Chrono Trigger is arguably one of the greatest video games of all time. No matter how many times I go through it, it never has that stale taste that some older games get. In this day and age where remakes & remasters are a dime a dozen, it’s odd that Square-Enix never got around to making another Chrono Trigger. We did get a sequel on PS1, Chrono Cross, but it was such a far departure from the SNES game we fell in love with, I think it’s left a lot of us clamouring for a proper remake or sequel (it did have some fantastic music). With the release of the SNES Classic this September (my brother pre-ordered the last copy at our local EB….. I owe you my life bro), we won’t be able to play Chrono Trigger so easily. I made a Top 10 Dream Games for the SNES Classic list, and actually chose not to put Chrono Trigger on there because I thought it was a given. Apparently it wasn’t! (at least we’re getting Final Fantasy III & Earthbound). This past Tuesday, the game celebrated its 22nd birthday (makes me feel old, I was 10 when I first played it). I figured it was as good a time as any to look back on the game that has shaped the JRPG industry, and my love for RPG’s in general. There’s been a ton of influence that has come from it, and will only continue as the years go on. As always, there will be some spoilers, so if you haven’t played through it (SHAME ON YOU) then be cautious.
What immediately stood out to me when I first played Chrono Trigger, was the sense of despair and dread that encroaches as the game progresses. It all starts out innocently enough in the year 1000AD, with Crono’s mom waking him up. The local fair is on and she encourages him to check it out. His inventor friend Lucca will be there showing off her latest gadget. You can partake in all the activities like battling a singing robot or a drinking contest. After wandering around you end up bumping into a girl named Marle. She decides that she wants to accompany Crono for the rest of the time they’re there. They end up going together to check out Lucca’s new invention. It’s a teleportation machine. When Lucca & her dad ask for a volunteer, Marle is eager to jump at the chance. What ends up happening is the machine reacts to the pendant Marle is wearing around her neck, transporting her 400 years into the past. From here, Crono & Lucca go on a quest to rescue Marle, which ends up being a pretty small event on the spectrum of what comes after. It comes to our heroes attention that a giant monster named Lavos will destroy the world in 1999AD. Depending on how you decide to play through the game, there’s a number of different endings you can get. The worst being the one where you die, meaning the future won’t change, and life as you know it, will perish. You even get to travel to the future later on in the story and witness firsthand the fate that awaits mankind. Knowing this puts a giant burden on you, pushing you forward to make a difference. Not such an innocent story now is it?
Combat is turn based, but you can choose to have it set to Active, where enemies will make choices on the fly, even if you just sit there on your turn (this has pretty much become the norm, except for Persona). It’s great being able to see your enemies on screen (none of that random battle nonsense), picking and choosing how you go about your battles. I’m also pretty sure you won’t be able to get the battle theme out of your head, like ever. Once you’ve unlocked magic, there’s endless combinations to how you go about battles. There’s Techs, Double Techs, & Triple Techs. Unlocking each of these for all the characters is a blast, finding out new abilities you can use in tandem with other characters. Crono can use his Cyclone attack with Lucca’s Flame Toss, to create Flame Whirl. The graphics are great for the time, with some truly awesome effects for the special attacks. The standout feature for me in Chrono Trigger though are the side quests. They actually serve a purpose. They directly have an effect on the story and go into the history of some of the characters. The one that hit me the hardest was Lucca’s. She blames herself for the accident that claimed her mothers legs. Opportunity presents itself in the form of a portal that can take her back to that moment, allowing her to change her mothers fate. It’s moments like these that have a profound impact on the story. These quests also unlock ultimate weapons for the characters, so they’re definitely worth seeking out.
The game starts out pretty linear. You go from set piece to set piece without too much exploring. You can wander off every now and then, but the game doesn’t truly open up until you reach The End of Time. Here, you can pick and choose which time period you want to go to (you even gain access to a ship named Epoch, that allows you to fly around the different worlds). There are certain things that need to be done to progress the story, even certain time periods aren’t unlocked until you meet the requirements, but you can accomplish them in any order you want. At a certain point, you can even take Crono out of your group and mix and match any of the playable characters (including a villain that you can decide to let into the group, should your heart desire). It’s this level of freedom that makes Chrono Trigger a joy to play. You’re not tied down to always having the “hero” in the group. Everyone is the hero in this.
If you’ve never had the chance to experience Chrono Trigger, I urge you to go out and get it. It’s available for so many different platforms, it’d be hard for you to NOT find a copy. It’s been made available on the SNES, PS1, Nintendo DS, WII Virtual Console, Playstation Network, IOS & Android. If you’re a fan of JRPG’s or just some great story telling, definitely check it out. It’s a masterpiece in every sense of the word. Time to fire up the Super Famicom I think. – NVJ