Chrono Cross 05: How Pretty

So prettyChrono Cross does one thing wonderfully… and the remake mucked it all up.

As has been mentioned on the stream repeatedly, I am talking about graphics. Chrono Cross had some amazing art for its time. In fact, the word “art” seems to be the only way to describe it, as this night’s stream opens with a gorgeous environment that recalls the works of Van Gogh. And that can’t be a coincidence in a videogame where you recruit a painter named Van! Beyond the obvious exquisite dimension, we also have scenic tropical towns, imposing manors, and at least one “dragon castle” that is a stunning mixture of nature and architecture. Looking at any given screenshot from Chrono Cross shows the viewer something that might be expected at The Louvre.

(And if you think I am being hyperbolic, please keep in mind that I was at The Louvre a couple of months back. They have a lot of space to fill, and there are some real dogshit paintings in there. A scene from El Nido would beat the toga off the 7,000th painting of Jesus looking concerned.)

But immaculate thumbnails aside, Chrono Cross has some issues when you adapt its world for modern displays. This was a game originally designed to look great on a television that weighed 50 lbs. and had a display area roughly as large as a Mr. Potato Head. Once you blow that up to the contemporary display that takes up an entire exterior wall, you start to have problems. Chrono Cross is great in its micro-macro, but once its micro bits start showing, you notice things like incomprehensible banners and sub-clip art guitars. The battle arena seen in this stream features a banner that proudly displays “Welcom [sic] Iron Man”, which is not only misspelled, but makes exactly zero sense in a monster fighting tournament conquered by a bunny girl. But who can blame any of the old art directors for Chrono Cross? That banner would have been the size of a chiclet back in the Playstation 1’s day…

Lovin the alienAnd while we’re deep in the angry well, the “shiny” effects that have been added to Chrono Cross HD seem to exist only to repel fans. Absolutely no one played Chrono Cross back at the turn of the century and said, “Well this Starky alien is neat and all, but he should be so much shinier!” Chrome doesn’t work on grays, and making an obviously biological entity appear to be robotic is unmistakably an unfortunate choice.

But since these blurbs are supposed to be outlining the good of Chrono Cross, I will say it again: Chrono Cross can be gorgeous. Just pull your old CRT TV out of the basement, hook up your Playstation with an R/F adapter, and gaze in wonder at the game the way it is meant to be played.

… Or just use that old ass television to play Super Smash Bros. See if I care.

Even Worse Streams presents Chrono Cross
Night 5

Original Stream Night: May 10, 2022

Recruited this week:

  • Sprigg
  • Harle
  • Radius
  • Van
  • Zappa
  • Funguy
  • Norris
  • Starky
  • Irenes
  • Janice
  • Sneff

Random Notes on the Stream

  • We are starting with an exemplary look at graphics. See everything you just read for more information.
  • 2-D Monsters means a discussion on PaRappa beta stuff. It looks like the current best way to see what we were talking about is here.
  • Sorry, girlfriendRacism makes zero sense in this lazy plot. I mean… racism never makes sense, but this specific racism is never fully explored.
  • There is a discussion of Spider-Man and/or Bruce Campbell quipping across videogames. Either one is fine.
  • Welcome to Termina. It’s fucked!
  • Van, across two dimensions, is unhappy. Like Notch.
  • 🎵 Believe it or not, Funguy is now at home. I never thought it could be so great. 🎵
  • Winnie the Pooh is clipping out of bounds at COVID Disney World. Well, technically COVID Epcot.
  • Lavos is responsible for humans being humans… So Ayla isn’t a human?
  • Talkin’ ‘bout a strategy guide talkin’ ‘bout Final Fantasy 7’s Test 0 monster
  • Welcome to the casino pirate ship where we become cats. Not cat boys or cat men, but cats.
  • I was happy to play Marvel vs. Capcom 2 at Game Terminal near Nashville, Tennessee recently. I got the high score!
  • Street Fighter x Tekken: all exclusive characters are terrible.
  • I want Guile to be Sneff separated by dimensions. It’s not happening, but it would be cool.
  • There are a surprisingly high number of optional things to do while in cat mode
  • Fanboymaster literally cannot remember the Chief of Marbule boss battle at all… and no one can blame him.
  • MeowWe enter the monster fight arena to earn Janice. Enjoy that taking forever…
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Sometimes a sword is hot. It is the most anime game BEAT has ever played, and that is saying something.
  • We close with the “Evil Masamune” guarding/wiggling the path forward.

Next time on Chrono Cross: A special guest star for a special future.

One Response »

  1. Talk about graphics:

    -Technically Chrono Cross already did the shiny thing (even with Starky) back on PlayStation. Wasn’t particularly good there either; given that the remake’s basically a rejiggered PSone ROM I’m not surprised that they could exacerbate that effect when doing a do-over of the models.

    -I still don’t think they look THAT bad,* but Chrono Cross’s backgrounds definitely strike me as the kind that were never really intended to be upscaled. Given the use of colors and brush strokes I wonder if Squaresoft used 2D drawings instead of 3D renders? Would make sense given the other things that are a little more budget about the game.

    -Can’t fault the game for being ambitious visually, but I definitely see why Final Fantasy VIII had a lot of NPCs who were just background art and Final Fantasy IX went back to a single player avatar running around. Chrono Cross really pushes the limits of the PlayStation, and when you have stuff like three-member parties walking around with multiple (3D) NPCs in a scene, and symbol encounters, and on top of that occasional special effects like fog and moving textured water and giant ship oars, it’s no wonder the game has so many framerate issues. Even moreso when using a modified ROM for modern consoles; source code was most likely long gone.

    All that said, man, I really wish that Square Enix would make a return to the pretty 3D tropical RPG well. Really beautiful, colorful stuff.

    * Though that said, I will admit at least one reason I’m more forgiving of the upscaled backgrounds is ‘cuz Disco Elysium has a similarly messy style for its rendered backgrounds.

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