I leave you my last words before I am killed by hordes of Chrono Trigger fanboys.
In a world where barren and lifeless games devoid of imagination rule the market, Chrono Trigger is a breath of fresh air — that isn’t very fresh because it’s a remake of a game that some of us have played to death. Even more familiar is the $39.99 price tag on all Square Enix remakes. It’s still better than shelling out for insane prices on eBay for anyone new to the game.
The gist of the story is a chance meeting sends a group of people through time, only to discover their future is ruined by Lavos. Being the goodie goodie that they are, decides to stop it. You’ll journey through various time periods and earn new friends to join your plight. This party of adventurers is led by our mute protagonist Crono; the tomboy princess Marle; nerdy genius Lucca; futuristic robot Robo (you don’t like it, you can change the names); valiant knight from the middle ages, Frog; cavewoman Ayla; and one special optional character. Their rich back story and personality will have you loving each and every one of them.
This game has all the RPG gameplay staples. You have your party system where each member processing their own individual skills. Battle monsters with these skills to earn experience, level up, and cash to buy equipment and items. Your party members have their own skills and stats to make them stand out from one another.
A couple of features sets this game apart. There’s the Active Time meter brought over from the Final Fantasy games. Once the meter fills, it’s that character’s turn to attack. The rate in which is refills varies depending on your speed stats. Even the enemies employ this feature, though you don’t see their meter. There’s an interesting setting that’ll allow the game to pause while you’re selecting in the battle menus, or active, meaning the enemies will continue to attack while you’re in the menus. As you progress, you learn combo techs where two or more party members can join together for an attack, and that means you’ll have to wait until all members’ AT gauge fills before you attack.
An even more interesting design choice is the way combat is carried out on the map. When you do engage an enemy, the combat happens right there — no cut aways, no zoom ins. The enemies actually move around on the field (but you still stand in place). If by chance multiple enemies crowd together, you can maximize the damage with certain techs with an area affect to damage multiple targets. This feature is rendered useless mid-game thanks to other more powerful screen filling attacks. Lots of wasted potential there.
This doesn’t sound too bad, but if you think about it, the game really has nothing else to offer in the gameplay department. Battles still boil down to selecting from menus while you wait your turn. You can’t combo? Wait a while longer, or cast “haste” — which is ironically learned by your slower party member. The game is easy, and requires little to no tactical thinking. That’s not to say it’s devoid of strategy. Some enemies require magic to slay, or needs to be taken out first, or some bosses that heal without the right attacks. At most, these battles (some of them aren’t boss fights, just pesky enemies) take up an hour out of a thirty plus hour epic. Hardly what I’d consider rocket science.
There are no clever dungeon designs or puzzles to stump you, and most dungeons process a straight forward design. Thank god there are no random battles. What it does well is being unobtrusive, so you can enjoy moving the story forward. If a portion of the game isn’t stellar, at least it doesn’t piss you off, then that’s good enough for me.
Chrono Trigger is the first game to offer a New Game + after you’ve beaten the game once. It was downright revolutionary, and worked well. When you start a New Game +, your characters retain all their levels, stats, and equipment from the last save. This isn’t just so you can replay quicker — with your powered up characters, you can tackle the last boss at any point in the story to get one of the twelve plus endings. Some endings add more to the story, while others are silly. This give incentive for multiple replays for a lot of value.
There are plenty of other things to love about this game, though. The game’s beautiful mixture of graphics, music, and story comes together in one big package that still holds up reasonably well today. I could complain about the lack of a visual overhaul to the game, or the lack of many new graphics, but the charm and imagination is still very much alive. Even more so in today’s brown and grey video game worlds. I am surprised the character portraits do not look as good as I remembered.
One thing standout about JRPGs is the unique blend of traditional sword and sorcery fantasy with bits of technology, and this is true in Chrono Trigger. In the game, “present day” is a traditional fantasy kingdom with people inventing teleportation devices. This meld of different worlds always grabs my attention. I actually don’t like games with a more well defined time period; JRPG or otherwise.
Saying the music is beautiful is an insult to the soundtrack. My lack of musical knowledge means I can only say whether I like it or not. To put you into perspective, you’re talking to a man who grew up hating singing and music all his life. I was disciplined a couple of times in kindergarten because I wouldn’t sing with the rest of the kids. This game changed all that (not the singing part).
The soundtrack is so moving, I almost shed a tear — almost. That’s the impact this soundtrack had on me, and got me to collect video game soundtracks. Each track is extremely fitting, and really sets the mood for the scene. The Guardia Castle sounds proud and powerful; the forests emanate a serene yet haunting melody; and the epic final battle between man and dinosaurs sounds… uh… epic. You’ll find no shortage of track either. As a bonus, we finally get to hear the hidden tracks in the original SNES game reinserted back into the game.
The story on the other hand has some issues. To get into all of it would be a waste of time, and I’m sure you can understand why a story with time travel as its main theme can cause all kinds of paradoxical situations. The core story is still very solid with great twists and turns, so if you don’t think too much about it, you really won’t be bothered. The characters are a lovable bunch without too much emo angst to get in the way. Oh, I guess some people might gripe about Crono being a mute.
What I will gripe about is the new translation, though. Most of the dialog is stilted compared to the original. I‘ve only seen a single scene where a character’s back ground benefited from the wordiness/retranslation. Also interesting is the change from “healthy” to “hope“ in this version. I guess it makes more sense that Lavos would destroy your hope, not your vocabulary. Then there are other oddities like this: “Ayla die, Ayla have baby, Kino become chief.” Yes, in that order. So, Ayla dies, then have a baby? I guess Kino’s got some serious issues that they omitted from the original translation.
There’s one change I thought I should warn longtime fans — they removed Frog’s old-world accent from the game. If you think about it, Frog was the only one who spoke like that in entire game. It didn’t add to the authenticity in his time period, yet I can’t help but feel like a part of him is missing in the remake. This is non-issue for newcomers, though.
Lastly, this remake offers a few extras like full motion videos taken from the PSX port, extra dungeons, and monster battling. The extra dungeons serve as side quests for fans to collect some new items and equipment. The monster battling works like your typical battles, and you also have to train them up while customizing their moves to help them grow.
Raising them is painless, and completely optional. This is also the only way you can engage in Wi-Fi battles with other players. It’s not very exciting, but does require more strategy since you’ll be fighting a human opponent compared to the CPU.. It feels tacked on and unnecessary, and as I said, this is completely optional.
All in all, this is a good package, but I’m just not sure I would pay 40 bucks for it. Sorry, but music and graphics don’t make a good game, it’s gameplay. If you’re new to the series, you’ll find a beautiful game at its best, and unobtrusive at its worst. If you’re an old fan, you don’t need me to tell you to pick it up. Just be warned not everything is as you remembered. I can at least say I played the game quite a few times, and I’d hardly consider myself a big RPG fan. I’m just not sure whether this game will convert the non-believers.