Chrono Trigger is a rare exception to the rule in my history of buying computer games for the simple reason that I actually looked it up and researched it before buying it! This is almost unheard of for me as usually I end up impulse buying after wandering into Game or browsing on Amazon…this leads to some interesting games in my case on occasions. But the concept of Chrono Trigger intrigued me, and so I actively set out to find information and, liking what I found, set out to buy the game. This is a game that has been called by many The Greatest Game Ever Made. So, can it live up to it’s reputation?
One of the many things that intrigued me about the game is that it is a direct re-make of the original game that was released for the SNES. But this is a game which has been re-released on other consoles before, and is enough of a hit to be re-released again. It was released on SNES in 1995, on Playstation in 1999 and then on DS in 2008 and has since been released on the Wii Virtual Console. It’s not unusual for a game series to move across new systems with sequels and new ideas if they are popular enough, but it did seem unusual for the same game to be released on so many consoles over such a span of time and be such a hit time after time after time. That said to me that there was something special about this game.
Another thing that intrigued me about the game is the whole game is based around the idea of time travel which is always entertaining, and the fact that different actions have different reactions throughout the game even down to the fact that there are 14 different endings. This is, for me at least, quite an epic turn up for the books. RPG’s are usually fairly linear and have a set story line, but as with so many aspects of the game Chrono Trigger completely disregards this and gives the gamer quite a unique gaming experience that can be repeated time and time again with different effects. This is still new and innovative now, so I can only imagine what it felt like to play in 1995.
Crono (so called I have read because the SNES didn’t have a great deal of cartridge space and leaving the ‘h’ out freed some space) is your main character and the game starts in 1000AD when he wakes up late for the Kingdom of Guardia’s millennial anniversary. Getting to the fair you find your best friend has built a time transporter which malfunctions and ends up sending the girl you just met somewhere in space and time but Lord knows where. At this point you have little choice but to go and find her and so begins an epic storyline across the space-time continuum as what started as a simple rescue mission becomes a quest to save the world by fixing the mistakes of those that went before. The world will be destroyed in 1999AD by a giant monster named Lavos and it is your quest to change the past and the future in order to avoid this.
You move backwards and forwards through various time periods; from your own, to prehistoric times, to the beginning of civilisation to the future and to the ultimate end. Actions you do in the past world have a direct butterfly effect on things that are going on in later time periods; you can see the direct effect. Although the basic map is always the same what the actual world looks like and what there is depends on the time you are in and this leads to the game having an insane amount of play in it. And that doesn’t involve the replay value as you try different things to get different options and ultimately, a different ending.
Square Enix chuck most of the clichés and traditions that in reality they helped to create in the first place straight out the window in this game. Again, this is surprising to a hardcore RPG fan even now so the crash this must have created during its original release bears thinking about. It even actively mocks the typical RPG cliché of click on everything you see in case it does something or gives you something but using this against you as evidence in a court of law at one point. It’s an early example of how your actions will impact what will happen to you, and tells the gamer very early on that nothing is going to be quite how you would expect it to be.
Even the battling system goes against what is stereotypically used in JRPG’s, the random battles are gone, the fanfare and the animations before battles are gone and the fanfare after battles is gone. You come across an enemy and your team just move into a kind of higgledy battle formation surrounding the enemy rather than it being one side of the screen against the other side of the screen. And to go one step further it doesn’t even use a fully turn based fighting system, it uses Active Time Battle (ATB) System so every second in the battle counts and you have to make quick decisions as well as strategic decisions otherwise you’re going to find yourself wiped out fairly rapidly. And the special attack system works fantastically, adding a level of depth to the battles that would be lacking otherwise.
Everything is easy to get the hang of and the menu’s and controls are easy to navigate. There is nothing unwieldy or slow about this game. Re-make it may be, but it’s as smooth as can be. Largely because they have come out with a game that veers so drastically away from the RPG clichés and stereotypes, Square have managed to come up with a game that literally screams at you to play it.
You can tell that this was a SNES game, they haven’t made much of an effort to do much with the graphics. You still have the same brightly coloured sprites and backgrounds that my guess would be is a deliberate effort to both keep the original games charm and to stand out from the sparkly special effects that are in fashion now. To anybody who remembers the old SNES games this brings back fond memories and because of the contrast with what is also on the current market. It looks cute and oldie worldy and somehow it works as you get drawn into these bright and cheery graphics.
However, it’s the sound that this game really excels in. The score was done mostly by Yasunori Mitsuda, who at the time was a sound producer but unhappy with his pay. He basically threw a temper tantrum and threatened to quit if he couldn’t compose music and he was handed this one. The effort that he put into it made him physically ill and he stepped down due to stomach ulcers, but the effort shows. The sound hasn’t been messed with for this version, and there’s a reason for this. And that’s because the sound track is epic. Take careful note of what I have just said because it is probably the first and the last time you will hear such unguarded praise for computer game music coming from me. Even now, it is epic. At the time it was unprecedented.
An old favourite
I don’t have the experience of having played it when it first came out so honestly I can’t comment on whether it’s an improvement or not. Reading around the topic it appears to be more or less identical to the original with some extra quests, some new items, and all of the extras that were included in the Playstation version. There’s also an extra ending to tie the sequel in with it and the original translation has been reworked. But I think the aim here was to keep it as much the same as before. This could possibly be a brave tactic as it is not giving those of you who grew up with it as a childhood favourite anything new to run with, but in a way it allows it to recapture the innocence and the charm of the original. If they’d tried to surround it with flashy graphics and cut scenes then it wouldn’t be just another JRPG on the market, because they’ve kept it the same as it always has been then it is a game all in its own league.
There are two different modes to the game as well, so if you really do want to be nostalgic then you can play it on 'Classic mode' which is set out exactly like it was on the SNES whereas the normal mode takes advantage of the DS's set up. The gameplay and the story won't change, it is purely a presentation aspect.
Even today, with all the new competition, all the flashy graphics and development on the JRPG, this game still stands out from the crowd as being a stellar piece of work. Even 16 years after it was originally released this is still an original, unique and innovative game that mocks and laughs at the RPG stereotypes whilst bucking every trend they can possibly get away with. This is more than a good game. This is a legendary game and honestly, it deserves every single scrap of praise it got. The storyline, the way it’s presented, the whole time travel aspect and the detail that’s been put in to make it as player orientated as possible really shine through and make this game stand out from the rest.
I have rarely played a game that I’ve found so intriguing and so enthralling. This stands the test of time. Not only that but it comes out the other side still shining as brightly as it did over a decade ago. This is a game that I will play time and time again because the choices and the actions that you make have such an impact on what happens next. I couldn’t help smiling at myself as the clichés that make an RPG were just scattered and used to remake something that was a fantastically detailed and, considering the time at which it was originally made, daring game. I will second the widely held view that this has to be the best RPG game going out there, and I will even dare to voice the opinion that it may well be one of the best video games out there point blank. You can’t get much more praise than that.
If you have never played a Chrono Trigger game, buy this game. If you played it til your eyes were square when it first came out, buy this game. If you are an alien from outer space, buy this game. None of you will be disappointed. For those who haven’t played it you are really missing out, and for those who grew up with the original then this is a lovely remake of what was clearly a classic. They have added and tweaked, but overall you will walk away with your memories intact and have a great time while doing so. For those of you with two heads and green feelers this is a fantastic way to introduce you to the genious of the human race.