This is a blog "series" I'm planning on doing, and I'm planning on calling it "RPG Battle" because I can't think of a better name currently. As a result of my new found interest in RPGs (see previous/first! blog post) I've decided to put them head to head one at a time to create a "favorites" list. So starting with my first two completed RPGs that aren't Pokemon games, I will continually add in RPGs in the most recent order. So my first one being Final Fantasy VII will go head to head with the second non-Pokemon RPG, Chrono Cross.
I plan on setting the RPGs against each other and ranking them on various subjects, such as: characters, music, battle system, skill/level system, art direction, main hero, main villain, nostalgia, and other things.
Keep in mind this is all my opinion, and I know when it comes to RPGs (especially the final fantasy ones, as those are the bulk of what I've done, have lined up) people will valiantly defend their favorites and such. Just remember I'm not trying to say these are the overall best, or push anything like that on anyone, simply saying what my personal preferences are. And yes, I'm late to the party on pretty much every "classic" RPG under the sun, so my nostalgia isn't really deserved, but whatever. I still feel the love. I hope we can all feel the love.
So here we go!
RPG Battle: Final Fantasy VII vs. Chrono Cross
In the blue corner!
...and in the red corner!
First Category: Characters
Being my first RPG, this cast sticks out in my book. Not to mention all the preconceived expectations I had before playing this game due to the hype and legacy it had. Was getting to it ten years late good? Probably not, but there's no way around it. Cloud, Aeris(th), Tifa, Cid, Vincent. They're all awesome. Some people hate Nomura's art style, and I'll just say that overall to his stuff, I'm mostly indifferent, but these were well defined characters visually. Each of the nine party members had their own look and aesthetic.
People can fall into the rut of just relegating to the default arguments "Ah man, cloud is such a whiny emo bitch, hur hur hur." But I'm going to say he's not. Cloud goes through a change from the start of the game to end, however much it is. Fact of the matter is, he's a dynamic character. While the rest of the cast don't really seem to go through any major changes, except for Cid and Barret I'd say, they are secondary characters, who all serve their part. While I wasn't on the edge of my seat for anyone's big turnaround, I enjoyed them. The contrast of Vincent being your stereotypical strong silent guy, to Cid's abundant cursing and smoking, to Aeris being a sweetheart. They are an enjoyable cast, together and apart.
I'm probably going to get nailed on this part, but I've got to call it like I see it. Forty characters or whatever is way too much. Visually, the characters (that I used mind you) looked cool and different. Serge, Kid, Radius and Norris were the four characters I used the most. But when you're given room for only three characters in your party, and at times accumulating more than that in a single story event, and with around forty total... that's just absurd. Also as a result of this abundance of characters, the ones I did enjoy using suffered from it, as all characters had to mainly use stock lines said in their manner, because at any point in the game, they could be anyone. They got their initial dramatic moment upon joining the party, and that was about it. If Chrono Cross had allowed for something like four party slots and probably 20 less characters, I would've enjoyed it in this respect a lot more.
One last thing, there were WAY too many stupid little green fairy elf type characters. WAY too many.
Characters: Final Fantasy VII > Chrono Cross
Second Category: Battle System
FFVII's battle system is extremely similar to FF IV-IX. At the time I didn't know this, so I guess you could say "it was fresh". And coming from someone who had only played Pokemon up to this point was enjoyable. The ATB system was a great way to speed things up from a standard turn based system. Selecting all allies or enemies was easy to do by just going all the way left or right, and it offered up interesting variations with back and side attacks that would happen randomly. The way you could also save up your Limit Breaks in battle was a small thing I enjoyed. While some people hate them, I really enjoy the aspect of summons, crazy animations included. Overall it's easy to use and get used to.
Okay I'll say more. I love this battle system. The aspect of stamina for varying degrees of physical attacks and spell casting is absolutely amazing. And then the incorporation of the color based attacks that are stronger or weaker depending on your character's innate colors, and the opponents, and the color field. The color field is a little gem. In the top left of the screen there are three concentric cirlces, and they are randomly colored at the start of the battle, but as a battle continues, whatever move is used most recently, that color fills the center. Next move, a new color will fill the center, and the original one will push outwards.
like this, look in the top left.
This changes battle quite a bit, as attacks with that color trait are stronger, and opposing ones are weaker as a result. Chrono Cross also has a type of summon system, but in this game you have to have the entire color field matched to that summon's type, making it a little bit of work to actually pull off a summon.
Just a fantastic battle system. A wonder to play.
Battle System: Chrono Cross > Final Fantasy VII
Third Category: Skill/Level System I'm combining the two because to me "leveling system" doesn't seem to vary much from what I see. Some day that might change, when I'm a wiser man.
Final Fantasy has a leveling system. Experience is divided up among party members. Alright. Cool. Standard.
But as far as it's skill system goes, it has these little doo-dads called materia. I enjoyed this type of skill system, because of skills only being able to be leveled by that particular character, the skills themselves could level and then be transferred between any character. Looking at it now with the experience from other rpgs i've now played (namely FFV) It's similar to FFV's job system, but you're able to pass the jobs to anyone. So it's a nice option to be able to completely customize your party, and just have that level of freedom.
I figure since it's technically a "skill", and worth note, the Knights of the Round summon is probably the greatest thing I've seen in an RPG yet, and I was sad to find out it's not in any other final fantasy games. So what if it breaks the game in half and lets you waltz through the end of it, it's cool as hell.
Skill wise, Chrono Cross has a very similar system to FFVII, instead of finding materia, you just find spells here and there. These spells are attributed a color. Colors that match your characters innate color type are stronger. These can be set into tiered columns that indicate the level of power they have. Though the higher the column the less spaces there are for spells to be input.
Next up is the level system. Chrono Cross employs this method of giving you a "star" for every boss you defeat, and that gives you your major stat boost, essentially a level. You can get tiny stat boosts otherwise from fighting, but they are tiny compared to the boss star upgrades. And as a result of this, you don't have to level grind at all in this game. On one side, I love this, because I don't really enjoy grinding. But on the counter side, you only have to know the strategy for the boss. Once you know that, the challenge is gone. And while yes, this is obvious for any RPG, with Chrono Cross it doesn't really give you much variation. You can't really over level and plow through for yuks, or attempt going through it again at a much lower level to challenge yourself. I like the principle of no leveling, but for some reason it didn't really hit me on this game.
BUT, FFVII is run of the mill with this department, and Chrono Cross is attempting something.
Skill/Level System: Chrono Cross>Final Fantasy VII
Fourth Category: Art Direction
Had FFVII been relegated to just Midgar, it probably would have been a clear winner. But as it stands it can't really compare. While I really do enjoy the sci-fi-ish feel of FFVII way more than Chrono Cross, the environments start to get a bit repetitive looking.
If I'm allowed to squeeze character design in here, FFVII MURDERS Chrono Cross.
Shit looks good. About all I can say.
If I'm allowed to squeeze character design in here, FFVII MURDERS Chrono Cross. I can take only so many two foot tall grassy sprite/fairy/elf type characters vying for a spot on my three person team out of like 30 some other characters.
Art Direction: Chrono Cross=Final Fantasy VII
Fifth Category: Protagonist
I'm not even going to post a picture of Cloud.
Starting with the surface, I know FFVII/Cloud/Sephiroth/FF in general/JRPGs catch a lot of shit for "ooh women characters" and all that but screw it. Cloud looks cool. He's one hell of a stylish protagonist. Big cliche anime sword, all that. It's rad. I played the game before seeing advent children, but I was finally sold on the game when he shows up with a fucking motorcycle inside the shinra building, and rides it out and fights other guys on the highway out. It was everything that was right with the 90's. BEING RADICAL. It was hilarious and cool all at the same time (Not to mention the snowboarding later on. Cloud is one TUBULAR guy).
Despite Cloud also catching a lot of shit for being "an emo bitch", I think people just like to use FFVII as a scape goat for EVERYTHING regarding rpgs. I'm just glad Cloud has an actual character arc, no matter the size, he has one.
My big beef with Serge applies to many video game protagonists. Outside of Link, I'm not really a fan of the silent protagonist. I find it destroys the immesion of Half Life 2 when people are like "YOU'RE PRETTY QUIET! HAHAHA!" and the same goes for Serge. "DON'T WORRY, I UNDERSTAND BY YOUR STEELY GAZE THAT YOU'VE GOT A PURE SOUL. HAHAHA!" Is it hypocritical to let Link get away with it? Yes. But he was the first one in my book. So whatever. I mean, Serge is better than the GTAIII protagonist. But in a 40 hour RPG he's gotta show some sign of life.
He's cool, but he's just like, "Hey what's up?".
Now to his looks. Serge looks pretty ballin' with his bandanna and all that, but he doesn't really scream out as an individual. I'll give him props for using the really cool swallow for a weapon. He doesn't have a bad character design, but it's just nothing to write home about.
Protagonist: Final Fantasy VII > Chrono Cross
Sixth Category: Antagonist
Here's where the shit will probably hit the fan with any comments I might get. I think Sephiroth looks cool, and he was worked into the story in a way to be an effective villain, not getting actually revealed until a good many hours in. His motives boiled down to extremely basic "wah ha ha kill everyone take over planet whatever". But In the ~4 final fantasy games I've finished, it really hasn't been that different, so he's doing okay by those standards.
I guess another thing about him that will catch me shit is that I'm a big fan of the Protagonist vs. Antagonist structure, which FFVII did an okay job of, once you realize how it all works out and the playing field the two combating forces are on. Cloud being injected with Mako and all that good stuff. Makes his ass kicking a bit more believable.
When there's a debate on who the real protagonist is, there's a problem. Maybe it's because I have yet to play Chrono Trigger (I did buy it in Dec. 08 though, and it's up next on my to play list! So maybe I'll have differing views on some subjects of Chrono Cross! Don't hate me!). As it stands now, the Lavos creature came out of nowhere. Lynx was alright but got smoked a little to early for my likes. It performed one of my least favorite techniques that will get thoroughly reamed when Final Fantasy IV and IX come into the RPG battle. If you've played those you'll probably get what I'm hinting at.
FFVII does have some great tracks. I love the ones above, but you could search for Cosmo Canyon, Aerith's Theme, Tifa's Theme, Opening-Bombing Mission, (don't hate me) and One Winged Angel.
But in reality Still More Fighting is the best song the game has to offer. It's just so amazing.
My big problem with the soundtrack is that the majority of it becomes repetitious and blends all together. When listening to the soundtrack itself it really sounds like your listening to a videogame, and not that there's anything wrong with that, but when compared to... (see below)
The Chrono Cross soundtrack is one class act. Sometimes I left the game on during the first track listed just to listen to it. I just let it sit there and turned off the TV because it was such a bless to listen to.
The Chrono Cross soundtrack does start to blend together at times when listening to it in it's entirety, but the sound quality is so much better than the FFVII soundtrack and it's just beautiful. I don't know how to properly put it all formal like, but it's great. And it wins. And if you've played this game and don't like the music you're not human. ROBOT.
Music: Chrono Cross > Final Fantasy VII
Eighth Category: Nostalgia
I have great memories of this game from my freshman year of college. All my floormates cheering me on in the northern crater, a good buddy watching about 40 hours of my playthrough. It's probably the reason I'm so biased to this game.
I only finished it about five months ago, and did it all for the most part by myself at a new college early in the year when I didn't have many friends. For some reason I still look upon this time with a smile. Probably because RPGs aren't bad by yourself either.
Nostalgia: Final Fantasy VII > Chrono Cross
Conclusion Overall it's really close, and I really really really enjoyed both games. But Final Fantasy VII wins out by a slim margins just because I enjoy it more as a whole package. Where Chrono Cross pounded it into the ground with the music and battle system, it lost ground in many other areas to truly make it stand out.
Winner: Final Fantasy VII
Sorry about the extremely long write up. If you made it through you're awesome. I hope this didn't come across as another FFVII love fest, as I truly did love Chrono Cross as well.
But I will continue these in the order of RPGs I've completed, so up next is the SNES classic Final Fantasy IV (played on GBA). They wont be as long format because only the newcomer side in each new write up will get a full review, whereas the past games will get heaped together and compared to the current game on the chopping block. Thanks for reading!