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.
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.