|Publisher & Designer:||Squaresoft|
|Release Date:||August 1995|
For once, I am truly at a loss for words. How do I even begin to describe the grandeur, the mystique, the nostalgia that is Chrono Trigger? Nintendo Power magazine put it perfectly when it stated that Chrono Trigger "will spoil you for every other RPG." With its immersive, atmospheric visuals and sounds, intuitive gameplay, and one of the most memorable and thought-provoking stories this gamer has ever witnessed, Chrono Trigger is more than a simple video game: It is truly a work of art. To play it once is to remember it forever.
Overview: Whenever I find myself reminiscing about some of my fondest video game memories, I can't help but smile when I recollect a certain autumn evening way back in 1995. I was visiting my childhood (and lifelong!) friend Jon Pursel and, like usual, I walked in on him playing the latest and greatest video game. Jon was every bit the avid video game fan that I was as he had introduced me to so many incredible games over the years (the Contra and Gradius/Life Force franchises instantly come to mind). Anyway, I remember sitting down and being introduced to some new game called "Chrono Trigger." I had absolutely no idea what the game was about and yet I found it so appealing. I remember Jon flying around in some time machine and visiting different time periods/eras which was so unique and interesting for a video game. Despite not owning an SNES at the time and being a first-rate RPG noob (I had just started playing the first Dragon Warrior/Quest game for the NES a few months earlier. My introduction to RPGs that was.), I still felt drawn towards this game. I would go on to read every Chrono Trigger article I could get my hands on, download all of the game's music off of the internet (in WAV format and having to endure unearthly wait times too...this was the 90's after all), and save up for a Super Nintendo console along with the Chrono Trigger game pak. Early in the year 2000, my dream of playing Chrono Trigger finally became reality.
And believe me when I tell you that the wait was worth it because Chrono Trigger was everything that I could have hoped for and more! It was as if Squaresoft, who had already established themselves as an RPG powerhouse with classics such as Final Fantasy IV and VI along with Secret of Mana hit their zenith with Chrono Trigger. While this is a pretty strong statement (Final Fantasy VI is certainly no chopped liver...it is an awesome video game!), it makes more sense when you discover exactly who developed Chrono Trigger.
You see, before the nonsense known as Square Enix came about, there was a unique, single-project merger between Squaresoft and Enix. Dubbed "The Dream Team," the finest developers/programmers/composers from both Squaresoft (known mostly for their Final Fantasy franchise) and Enix (Dragon Quest...need I say more?) came together for this project. The Dragon Quest/Dragon Ball Z artist created all of the artwork and character images, both of the Squaresoft/Enix producers were heavily involved, and a young video game composer by the name of Yasunori Mitsuda made his debut while being mentored/assisted by the great Nobuo Uematsu. This is just the tip of the iceberg too because so many big names were involved in this project...a little project that would spawn a game entitled "Chrono Trigger." When you literally have an all-star cast like this, how can you possibly lose?
Okay...enough about me and my background stories. Let's talk about the actual game shall we? Chrono Trigger is an RPG that borrows elements from the adventure genre as well as incorporating a few little nuances of its own. Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Secret of Mana...all of these games undoubtedly influenced the creation of Chrono Trigger. However, Chrono Trigger is still its own game. It achieves the perfect blend of the old and the new. There are traditional RPG functions such as fighting enemies, gaining experience, purchasing weapons/armor/items in shops, and conversing with the various NPC's located throughout the world. At the same time, there is a great deal of freedom in Chrono Trigger's gameplay that makes it feel more adventurous than some of the more rigid RPGs out there. It achieves a nice balance between hinting at where you should go and what you should do next and simply leaving you to your devices. There are a healthy amount of mini-games, secrets, and fun little diversions to experience along with the main story which is an important aspect of any RPG. To truly get everything out of this game, I suggest that you take your time and do everything humanly possible to prolong the experience. This is not a game to hurry through and is one where it isn't even necessary (an average playthrough takes only 30-35 hours). Chrono Trigger is one of the precious few games that you need to savor and enjoy...otherwise, you just might miss out!
So what is it exactly that differentiates Chrono Trigger from an already loaded RPG pack (many classic gamers still consider the 16-bit era as the Golden Age of RPGs) you ask? Well, while this game does achieve excellence in virtually every conceivable category, it also scores very highly in terms of its intangibles. The atmosphere that permeates this game is just so wonderful and the legendary time-travel story makes you feel like you are watching an epic movie instead of playing a simple video game. Unlike many games out there that feel somewhat rushed and leave you wanting more, Chrono Trigger is a complete video game. The attention to detail is top-notch and small, under-appreciated facets like the interaction between the main characters, the victory animations, and even some of the NPC conversations (which can range from thought-provoking to downright hilarious) give Chrono Trigger a quality that the vast majority of games could never hope to achieve. And yes, on a personal level, nostalgia is the anchor that enhances everything about this game. I cannot deny that fact nor do I want to do so. Regardless of whether or not you grew up with this game, Chrono Trigger is still a feast for gamers who love RPGs...or any genre for that matter.
Another exciting aspect of Chrono Trigger is its original battle engine. Like Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger was one of the first RPGs to include an Active Time Battle (ATB) option. This revolutionary battle model allows your enemies to attack you at any given time without waiting for you to enter commands like in a typical RPG. Believe me; this adds a new dynamic to RPG battles and raises the intensity significantly. Even fans of the action genre might find Chrono Trigger appealing since the battles at least feel more lifelike and action-packed than standard RPG fanfare. While you can elect to choose the traditional "Wait" option, the ATB system is so much more fulfilling in my opinion.
Staying with the battle system, discovering and learning to use powerful skills called "Techs" is immensely satisfying and fun! Some Techs are physical while others contain magical/elemental properties (some of which really test the capabilities of the Super NES' graphics processor). While they function like Special/Magic skills, there are a couple of idiosyncrasies worth noting. For one thing, while many of your attacks are solo/individual abilities, as the game progresses, an impressive array of Double and even Triple Techs become available! By waiting until the action gauge is filled for two (or three!) of your characters, you can attack as a team and unleash some of the most powerful (and cool-looking!) abilities in the game. Since there are seven playable characters in Chrono Trigger and that all of them can learn these Double/Triple Techs with virtually every other character, you can see that there is a ton of variety here!
Also worth mentioning is that certain Techs such as Crono's Cyclone or Slash attacks can affect multiple enemies if executed at the right time. You see, during most battles, the enemies you are fighting will move around the screen...sometimes slowly...sometimes with lightning quickness. By timing your attacks and executing them when your enemies are close together (or in a line), you can maximize your turn and damage a multitude of foes at once!
Graphics: As far as Chrono Trigger's visuals are concerned, all it took was the game's opening sequence to win me over. With its clock-ticking animation, myriad of images from the game, and superb music (we'll get to that soon!), this game had made a real impression...before I even pressed the Start button! The rest of the game doesn't disappoint either.
The graphics throughout Chrono Trigger have a very pleasant hand-drawn appearance and the attention to detail is simply outstanding for a 16-bit game. And yet, there is a simplicity about the aesthetics that I find quite charming as well. The whole atmosphere/feel of each era is vastly different due in large part to the visuals and sounds in the game. Crono's hometown of Truce is happy and cheerful in 1000 A.D. while it is full of unrest, tension, and war 400 years in the past. The distant future consists of endless destruction and is almost completely devoid of hope while the Zeal Kingdom gives off a magnificent, mystical vibe. The visuals are just spot on throughout the game and even something as minor as the pictures of each character on the menu screen look fantastic and truly capture everyone's persona.
Some of the background graphics are simply stunning too. I remember being particularly "wowed" during a few of the boss fights near Guardia Castle. You might have a combination of clouds, light, and mountains in the distance or notice the sea in the background with the sun sparkling on its surface. The Zeal Kingdom which literally "floats" on the clouds is truly awe-inspiring and even something as subtle as the mysterious "Red Star" appearing in the sky in ancient times adds to this game's epic feel.
The various enemies, particularly the main bosses, look superb as well. The Guardian Bit and Giga Gaia literally fill up the screen while the Tyrano in prehistoric times looks quite fearsome (despite its somewhat lame attacks). The fight with Magus is truly a sight to behold while Lavos himself is as intimidating and menacing as any villain out there.
And lastly, Chrono Trigger's animation is equally impressive. The game's special personality and feel would not be the same without it. I really like the way each character expresses himself/herself in different situations. Crono might pump his fist or look surprised, Marle might giggle or yell depending on the circumstances, Lucca might laugh mischieviously, etc. Some of the Tech attacks look sensational too. The explosions, elemental features, and various team attacks really pop on the screen and were remarkable for 1995. As far as 16-bit games go, I would have to say that the visual effects in Chrono Trigger are second only to the earth-shattering sights of the Donkey Kong Country series...and that is quite the compliment!
Music: If there is such a thing as obsessing over video game music to a fault, Chrono Trigger did me in because I thought that its music was absolutely incredible. Getting to hear the game's epic main theme, the beautiful End of Time track, and the pleasant Epoch Time Machine tune at Jon's house for the first time was so memorable. I was enthralled and I simply could not get enough of this music! As I touched on earlier, I literally searched for hours on the internet hunting for Chrono Trigger music. Silly? Perhaps. Obsessed? Likely. But I'll bet that there were many other obsessed video game fans who did the same thing back in the day. At least I wasn't the only crazy one!
Needless to say, Chrono Trigger's soundtrack really struck the right chord and resonated with me right from the start. Once again, this was Yasunori Mitsuda's debut as a video game composer which was certainly a reason for my appreciation of the various tracks and tunes found within the game. Considering that Mitsuda would go on to compose music for Xenogears, Chrono Cross, and Xenosaga: Episode One among others, Squaresoft absolutely found a gem of a composer for Chrono Trigger. I have always loved the diversity and unique feel of Mitsuda's music as well as his Celtic background which undoubtedly comes out in some of his compositions (The festive Millenial Fair track is the guilty party here.)
In terms of creating the right atmosphere and feel, Chrono Trigger's soundtrack sours. "In Memories of Green," which plays in the Overworld areas of Crono's time (1000 A.D.), is a very nostalgic, thought-provoking tune. I remember my cousin Randy, who isn't even a big RPG fan, really enjoying this particular track. "Secret of the Forest," with its quiet undertones of mystery, has become a real personal favorite of mine over time. The main battle theme is a real winner as well and was one of the tracks that I searched for arduously online at one time. It really gets the juices flowly and fits this game like a glove. Despite the limitations of the SNES, the old-school background "voices" really worked in this track. One tune simply entitled "Memories" is a real beauty too with its touching, almost sad feel. It plays during some of the character flashbacks as well as several key parts of the game (...trying not to spoil anything!)
Other favorites include "Wind Scene" (my brother Nathan swears by this one...and it gives 600 A.D. the perfect feel), "Corridors of Time" (I still remember Wesley Messer humming to this tune! It is the beautiful track that plays in the Zeal Kingdom before reaching the palace.), and the Medina Village tune. Magus' theme which plays during your legendary battle against the dark wizard is simply perfect as well. Lastly, all of Lavos' themes are just so powerful and epic while "To Far Away Times" remains one of my favorite Ending themes of all-time.
I could go on and on about the music in this game because it really is that amazing. Granted, some tracks may not qualify as truly great stand-alone music, but within the context of the game, everything just fits perfectly. Even little idiosyncrasies such as the dark, gloomy Magus' Castle track playing even during battles was a nice touch. I like how that creepy music consistently plays until you manage to make it deep enough in the castle. And then the main battle theme plays nonstop as you fight your way through several battles in a row (only to switch back to the castle theme once you exit the area). Little things like this enhance the atmosphere and give Chrono Trigger its unique quality.
Lastly, the sound effects in Chrono Trigger compliment the music beautifully. From the sounds of gentle streams flowing through Truce Canyon and the powerful winds atop Death Peak to the ferocious roar of the Great Tyrano, everything sounds great! The sounds of weapons clashing and Double/Triple Techs being unleashed in battle are solid as well. Even one of the rhythm beats that plays in the overworld of the prehistoric era is catchy as heck! Overall, you just couldn't ask for a whole lot more than this!
Play Control: While the controls may not be the most important aspect of an RPG, it is still important for these games to have fluid, easy-to-use controls. And Chrono Trigger once again set the standard even in one of the "less-important" categories. Moving around is a breeze since you can have your characters walk and/or dash in the non-overworld scenes (a rarity for a game of this genre). Navigating through the various menus is a cinch once you learn where everything is and the whole set-up even allows for some customization in terms of menu colors, message speed, etc.
The battle controls are also very user-friendly and allow you to make split-second decisions easily. You can switch between characters and either attack, use Techs, or utilize your valuable items quickly. It is simplified yet there is enough meat to keep even diehard RPG addicts happy. I have no complaints anyway.
Challenge: A couple of months ago, I would have said that Chrono Trigger was easy-to-moderate in terms of its overall difficulty. However, after completing a recent playthrough, I can say that it is more difficult than what I remembered! It isn't epically hard but it will kick your derriere if you aren't careful. Some of the boss battles can really push you (The Golem Twins, Mother Brain, and Lavos wiped the floor with me during my aforementioned playthrough) and, while this game does not lean heavily on strategy, some battles require a keen eye and intelligent decision-making. This game is naturally more difficult if you choose to fight in real time (it is that much more satisfying, however) as well.
The first playthrough is probably the most challenging one which I suppose is typical for any RPG. By experimenting with different types of physical/elemental attacks, you can usually hone in on an enemy's weakness. For example, when you fight Magus, his weakness changes constantly. He might be susceptible to Lightning attacks one minute and Ice abilities the next. Some bosses can literally become ironclad at times which can pose quite the problem. Blindly attacking will not be enough in this game. Sometimes, you might actually want to wait to attack (Heckran...case in point) or attack a certain section of an enemy (the eye of a Lavos Spawn versus the body).
Also worth noting here is that Chrono Trigger has incredible staying power. This game is world-renowned for its multiple endings and, since most of them are not unlocked until you complete the game once, you could easily find yourself playing this game far beyond the initial 30-40 hours.
Storyline: If you are searching for something fresh, original, memorable, and epic, look no further than Chrono Trigger's timeless story. This game handles the concept of time travel and the numerous paradoxes that result as well as any video game (or movie!) I have ever seen and the end product is truly something to behold. I have always been fascinated with the concept of time travel and to see it pulled off so thoroughly and in this fashion...all I can say is "Wow!" I still find myself thinking about certain events that transpire within the world of Chrono Trigger from time to time as well as just appreciating the sheer depth of its story. The events that occur throughout the game really stick with you unlike any other video game.
Chrono Trigger has its beginnings in the year 1000 A.D. It is here that we are introduced to the spiky-haired, iconic Crono, the cute-yet-feisty tomboy of a woman in Marle, and the clever inventor Lucca (who is a close friend of Crono's). They all live within the peaceful confines of the Guardia Kingdom and the country is in the midst of celebrating the new millennium with festivals, games, balloons, candy, and the like! Where things really begin to get interesting, however, is when Crono and Marle volunteer to test Lucca's new transporter device. While Crono is able to pass through the transporters without a hitch, Marle's pendant reacts to...something and she literally gets sucked into a mysterious portal!
With really no other choice, Crono decides to go after Marle (by using the pendant that Marle dropped before getting sucked in) and the real surprise is not necessarily the portal itself but where the wormhole leads. In the blink of an eye, Crono finds himself in a mysterious canyon surrounded by trees, creeks, and strange beasts. He soon learns that, while he is still in Guardia, it is not the same Guardia that he calls home. This is Guardia Kingdom circa 600 A.D.! It is here that Crono finds a war-torn kingdom where humans and mystics (magical creatures that resemble goblins/monsters) are fighting for supremacy. Crono eventually tracks down Marle but quickly discovers that Marle's very presence in this era has altered the future in devastating fashion. Through a series of events that involve Lucca (who managed to access the portal with a Gate Key), a sketchy cathedral, and a chivalrous Frog-like character, the heroes are able to fix the timeline and restore order.
While this initial quest is very intriguing and shows the consequences of time travel (an important point to discuss in anything that involves this subject), it is worth noting that the main objective in Chrono Trigger does not become clear until a little later when you stumble across a wormhole that leads...to the future. It is here that Crono & Co. find destruction as far as the eye can see, acid rain falling from the sky, and a barren land almost completely devoid of life. Something has obviously gone very wrong. Courtesy of the futuristic android Robo, they discover that they are indeed in the distant future (2300 A.D.) but the real revelation comes when Lucca is able to access the super computer in Proto Dome. Through a video recording, they are able to witness the event that essentially ended the world: "The Day of Lavos." It was on this fateful day in 1999 A.D. that an unearthly being called Lavos burst out of the ground and unleashed nuclear terror on the entire face of the Earth. This explains the dreadful, horrific appearance of this era. This is the finality of humanity and the fate of the world...and it isn't a very good one.
Despite the circumstances, Crono and his friends realize that, slim as their chances may be, they must find some way to save the future. With their uncanny ability to travel through time, perhaps they can find a way to defeat this fearsome creature known as Lavos. They will discover when and where Lavos first appeared, witness the magical kingdom of Zeal in its prime, and cross blades with the powerful wizard Magus during the Middle Ages just to name a few of the memorable events of Chrono Trigger. You will visit prehistoric times, the Day of Lavos, and even the End of Time in this game. And your every action could affect the timeline and create a paradox or alter the future so make your decisions wisely!
Words honestly cannot do this game justice in regards to its story. There are so many powerful, jaw-dropping moments and revelations (one in particular that happens about 2/3 of the way through the game will blow you away) and I love how deep and complex the world of Chrono Trigger becomes the further you delve into the game. There are some real surprises along the way and, by game's end, I'll bet that this game will have impacted you in some way. I envy those of you who have not yet played Chrono Trigger because the first playthrough is as magical a video game experience as there is...plain and simple.
Funfactor: Not a whole lot really needs to be said here because, if you don't know what I think of this game by now, you must have skipped over or slept through my book of a review! Simply put, Chrono Trigger is as enjoyable a video game experience as there is out there...even some twenty years after its initial release. This is one of those special, one-of-a-kind games that you might be lucky to come across once or possibly twice in a generation. It achieves excellence in virtually every conceivable category and has no serious flaws. It is actually a very simple game in some ways and yet the scope and depth of its story makes it a real thinking man's game as well. While it certainly borrows elements from its RPG brethren, Chrono Trigger is full of originality and was a fresh, new gameplay experience back in 1995. And once again, the engrossing nature of Chrono Trigger cannot be understated. You will find yourself having to search "one more" area or do "one more" thing before calling it a night. Speaking of which, I have stayed up deep into the night enjoying this epic game on countless occasions. While Final Fantasy IV and VI are fabulous games in their own right, Chrono Trigger truly took it to the next level. As I stated at the very beginning of this review, to play Chrono Trigger once is to remember it forever. That pretty much sums it up!
Negatives: When you come across a game as special as Chrono Trigger, it is hard (if not impossible) to be satisfied with the length of the game...no matter how long it is. Although Chrono Trigger is a jam-packed 32 megabyte cartridge, it can easily be completed in 25-30 hours. That is part of its charm I suppose (there is no "filler" content in this game...all meat my friends...all meat) but then again, I would have loved to have seen this game last a bit longer.
Lastly, while Chrono Trigger is certainly not an easy game, it can become somewhat easy/broken if you grind. You almost have to go out of your way to make this game a difficult affair (although some of the sidequests late in the game might make me rethink this assessment). This is a very minor gripe but is one I felt warranted mentioning.
Ratings: Graphics: 4.9 Music: 5.0* Play Control: 4.7 Challenge: 4.5 Storyline: 5.0* Funfactor: 4.8 Overall Score: 28.9 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: *Crown Jewel!!*
Back to Super NES SpecialLast Updated: July 6, 2015