Chrono Trigger Review: A Nostalgic Epic

The risk of playing an older game that’s widely adored by its fans (cough cough Final Fantasy VII cough cough) is that sometimes it can give newcomers unrealistic expectations. The game is expected to be amazing because of the nostalgia that comes with the adoration of fans who played it when it first came out. This bias can influence expectations and maybe even lead to disappointment. Fortunately, the nostalgia and love for Chrono Trigger is justified – it’s hyped for all of the right reasons because it truly is a wonderfully unique game. This should have been the game to bring RPG’s to the west! But I digress, on with the review.

Luminaire the nay-sayers! Spare no one!
Luminaire the nay-sayers! Spare no one!

The combat system in Chrono Trigger is a lot of fun and addictive. The ability to combine magic spells is extremely unique, and for the life of me I can’t understand why this hasn’t become a more mainstream feature in RPG’s. It’s so satisfying to wreck your enemies with devastating team spells that should really be incorporated into other games. I may suck at figuring out the strategies behind the boss fights, but it’s honestly a genius move on part of the developers. I’ve never had to think so hard about how my attacks may influence the flow of battle, and forcing the players to plan their moves strategically is something that rarely happens in modern JRPG’s anymore.

Time travel stories can be hit or miss (cough cough Final Fantasy XIII-2 cough cough), and Chrono Trigger is an example of a game where the story really works. It’s a rather straight-forward story, but its execution and the unique moments that follow make it stand out, like the Day of Lavos or going to Zeal. Seeing how your actions can change the course of history is fascinating and encourages you to explore your options. An example of when both of the outcomes are satisfying and make it difficult to select on over the other is whether or not to kill Magus or recruit him – both outcomes of the choices develop the characters in different yet engaging ways that are worth exploring. And to top it all off, the main plot of defeating Lavos, while simple, is compelling because the story never loses sight of the main objective at any point. It gives the story urgency, and your approach can cause multiple different endings which is such a nice, fun touch as well.

Not only is the story vital, but the strongest part of the game is the characters, with many noteworthy moments of the game devoted to them. Crono’s trial, Frog’s past, Crono’s sacrifice (I’m slightly biased, don’t judge me), the Battle Against Magus, and so many more moments devoted to character and setup rather than plot. It’s refreshing to see this focus on characters rather than the story and the fact that nearly the entire cast is likable and important helps too. Each character has a role in the story, but that role doesn’t overshadow their character moments, and that helps Chrono Trigger shine. Everyone grows and develops over the course of the game, and seeing this progression strengthens the timeless quality of the cast.

My final team of complete and utter devastation
My final team of complete and utter devastation

For a game that’s over twenty years old, it’s hard to tell when you see the in-game graphics. Sure, they’re created from pixels, but they’re perhaps the most detailed I’ve ever seen. The character sprites are lively and the backgrounds are colorful and lush. The familiar locations feel fresh and new because of the level of detail that is put into each environment to make them stand out. The graphics are charming and really pop thanks to Akira Toriyama’s designs as well. While it could be cool to see this game remade with 3D graphics, Chrono Trigger is unique as it is, and it’s not something I’d want to see change anytime soon. Unless the whole game looked like the animated cutscenes. I could be down for that.

The soundtrack for Chrono Trigger is excellent. Each song is unique and original, and all of the character themes are fitting (especially Crono and Frog’s theme songs. So good), and the town and world map themes are great as well. Most of the battle themes are solid as well, but of course we can’t forget about tracks like World Revolution or To Far Away Times. Chrono Trigger’s music is iconic and memorable through the combined efforts of composer powerhouses Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu, and I for one would love to see them team up for another video game soundtrack. Make it happen Square!

This crossover is great even though all of the Chrono Trigger characters are so dead.
This crossover is great even though all of the Chrono Trigger characters are so dead.

You’d think that with the game taking place in much of the same locations across time that it may get old or redundant. Chrono Trigger has a unique way of making each area unique and exciting through its presentation. Each area demands to be explored, which is a really awesome feat considering that many of them reappear throughout time. It enhances the story as well by showing the progression of time on the land, making the game even more enjoyable because of how much detail is applied to every area.

The Verdict
I’m really glad to finally experience this classic game. It has a huge amount of replay value, and one that I plan to play again on the Nintendo DS with the glorious animated cutscenes. It’s really hard for me to say anything really negative about the game other than some unfortunate loose ends in the story. The game really is perfect. I enjoyed Chrono Trigger immensely and can’t wait to explore the multiple endings and kill everything in new game plus.

Score: 5 fist-pumping Cronos out of 5


5 thoughts on “Chrono Trigger Review: A Nostalgic Epic

  1. Great review! 🙂 I have the game for the Nintendo DS waiting in my room to be played. I actually avoided watching the Let’s Plays you and Chris were doing for this game because I want to experience it on my own without it being spoiled. My best friend and cousin have sang this game’s praises for a really long time and I’m eager to play it once I get other games out of the way. I definitely got more interested in playing it when my friend described what the game was like and how there are multiple endings to be experienced. I think he told me getting the “best ending” in the game is actually a bit hard to achieve but really satisfying when you do get it. I like that kind of variety in gaming, especially RPGs, where there are more than one ending. It changes the story in really subtle ways when those options are available. The only unfortunate thing about playing Chrono Trigger is if I’ll have time to replay it again and again to get all the endings when my free time kinda sucks these days. 😦

    1. Thank you! I definitely recommend this one! And one thing nice about the multiple endings is the new game + feature which will definitely help experiencing the game’s multiple endings without having to restart completely. I’m already really liking it on the DS – the port is really solid and is more manageable than the original. Hopefully you get to play it soon! 😀

    2. Well, you can do ALL endings during a New Game+, and you can even achieve three during your first run. Loose to the boss, one ending; beat him before a certain event, you get another; advance further, yet another. On a New Game+, beat the boss, see the ending and reload your save instead of restarting it all again. Advance, do it again… And so on.
      Also, the game is easy. Just don’t skip any battle and circle your party and they’ll all get in shape for the last boss. Focus on a certain team like Michaela did and they’ll be come powerhouses. If you’re experienced in playing RPGs you’ll be fine even if you skip most of them. And there are a few places where grinding is REALLY rewarding if you’d like to (I don’t like grinding, but here I it’s a pleasure).
      Lastly, the game is short. I dunno about the DS exclusive content, but in the original your first run shouldn’t take longer than 20 hours. Last time it took me 14. In a New Game+ you can do it in 6 hours, and that’s supposing you’ll pay attention to NPC talk and etc. Last time it took me 4 hours, doing all endings along the way (of course this time doesn’t include the fights against the final boss and the endings).
      What I do know about the DS version, a certain extra boss, actually got me REALLY disappointed. It could have an AWESOME battle mechanic but no, it’s way too simple. Of course this could never ruin any improvement done in the best game ever.

  2. Excellent review! I understand how you feel about playing and reviewing a classic that everyone already has strong opinions for. I didn’t play through Chrono Trigger until the DS version. Luckily, the game holds up so well. As someone who didn’t experience it until a few years ago, I can say you did the game justice!

    1. Thank you! I wish I played the game years ago, but I’m just glad I finally got around to it now cause it’s great! Such a great game that deserves all the love people have for it. And the DS version has been a blast so far too! 😀

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