Chrono Cross Interview
This is an interview that was conducted by Weekly Famitsu, the leading video game magazine in Japan. Many thanks to The GIA for this interview.
The latest issue of Weekly Famitsu, Japan's largest gaming publication, contains an interview with Chrono Cross' director Masato Kato, producer Hiromichi Tanaka, and composer Yasunori Mitsuda. The three key players behind the project share a variety of new and intriguing gameplay revelations. Most notably, Kato remarks that one can expect to complete the game in about 30 hours, though "the system takes advantage of the PlayStation's features to make the game enjoyable to play even after you've finished it." According to Kato, one is "essentially free to choose the story's path" during the game, and later explains that "we couldn't include a lot of storyline splits in Chrono Trigger, so we stuck with a multi-ending setup, but in Chrono Cross the storyline itself changes as you go on."
In addition, Kato explains, "Chrono Cross takes place in the same world as Chrono Trigger, although [in] a different area." One can expect to explore many of Chrono Trigger's locations extensively in Chrono Cross, and, as reported earlier, dimensional travel or "parallel worlds" will play a strong role throughout Serge's travels. The full interview follows. Thanks to Andrew Church for the fantastic translation.
A "CHRONO" WITHOUT THE "DREAM PROJECT" NAME?
Weekly Famitsu: First of all, this game doesn't seem to have the name "Dream Project" associated with it. Is it truly a sequel to Chrono Trigger? And why isn't it called "Chrono Trigger 2"?
Kato: There's a long story behind that, but to keep it short... After finishing Chrono Trigger, we created a game called "Radical Dreamers". Although we hadn't planned it that way initially, Radical Dreamers eventually ended up as a sort of sequel to one of the subplots in Chrono Trigger which we weren't able to tie up in Chrono Trigger itself. When Radical Dreamers was finished, we did Xenogears, and when talk turned to what to do after that, we decided to redo Radical Dreamers properly. That's why we didn't give the new project the name "Chrono Trigger 2".
Weekly Famitsu: Is there any pressure associated with the fact that this game isn't associated with the "Dream Project"?
Kato: Tons. (laughs) I suspect Mr. Yuuki is particularly under pressure as the successor to Akira Toriyama.
Weekly Famitsu: Yuuki is the character designer for Chrono Cross, right? What led you to choose him?
Kato: He worked with Tanaka on Seiken Densetsu, and he does the kind of quality work we're looking for. This isn't a Dream Project game, but there are some connections to Chrono Trigger. We didn't want to directly extend Chrono Trigger into a sequel, but create a new Chrono with links to the original.
A THEME OF PARALLEL WORLDS
Weekly Famitsu: So what are those connections?
Kato: Chrono Cross takes place in the same world as Chrono Trigger, although a different area. There are a number of episodes where players who've played Chrono Trigger will go "Oh!" when they recognize links to the earlier game. Of course, you can finish Chrono Cross just as easily without knowing Chrono Trigger at all.
Weekly Famitsu: Chrono Trigger used time travel as its main theme. What's the theme of Chrono Cross?
Kato: Parallel worlds.
Weekly Famitsu: So the player travels between these parallel worlds as he progresses through the game?
Tanaka: Yes, although there are some scenes central to the game.
Kato: There are certain events that have to be completed in order to continue, but outside of those, the player is essentially free to choose the story's path.
Weekly Famitsu: Creating the music must be tough work.
Mitsuda: With different worlds, they each need their own themes. Of course, it's still in progress.
AN ABSOLUTELY NEW BATTLE SYSTEM
Weekly Famitsu: So what can you tell us about the new battle system?
Tanaka: The developers of the Xenogears battle system started over from square one, trying to see what kind of interesting, enjoyable battle system they could come up with.
Weekly Famitsu: Is it true that there's no need to level up in Chrono Cross?
Kato: In Chrono Trigger, even though enemies were displayed on the map and you could easily avoid them, you couldn't beat the bosses unless you fought battle after battle with the weaker enemies to raise your level. As long as we're going to have the enemies on the map so you could avoid them, we figured we should make it so you can go straight to a boss and win without having to fight all the enemies in between. We wanted to create a kind of battle system that would let you fight the way you wanted without forcing you to fight battle after battle. After a lot of trial and error, we finally arrived at the new system used in Chrono Cross.
Weekly Famitsu: Is it hard for new players to get used to?
Tanaka: Not at all. If you want, you can still play as if you're working for experience levels, as in older games. I designed the battle systems for FF1-3, but by that point the orthodox XP-based battle system was more or less perfected, so with Seiken Densetsu 2 [Secret of Mana] we decided to try a new direction and added an action element to battles.
Weekly Famitsu: Seiken Densetsu 2 is a bit different from your ordinary command-oriented RPG battle system.
Tanaka: Yeah. We tried to balance that out a bit with the classic system in Xenogears, but in the end it was still an experience-oriented system. So this time, Kato wanted to see if we could do away with experience points entirely, and amidst a lot of grumbling (laughs) we decided to give it a shot.
Weekly Famitsu: Where did the "element" idea come from?
Tanaka: It's kind of like a card game where you can choose the cards in your deck. But if it takes too long to decide on the best deck, the pace of the entire game will be slowed down, so we tried to keep things simple, and fast-paced. The delay between turns is gone, and you can control any character you want at any time. The idea is to give the player a feeling of being in complete control.
Weekly Famitsu: So how big is the game overall?
Tanaka: Oh, 30 hours or so? It's not an overly long game.
Weekly Famitsu: Mr. Mitsuda, how does the music in Chrono Cross compare with that in Chrono Trigger? Is it similar, or a different style?
Mitsuda: Both, actually. People who've played Chrono Trigger and Radical Dreamers will probably like the music in Chrono Cross. The music is basically similar to the stimulating ethnic music from Radical Dreamers, but also has something of a Xenogears flavor to it. What with the increasing tension as the release date approaches, the music may get a bit out of hand near the end (laughs).
Kato: We've tried to keep the number of sounds in Chrono Cross to a minimum, putting more meaning into each.
Mitsuda: A few sounds with a lot of content, or something like that. Things like the sound of a plucked guitar string.
Tanaka: It's powerful music--so powerful you start to ask yourself if it's really PlayStation music.
Mitsuda: The opening is powerful, and the ending is a song that brings out the beauty of the Japanese language.
A GAME TO SURPRISE ITS PLAYERS
Weekly Famitsu: Chrono Cross looks like it'll be a game anyone can enjoy over and over.
Tanaka: There've been a lot of games recently aimed at hard-core audiences. We wanted to make a game that's enjoyable for everyone.
Kato: We couldn't include a lot of storyline splits in Chrono Trigger,
so we stuck with a multi-ending setup, but in Chrono Cross the storyline
itself changes as you go on. Plus the system takes advantage of the PlayStation's
features to make the game enjoyable to play even after you've finished it.
It's my policy to try and create games that run counter to users' expectations, surprise them. In Chrono Trigger, the hero's fate changes significantly as the game goes on. This time, we've got an even more stunning system in the works. We hope everyone will look forward to it and enjoy it.
Icy Brian's Chrono Cross Page
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