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Chrono Trigger

Score: 98%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: RPG/ Adventure/ Classic/Retro


Graphics & Sound:

How do you explain to someone why a game is considered classic? It goes back to Shakespeare's ability to write stories that apply to anyone during any time period. Chrono Trigger is the gaming equivalent of Hamlet in that it is easily recognizable and relatable. Chrono Trigger was released on the Super Nintendo 13 years ago and then ported onto PS1 years later, with added animated cutscenes. Now, Chrono Trigger is back on the DS and while it is a port of the PS1 version, it had a little extra polish to ensure that this would be the definitive version of the RPG classic to date. And it is.

Good games are simply timeless in their approach. A good art style and direction trumps polygon count any day of the week and Chrono Trigger looks just as good today as it did over a decade ago. Akira Toriyama of DragonBall fame did the character design and art direction for Chrono Trigger and it translates perfectly into the setting and atmosphere. While at some points, the 16-bit beauty takes a light and whimsical approach to the RPG genre, the art style helps to make those moments fun and entertaining while still keeping the serious moments. Without rambling too much about why the art is important, I'll just say Chrono Trigger is presented with beautiful 16-bit graphics that haven't lost their luster over the years.

With RPG's, music is important because it is the main facilitator of mood and story. It requires someone that can understand timing and still be able to produce catchy songs. Nobuo Uematsu (who worked on many Final Fantasy titles) created a wonderful score and soundtrack given the limitations of the original hardware. The battle song is the song that you will hear most often and (for lack of a better word) it is awesome. If anyone plans on playing Chrono Trigger in public, wear headphones. There is no good reason why this game should be withheld from your ears.


Gameplay:

You play as Crono, a young boy who can't seem to feed his cats like his mother asks. One day, you wake up and go to the town fair to meet your friend, Lucca. Lucca is an eccentric inventor who is working on a new teleportation machine. Before you can find Lucca, you bump into a lovely girl named Marle. Marle is secretly the princess of the kingdom that wants to abandon the throne in favor of adventure and decides to accompany Crono. Marle follows Crono to meet Lucca and Lucca needs volunteers to test her new machine. What happens after that is an adventure that takes Crono and his friends through time and space.

Everything about Chrono Trigger is simply brilliant. The pacing of the main story is so tight and focused, it fits perfectly on a handheld system like the DS. Getting through a major act of the story takes about an hour or two and luckily, there aren't any slow moments with hours of text to read. The story is kept as simple as it can be to keep the action coming.

One way that the action stays constant is through Chrono Trigger's inventive battle system. All of the enemies you will encounter are walking around the map in each area you visit. Simply running up to them initiates combat. No load screens or load times, just instant action. While it has your run-of-the-mill commands like "Attack" and "Item," it brought with it a new system that allowed for very powerful attacks. The "Tech" system are just special moves that each character earns, however, once enough characters have learned certain moves, they can team up their attacks to perform Double or even Triple Tech attacks. Each one of the attacks you learn is also displayed on a Menu so you can keep up with who is learning skills that you might need for an upcoming battle.

Lastly, Square Enix (Squenix) added a new dungeon, which is broken into three parts, and a new ending to add to the dozen that are already available. On top of that, they added a new monster battle mode that is separate from the main story to allow multiplayer battles. Essentially, it is a Chrono Trigger version of Pokemon, but if anyone played Chrono Cross, it feels more like the parts of that game where you had to play as the cuddly shape-changing monster, Pip, than anything else.


Difficulty:

The most cliché thing to say is "The hardest part is putting it down." I feel wrong saying that, but it is because it's true. The part of most RPG's that becomes difficult is the level grinding. If the bosses are too hard, you have to go grind a few levels and come back to beat them. In some games, it almost feels like a chore more than anything else. But in Chrono Trigger, the monsters and areas are designed so that someone in your party levels up after every few encounters. It just happens with the pace of the story and makes the bosses of each area challenging but manageable.

There won't be any moments where it plays unfairly. In fact, every time that I died was because I was either A) supposed to die as part of the story or B) had a dumb strategy and made a risky action that cost me dearly. The failures are almost entirely on the player. With the exception of the final boss, there aren't too many enemies that seem overpowered the first time you encounter them.


Game Mechanics:

For the DS re-port of Chrono Trigger, Square Enix added a slew of new upgrades and bonus content. The most important change that makes this the best version of Chrono Trigger to date is the touch screen control and dual screen look. You can play the entire game with just the touch screen if you want. It controls like Zelda and Ninja Gaiden did on the DS, but the action is split between the two screens allowing for battle sequences to be unobstructed by Status Screens and Menu Boxes since all of the commands and Menus are on the bottom screen. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but a simple change like that is enough for me to let my PS1 and SNES versions sit on the shelf while I keep this one on at all times.

For those gamers that have played Chrono Trigger before, this is an easy sell. Go buy it because it is readily available and still cheaper than trying to find a copy on SNES. For those that have never played Chrono Trigger or even those that haven't heard of it before, I envy you. I wish I could re-live the first time that I put this game in and experience everything again through fresh eyes. Chrono Trigger is timeless, fun, exciting, and very deserving to be in people's favorite games list. I'm sorry if this review reads like a love letter to a forgotten RPG classic, but I bet if you play Chrono Trigger, you will be doing the same.


-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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