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Flashback: Chrono Trigger stands the test of time

Chrono Trigger takes us back to a much simpler time both literally and metaphorically.

Every Friday in honor of #flashbackFriday (yes, I went there) I plan on looking back at a classic game that had either a profound impact on my gaming career or impacted the industry in some way. Let's be clear, I am not reviewing these games, but rather expressing how I remember them in comparison with how I feel about them now after having played through them again.  This week I'm looking at the classic time-travelling RPG, Chrono Trigger

Excuse my terrible pun in the article's title (expect a lot of time-based puns throughout), but it's true - Chrono Trigger is an amazing RPG that needs be played by fans of the genre. It was a groundbreaking game that was both critically and commercially successful when it first came out for the Super Nintendo back in 1995. And even to this day could still be considered one of the best RPGs ever made.

Although some of this novelty has lost its charm today, Chrono Trigger's time travelling system is an essential part of the story that is fully realized and never wears out its welcome.

Chrono Trigger was developed by RPG king Squaresoft's 'dream team', which consisted of Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball character designer Akira Toriyama, and Yasunori Mitsuda with Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu.

Plot & Gameplay

Chrono Trigger follows around a voiceless hero who goes by the name of Crono (you can rename him though). Set on some earth-like planet initially in the year 1000 A.D., we see Crono and his friend Marle watch the tech-savy Lucca present a teleportation device at the Millenial Fair. Marle volunteers to be a test subject for the device, but she unexpectedly opens up a time portal when her pendant reacts strangely to the machine, which flings her into the past. From there Crono sets out to find his friend and ultimately learns that a being called Lavos wipes out civilization in the year 1999 A.D. So he vows to try and save his world.

Throughout the game, there are a total of 7 playable characters that can join your party (2 of them being optional), 7 different time periods that you will inevitably have to travel to (ranging from 65,000,000 B.C. to "the end of time"), and a total of 13 different endings you can get (14 if you're playing the DS version).

This is Magus, the only playable character not shown in the header art.

The gameplay is much like an older Final Fantasy game in many ways. The battle system, which is very polished, is a turn-based system known as active time battle. This basically means that each character gets a time gauge that allows them to attack once it is filled up. This gauge fills up quicker or slower depending on the characters speed. From there characters can attack, use items, or do special moves called "techniques" (tech for short) that use up their magic points.

The key way that Chrono Trigger is different than most Final Fantasy titles is the fact that battles aren't random. You can see the enemies on screen and only battle them if you bump into them. This is a very welcome change and basically eliminates the need to do any kind of level grinding, as the game does a really good job levelling your party up through required encounters. This in turn makes the battle system feel as if it really does rely strategy and skill more so than just how strong your character is. And that makes a difficult battle all the more rewarding in the end.

Aside from the battle system, one of the most unique things about Chrono Trigger is its time travelling component. While that may be a fairly commonplace thing now, back then it was a groundbreaking feature, and still to this day Chrono is one of the most well-executed time travelling games to exist. 

The Epoch was the name of the time travelling vessel in the game

Things done in the past would affect future events and actually seeing the ramifications of your actions hundreds or thousands of years down the line in this fully-realized world is pretty impressive. Although some of this novelty has lost its charm today, Chrono Trigger's time travelling system is an essential part of the story that is fully realized and never wears out its welcome.

Even to this day, Chrono Trigger could still be considered one of the best RPGs ever made.

The biggest downside to the game is that after beating it once, you have the option to start a new game with all of the stats and items from your previous play through so that you can try and get all of the different endings. This doesn't sound like a bad thing, but the game doesn't adjust to your leveled characters enough - so after beating the final boss and most powerful character in the game, the rest basically just becomes a grind to unlock the different endings (which could be good thing depending on the type of player you are). Although this was one of the first games to include a "new game +" option, the replay value starts to wear thin rather quickly.

Presentation

You are either going to love this art style or hate it. Toriyama's designs are recognizable and very consistent throughout, but if you are not a fan of the Dragon Ball or Dragon Quest series, chances are you are not going to care for these visuals very much.

If you are not a fan of the Dragon Ball or Dragon Quest series, chances are you are not going to care for these visuals very much.

With that being said, I absolutely love art style. I am a huge fan of Toriyama's work and he brought such a unique look to this game that is as endearing as it is impressive even to this day. Many enthusiasts rank this as one of the best-looking SNES games ever, right up there with the beautiful Final Fantasy III (or VI, however you want to look at it).

The soundtrack was mainly composed by newcomer Yasunori Mitsuda with some tracks being completed by legendary Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu after Mitsuda fell ill. This gave Chrono Trigger a breath of fresh air compared to an FF title. The score was not over-the-top, but somewhat simplistic and evoked a sense of atmosphere and emotion exactly where it needed to.

Verdict

Play this game, that's it. If you're not a fan of turn-based combat or traditional JRPGs in general, then maybe this game isn't for you. That's the only exception. For all of you who have ever played a Final Fantasy game, or any RPG for that matter, then you owe it to yourself to check this masterpiece out.

Published Aug. 21st 2015

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