I'll jump right into what you really want to know and save you the effort of skimming for it. Chrono Trigger DS looks, feels, sounds, and plays just as it does on the SNES. It is surprisingly similar to the original, considering that the DS cannot perfectly emulate SNES graphics or audio. This means that Square Enix loves you, and spent a significant amount of time touching up, tweaking, and perfecting the presentation so that it is indeed a high quality port. This isn't the Chronicles or Anthology collections, and it most certainly is not Final Fantasy IV Advance. Happy? I am.
"Square Enix loves you, and spent a significant amount of time touching up, tweaking, and perfecting the presentation so that it is indeed a high quality port."
This does make for a general dearth of new information for those who are already experienced with Chrono Trigger. After ten hours of gameplay, there is nothing to declare about the visuals, sound, battle system, or plot that hasn't already been documented on the internet ad nauseam. Fortunately, the "enhanced" part of the port is quite noteworthy. The DS version sports a new interface to take advantage of the stylus and touch screen. The menus which formerly plastered the view during combat are gone, and the bottom screen displays battle information and actions. Moves are represented by large, tappable buttons, and can be chosen via the good,
old-fashioned d-pad or with a smack of the stylus or a thumb. Outside of combat, the touch screen displays a map and several touchable icons that serve as shortcuts to all of the sub-menus. So instead of opening the menu, scrolling down to "Save," then selecting it, the player can just hit the "Save" button on the touch screen and zip right there. Although the stylus commands can be completely ignored by means of the
d-pad, it does provide one of the more tight, logical, and worthwhile touch screen interfaces in an RPG without resorting to Pokémon's ugly, jumbo buttons.
Of the tacked-on bonus content, only the Arena of the Ages has been visited thus far. As soon as a save file is created, the Arena can be entered through the main menu. The Stable Master explains the rules of monster rearing, lets Crono pick between four puny creatures with different elemental affinities, and then you are free to train and battle the little guy to your heart's content. The bugger can be sent off, alone, to train in an era of your choosing while you play through the main game. The time period selected will determine which of its statistics increase and which, if any, decrease. These excursions are brief; Crono can reenter the Arena a few minutes later and the cute Nu-like creature will happen to return at that very moment. Based on which item you told it to take on the trip, it might change classes or learn new abilities. Battling your minion is equally hands off. You can select how difficult his opponent will be, and then watch as the two of them duke it out. During combat, an item can be handed to your monster to help him out, but he might decide not to use it, and there is no other way to influence the monster battles. Overall, the Monster Arena is slightly fun, slightly slow, and extremely optional and out of place. Right now it's fun enough that I'm keeping with it. I can see people finding it to be a waste of time, but I can also see people really getting into it.
As has become customary for Square Enix ports and remakes, Chrono Trigger DS includes a new translation. It's nice. Nothing fantastic or eye-opening has been done with it yet, and the original Chrono Trigger had one of the best localizations on the SNES. For whatever reason, most of the items have been renamed; Magic Tabs are now called Magic Capsules, for example. The neatest change is that the gameworld has alcohol in it. People go to bars and get drunk. The party scene in the Prehistoric Age no longer ends with Crono waking up with a hangover caused by eating too much soup. It could be that I'm forgetful, but I think the new script has a touch more humor in it than the original did too.
For crazed purists, there is one last piece of good news: everything added to this enhanced port can be turned off. When a new game is started, the player is presented with the option to turn off the touch screen interface as well as the anime cutscenes injected into the plot. Aside from the rewording of the text, this will make Chrono Trigger DS look exactly like the SNES version, only tinier and portable. The player can also choose never to enter the Arena, if the thought of added content somehow offends you. For a fuller description of the gameplay and, of course, that all important numerical score, watch for RPGamer's review to be posted near the middle of November.