Chrono Trigger, published by Squaresoft in 1995, was a time-traveling adventure RPG featuring the (then) novel Active Time Battle system. At the time, it was a progressive, creative and interesting RPG the likes of which gamers hadn’t seen before.
In 2001, Squaresoft ported Chrono Trigger to the Sony PlayStation, and very recently again to the DS in 2008 by Square Enix and TOSE. Even by today’s standards, Chrono Trigger DS is a highly innovative and groundbreaking title with plenty to teach RPG developers about what they could do to improve upon the genre.
In Chrono Trigger DS you play as a young man named Crono in the year 1,000 A.D. at the start of a millennial fair. Your mother rouses you from your sleep and reminds you that your inventor friend, Lucca, will be unveiling a new machine at the fair. Later, Crono bumps into a stranger who wishes to go see the invention. One minor technical glitch later, the machine whirls the character into the past and sends Chrono into an epic adventure spanning past and future alike.
By the end of the story, Chrono Trigger offered you 15 original endings, and one new ending that’s completely exclusive to the Nintendo DS port. Regardless of which ending you achieve, you have the option of starting a New Game+, which restarts the story while preserving your current level and items (without the plot-specific items, of course). Naturally, this extends the game’s replay value immensely; Chrono Trigger is a title that could be played and replayed several times, with each play-through earning a new ending.
Chrono Trigger‘s gameplay is one of the best of any RPG ever released by Square Enix, and arguably among the best of all time, with a highly efficient use of the already existing ATB system and several ideas not found in RPGs since. Using an actual map of the field or dungeon as the battleground, Chrono Trigger shows the enemies on-screen as a part of the game’s environments. Often, a bush will shake, releasing a host of monsters if you disturb it. When enemies appear, the characters will draw their weapons right there, fighting the threat from where they stood. The battle screen and map screens transition perfectly, from idle-to-battle with just the drawing of the characters’ weapons.
In battle, Chrono Trigger introduced a new “Dual” and “Triple” Technique system, which enabled two or more characters to coordinate techniques, dealing elemental and joint damage to enemies. Because character and enemy placement is so fluid, the location of enemies can affect which skills will hit which enemies, if any at all. This system feels very natural, and adds a level of strategy and technique-choice that feels absent from other games.
For the DS remake, the game introduces a new control scheme which leans heavily upon the touch screen, leaving the top screen to display the location of your party and nearby enemies. The player can choose to use the classic layout or the new DS layout, with each having its own benefits. Unfortunately neither is perfect. While it’s easier to keep track of health and other information on the classic layout, the touch screen feels cluttered and messy..It’s ultimately a matter of personal preference.
Graphically, Chrono Trigger DS faithfully recreates the game’s SNES aesthetic. It also includes the anime-style cut scenes from the PlayStation remake, which transfer wonderfully onto the DS hardware and provide appealing visuals for major plot points and events.
Chrono Trigger DS carefully and faithfully recreates the full soundtrack from the Super Nintendo with great accuracy, adding to the game’s immersive atmosphere. Sound effects reveal a level of detail that provides a bit of realism in an otherwise fantastic setting. Critical hits land with a meaty “thunk,” while attacking armored enemies produces a metallic clank. The sound emulation for the remake isn’t perfect, however, and will occasionally fail to activate some sound effects during battle. Still, this is a minor nitpick that detracts very little from the overall experience.
The DS version’s unique content, which includes a monster training and battling mini-game, an optional dungeon and a brand new ending, is appreciated, but feels minimal compared to the vast ocean of content the original version provides.This isn’t something that should bother many people, however, because Chrono Trigger provides plenty of enjoyable gameplay no matter what platform you play it on.
Bottom line: Even though Chrono Trigger is 13 years old, it’s still a wonderful RPG holds its own against modern titles.
Recommendation: Buy it. It plays like a checklist of good design choices, wonderful music composition, fantastic gameplay and careful attention to detail.