"Chrono Trigger" is one of the most highly praised and lauded role playing games from the Super Nintendo era and of all time. It is constantly among many top ten lists and yet it has never quite reached mainstream levels that "Final Fantasy" or "Kingdom Hearts" have reached. This could be due to the fact that only two games exist in the franchise and this is the second remake of the first. Somehow, "Chrono Trigger" has eluded even me for all these years but now is the perfect time to actually sit down and experience this one of a kind RPG for the first time.
The original release of the game on the Super Nintendo was released very late in the life cycle in 1995 and was never easy to come by. Eventually it was bundled with "Final Fantasy IV" on the Playstation one in the compilation known as "Final Fantasy Chronicles". It was plagued by rampant slowdown and despite animated cutscenes most preferred to play it without loading times. Square Enix has combined the best of both worlds this time and fit everything in the Playstation release and more into the DS cart and preserved the loading free nature of the original. It does have a new, technically more accurate, translation of the original text. I found this to neither be a hindrance nor an improvement from what little I had played previously, though the old English dialect of Frog is now mostly gone. The original game was produced in a time when Squaresoft and Enix were separate companies. It was known as a dream team once in a lifetime game combining the talents of "Final Fantasy" creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and "Dragon Quest" creator Yuji Horii. Serving more as supervisors and based mostly of ideas of Horii, much of the actual plot was written out by "Xenogears" mastermind Masato Kato. With all this combined talent one might worry that there may have been to many cooks in the kitchen but luckily it proved just the opposite.
"Chrono Trigger" is known for many things, and one of my personal favorites would be the soundtrack. Composed mostly by Yasunori Mitsuda, this was his first big project as a game composer as he threatend to quit Squaresoft if he couldn't compose. "Chrono Trigger" would serve as his debut and instantly a music genius was born. "Chrono Trigger" may very well have the greatest soundtrack of all time, of any medium. Perhaps bested only by the higher quality sound in the Mitsuda's "Chrono Cross". Mitsuda worked so hard on the game he gave himself stomach ulcers and required long time "Final Fantasy" music veteran Nobue Uematsu to finish a few remaining tracks. "Chrono" Trigger easily has the best sounding music possible on Super NES hardware and thankfully Mitsuda supervised the DS port to make sure it sounds just as brilliant on the portable. Headphones are almost a requirement for this game.
With "Final Fantasy III" and "Final Fantasy IV" both getting a massive graphical upgrade to 3D it might puzzle some why "Chrono Trigger" was not given the same treatment. The graphics are high end Super NES, but its been 13 years since the original release. Despite all this, the game very rarely ever shows its age. A true testament to the original graphic designers of the original release. It may not pack the visual punch of any RPG made after 1997, especially on its world map, but its charming and colorful world still looks great even amongst technically superior RPG releases of today. Even for someone like me having not played beyond the initial hour, there is no problem getting sucked into this fantasy world.
The battle system is another trophy piece of "Chrono Trigger." Instead of random battles, you see the enemies on the screen most of the time. The big difference in "Chrono Trigger" is there is no battle screen, where an enemy initiates combat in the game world is where you fight. There is no fading to a closed off battle screen. This leads to a significantly smoother and faster flowing battle system where you never are taken out of the action. It also serves to heighten the realism as initiating a battle with one enemy will cause it to cry out and other enemies up on a balcony who will jump down and join the battle in real time. It is still mostly a turn based battle affair otherwise though, with the option to have the battles freeze while selecting items and spells or not. One interesting feature is the dual and triple techs. Basically as your party levels, they will learn combination spells and supers. These attacks will take up both turns of your party members, but the affect of them is usually worth it. You learn these dual and triple techs by fighting with the different characters, so the game actually prompts you to switch around your fighting party to further expand your dual and triple tech abilities. One of the most brilliant aspects of the battle system is how much more emphasis is placed on strategy then raw power despite being mostly a standard turn based battle system. Most of the normal enemies can be disposed of by brute strength but nearly every boss requires some sort of strategy to beat. This actually serves to further strengthen the battle system and game flow, instead of requiring mindless hours of grinding, "Chrono Trigger" wants you to survey your surroundings and pay close attention to boss fights, finding their weaknesses and exploiting them. Despite being over a decade old, this is actually a refreshing change of pace and a brilliant way of keeping traditional game play but expanding it and finding new ways to make it fresh. It boggles my mind to wonder why no game has even attempted to at least imitate this battle system. Even the semi Sequel "Chrono Cross" uses a completely different battle system.
"Chrono Trigger" is simply everything the hype calls it. Rarely has their been a cast of characters this endearing, rarely has their been a plot this fresh and exciting. The world is filled with wit and charm around every corner. The story and flow of events is almost unparalleled. Through the game you will travel to medieval times to save your descendant, war against invading monsters, travel to the ancient past and fly on the backs of pterodactyls, and race on a jet bike through the abandoned city streets in a post apocalyptic future. "Chrono Trigger" serves as the true definition of what a great adventure story is. If it were a novel, it would be regarded as a classic. My only real minor quibble with the game is oftentimes it will throw a marathon of boss battles at you. In one instance you fight a queen, then her machine, then the queen again for good measure. Another instance has you fighting a boss then fighting the same boss again only this time with his sword drawn. It can be a bit redundant and a little unnecessary. It by no means ruins the game but it can be a little overdone. Regardless "Chrono Trigger" is worth every penny of its price, and puts every RPG released this year to absolute shame despite being a port of 13 year old Super NES game.
Final Verdict - 10/10
Chrono Trigger is one of the most charming, endearing, and most fun role playing games I have ever had the pleasure of playing. If your like me and missed the game for all these years, then what awaits you is simply one of the greatest games of all time. A true treasure that has held up remarkably well over the many years and is the best game that Square Enix has ever made. You would be a fool not to own this game.