Chrono Trigger was the last great RPG for the Super Nintendo from Squaresoft, and remains a favorite of RPG enthusiasts more than 10 years after its release. The development team was nicknamed the Dream Team, because they were composed of Final Fantasy veterans Hironobu Sakaguchi and composer Nobuo Uematsu, as well as Dragon Quest veterans Yuji Hori and Akira Toriyama. This sort of partnership was unprecedented at the time, especially among rival companies like Squaresoft and Enix (which have since merged) and resulted in a highly original and successful game. And as an added bonus, one of the main characters is a robot from the future!
Chrono Trigger’s scenario is what sets it apart from other RPGs and games in general, since it deals with time travel. Over the course of the game, the protagonist Crono will skip between 7 vastly different time periods, where he makes allies and enemies. When an event is completed in the past, it subtly affects the future. You might be able to prevent the tragic death of a character’s mother, for example, by revisiting the fateful day when she died and preventing an accident.
Each era makes the most of its setting with inventive plot threads; from 65,000,000 B.C. to 2300 A.D., though the game isn’t concerned with realistically rendering them. Filling out the cast is a remarkable set of characters designed by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame. Each character has a set of personal side quests (some of which are optional), which helps to flesh them out.
Revolutionary Battle System
Chrono Trigger was one of the first RPGs to do away with random battle encounters. Taking a cue from the Mother series, touching a monster in the field initiates a battle. The menu simply appears and you begin planning your strategy. This was quite a welcome break from the usual tedium of past RPGs, and features animated enemies and an endless assortment of team formations.
The battle system itself is quite unique in that characters have a wide array of skills, including 2 and 3 character combo attacks. When two or more characters have a turn, they can combine their skills to perform powerful new moves. And with up to 7 different party members, there are plenty of ways to keep things fresh. Characters who sit out of combat continue to accrue experience points, allowing you to enjoy the game without much level grinding.
Graphics & Music
The graphics represent the best of 16-bit hand drawn art. Bright and colorful backgrounds brimming with detail serve as the stage for the wonderfully designed and animated characters and monsters. Some of the spell effects aren’t quite up to par with Final Fantasy VI, but the various character combo maneuvers are more exciting.
The music, composed in part by Nobuo Uematsu but mostly by Yasunori Mitsuda, is beautiful and diverse. It was this game that launched Yasunori Mitsuda into the upper echelon of game composers. The score can be light-hearted and funny but also incredibly moving or atmospheric when it needs to be. The SNES sound chip was ahead of its time, and Chrono Trigger is one of the best examples of what it was really capable of.
Another first in the RPG genre was the New Game + option. On a second play through characters retain their experience levels and most of their equipment. This allows the game to be finished more quickly than before, which allows the player to finish the game at specific points to trigger new endings. With 12 endings in total, Chrono Trigger offers a great deal of replay value, all on top of a main quest which can be completed comfortably in about 30 action-packed hours.
Chrono Trigger was the Super Nintendo’s swan song, a near-perfectly designed and executed RPG from a talented team of industry legends. The story and characters remain engaging, and the fun battle system is a joy to play, so despite the aging presentation it remains a classic that stands the test of time.
It has been re-released on the PlayStation as part of Final Fantasy Chronicles, packaged with Final Fantasy 4. The main addition to this version are the animated cinematic movies for certain plot moments. However, due to the CD format the game has 2~3 seconds of loading before every battle which is frustrating enough that I wouldn’t recommend it over the original release.
It has also been re-released on the Nintendo DS, which included the extra content from the PlayStation version. Besides featuring a new translation, it also makes use of the dual screens and touch screen.
Quick Run Down
- Fantastic scenarios & characters
- Graphics retain charm; Music is still excellent
- New Game + option makes replaying fun
- Multiple endings
- PS1 version has long load times
One Sentence Review: Like a good book or favorite movie, Chrono Trigger continues to entertain years after its first release.
One Word Review: Timeless!
- Chrono Trigger (official site)
- Buy Chrono Trigger Figures at Play-Asia.com
- Buy the Chrono Trigger Soundtrack (3 CDs) at Play-Asia.com
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