Flashback Attack: Chrono Trigger
Title: Chrono Trigger
Version Played: Nintendo DS Re-Release (2008)
I’m the type of person who won’t go see a movie unless I’ve seen all the other movies in the series. And, I’m going to be honest, I initially didn’t really have much interest in Chrono Trigger. What I did have an interest in, for some reason, was Chrono Cross, the sequel for the Playstation. Well, once I got it in my head that I wanted to play Cross, I realized I’d have to play Trigger first. Boy am I glad I did.
Chrono Trigger puts you in the shoes of Crono in the year 1000 A.D. Our hero quickly finds himself embedded in trouble when the princess sneaks out of the castle and accidentally gets herself teleported back in time. Yeah that’s right, a time travel RPG, what more could you ask for?
The plot only builds and escalates from there, eventually leading to our crew of heroes discovering that in the year 1999 some kind of cataclysm will befall the earth, essentially wiping out most human life. The heroes take it upon themselves to stop the catastrophe. How you go about stopping the apocalypse determines which of several different endings you get (including on that’s kind of insane).
Yes, this is one of the endings. No, I don't know what's going on.
Chrono Trigger features pretty straightforward RPG mechanics, players choose between physical and magic-based attacks against a variety of enemies. When players get to attack is determined by an active time bar. There's also the option to do combination attacks with other party members. Overall, the battle system is easy to pick up and figure out and not too hard to master either.
To be honest, though, where this game shines is not necessarily in its mechanics, as solid as they are. Where this game really shines is in the story and characters. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Get it? Getting ahead of myself? Because... because it's a game about time travel...
"The joke court sentences you to death for use of bad jokes."
How does this version differ?
Chrono Trigger was originally released for the Super Nintendo in 1995. Since then it’s been re-released for the Playstation in 1999, the Nintendo DS in 2008 and most recently on the Wii’s virtual console and the Playstation Network in 2011. Needless to say some things have been added and/or changed here and there along the way.
Anime cutscenes were added in to the Playstation re-release. These videos were created by talented and well-known Akira Toriyama (who also did the original character designs for the game), and for the most part didn’t really affect the game at all (although the after-the-credits cutscene does add a couple tie-ins to Chrono Cross). This is the same version that’s now available on Playstation Network
Finally, the Nintendo DS version offers some additional quests, dungeons, monster fighting arenas and even more foreshadowing for Chrono Cross in the game’s ending cutscene. There’s also the addition of touch controls and the use of two screens, but the touch controls can be turned off and the two screens don’t really add anything, other than de-cluttering your view a little.
Left: SNES. Right: DS. Not Shown: An enemy that isn't a giant skeleton.
But, does it stand the test of time?
The first time I ever read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, I was absolutely enamored with the world. I found myself so transfixed, in fact, that as I drew closer to the end of the book I actually wanted to read it less and less because I knew that as soon as I was done, that world and those characters would be over for me. I haven’t had that same feeling about anything until Chrono Trigger came along.
Chrono Trigger is such a rich experience that it’s nearly impossible for it to be tarnished by time. It helps that the art and sound are some of the best that 16-bit consoles had to offer, but even without those, the story and the characters are so wonderfully developed that it’s impossible to not lose yourself in this game.
I can honestly say, whether this game had come out in 1995, 2005 or today, it would be just as rewarding an experience and just as good of a game. Chrono Trigger may very well be one of the best games I’ve ever played, regardless of age.
Flashback Attack is a weekly column that goes up every Thursday. In this column, Matt Overstreet takes a look at some older games and tries to figure out if they've stood the test of time. Do you have a game you'd like to recommend? Leave a suggestion in the comments or e-mail Matt at email@example.com.