E3: Chrono Cross impressions

[05.12.00] » Say hello to Starky and Lynx, mate. (First English screenshots included!)

   The English version of Chrono Cross was on display for the first time at E3 2000, and the GIA spent three hours playing through various parts of the game to get a handle on the localization. While there were a few irritating (but fixable) quirks, for the most part we liked what we saw.

   Let's get the bad out of the way first: Chrono Cross' names are atrocious. Square has chosen not to expand the six-character limit for character names, leading to all sorts of bizarre and unattractive localizations. Yamaneko is now Lynx (a literal translation of his name, perhaps, but far less imposing than the Japanese for "Mountain Cat"); Tsukiyomi is now Harle (or perhaps Harley, the name is still in flux); Starchild is Starky; and so on. Spell names fare better with 12-14 characters at their disposal, but some still come across awkwardly. It's unlikely that Square can exapnd the character name length limit this late in development, but every character in the game can be renamed, so players will no doubt find their own creative solutions. "Y.neko."? "*Child"? "Tsuki"? Gamers will find something that works.

   Fortunately, the rest of the localization appears excellent. The GIA played were from the beginning of the title to Kid's introduction, as well as the entirety of an important section late in the first disc. The text in both sections was expressive, emotive, and true to the content of the original Japanese. The text ranged from humorous and inuendoed to deathly serious, depending on the sequence. Word choices were great across the board, and emotional sequences delivered their message effectively. The in-game dialogue appeared universally excellent.

   Localizers have also made valiant attempts to retain the dialects and speech patterns of the Japanese text. Kid speaks with a thick Cockney accent: think "blimey," "bloody," and "mate." Harle slurs her th's to z's: "Zis is ze place, Serge." Starky extends his vowels: "What doo you seee?" And Karsh refers to Serge as "Junior." It was hard to judge the effectiveness of these dialects over such a brief period of text, but it is admirable that Square has at least tried to preserve the speech patterns.

   Despite a few quirks, Chrono Cross' progress into English appears to be coming along nicely. Chrono Cross will ship in the U.S. this August 2000.

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