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.
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.
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!
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.
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