Poll Winner: CHRONO TRIGGER
So I know what you’re thinking, how is it I have never played a game the caliber of Chrono Trigger if I’ve played and owned thousands of games? Well Chrono Trigger, while a high-selling game, sold mostly in Japan. I never saw a copy of Chrono Trigger first-hand until I recently purchased it for this review. Growing up I always heard about it and how good it was but none of my friends had it and I never saw it available for rent either. It was quite hard to find in North America. I waited so long to buy it because of its high price tag (usually just under $100, due to lack of NA copies and its critical acclaim).
Chrono Trigger was developed by Square in 1995. A fun fact I learned while researching is that Chrono Trigger was headed by three guys who Square deemed their “Dream Team”: the creator of Final Fantasy, the creator of Dragon Quest and the manga artist of Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball. The game is a JRPG, but one that doesn’t strictly adapt to any past formula. It has its own style of combat system that is similar to the type seen in Final Fantasy games but has its own unique features. Chrono and a group of adventurers he meets one at a time along his journey are on a quest to save the world by time traveling through different periods to stop the problem before it has time to manifest. Chrono Trigger came to the SNES only originally but has since been redone or repackaged on the PS One, Virtual Console and Nintendo DS.
The game cover is pretty cool. Its done in manga style and happens to feature my three favorite characters of the game. My only beef is that Marle is using Fire magic which she cannot actually do in-game. Chrono Trigger is visually a beautiful game. Its very impressive that a game this big manages to feature sprites and animations like this. The overworlds are well drawn and colorful, each enemy is unique, each adventurer has their own set of awesome battle animations. I also thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack. Through the first few hours I felt like it could use a few more unique tracks but the second half of the game finished strong in the music department with several boss battle themes. The devs managed to pack so much personality into every character in Chrono Trigger through animations and dialogue. I really found myself caring about each new character, about what they had to say and what role they would play in the overarching story. It seemed like every time a new team member was added I was even more intrigued with them than the last. How they managed to make me care so much about a robot I’ll never know, but I was anxious and distraught when Robo was getting beat down by his own brethren and I was powerless to help. I felt Frog’s pain when I finally learned of his past and how he came to be in his current form. I was happy and proud for Marle when she stood up to her parents and decided to live her own life. How did Square make me care so much for these 16-bit pixelated sprites? Personality is even packed into minor characters and enemies. For example when you beat the Dragon Cannon boss Chrono leaps up onto it and vigorously stabs it making it fall through the bridge. The enemies on the bridge catch themselves in a human chain and your group uses them as a bridge while they curse your existence.
The story itself is very engaging and rich. At first I thought it would be your typical time travel romp but it turned out to be very deep and loaded with plot twists. The scale of the plot, the possibility of alternate endings and the character development adds up to this being one of the best video game stories ever.
Even better than the superb art, sound, story and characters of Chrono Trigger is its gameplay. I’m particularly impressed with the battle system. Chrono Trigger uses a live battle system like some Final Fantasy games, but it also features Double and Triple attacks that vary widely between your team composition. These attacks combine multiple party members who are currently available at that moment and give you a range of options. These options give you access to different sizes and styles in the area of effect of an attack and can add elements to attacks that wouldn’t otherwise be there. A simple early game example would be Chrono and Marle. Chrono has a whirling attack that can hit multiple enemies at once, Marle has a Cure spell that can target one friendly character. If they’re both ready to attack they can use Double Tech and have an option that will have Chrono do a whirling attack across all your party while Marle imbues his sword with Cure, thus allowing you the ability to Cure your whole party simultaneously which at that point in the game isn’t possible otherwise. Double and Triple attacks add an extra layer of fun to the already fast paced combat system that keeps things interesting through the entire game. There is also a wide variety of interesting enemies that require certain elements or timing if you want to beat them quickly, for example the shielded guards in the prison. The robust battle system was icing on an already delicious cake.
This game and the Final Fantasy series have laid the foundation for nearly all JRPG’s that have followed, its the mark for what to strive for when making one. Chrono Trigger isn’t just one of the best games on the SNES, I’d venture to say its the best RPG ever. I just played this for the first time and even though its now 20 years old its easily the best RPG I’ve played in recent memory. It holds up, it outperforms every other recent game I’ve played on all fronts aside from graphics obviously. Don’t be a fool like me, don’t wait to play Chrono Trigger. This is a masterpiece, stop what you’re doing and buy it right this second.