ATB’s Best Games Ever: (3) Chrono Trigger

chronotrigger

If history is to change, let it change. If the world is to be destroyed, so be it. If my fate is to die, I must simply laugh!

This is the list of At the Buzzer’s top 25 games of all-time, as voted on by the main ATB cast members and other friends of the show. We’ve reached the top five, which means things are about to get REAL. For more information on how this whole thing works or for the other games on the list, check out the Related Links at the bottom of this post.

3) Chrono Trigger (SNES)

Chris: Chrono Trigger is the best game ever made. And what’s more, it was a present especially for me, even though I didn’t know it at the time.

chronotriggerboxSee, Chrono Trigger was released on March 11, 1995, which just so happened to be my 10th birthday. I didn’t end up playing through the game until three or four years later, but once I did, everything changed.

Part of what makes CT’s pedigree so strong is the collection of big names that worked on it. Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii and Dragon Ball Z artist Akira Toriyama were all major designers on this title, an almost unthinkable collaboration of talent. The soundtrack was done by the legendary Yasunori Mitsuda, with an assist from Nobuo Uematsu when Mitsuda ended up in the hospital near the end of development. These were industry titans in the prime of their careers.

The reason people talk so highly about CT is that it does everything right. The graphics were ahead of their time, creating a lush, vibrant world for times when the earth is flourishing — and an appropriately desolate look in times when Lavos has messed things up. (The only exception to this is the world map, which is terrible.) Your party is made up of a group of individuals with strong and eclectic personalities. The battle system is turn-based but never stale, with enemies and party members alike constantly moving. That movement affected the success of certain attacks and in turn forced new strategies on the fly. The dual and triple tech system was innovative and encouraged players to constantly try out new character combinations. In a word, Chrono Trigger was revolutionary.

If this were just about technical achievement, we’d already have one of the greatest games of all-time on our hands — but there’s more to it than just that. The reason CT is so critically praised is because all of those mechanics are woven into an extremely engaging story with important individual stories and a time travel system that ties it all together.

This game makes you care about the world, its people, and the problems they face. Trying to repair the mystical Sun Stone? You can do it, but it’s going to require thousands of millenniums of work and you’ll have to create trust in two different eras with an act of kindness. Need to salvage a dying forest? You’ve got a robot who doesn’t age who can work tirelessly on the project, but is it fair to subject a being with consciousness to 400 years of solitude? Do you love Crono’s versatility as a silent protagonist? Too bad; even the main character is at risk from the mighty Lavos. You want him back? It’s going to take some work, but if you don’t feel you’re up to the task, you can choose not to pursue his recovery and go try to save the world anyway. In fact, you can choose to battle Lavos at almost any time in the game — and there’s a multitude of different endings depending on your success (or failure) at certain points.

All of this adds up to one of the definitive experiences in gaming, if not the best. It’s the perfect example of creating a world so lush that the player can’t help but be drawn in and care tremendously about what happens next.

Chrono Trigger got my #1 vote, and while I’m a little disappointed to see it finish in third, that’s still a respectable spot among some of gaming’s titans. If for some reason you’ve never played this classic, put down your Call of Duty or your Farmville and play this magnum opus immediately.

Shaun: Here’s my question: what wasn’t incredible about Chrono Trigger?

The score was astounding, capturing the emotion and drama taking place at all times, punctuating every battle and highlighting every heartbreak. The final boss battle with Lavos still stands out as one of my favorite video game tunes ever.

The characters were endearing and dynamic, each gathering your investment and sympathy from the very beginning. You strive to help them get their happy ending, which is so much more compelling than taking cardboard characters from point A to point B. Furthermore, it allows the more incredible moments to take your breath away; discovering how Lavos devastates the future and witnessing your hero die continually to stand out to me very vividly. Thankfully, the story actually takes advantage of the time travel mechanic, exploring era-specific strife while still focusing on character moments at heart.

The gameplay was a revelation, put quite simply. Mixing and matching character attacks, knowing when and how to build your gauges, and when to strike with your special abilities, is a system that is really unmatched, even to this day. I’ll never know why it wasn’t duplicated more often, but if I had to implement an RPG fighting system into my own game, it would be this one.

Finally, the multiple endings gave the game unparalleled replay value, and encouraged numerous playthroughs with the excellent “new game +” feature. Carrying over your level and abilities to pursue another path was addictive; I’ve beaten the game twice through, and know that I’ll be playing through it many more times to experience what I missed.

It’s interesting; I don’t have the nostalgia filter muddying my judgement of Chrono Trigger. By the time I started my first playthrough, I was already 20 years old, tasked with playing a game with mechanics over a decade old…except, as it turns out, they weren’t dated at all. Chrono Trigger is a game that holds up just as well today as it did when it was released, one of those rare titles that was truly ahead of its time. Which, when considering the time bending adventures of the game’s heroes, is appropriate.

Dave: If Final Fantasy VII was the game that “brought RPGs to America,” then Chrono Trigger got totally robbed. The ability to have your actions in the past change the present and future, along with the multiple endings based on when you defeat the final boss, made Chrono Trigger an all-time classic. Few games are able to make me play them over and over from start to finish, but the catchy music, fun characters and meaningful side quests keep me coming back for more.

With the exception of Lucca, there isn’t a character in this game that I don’t enjoy playing as. The cast of characters in Chrono Trigger isn’t nearly as big as something like Mass Effect 2 or Final Fantasy VI, but they get the most from them. Even if Frog can be a bit of a whiny bitch sometimes, he’s got a good reason, mostly because he’s a freakin’ frog.

Chrono Trigger wasn’t afraid to push boundaries that early into RPGs. Usually you don’t kill off your main character midway through the game, but Chrono Trigger does exactly that, having Lavos vaporize Crono. It was such a roller coaster of a game that I wasn’t sure we were going to get him back at all (considering we just picked up a former MAJOR bad guy as a party member). The character development is fantastic, with each character having their own unique side quest that allows you to fully explore what makes them tick.

I’m not nearly as big into the music of games as some of my other colleagues are, but Chrono Trigger is the best soundtrack I’ve heard. From the awesome trial music to the best boss music I’ve heard (Magus’ fight, just masterful), this one made me actually want to listen to the music of the game even when I wasn’t playing it.

I’m a huge sucker for time travel movies/games/books etc. and so of course this is right up my alley. But possibly the best aspect is the New Game + as Shaun mentioned. I love it because not only will this allow you to beat the game at any point in your quest (including 5 minutes into it), but it will allow people like me who hate having battles difficult just for the sake of being difficult. I’ve never enjoyed playing games on the hardest difficulty level mainly because it just takes so much more time. When I can fly through the battles and really immerse myself in the story, that’s when I am completely enthralled with a game.

Chrono Trigger was the game that brought the full appreciation of the RPG to me, and that’s what matters in my rankings. It hits the nail on the head in every way possible.

chronotriggernight

MORE FROM AT THE BUZZER’S TOP 25 LIST

(4) Mass Effect 2

(5) Knights of the Old Republic

(6) Pokemon Red/Blue

(7) Portal

(8) Final Fantasy VI

(9) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

(10) Super Mario 64

(11) Kingdom Hearts II

(12) Persona 4 Golden

(13) Super Mario Bros. 3

(14) Halo

(15) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

(16) Super Smash Bros. Melee

(17) Super Mario Galaxy 2

(18) Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

(19) Final Fantasy IX

(20) Star Fox 64

(21) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

(22) The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

(23) Fallout 3

(24) StarCraft

(25) Bioshock

Best Games Ever: #50-26

Best Games Ever: #75-51

Best Games Ever: #100-76

Honorable Mentions

Introduction

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