07.14.99 40 demo shots | 1 | 2 | 3 More media

   One of four demos included with the newly-released Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana, Chrono Cross is for many gamers the highlight of the package. Those expecting a carbon copy of its classic predecessor are bound to be disappointed. Gone are the lush, consistent 2D graphics and mildly strategic location-based combat, as well as the distinctive artwork by manga artist Akira Toriyama.

   The demo begins with the hero, Serge, and his party (pugilist Kidd and Glenn the warrior, the latter of whom bears more than a passing resemblance to Chrono Trigger's Glenn) entering a dungeon via elevator. Like Crono, Serge appears to be mute, letting his companions and his body language speak for him.

   Once the trio gets moving, they enter a main room full of twisty corridors, all pre-rendered CG. Monsters roam the interlaced catwalks and treasure chests line the room. As in the original game, combat commenses only when the party makes physical contact with a roaming beast. Upon engaing the enemy in battle, Serge and co. switch from 2D to a 3D perspective reminiscent of most modern RPGs, complete with a panning camera and animated monsters and heroes lining up to take turns to pummel one another.

   However, the game breaks from the norm as you begin mulling over your combat options -- Attack, Element, Defend and Run. The most immediate divergence from the first game is that battle is strictly turn-based, unlike the ATB system incorporating in Chrono Trigger. Furthermore, any party member can choose to attack at any time, and can launch more than attack per turn. However, each party member possesses Stamina points, which are consumed with every assault.

   Here the game strongly resembles Xenogears: Each character is capable of landing weak, medium or strong blows, which in turn subtract one, two or three points of Stamina. Each turn allows a character to attack until his or her stamina runs to zero, or you choose to stop. Your chances of landing a successful blow increase or decrease with each attack, denoted by a percentage value next to your character's name. Enemies often interrupt failed moves to counterattack, so discretion is necessary when attacking.

   The Element command is a little more original -- rather than displaying magic points, each character has a small histogram that builds up over the course of battle and is decreased whenever Element attacks are used. The stronger your Elemental action, the more your bar is diminished. While a basic heal or attack action might knock your Element bar down a level or two, a stronger attack could completely empty it.

   While the enemies and locations in the demo are fairly limited in scope, the finished game will hopefully offers gamers a wide variety of strategic options and a polished story. Look for more on Chrono Cross soon.

   Thanks to J. Parish for the screens and impressions.

Chrono Cross