-prescribed footage and trailers ad nauseum. More importantly, the introduction to Chrono Cross has what's arguably one of the greatest pieces of game music ever composed: Scars of Time.

Scars of Time is written by Yasunori Mitsuda. Mitsuda cut his teeth on Chrono Trigger for the SNES, and as the heavenly soundtrack for 2017's Xenoblade Chronicles 2 demonstrates, his work has been consistently amazing across the decades. Scars of Time is certainly a high point, though. I can't decide what I like best about it. Sure, those singing violins are right there front and center, but there's so much more to praise. The bass! The tambourine! How often do we get a chance to praise a tambourine in a piece of game music? Not often enough!

If I'm forced to choose, though, I'll go ahead and say I love how Scars of Time lines up with the aforementioned CG intro for the game. The intro is spliced from in-game cinemas, and outside of that slightly embarrassing text at its start, the combination of Mitsuda's music and the quick-flashing scenes gets your brain-juices flowing. Again, this was long before most people had the fast and steady internet connections necessary for downloading game trailers, let alone easy access to YouTube. If you saw and heard Chrono Cross' intro in a game store or at a friend's house, intrigue invariably followed.

Scars of Time is also just a thrill to hear live. I don't play any instruments (used to play clarinet), but whenever I hear Scars of Time, I tell myself I'm going to learn violin so I can play it. It looks like a gas to perform. Watch / listen to this violinist shred. RIP every strand of horse hair on that bow.

Scars of Time's influence has spilled over into the real world, too. Canadian Olympic skater Kevin Reynolds has performed routines to Chrono Trigger / Chrono Cross medleys that kick off with Scars of Time (while wearing his red hair in a distinctive spiky style, ahem). Incidentally, I love seeing game music invade Olympic routines, orchestras, etc. Traditionalists don't know what to make of it all. Don't worry, friends. You'll get used to it.

Happy anniversary, Chrono Cross. Now you can legally, uh, smoke. I guess. Please don't, though. You'll ruin your beautiful voice.

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Comments 32

  • Avatar for danielhkaszor44 #1 danielhkaszor44 A month ago
    I think the biggest disappointment about Chrono Cross wasn't that it wasn't an especially good follow up to Chrono Trigger (it wasn't though, as you say, it was a good game in its own right), but that it never quite lived up to the epic scope and promise of the intro movie/Scars of Time.
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  • Avatar for Talraen #2 Talraen A month ago
    "Bad as a sequel, good as an RPG" is exactly right for Chrono Cross. I was disappointed the first time, only to fall in love with the game years later when I gave it another shot. I never had anything but love for Scars of Time, though. I had chills just thinking about it while reading this article. Good times!Edited last month by Talraen
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  • Avatar for LunarFlame17 #3 LunarFlame17 A month ago
    Yup. Still gives me chills, 18 years later.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #4 yuberus A month ago
    I agree with pretty much everything you wrote. I do think it would have been more fun an RPG if your (more interesting) initial crew of characters didn't rejoin until nearly the end of the game - you honestly spend way too long as Lynx, who not only looks doofy, but has on average decidedly less interesting characters on his team. Never did do the new game+ (twice) to get everyone, though.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #5 cldmstrsn A month ago
    yes!! I still go through this game at least once or twice a year. I love Chrono Trigger but for me this is the better game.Edited last month by cldmstrsn
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #6 cldmstrsn A month ago
    You may know this Nadia but the beginning words is the saved Schala (if you get that ending) writing about all that has happened in her diary!Edited last month by cldmstrsn
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  • Avatar for Arvis-Jaggamar #7 Arvis-Jaggamar A month ago
    I don't think it's too hyperbolic to say "Scars of Time" goes beyond just being the best VGM ever composed, rather it's one of the most beautiful and perfect pieces of music ever constructed in the history of humanity. I use the term "genius" very rarely, but I apply it to Mitsuda based on this one track alone.
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  • Avatar for ojinnvoltz #8 ojinnvoltz A month ago
    I'm in the minority that likes Cross more than Trigger. Battle system goes a long way in a JRPG and Cross was more interesting to play in that regard. Also, traversing a sea frozen in time is an image burned into my mind; Trigger didn't have anything that sticks with me like that.
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  • Avatar for Dorchadas #9 Dorchadas A month ago
    I have a friend whose high school notebooks were full of the lines from the intro. So she didn’t hand in “beneath cerulean skies,” but it did follow her to writing class.

    I still haven’t played Chrono Cross, but I love the soundtrack.
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  • Avatar for NateDizzy #10 NateDizzy A month ago
    Maaaan, this makes me miss PS1-era Square so much.Edited last month by NateDizzy
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #11 Funny_Colour_Blue A month ago
    @ojinnvoltz I've talked to a lot of people about this, honestly, I think it's the other way around and I've always been a hardcore fan of Chrono Trigger: A lot of oldschool peeps like Chrono Trigger, but because the Playstation was so popular, more peeps are familiar with Chrono Cross than Chrono Trigger actually.

    and I'm always like "...but Chrono Trigger is so much better!". But ya I agree, not a great sequel, but for games as art, I think Chrono Cross did a lot more for video games and JRPGS especially, than initially perceived - A lot of gamers I talked to in the past, girls especially, played and could identify with Chrono Cross more.

    I think everyone will get more out of Chrono Cross as a sequel, by looking at the story that's told through it's artwork, music and design, than continuing to compare it to more traditional JRPGs. My relationship with this game as a sequel, will always remain conflicted though. lol

    Really really cool article NADIA!!!!!
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  • Avatar for SargeSmash #12 SargeSmash A month ago
    Congratulations, you just got me to watch figure skating. :P

    I might have gotten goosebumps a few times, especially when "People Seized With Life" started playing. I love that track. Both Trigger and Cross have some of the best music in gaming ever.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #13 SatelliteOfLove A month ago
    Mitsuda pushed himself to the breaking point bringing this divinity, this masterpiece into existance: The Best OST That Was, The Best There Is, And The Best There Will Ever Be.

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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #14 cldmstrsn A month ago
  • Avatar for boxofficepoison #15 boxofficepoison A month ago
    This just reminds me how much I need to give this game another shot. I was young when I played it the first time, real angry it wasnt chrono trigger 2, and hated the ganme because of it. I think 18 years later and knowing it's not Chrono Trigger 2 I might be ready to give it a second shot. This and xenogears have always been my two fave square soundtracks though.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #16 Funny_Colour_Blue A month ago
    @boxofficepoison you should definitely check out Radical Dreamers (it's like a rough draft of Chrono Cross) where the connection to Chrono Trigger is made a lot more clear - and then play Chrono Cross to see which story elements they left in.

    Like, it's cool once you understand why it's not a sequel to Chrono Trigger - Because at the end of Chrono Trigger, the entire world changes as a result of your actions; that's why the characters look so different, that's why the monsters look so different, that's why the world and the music sounds so different, because it's not the same world of Chrono Trigger. The world you saved at the end of Chrono Trigger has drastically changed - But it really sucks that the game itself isn't more upfront about this, this element should've been incorporated more into the story. It's a cool game, but it's a really poor sequel.

    Like in Chrono Trigger, it's made very clear from the beginning of the game, what you're trying to prevent (you see it everytime you lose), the game even reminds you how high the stakes are, after you see what happens to Crono. But In Chrono Cross, it's not clear at all. you have no idea what the end goal is up till the end of the game and even when you do get to the end of the game, it's so convoluted, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

    Like, It's a cool game, but it's a really poor sequel. Toriyama or whoever, has always been a master at pacing - even in Dragon Quest 8, they throw you a complete curve ball to remind you, that even though you're the heroes of the story, you still might lose.

    They could have done so much more with this. They could have done so much more with Chrono Cross. Just, man....

    ( EDIT: sorry guys, it still stings) Edited 3 times. Last edited last month by Funny_Colour_Blue
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #17 Vonlenska A month ago
    Whilst its phrasing is a bit stilted, I still think the prologue text is beautiful. I don't even care. That earnest melancholy stirs my heart. As I get older, I only long more for the clumsy youthful idealism being evoked there. I don't think it's meant to reflect anyone or anything specific in the plot so much as meant to encapsulate the feeling of the game. It's all very pretty and sweet-sounding, but really very wistful, aching and existential underneath the shine. There's a nebulous sense of things lost to time that never gets anchored to anything in particular, which makes it easier to trace the scars mapping your own personal history while playing Tropical Sliders RPG.

    Anyway, here's a gorgeous cover of another song by one of my favorite game music coverers:

    Edited 4 times. Last edited last month by Vonlenska
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  • Avatar for Vonlenska #18 Vonlenska A month ago
    PS The Kevin Reynolds skating video is fantastic! Game music leaking into capital-C Culture is beautiful.
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  • Avatar for discohospital #19 discohospital A month ago
    I can't say much about Cross, as it's been 16 years this summer since I played it for the first and last times. But that plural is no typo: it's the only game I've immediately played through again in its entirety upon finishing it once. I slept on it for those two years largely out of prejudice against a Chrono Trigger "sequel" that didn't look anything like the original, utilized 3D graphics and pre-rendered backgrounds (which at the time I couldn't stand), etc. I finally gave in and played it and loved it, but not "as a sequel". Now I just... don't care. It's a great game, and I'm happy it was made. I suppose having to let go of any hope for a proper follow-up to other greats of the period like Xenogears broke me of any sentimental attachment to the idea of an experience like that being recreated.

    One thing, though: when are YouTubers going to stop claiming that upscaling SD video and horizontally stretching it into oblivion somehow magically makes it HD? Is this some form of clickbait, or do they honestly think they're somehow "remastering" and improving upon the source?Edited 2 times. Last edited last month by discohospital
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  • Avatar for daverhodus #20 daverhodus A month ago
    Higher frequency sounds like violins affect your amygdala and cause "chills" as a response.
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  • Avatar for JamesSwiftDay #21 JamesSwiftDay A month ago
    Chrono Cross remaster when?! This game has still never seen an official release in Europe!
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  • Everyone always dings Chrono Cross for being a bad sequel to Chrono Trigger, but it's not really a direct sequel. It resolves exactly one dangling thread from the first game--the fate of Schala--and is otherwise a tale that is only tangentially related to the events of its predecessor.

    The biggest criticism tends to be that the cast of Trigger dies in Cross, but that's debatable. The ending of Chrono Cross sees the two timelines created by Lavos' meddling restored into a single timeline. But because each timeline is mutually exclusive--the plot is kicked off because the protagonist is alive in one and dead in the other, and that's just one example--the only way that it can be reconciled is to go back and wipe out the events that created the two timelines in the first place, which means no FATE, no Lynx, no dead Lucca, no dead Robo. Schala is still saved because she's outside the bounds of time when this restoration takes place, and presumably that asshole the Sage of Time just watches his absurdly complicated scheme unfold from a similar vantage point. Kid also remembers because, I dunno, I guess there's something poignant about the one party member who didn't really care being the only character to remember.

    The entire point of Chrono Cross is to explore the consequences of time travel and to confront the insignificance of life in the face of reality. It's a story where the good ending is not to kill the bad guy, but to retroactively annihilate the entire endeavor, to do the right thing even when, in a way, doing so will mean you never did it at all. Is it a perfect game? No. But it doesn't suffer from its connections to Chrono Trigger as badly as people like to say.

    Although I will say that it was a bad move to resolve the Schala thread without including Magus in any way.
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #23 The-Challenger A month ago
    I played Chrono Cross first and generally adored it. Then again, I did sell it and rebuy it twice. At full price each time...definitely a one-and-done rpg for me. I tried replaying it multiple times, but the only thing that kept me going was the beautiful music and exotic locales.
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #24 Monkey-Tamer A month ago
    I've played through the game multiple times, and Prisoners of Fate (I think that's the title) is my favorite track. It perfectly compliments the situation at the time, and remains one of my all time favorite moments in gaming. I wish Square would port this to Steam. I've got two PS1 hard copies and I've played through it on an emulator with shaders to improve the graphics. Just no more mobile ports, please!
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #25 MetManMas A month ago
    @DrinkingWithSkeleton One thing people tend to forget when complaining about the Chrono Trigger cast being fridged is that Chrono Cross is a game that's all about alternate realities. Don't like that Lucca and friends are dead in the game's two representative realities? There's probably many more realities where they're still alive and well! Just because the Chrono Trigger crew is dead in Chrono Cross it doesn't mean they're dead and gone everywhere.

    Hell, Radical Dreamers could still be considered canon simply by saying it took place in a different reality, too.
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  • Avatar for bradleybodenstab94 #26 bradleybodenstab94 A month ago
    I think that's the universal truth for Cross, and the curse it had to life with. As a sequel to CT, it was terrible. And that's what a lot of people at the time judged it on. Almost unrelated plot, entirely different mechanics, etc. As an RPG of its own, though? Amazing, hall of fame stuff. Unique battle system, increasingly intense plot, and the music and artwork were beyond comparison at the time. All the places you explored and all the themes and background music scores, sucked you into the game.

    The intro, like the article noted, was easily one of the most chill-inducing intros of the era. As far as the odd quotes in the intro, there's a lot of theorycrafting around the exact nature, but the gist is - SPOILER - that it's the "saved" Schala reflecting on the events. The biggest debate is whether this is the original Schala or if it's Kid and Schala merging after the Chrono Cross event restores the timelines.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #27 MetManMas A month ago
    @Monkey-Tamer Oh yes, I really wish Chrono Cross was on modern platforms in some form. Like, I'm seriously considering picking up a used PlayStation 3 to use primarily as a retro PSone gaming machine. Not that I'd use it only for that, of course! There's also exclusives that haven't made the jump to PS4; always wanted to play Demon's Souls and Metal Gear Solid 4.

    Heck, I have digital PSone games I bought from back when I briefly owned a used PSP. Legend of Mana, Threads of Fate, Castlevania Chronicles...I would like to play them again. Also besides Chrono Cross, I'm really in the mood to play Final Fantasy VIII (Thanks, FF15) and Vagrant Story (Thanks, FF12 Zodiac Killer) again.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #28 Funny_Colour_Blue A month ago
    @MetManMas you should pick up a PSPGO while they're still available - Sony never mentioned this feature when it was released, (I had to find this out through the manual online) but with the PSPGO you can connect a dualshock 3 controller to it. And if you buy the cradle base for it and proper TV out cables, it sort of becomes a mini Playstation 1, you can output to your Television at the same time.

    I'm mentioning this because, it's a new playstation 1 released in late 2000:
    - with 30 memory card save files for each game,
    - 2 controllers (one plays on the wireless dualshock 3, one plays on the PSP)
    - and no disc drive.

    which means unless you drop it, or it's physically damaged etc, that system and your games for it, are going to last a very long time, not only that, but it's portable. If you really want a PSone gaming machine, this is definitely something you should look into. This is how I play all my playstation one games now - this is how I finally got around to unlocking all those secret endings in Chrono Cross. Edited last month by Funny_Colour_Blue
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #29 MetManMas A month ago
    @Funny_Colour_Blue I've certainly considered it, though if I got a PSP again it would probably be one of the originals first. I mean, I'm cool with going all digital, but I'd want to play PSP games too. And a not-so-insignificant number of PSP games I want to play are physical-only releases, whether I want to play for the first time (Crisis Core, Mega Man Powered Up,* the Metal Gear Ac!ds), or play again (Star Ocean: First Departure, Namco Museum Battle Collection), or play portably (Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep possibly, haven't ruled it out), or play without needing a nearby wireless connection so Square Enix can confirm that I'm not a dirty goddamned pirate every time I turn the game on (Final Fantasy Anniversary I & II).

    Also I still own a physical UMD of Monster Hunter Portable 3rd that I imported via Amazon some years back.

    * I heard the Rockman equivalent was released digitally in Japan, but I'd need to import a card of Japanese PSN Funny Munny to get it on my other account. Edited last month by MetManMas
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  • Avatar for MikeyCox #30 MikeyCox A month ago
    That opening was the most redeeming quality of this game. Tried three times to get into it and failed each time. My problem I think was that there were so many characters that they became interchangeable after a while.

    I wonder if Square is planning on rereleasing both Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross together as a package. Would be one reason why Chrono Trigger was left off the SNES classic.
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  • Avatar for hamfighter #31 hamfighter A month ago
    Thanks for the oddly-specific 18th anniversary mention that reminds me of my favorite birthday gaming memory ever: August 16, 2000. Although Chrono Cross released in the US on August 15, in those days it was typical that stores (like the Software Etc. I worked in at the time) didn't actually receive their shipments until the following day. So, I woke up and headed to work on my day off to pick up Chrono Cross the instant it was available to me as my birthday gift to self!

    Played it for a few hours and loved it immediately. I actually played Cross BEFORE Chrono Trigger, so I had no baggage of wanting a sequel to a "classic" and totally experienced Cross on its own merits. I've since played and enjoyed Chrono Trigger, but I'll always like Cross quite a bit more. I enjoy the music, battle system, and some of the charming goofiness - all of which are often cited as reasons fans like the game. But to me, one of the supremely underrated aspects of the game is the fantastic sense of place, and commitment to a consistent island theme throughout. You don't feel like the game is just shuttling you from trope zone to trope zone (fire world, ice world, etc... or for Chrono Trigger: future world! prehistoric world! DQ-esque fantasy world!); instead, Chrono Cross's setting feels so natural and consistent throughout. The beaches, ships, white stone towns, local officials' offices, and even the intentionally Mediterranean-tinged Mitsuda soundtrack... all of them really fit together to make this world feel like a much more real place to me than the hodgepodge of unrelated zones that make up most RPGs.

    Anyway, after playing day 1 Chrono Cross for hours and starting to fall in love with it, I went out to see Sonic Youth in a tiny dive bar in absolutely sweltering Memphis heat, one of the best concerts I ever saw. Eddie Vedder played a few songs on guitar (Sonic Youth had opened for Pearl Jam the previous night in a huge arena show). Met a friend of a friend and petted her sweet and gentle Dobermans for a while. Just a totally perfect day, will always think of it fondly when I go back through birthday or great launch-day gaming memories.

    FWIW, for my birthday today I also started a Square-Enix game that is really making a good first impression. Octopath Traveler. Been waiting and waiting to start it and always finding an excuse, but I took the day off from work and knew today was the right time. In fact, think I need to go back to it now. H'aanit's quest awaits!Edited last month by hamfighter
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  • Avatar for jeffcorry #32 jeffcorry A month ago
    Chrono Cross is up there with my favorite games of all time. The music. The characters. The world and its characters. It's all great for me. I've played Trigger and Cross multiple times. I enjoy both.
    As far as Cross being a sequel to Trigger...I'm okay with it. There were so many branching timelines and multiple things going on, that it was weird, but interesting. My main criticism was that Crono, Lucca, and Marle were portrayed too cynically for my taste. Oh well. It's not necessarily meant to be a happy game I think, but it does want the player to consider the consequences of changing time.
    Perhaps it bleeds over into our lives with its message.
    Great game.
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