Chrono Trigger DS - Reader Review  

A Dream Across Time
by Chip "Clix" Reimer

Click here for game information
20-40 Hours
+ Fun, fast battles
+ Dozens of combos
+ Well-aged aesthetics
+ Fun cast
- Limited Customization
- Pointless new additions
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   Released before Final Fantasy VII made RPGs mainstream in the west, Chrono Trigger still managed to capture the hearts of many RPGamers. Developed by the combined minds of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger has a particular charm and polish that carries weight to this day. While Chrono Trigger DS is not the first port of the game, the DS version is the easiest version to acquire and lacks any of the lag seen in the Play Station port.

   To make a small aside, the writer would like to make two small notes about the review. First, the main protagonist, originally localized as Crono because of space limitations on the SNES, will be called Chrono in the review. This is largely due to an odd pet peeve that write possesses. Secondly, the writer would like to let all readers know that Chrono Trigger DS was the first time the writer had played the game. This note is made to dispel any notions that the writer has been consumed with the “nostalgia bug.”

   Because of the game’s duel creative forces, Chrono Trigger combines the best of both legendary series. Many of the game play ideas of the Final Fantasy series merge with the lighthearted and whimsical nature of the Dragon Quest series. The cast of characters follow many common JRPG tropes, such as the silent protagonist, the fallen hero, and the gutsy princess. However, while unoriginal, each character fits into the world of Chrono Trigger and helps define the atmosphere. The atmosphere itself is largely warm and simple. Chrono’s world is small, but players will be able to explore past the simple boarders of the small continents through time traveling. Usually, time travel raises numerous paradoxes and esoteric complications that challenge the heroes. Chrono Trigger forgoes many of the complexities of time travel and instead chooses a fun, light approach towards the sci-fi staple. Instead, Chrono Trigger follows the simpler path of fantasy, and the time traveling acts as a spice to keep the fantasy fresh. Much like the unique development team, Chrono Trigger blends common aspects with uncommon elements to present something both slightly familiar and slightly unique.

   When players are not time traveling, monsters and machines from countless eras will challenge the player’s skills. Unlike many JRPGs, both now and back during the game’s release, Chrono Trigger seemingly transitions between the map and the battlefield. From there, combat plays out similarly to a Final Fantasy game. The series’ ATB (Active Time Battle) system allows for each character to act in real time while maintaining a turn base nature. Unlike the ATB seen in Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger’s bars fill up much faster, especially on the highest settings. This makes combat in Chrono Trigger a bit faster and more furious than many other hybrid games.

By the way, Marle can’t cast Fire. By the way, Marle can’t cast Fire.

   Also in battle, each character can employ techs to pummel the enemy. Techs include spells and combat skills alike. Except for a few spells, each character has its own unique set of techs. Techs are learned through natural level progression. As such, characters lack any real customization beyond equipment. Fortunately, techs do affect the way parties play out. The game’s double and triple techs correspond to the party set up. Depending upon which three characters are taken into battle, different strategies can be formed based on the possible double and triple techs. The final aspect of techs is their areas of effect. Each tech has a different range or attack pattern, and the position of the enemies determine which foes are hit by the tech. However, players cannot manually change the positions of their party members, making it harder to use some techs. During some boss fights, certain techs cannot be used because the boss may be stationary, like the players. Besides the one downside to techs, the various move sets allow for fun possibilities through the game.

   As mentioned, the story of Chrono Trigger blends fantasy and sci-fi. Starting in 1000 A.D., Chrono and his band of time travelers explore four other time periods while searching for a way to stop the eventual apocalypse. Despite the threat of the alien monster Lavos and the dangerous aspects involved with time traveling, Chrono Trigger maintains a sweet, fairytale-like air. The story has plenty of humor, and even the desolate post-apocalypse future has certain charms. The story of Chrono Trigger is that of an adventure too big for one time period, but the game never gets trapped in a far too serious tone. Even as the clock ticks towards the destruction, the game remains remarkably whimsical. Players looking for a mature, gritty storyline may be turned away from the colorful world of Chrono Trigger, but Chrono Trigger handles its plot with graceful polish.

   Beyond the scenario, the game’s cast plays an even more memorable role. While classic archetypes are plentiful, the cast contains a lot of character. Even the silent Chrono has a few quirks from basic body movements. The other six party members each have their own side quests and side stories that better flesh out their individual roles. While the monstrous main villain lacks a sound character, the other major antagonists provide enough conflict for the heroes. The simple cast, while never terribly dynamic, can grow on players.

   The final draw of the story comes from the number of endings. The original release contained a total of twelve endings, based on when the final boss is slayed. While only a few of the endings can be obtained in the initially play through, the New Game+ feature allows players to run through the game once more with all of their stats, techs, and gear in order to collect the other endings. As part of the new additions to the port, a thirteen ending tying Chrono Trigger to Chrono Cross has been added in. While most of the bonus endings are extraneous, the sheer number of endings boosts the replay value.

Beware of falling rainbow frogs. Beware of falling rainbow frogs.

   Aesthetically, Chrono Trigger has aged very well. The 2D sprites possess tremendous expression, and the environments are crisp and clean. The monster and character artwork by Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball, Dragon Quest) add to the colorful nature of Chrono Trigger. The game uses several effects like fog, and the game never once looks all that blocky or pixilated. Character movements are fluid, and the enemies are easy to identify. All of the visuals are supplemented by the beautiful soundtrack. Yasunori Matsuda’s soundtrack fits ever detail of the colorful world of Toriyama. Both of artists’ works help make Chrono Trigger still a treat to experience. However, the audio limitations of the SNES hamper some of the finer aspects of the soundtrack, and the over world maps and sprites look too small. Nevertheless, Chrono Trigger still looks and sounds wonderful on the DS.

   Because of the new system, Chrono Trigger sports new stylus controls. However, the DS stylus provides little additions, and the conventional button controls still prove to be a tad more functional, especially with the speedy nature of combat. Chrono Trigger now offers two modes for combat. The original mode lists party line up, HP, and battle menus on the top screen, but the new mode moves combat information to the bottom screen to decrease the top screen clutter. Beyond the different control aspects, Chrono Trigger DS adds in two new dungeons and a monster arena. The new dungeons act as small bonuses for the players, though the second new dungeon does contain the 13th, new ending. However, the monster arena lacks any real purpose. Monster collection and monster battling lacks a lot of fun and is best ignored by players. Finally, the animated scenes from the Play Station version return, but they too seem pointless and look fairly poor in some regards. Over all, the new aspects of the game only act as fluff, but the new controls can be useful at some times during boss battles, when battle menus can clutter a player’s view.

   Overall, Chrono Trigger lasts about 20-40 hours. However, the numerous endings and bonus dungeons can greatly increase the game’s play time. For the most part, Chrono Trigger is very simple. Random encounters can generally be tackled with ease, but occasionally some bosses can offer a decent challenge. Because of New Game+, Chrono Trigger bolsters strong replay value.

   Chrono Trigger DS is a fun title.. The game is very polished, and players new and old can find something to enjoy. However, the port offers far too little new additions beyond some new controls, bonus material, and a new translation. Veterans may find few incentives to repurchase Chrono Trigger, but Chrono Trigger virgins should consider embarking on the timeless adventure.

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