RELEASED: March 1995
AVAILABLE ON: DS, PS1, SNES, Wii Virtual Console
DEVELOPER(S): Square, TOSE (DS, PS1)
PUBLISHER(S): Square, Square Enix (DS)
Chrono Trigger might well be the single most important game of my life. Not only was it the first true role-playing game I ever played and paved the way for me to get familiar with my favourite game of all time among others, it was an awesome game in itself. ...Why am I talking in past tense? The truth is Chrono Trigger does not get old, it is still an awesome game, frankly one of the best there ever was. The initial planning for the game began as early as 1992, between Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii, and Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama. In time, this trinity was baptized "The Dream Team", which is exactly what it was. Being sworn fans of the time travel mythos, Toriyama and Horii created a concept of a group of young people, travelling time to stop an ancient evil from bringing the apocalypse a thousand years after their time. Chrono Trigger seemed like it would be stuck in development hell, since everyone involved with the project was committed to something else. Even some of the game's storyline elements were scrapped on the go and put into use in the Final Fantasy series. Somehow, the team managed to keep their project together and scheduled a release for late 1994. The game was a little delayed, but on March 11th, 1995, Chrono Trigger finally hit the shelves in Japan. The rest is history.
You will never be the same again
|A review this epic deserves |
some ultracool Photoshop
wankery! Looks cool from
afar, don't it?
I have told you before that time travel fascinates me, and whenever you make a video game based on time travel, you've got to have a winner. I've also told you that I've been wrong about that: here's to LJN's series of games based on Back to the Future, which I will not be reviewing any time soon, and Mario's Time Machine, which I've already reviewed two versions of and that's twice too much. Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle was one excellent game. Two years after Tentacle, a video game heavily influenced by Final Fantasy, the biggest game in terms of cartridge capacity on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, not to mention one of the most graphically stunning games yours truly had ever seen at the time, was released. It was based on the idea of rewriting history for the better. It got 95 points out of 100 in my favourite video game magazine, and the review was, like, five to six pages long, complete with character profiles. How could I not be fascinated by Chrono Trigger? What you should know, though, is that I knew nothing about how role-playing games worked. I didn't understand the ATB system, I didn't understand the concept of leveling up, I was the simple kind of player who just ate mushrooms, stomped a few Goombas and saved princesses. I had no idea what games like Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger were really about, they just looked so damn cool and the critics were all over them in a positive sense. That was enough for me to begin drooling after 'em.
|"Guilty." I'll never get a French lawyer again.|
Well, then came this little game called Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation, and I immediately fell in love with the game. Even though I didn't have the game or a PlayStation at the time, I bought a strategy guide, studied the game's twisted plot like a maniac, and just about everything I did related to this masterpiece. After a friend of mine (God rest the soul he no longer has) had finished Final Fantasy VII, he told me I could borrow his PlayStation and the game for an extensive period of time, if I borrowed him my SNES and Chrono Trigger. Well, that sounded like a great deal. I had no interest in Chrono Trigger, but I loved Final Fantasy VII and I still hadn't finished the game. After finally doing that, there was only one thing in my mind: start Chrono Trigger from scratch and beat it. It was like a holy pilgrimage or something. When I did it, I finally realized that the game was one of the greatest ever made, and that I wouldn't have found the joy in Final Fantasy VII without it. It was about time I beat it, since it was late 1998. This time, I didn't rest before seeing every ending in the game. Chrono Trigger was about the first game that prompted me to make a list of each and every big decision I made. Nowadays, many games prompt you to do that, but Chrono Trigger is 16 years old. It was definitely ahead of its time. It's been about ten years since I last played the game. Now I'm returning home, to where it all began.
|So, basically what you're saying is: we're fucked?|
For the most part, the soundtrack is simply in-your-face awesome, just what you'd expect from a Square game released in the middle of two of their best. Yasunori Mitsuda wrote most of the music before backing from the project due to an illness, and passing the torch over to Square's maestro Nobuo Uematsu, who wrote only about ten out of the 60+ different songs, so Mitsuda deserves his credit, which he isn't given - at all. He isn't mentioned in the credits, which is just downright preposterous. He wrote the best of the best, such as "The Trial / The Hidden Truth", "Ocean Palace", "Black Omen", and the best damn boss theme ever, "Magus Confronted". After nearly two decades, game developers have to do some serious work to do something as epic as that whole battle; definitely one of my favourite boss fights in history, from the music to the general atmosphere, to of course the amazing character of Magus himself. After giving it a lot of thought, I must say that Chrono Trigger has a more diverse and solid soundtrack than any single Final Fantasy game in my opinion. It has very few weak tracks. In return some recurring sound effects are pretty rancid.
On to my old favourite when it comes to Square RPG's released when Nintendo of America still had their say - the North American localization. Let's start with the censorship. All in all, Chrono Trigger is a "nice" game, when you compare it to Final Fantasy IV, which had obvious sexual innuendo, exceptionally bad language and exceptionally violent outbursts by characters in its true Japanese form. I probably don't need to go back into how the game was destroyed by Nintendo of America. In Chrono Trigger's case, they only needed to rub out a few minor references involving sex and religion, and many instances of alcohol consumption. The weird thing is that it's still 100% obvious what the characters really do when they "drink soda" or "eat soup". After that one prehistoric party, it's crystal clear that Ayla at the very least has a hangover. That soup must've been some good shit!
|That eagle got it good.|
The cast of characters is a mixed bag between unorthodox protagonists only a Japanese game could have and universally acceptable heroes. They're all fascinating in their own ways, with the exception of Crono; due to the sole fact that he is completely mute, he is probably the lamest original lead I've seen in a game of this caliber. I like his moves, I like his look, I like the direction the plot takes concerning him later on in the game, but I just don't like mute characters. Period. I also don't understand why he suddenly speaks in one of the endings, probably some bad joke by the team. Marle is the kind of girl everyone wants to date; she's a lot like Garnet in Final Fantasy IX, the main difference being that Marle is always in a good mood and rarely gives up hope. She's awesome, really not annoying like her kind usually are. I once jokingly said Lucca is in this game only to explain the plot to us. Since she's very intelligent and extremely gifted in the field of science, she's always the first one to figure out a time paradox and explain it to the rest of the party, so that we can go on yet another quest to prevent yet another awkward twist in history. She's still as annoying in her self-proclaimed greatness as she always was, but has since become one of my favourite characters to use as far as combat goes.
|The first battle against Magus is one of the most |
On to the game. I had to bold that up 'cause I'm sure there are people who were expecting this review to be over already. It's just that Chrono Trigger brings back so many memories, and I know the game so darn well that it's easy for me to get stuck on the characters and the story. I didn't necessarily need to write all that stuff above, but personally, I'm not willing to edit it out either. I already went over how this game looks and sounds, so let's go into how Chrono Trigger works, starting from field work. Although heavily influenced by Square's flagship series (and considered a part of it by some people), Chrono Trigger differs quite a bit from Final Fantasy.
OK, so what you've got to do first is choose a difficulty setting between "Active" and "Wait". The difference is that on "Wait" you can take your sweet time choosing your commands without worrying about the enemy attacking you. It might not seem like a difficulty setting, only a setting of your own preference, but believe me, if you decide to go "Active" without any sort of experience, you're going to have serious trouble sooner or later. Some of the boss fights in the game demand full speed and concentration at the same time. You start off as Crono, and although your objective is to go to the Millennial Fair, you can do a little exploring around the whole continent first and communicate with people to gain some more money, have a tutorial session if you wish and even practice fighting on the forest path to the royal castle. You're quite free to explore throughout the game without having to worry too much about getting totally assraped, the game sets strict limits all the way up to the point you can truly begin sidequesting - at that point you'll already be in a quite formidable battle shape to take on anyone. Not saying taking on anyone is recommendable, but it's more or less possible to survive any predicament from that point on.
|Now THAT'S what I call a view.|
Learning battle techniques and magic spells in this game is very, very simple. You just simply fight, to get TechPoints in addition to EXP. Crono, Lucca and Marle have a couple of techniques they can learn before actually learning to use magic. Crono has some devastating physical attacks, Lucca can use minor fire spells, and Marle has some minor skills in the use of white magic. Spekkio at the End of Time teaches your characters actual magic; whenever one new character visits Spekkio, from that point on he or she gradually learns all there is within his or her skill range - some dastardly spells, I tell you. None of the characters really have classes in the vintage Final Fantasy style, they're all quite balanced. For example, a total of four characters can use some sort of healing spells. Crono, Lucca, Marle, Frog and Magus, however, each have one specific strong element. Crono's Lightning, Lucca's Fire, Marle's Ice, Frog's Water, and Magus is Shadow. They learn their strongest offensive spells based on these elements. Robo and Ayla don't have magical skills; Robo's a non-organic lifeform and Ayla lived before magic was discovered. However, Robo can use laser technology that is equivalent to Shadow magic, and Ayla... well, she gets by just fine with her fists of steel.
|Some of the bosses are God damn huge.|
As you can imagine, the fighting takes some good strategy due to many more factors than just the tempting use of Double- and TripleTechs. There are no random encounters in this game. If there were, you would go crazy. The dungeons are mazes, like gigantic visual puzzles, from the very beginning - random encounters would be all but distracting. Most enemies are in plain sight and you can dodge them with very little effort. There are many ambushes, however, usually when you come to a point of progress like a switch that opens that one crucial door. Press the switch, and very likely there'll be a welcome committee to test your skills before you pass through. Battles in this game can take place anywhere. For example, if you go into a shop and the owner doesn't like you, he might pick a fight with you. The screen doesn't cut to a sideview like in Final Fantasy - your characters simply unsheathe their weapons, the battle menu comes up, and then it's showtime. Due to the free positions your characters and the enemies have, anything can happen. A selfish enemy might cannibalize his bro. He might grab him and throw him at you. He might even grab Crono and send him head first to the wall. You might think the enemies' positions make no difference, but oh, they do. Many techniques that you have at your disposal have an area of effect. You can attack several enemies on a straight line with one Slash attack, or enemies forming even a slight circle, with just one Cyclone. Later on in the game, when the enemies become smart enough to scatter all around the screen, just use Crono's Luminaire or Magus' Dark Matter. There's no escaping death for those bastards.
|That Mother Brain sure does get around in the |
video game business.
One thing I don't love about the game is the battle menu. Instead of organizing spells into two or three different columns, the team decided to clutter 'em all up (including Double- and TripleTechs), same goes for the items. It's hard to find what you need from a huge list of commands. For example, a Revive among all those million different sorts of Tonics, Ethers and Elixirs whenever a party member is down and you're apparently next - the enemy is already counting down for his next huge attack, and you're browsing over and under for that one single item that might give you the slightest chance to survive the fight. I'm not surprised at all, and I don't blame you, if at some point you want to switch from "Active" to "Wait" in the middle of the game - luckily that's possible - just because of the troublesome battle menu. One minor thing that also bothers me is that the menu and the info screen (which tells you what each spell and technique does) occasionally obscure the cursor, and you might not be able to see which target you're attacking. Not very nice in some particular boss fights. The last thing I'll say, is that since the battle menu's so small in size, why do regular dialogue boxes take up a half of the screen?
There are a few minigames you can participate in if you want, none of them are absolutely forced upon you except for two occasions when you have to get a couple of key items by first engaging in a little button-mashing action and then in a little test of reflexes. The most famous minigame is of course the bike race, which is heavily influenced by F-Zero right down to the Mode 7 effects, but shot from the side. Even that isn't mandatory and winning it is easier than heck, but it's a cool little addition to the whole cool experience that is Chrono Trigger - and it comes complete with yet another fiery, vintage Uematsu rock piece that has Deep Purple written all over it.
|Resting up before the final showdown.|
All that stuff I was saying about Crono being mute and the troublesome battle menu might've sounded like I'm trying to come up with shit to throw at Chrono Trigger. You know what? It feels like it, too. I went into this game after a ten year break, a bit worried that I wouldn't like it nearly as much as I did way back when, but I still love it, and I'm still fascinated by it. I even picked up some small storyline threads that I never even noticed when I was a stupid teenager; I finally figured out a lot of the stuff that used to puzzle me about the game's story relating to timelines and time paradoxes, and who or what the famous "Entity" is. Even if the game is a little flawed and not quite on a straight line with the best of the Final Fantasy series, Chrono Trigger is one of the best games ever made. There's no doubt in my mind about that.
GRAPHICS : 9.8
SOUND : 9.5
PLAYABILITY : 9.3
LIFESPAN : 9.6
CONCLUSION : 9.6
GameRankings: 91.82% (DS), 95.10% (SNES)
Nintendo Power ranks Chrono Trigger #21 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.
The game was officially released in Europe for the first time, on the Nintendo DS, on February 6th, 2009 - almost exactly 14 years after its original release on the Super Famicom.
In the North American box art, Marle powers up Crono's sword with a fire spell. Marle cannot use fire magic in the game.
Many character names were localized for North America. Actually, Robo is the only lead character whose name is exactly the same in the Japanese in North American versions of the original SNES game. The original names of the other lead characters are Chrono (Crono), Marl (Marle), Rukka (Lucca), Kaeru (Frog), Eira (Ayla) and Maoh (Magus).
The name Ayla is a reference to the female protagonist in the Earth's Children series of novels, written by Jean M. Auel.
Interestingly, only three out of the seven lead characters go by their real names: Crono, Lucca and Ayla. Everyone else uses an alias.
Magus' three henchmen are called Ozzie, Flea and Slash. They are named after rock musicians John "Ozzy" Osbourne, Michael "Flea" Balzary and Saul "Slash" Hudson. Amusingly, a woman in Sandorino Village describes the three as "tone-deaf, evil fiends".
The three Gurus - Belthasar, Gaspar and Melchior - are named after the Three Wise Men (formally known as Biblical Magi) from the Holy Bible.
Biggs (mistranslated as Vicks) and Wedge, who have had cameos in almost every Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy VI, appear at the Tent of Horrors, accompanied by a third person called Piette. Biggs, Wedge and Piette are all minor characters in the original Star Wars trilogy.