Chrono Trigger PlayStation Review
In a purely theatrical “The lady doth protest too much” move, Square insisted that a PlayStation port of several Super Nintendo games simply wasn’t in the cards. It came as a pleasant surprise after all the subterfuge that two classics would indeed be brought to the slavering masses included Final Fantasy IV and Chrono Trigger, a solid game that shone brightly when first released, and was a smash success during the re-release as well. The question remains, however: does the special flavour of the game remain after more than ten years have passed? The answer is a pleasant yes. Though not everyone will enjoy the game due to its age, it still remains a solid title with an immersive story, a unique twist on an old battle system, and fantastic music.
The battle system was revolutionary in its time, and still stands up to some fierce competition. For those who find the battles too fast paced, an option can be turned on to “hold” while menu selections are being made. This is a nice choice for those who are new to RPGs or simply want to time battle actions in a precise manner. Chrono Trigger uses the active time battle (ATB) system, with a twist: enemies are visible on the screen before battles, meaning if players choose not to fight, some battles can be skipped by cautiously sneaking past mobs without brushing against them. When unprepared for the battle ahead, escape from battle using the L1/R1 buttons. Once combat begins and characters become active, there are a trio of actions that can be performed. One is a simple attack; another is using items; the other option, requiring the most explanation, is using a Tech (technique). Each character gets their own type of techniques based upon their fighting style; in addition to this, each will be assigned an element and learn magical attacks as well to round out their arsenal of Techs. Additional Techs are learned by accruing Tech Points, which are awarded by defeating enemies along with traditional EXP needed to level up. The fun begins when the party members begin to discover dual and triple techs, which combine together two or three of the abilities of the party members. Up to three adventurers can be active in the main party, while the rest must sit out. Thankfully these characters still gain a small amount of EXP but they do not gain any Tech Points, meaning to learn new skills characters must be rotated into the active party. It is interesting to note that while there is a total of seven characters, the player need not acquire all of them: one may be lost in the past, one may be left dead, and one may be killed. It is even possible to kill the final boss with but one character, depending on the style of play chosen. Though the system is portrayed as simple in explanation, it flows together in an engaging fashion which has an unusually addictive charm.
The music is a legend in and of itself, and there’s no reason to wonder why. It is one of the many well-rounded aspects of the game, and it does a fantastic job setting the atmosphere. From the windy, desolate music of the ice age to the fast paced futuristic beats, the music generally doesn’t fail to please the ears of the listener. It’s nice to find battle tracks that don’t become boring when only halfway through the game. The visuals are equally well done, and have withstood the generations of improved graphics by aging gracefully. While they cannot compare to the current generation’s offerings, that doesn’t mean they aren’t quaint in their own way. New CG videos have been sprinkled throughout the game, including a touching intro and epilogue, which nicely matches the art style in the game.
While it may not feel like a short game, Chrono Trigger can be completed in as little as fifteen hours if the player is in a hurry. For those who relax and wish to explore all the various side quests and watch as their actions throughout time affect future periods with fun and sometimes surprising results will play up to 25 hours. It is interesting to see how time is never overtly abused, merely bent slightly to accomodate better actions for all. With that in mind, it’s possible to restart the game with the much-lauded New Game + feature, adding a minimum of 20 hours to the game simply through finding the dozen plus endings hidden throughout the seven ages which the heroes can visit. Though the game starts out somewhat challenging, as the player completes each additional playthrough the game becomes significantly easier. There is a maximum cap on each stat unique to each character, so perfectionists looking to max as many of these stats as possible could be clocking up to 50 hours shaping their favourite team.
As the Final Fantasy Chronicles collection was a straight port of the original Super Nintendo release, the localization remains static. That in itself isn’t a bad thing; the original translation was well done, with few mistakes. There’s even moments in which the players will undoubtedly laugh out loud at the silliness of it all. Though unchanged, it still does an excellent job and in an era of generally mediocre translations, Chrono Trigger stands out as an example even some modern day RPGs cannot stand up to. Thankfully, this smooth translation also applies to the menu system, which provides the maximum amount of data with a minimal amount of fuss. The most pertinent information (stats, items, and techs) can be accessed with two to three button presses, making the research process quick and smooth without messing with the gameplay flow. There is, however, a slowdown with the entire game noticeable when menus load and combat begins. Those that played the original SNES cart may find this unbearably awkward, while others who do not know the difference will simply consider this slight delay par for the course.
The story is an interesting mix of corny, funny, and sad. Possibly the most frustrating part of the game is when the main storyline is done and the optional side stories begin. If a player does not successfully complete these side tasks on the first try, they may not be repeated during the current playthrough. This is an odd and frustrating oversight for a game that is based upon time travel. However, each character is fleshed out nicely and their reasons for joining and staying with the party are sound, unlike many games of Chrono Trigger‘s generation. New movies added to the game don’t reveal anything especially new but they fill in the more epic moments of the tale. The originality of the game still remains even after the many years should have eroded most of it. However, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to say just what makes Chrono Trigger unique; the battle system is the same ATB seen in many other titles, the story is fun but time travel has been done to death by now, and the graphics show their age. It isn’t just one thing that makes the game so fun to play, but all of its features combined.
Chrono Trigger was an incredibly innovative title when it was first released and has retained its appeal throughout the years. Those who did not get a chance to experience it during the Super Nintendo age will get a chance to catch up on the past with a great break from the typical RPG fare, and it’s no surprise that many would recommend to catch up on one of the genre’s most lauded games.