Disclaimer: I rushed this one out the ass.
In 1995 Square released Chrono Trigger saw its release on the SNES, a creation of what was dubbed the Dream Team; Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of Final Fantasy), Yuji Horii (creator of Dragon Quest) and Akira Toriyama (who most of you probably already heard of) with the game being produced by Kazuhiko Aoki. It was critically acclaimed upon release although official PAL cartridges of the game were not created for some reason and it wouldn’t be until 2009 that PAL regions got Chrono Trigger via the DS version. There was a PS1 port created in 1999 but like Square’s port of Final Fantasy VI and such, it was absolutely filled with load times and they were almost 10 second ones at the least. I presume this has something to do with the PS1’s RAM or lack thereof which is why SNES ports got these load times. The only new addition to the PS1 version was a set of animated cutscenes that would play at different intervals created by Bird Studio and Toei Animation. They’re great and all, especially with the opening’s version of the main theme but they’re also included in the DS version of the game along with bonus features, a better translation and such. Predictably the DS version is the best one out there, while I did manage to cope with finishing the PS1 version that’s something I’ll never do again and there are already iOS and Android versions of the game if you need them.
-How Trigger got triggered (lol)-
Crono is a young swordsman who’s a mute. Oh boy. In all seriousness the kid wakes up excited (at least that’s what his mother says) for the festival the Guardia kingdom is holding to celebrate its long prosperity. While testing out his friend Lucca’s teleportation device being showed off at the fair a girl named Marle, who tagged along with Crono after bumping into him, tries the machine out but her pendant causes a malfunction which opens a random portal that she gets sucked into. Crono picks up the dropped pendant and decides to open the same portal to find her while Lucca stays behind and tries figures out just what the hell happened. He finds himself in the Middle Ages where he finds that Marle has been mistaking for that era’s queen whose been missing. Marle suddenly and rather painfully disappears in front of Crono just as she begins to explain why she was mistaken for the missing Queen Leene (lol). Lucca appears to tell Crono that Marle is actually the present’s Princess Nardia who took on the name of Marle to go off doing non-royal things. Leene is the Nardia’s ancestor and because she is still missing with Marle taking her place, a grandfather paradox occurs causing Marle to simply not exist. Crono and Lucca team up with a frog knight named…Frog in order to rescue the missing queen and restore the royal family line. After doing so Marle is restored and using Lucca’s new device designed to open gates in time that are appearing for some reason (sort of explained later on) they return to the present. Upon doing so Crono is arrested upon escorting the princess back to the castle under the pretence of “kidnapping her” (don’t worry there’s a sidequest also explaining this well enough) and escapes from jail with the help of Marle and Lucca. After escaping to a time gate leading to the distant apocalyptic future they discover that at some point the planet was ravaged by a unknown force named Lavos. Deciding to try and find a way to stop the event from happening they begin their journey through time to save the future and that’s where I’ll stop for now. The game may be over 20 years old but I don’t feel up to spoiling a lot of elements that make it easier to enjoy. Besides this synopsis is pretty bare but the depth to the game and the characters start coming about from Antiquity onwards along with the endgame sidequests mainly focusing on character events and development for example going back in time to stop Lucca’s mother from losing the ability to walk by getting caught in the active machine right in front of the poor girl (just save beforehand so you don’t fuck it up and make Lucca watch it a 2nd time). It’s what they went for I think, mainly giving you a romp through the world and characters they created until you get to Magus where things start adding up. The time travel logic isn’t pure perfect, it never is when changing history is the subject, but it uses it really well ignoring some paradoxes .
We have quite a number of new things to cover but nothing too in depth. Trigger does away with random encounters and transitioning into a different screen for battle. Battles are initiated by coming into enemy contact or going to a specific tile for fixed battles and battles all happen on the same map. This was considered quite innovative to have battles happen where they start, however there’s one major problem with this: There are a lot of fixed battles, combine that with enemies respawning everytime you leave the room and come back and you have a annoying number of repeated fixed encounters when you step on a tile on your way back to somewhere. EarthBound didn’t have this problem because dungeons had one way to go most of the time and avoiding encounters was more of a element there. In here its more in theory. One thing that makes it a bit harder to take is how because you fight on the same map YOU KNOW that you’re fighting the exact encounter again in the same area whilst with random encounter transitions you feel more like fighting just another one of that enemy type if they show up. You get used to it fast enough and if you don’t it’s not something that hampers the whole deal but it’s something that’ll make it hell to play the PS1 version where battles have load times where they didn’t. At least thanks to this system there are no encounters in the world map. Battles run off Final Fantasy‘s Active Time Battle. Basically everyone, enemies and characters, runs off a ATB Meter which gets full when they can perform a command. The higher a characters’ speed the faster the meter goes, although I recommend altering the battle speed and ATB in the Options menu to go faster or slower and whether or not it still fills when selecting through Items and Techs in case you don’t want to feel pressured to pick something in those menus fast before the enemy snags you. Techs are basically where all a character’s special moves and spells are and they cost MP to use. You learn Techs by gaining TP but unlike XP a character has to be in the battle to have earned it, whilst members out of the party can gain some XP on their own. Techs generally have a field of effect, some work more when the enemies and lined up or in a particular area of range; for example Falcon Strike is a Tech that attacks diagonally so anything next to what your attacking gets hit as well. What makes creating a party in this game unique in terms of strategy are the powerful Dual Techs. When two character’s ATB are both filled you can use any Dual Techs they may have. Dual Techs come about when character’s Tech’s can be combined for example Crono’s Cyclone Tech can be combined with Lucca’s Flame Toss to create Flame Whirl. Dual Techs cost the characters using the Dual Tech the amount of MP that their normal Tech would cost on its own meaning Crono spends MP needed for Cyclone and Lucca spends the MP needed for Flame Toss learning Dual Techs is a matter of changing around party members once in a while when they learn new Techs and seeing what appears in the Tech menu. It gets even further with Triple Techs which require a specific party and in some cases a specific item to use. Party members can be swapped at any time outside of battle so making a new party is a button push away if needed. Since TP has to be earned during battle I generally like to fight the respawning Rubble on the Mountain of Woe past the halfway point of the game, the bastard drops 100 TP which is not something I can pass up to grind on until everyone has their Techs which is something you WILL do before getting to the near end anyway. I don’t think this game will ever force you to grind too much but there are bosses that you will need to think of a good strategy to beat…or be like me and just abuse strong Techs when I can get them early. Basically fights give good challenge either way, they’re difficult enough as things go on so that you need to keep your eyes open and learn the enemy starting with Magus and especially with the fucking Golem boss.
One of the main gimmicks for Trigger is, well, time travel. Different version of the same planet through a number of time periods allowing access to new locations; The present, middle ages, prehistory, apocalyptic future, antiquity and finally the year 1999 where Lavos rose and destroyed the planet. And when I was born. Lovely. The End of Time which you enter soon into the game acts as the main hub for any Time Gates the group come across until you get the time machine Epoch and eventually its upgrade to fly. Gaspar will generally give you hints of where to go next so getting confused on what to do isn’t ever a problem. Just don’t touch the bucket’s Time Gate, that takes you straight to the final boss. Gaspar does warn you not to touch the bucket when you meet him but fuck he could’ve mentioned where it lead. The Epoch comes majorly into play when doing sidequests which are basically the meat of Trigger‘s final chapter. Getting Crono back into your party endgame is technically one since at that point you can beat the game with any party you want but the others serve to strengthen the party for the fight against Lavos so ignoring them is a very bad idea unless you want Lavos to wipe you out. I won’t go too in depth to them but they’re enjoyable side quests nonetheless and give you great equipment for the final battle as well as the time travel coming into play for stuff like the Sun Stone and Rainbow Shell. The game is designed quite straightforward until that point, and it helps cut down the backtracking by a mile.
I think I’ve covered the main gameplay so far so let’s get into the DS version’s additions. Besides some interfaces changes we also get a self filling map which is always nice to have. There’s also 2 Lost Sanctum areas which basically have you do fetch quests and things for reptites in return for rewards. I never bothered since the stuff opens extremely late game and you all know how I feel about areas being dedicated to fetch quests. We also have this Arena of the Ages. Ever wanted to raise a monster? Now you can, although this is accessible from the End of Time it doesn’t anything I deemed worth going after although some items can be nice to get a bit early and the raising mechanics are extremely straightfoward. I just get a kick out of watching my raised pet out damage another one but that’s about it. Finally we have 4 extra boss fights against a few shade versions of your party members and then the Bucket will take you to the Dimensional Vortex dungeon. This does get you some more awesome equipment but it’s the last thing in the game so I didn’t feel it was worth trying out and Square usually made extra dungeons in ports a pain to get through. Maybe when I bother to go after the Dream Devourer (yeah that’s the name of it) and the other ending, I’ll update the review but not now.
Speaking of extra equipment Chrono Trigger was one of the first RPGs to introduce the holy New Game Plus. Replay the game with all your badass equipment, levels and Techs? Fuck yeah but now we can get into alternate ending territory. There are a large number of endings you can get that the game keeps track of, all based on when in the game and how you beat Lavos. The ending most players should get first is the ending that comes after you rescue Crono and fight Lavos after going through the Black Omen. A lot of the endings are more of a play for laughs like what if you went into the Bucket defeated Lavos before helping Ayla take out the reptites in Prehistory, thus turning the present’s humanity into repitites. Another ending is…the female characters going through a list of the male characters of the game. Fucking hell.
Sexy on all accounts; the music is phenomenal and definitely my favourite SNES soundtrack. The graphics were spectacular for the time make the game hold up extremely well amongst the DS library although the numerous uses of the SNES’ list of special graphical effects (can’t name them all myself right now) does age the game to some extent. The story is what I feel it needs to be, its less about deep questions but still keeps characters’ and story’s development and has good writing with twists that are strong as they need to be. I recommend the game for everyone to at least try out, I know a lot of people aren’t very friendly towards some of the ideas implemented (specifically ATB and encounters started by touching tiles) but it’s a great game given a fair shake and worth any gamers’ time. The DS version is great despite my disinterest in a lot of the extras but seeing as the other options are the PS1 version (huge load times), the SNES version (90’s RPG localization), and iOS (touch screen controls), I think you’ll come to the conclusion it’s the best choice out of them.
Wanna know why this was rushed? I wanted to review Mother 3 but I realised how long I would take writing a plot synopsis so I looked over a couple of things I could do. I tried rushing a playthrough of the original Ratchet and Clank as a nod to the upcoming reboot game and film but it was agonizing going back to it. I had about four days to decide, most of which I wouldn’t spend writing so I picked Chrono Trigger as a easy ticket out.