Chrono Trigger DS - Reader Review  

[Insert time travel pun here]
by Glowing Hyren

Click here for game information
20-40 Hours
+ Art by Akira Toriyama
+ Adaptable battle system
+ Companions have lots of personality
- Lead hero has no personality
- Too easy at the end
- Iffy time travel gimmick
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   If youíre reading this then you almost undoubtedly know the origins of Chrono Trigger. However, a brief refresher is in order just in case. Chrono Trigger was originally released for the SNES amongst some of the most revered games of all time. It was a cooperative venture of many of the greatest talents in the industry and gained quite a large fan base. It was later remade and given a handful of animated cut scenes on the Playstation. It now ventures onto the DS with a few new tricks and some very large shoes to fill.

   The story is fairly simple on first appearances; the hero Crono and his friends must fight against the forces of evil to save the world. In this case however, your adventure will take you in a rather non-linear direction. A freak accident sends a stranger into the past and as the silent protagonist you volunteer to go to her rescue. Of course, things are not as simple as rescuing the girl and saving the day. Your vacation in the past sets in motion a series of events that reveals a terrible fate for your world. After witnessing the destruction and despair of the future, the heroes vow to stop it. During your journeys youíll meet several memorable characters, both NPC and playable, but Cronoís teammates from across time really steal the show. Aside from the time traveling elements, the story does a good job of keeping you on your toes and making sure you donít know whatís coming around the corner. The story will loose much of its weight on the subsequent play through required to see all of the endings. If youíve played the game before donít expect the new translation to change much but the new ending might entice you in again. Overall, itís a charming story and it gets the job done admirably, but it would have been nice to have a lead with a bit more personality.

   No adventure would be complete without some combat and Chrono Trigger doesnít disappoint. The battle system is turn based with an action gauge that determines when you can take action. Each team member has their own separate meter which will fill faster or slower depending upon your speed stat. All but two characters that you recruit can learn magic and those that canít make up for it with either brute strength or versatility. Those without magic are not limited to attacking. Every character has a roster of special attacks that they can unleash upon the enemy. The attacks are learned by acquiring TP in combat and not by level up. You may only take three characters into combat at any given time and your crew will pass that limit within short order, so deciding on who to take with you plays a large part in strategy. You may change your party at anytime in the start menu and those that are left behind still level up but they will not gain TP. This may force you to do some training for a forgotten character if you need them later. Nearly any combination of heroes can get the job done and none of them hold a monopoly on their brand of attack. Another key feature of the battle system is the combination attack. These skills show up in battle when two of your characters have learned compatible techniques. For example: Cronoís spin attack may combine with a healing skill to refresh the entire party. With the exception of one hidden ally, any two party members can combine skills if they learn enough of them. If you have the right party you may also be able to enact a triple tech, using the turns and skills of all party members to unleash devastation upon your foes. The battle system gives you lots of options to play around with and itís likely that youíll be able to find a team that fits your play style.

Toriyamaís influence is instantly recognizable. Toriyamaís influence is instantly recognizable.

   One of the real draws of this game is the artwork, which is designed by the legendary Akira Toriyama himself. Now famous for the Dragon Quest series, Toriyama also worked on Dragonball. That being said, some characters bear a bit more than a passing resemblance to his other work. His designs go well beyond the heroes and include both the monsters and the backgrounds. Toriyamaís work is also prevalent in the FMVs that are featured in this version of the game. If you like his style then this will be a big plus and if not, then it really shouldnít hurt your enjoyment of the game. It generally helps to make the game appear more seamless when everything is in the same style, and that certainly applies here. None of the sprites or areas really appear jarring even though their design varies wildly based on the time period. The cut scenes are not voiced, and are pretty short, but do help to give the player a good idea of whatís going on when sprites canít quite convey the whole idea. In battle your sprites act with surprising personality. Each hero has their own unique fighting style and attack animations. The graphics and art for this game are very well done. At best, itís a huge bonus and at worst it stays out of the way and isnít noticeable.

   The main gimmick of the game is time travel. The heroes can travel to 5 main time periods as well as two minor ones. At first, this is accomplished by a series of portals scattered throughout each time period, but is later much simplified when you find a different method. While a sound concept at its core, the idea is not without its faults. The premise is that taking action in the past can change the future (which is the whole point of the quest). However, some actions have consequences but others do not. For example, failing to save a member of the royal family in the past can cause the royal family to not exist in the future, but growing a whole forest over the same time period changes nothing but the landscape. If youíre the type to analyze the errors in sci-fi and fantasy stories and movies then this will probably annoy you. After a certain point in the game you can begin to open black chests that are scattered across the world in all eras. The trick is that you need to find and activate, but not open, the chests in the past so that they have better loot in the future. Unfortunately the game doesnít do the kind thing and tell you that, so by the time you figure it out you may have lost your shot at some great gear. One last problem with the time traveling is that each time period seems fairly sparse. The most densely populated version of the world only has three or four towns and a few other areas. The least dense era has only one town and one cave. This does help spread the game out but also makes the world feel small and not very interesting. Time traveling works very well for the plotline but it puts a damper on exploration and side quests.

"Oh boy..." "Oh boy..."

   Donít come into Chrono Trigger expecting a great challenge. The game makes a point of striding down the middle of the road. Random enemy encounters will cause you no great concern after a couple of hours into the game. The encounters are well constructed and built into the areas so they can oft be avoided entirely. That strategy can backfire should you get cocky and not heal after long fights. The bosses posses only a slight bit more threat than the random enemies. Whereas monsters can get the drop on you, a boss is nearly always heralded by a save point and a large empty room. This gives you plenty of chance to heal everyone and make plans. In fact, as long as you dedicate one of your teammates to using healing skills, youíll have a hard time losing, especially if you use the buffing spells such as haste and barrier. That is not to say that taking a side trip before you aught to in that area will not end in disaster because it likely will. However, such instances are few and far between. The game is quite generous with providing quality equipment in easily reached places and most shops. Late in the game a large array of side quests are made available to you. Should you ignore these quests and tread straight into the last dungeon you will be in for it unless you made a point of power leveling. To extend the length of the game and to progress the story itís best to do the side quests. This turns out to be a double edged sword. Doing every available side quest will leave your characters with a large pile of extra levels and some terrific gear, which makes the last dungeon and boss nearly a laughing stock. You will probably have to fight at least one boss a second time, though it likely will not be a common occurrence and you should be able to walk through the story with little effort.

   It is not the goal of this review to focus the reader on the negatives of the game, but rather to illuminate a few of the flaws in one of the most celebrated games of all time. You should expect an above average experience but not necessarily the greatest game ever. A microchasm of this would be the music; a couple of tunes are catchy but the mostly it just stays out of the way and does its job. Including the end game side areas and extra content the play time will clock in around thirty hours or a little less. Should you desire more, a second play through will grant you access to an additional 12 endings. One of the endings is new to the DS version as are several new areas, a jukebox, a bestiary, and a monster fighting arena (itís less fun than it sounds). Thereís a lot to see here, and itís mostly quality, save for a few rough spots that can put a dimmer on an otherwise bright experience. If you havenít been down this road before it is one worth traveling.

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