Perhaps one of the more popular and widely circulated ROM hacks out there, Crimson Echoes is a heavily edited version of the ROM for Chrono Trigger that tries to serve as the sequel we never got for the Chrono franchise after Chrono Cross. However, what we get is a mishmash of good ideas, bad ideas, decent concepts and poor executions; Crimson Echoes seems to be yet another one of those projects that just simply got way too big for its britches and eventually collapsed unto itself under the pressure of its own ambition. It claims to be 98% finished but with the sheer amount of content that’s left utterly unpolished and unfinished it makes me wonder two things: were the developers truthful in that claim and, if so, how much more content was planned? I guess that’s just one of those things that we’ll never know, really, as a cease and desist was sent and the project, in essence, was toast.
The gameplay, graphics, and layout of systems and technical aspects remain mostly unchanged, aside from a few differences in terms, art, and objects. There’s no qualms that this project set out to do one thing and one thing only – to serve as a bridge between Cross and Trigger and expand upon the story given by both games: in that aspect, they mostly succeed. While the writing is oftentimes littered with errors and some of the dialogue and story choices are ridiculous, most of it is done well and fits within the franchise, which is a rather welcome pace for ROM hacks that seek to tell a story within an established RPG franchise. Most stories are cheap fanfiction, most characters are silly Mary Sues, most main characters are self-injection, and 90% of the time they’re pretty terrible and awfully short. This is one of those games that’s only failure was that it was not given the chance to go through a thorough testing phase: a lot of things bug out and there’s a lot of places that are left out and it’s clear there was plans but they just could not be added at the last second. It’s not enough to really detract from the game’s accomplishments but, a lot of the time, it takes away from the immersion and when its main goal seems to be to tell a story that a lot of people had been begging for, that’s kind of a big blow.
Another thing that’s a real shame is the game’s seriously flip-flopping difficulty, which could have done well with some testing, as well: the game seems challenging one moment and too easy the next, while, a few moments later, it’s practically enraging. There’s a segment of the game that you literally cannot get through without some kind of guidance as the clues are completely abstract, what you go through just stretches it out in terms of frustration or boredom, and what you get at the end of most of these kinds of trials are hardly ever worth it. Oftentimes, this makes the game more like a chore than an enjoyable experience and a lot of this appears to be by design, which sucks. It feels almost as if the creators felt Trigger was too easy and felt that unneeded struggle was needed.
However, like I’d mentioned before, the game really shines in its story and while some of the new concepts are neat in what it brings to the table but the biggest plus on the story for me was the spots where it answered a lot of the questions left dangling by the various games such as why Porre invaded Guardia, where the Dream Devourer came from, the consequences of the party’s time travel, where the consciousness of the Planet came from, and some other important stuff. That was the kind of stuff I really liked but I would have enjoyed just a little more polish and maybe a little more elaboration as to some of the points made by the story.
In my opinion, Crimson Echoes stands as one of the better ROM hacks out there and probably one of the best RPG ROM hacks I’ve ever played. This is the kind of thing that could have stood alone as its own game if it were just a little better and it’s a damn shame it didn’t get the time to finish production.