March 29, 2009

Chrono Trigger Review

Chrono Trigger (DS)

Following in the Square-Enix tradition of porting their old games to the DS, they now feast their eyes on the fan favorite Chrono Trigger. But to make fans even crazier, Square Enix put some additional content, like a formal English translation, two additional dungeons, a new ending and a new Arena mode (which I never really figured out).

Now for a little history. First released in the 90s to much fanfare in gamer circles, Chrono Trigger was an RPG that was made by a so-called 'dream team' composed of the greatest minds from both Squaresoft and Enix at the time (basically when Square Enix merger didn't happen yet). The game also made big names out of several industry figures, and it pretty much took not only the genre forward, but also the industry itself in one way or another.

Now you may think that just because the original SNES game was a such a classic (and that the new game, err, remake adds more to the experience with new content and portability), I'd give it a ten in a heartbeat, but seriously, no. But before the fanboys out there go out and flame me, let me also say that the flaws in this gem are rather minor and the core experience is unforgettable and top-notch.

Let's get a background on the story over here. Crono is just an ordinary teen who resides in the fictional town of Truce during 1000 A.D., and this year is particularly noteworthy because it's when they hold the Millenial Fair- a fair held every thousand years. Everything changes when Crono bumps into exuberant Marle as she later dares to jump in Crono's inventor friend Lucca's teleportation machine. Thing is, the teleporter goes wrong and a time portal opens, sending Marle into another time period. This journey then suddenly becomes a bit more epic in scale as they travel from time period to time period to try and rewrite history as well as the apocalyptic future for that matter from the evil hand of Lavos.

You'd think that the game has aged too much due to the fact that its plot revolves around the now tired concept of time travel. Well, don't you go crying cliché on me right now because the game manages to use this foundation in a fresh, coherent way. How? Well, it's something best explained through experience, although I'll tell you this: despite the shifts in time periods, the big picture manages to flow oh-so smoothly in a manner that doesn't seem confusing at all. There will be times when you'll have to use the time element to affect a few other minor events as well, which is really cool when you get to do it.

Additionally, the characters have their own distinct (if not stereotypical in a manner of viewing) personalities and they come off as a really unique and unforgettable cast. The distinct style of Akira Toriyama (Dragonball) makes sure of that. Hell, everything artfully made in this game is beautiful, even if sometimes a few crucial paths look like walls (that just adds more opportunity for Easter eggs and hidden items which I like). The music goes hand-in-hand with the art direction, and the score is haunting, riveting, beautiful... it deserves an orchestral treatment, in my opinion. Instead, we're stuck to the same 16-bit era versions, although that's not to say that the quality of the music deteriorates due to it- in fact, a 16-bit score may just spur much more nostalgia instead to the retro gamer. Truly, the musicians worked hard to make the score sound as if it was played by true instruments of which they somehow succeed in doing.

Something else that's fresh is the gameplay. Yes, you may have seen the ATB battle system before in some games like FF8 but Chrono Trigger pretty much invented it (correct me if I'm wrong though). What is this ATB thing, you say? Well, let's say that there's a small bar below your character's stats: hit points, magic points, the usual. That small bar will constantly be filled up by a blue bar, and when it's full, you get to make your move as to whether you attack, use Techs (Magic) or Items. Basically you have to wait for a bar to fill up so you can take your turn. Despite the seemingly boring description, I think it's much more exciting and strategic than the usual turn-based battle systems used by many others. Like I said, you just have to experience it.

Subtler changes like being able to move while talking to a person (or when a dialog box is displayed), a silent protagonist (at the time of its release it was a new thing), the ability to evade fights with monsters (the game displays monsters in your field of vision unlike other RPGs that rely on random encounters so you only have to fight them when you make contact with them) as well as the fact that fights start instantly after monster contact without any loading or scenario changes contribute tons to the gameplay experience as a whole. I mean, I haven't seen many an RPG that lets players walk around an area while another person is talking to them or when the game announces that you made a discovery in a treasure box, nor have I experienced many an RPG that has fights that just start instantly- within the snap of a finger without those flashy transitions and 3D scenario changes. I mean, once you play this game, you'll be going ape-shit and you'll be asking questions like, "Why aren't modern RPGs doing THIS?!".

Still, I have a few complaints to get out of the way: most of the time, the game doesn't really give a clear hint as to where you have to go next. I spend much of my time exploring the world and finding out if something will happen in one place or another. It can be excruciating sometimes, but that's what walkthroughs are for. Additionally, a few of the new elements added in by Square Enix for the DS don't really matter much. The new content is composed of fetch quests which go stale, and I can't freakin understand the Arena mode which is basically Pokemon-esque. How can I get my own friggin beast to actually be able to use this mode?! Can anyone in-game tell me?!

Seriously, I think Square Enix should've only added the new ending and put the game out because with the now 13 endings to unlock and watch, the addition makes for loads of replay value alone.

The game is really good as it holds quite a place in my heart (look at me, I'm using understatements!), and the DS version may just be the definitive one since it also adds the anime cutscenes from the PS1 remake minus the load times. If you haven't played Chrono Trigger, then you just might be missing half your (gamer) life. A must-buy for DS owners.

Rating: 9.3/10

P.S. If you were wondering about the length of this adventure, a playthrough with only 4 or 5 sidequests done and only the general ending unlocked will garner 24 hours of game time. There's a LOT of sidequests and endings to unlock, mind you.


  1. So is there any voice acting work?

  2. @Tristan H Nope. Just growl samples for the monsters, but I can't imagine this game actually having voice acting because I'd always imagine it to be crappy if they did.


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