Chrono Trigger Updated Hands-On
We travel through time and train monsters in this classic RPG.
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Hailed as one of the greatest games of all time, Chrono Trigger has shipped more than 2.5 million copies worldwide since its original release in 1995. In 2001, it was rereleased alongside Final Fantasy IV in a Final Fantasy Chronicles bundle that eventually made it onto Sony's Greatest Hits list. Now it heads for Nintendo's handheld, where it retains the same look it had back in '95 and keeps the full-motion videos that were added in the PlayStation version. This time around, you can play the game with the touch screen if you choose, and Square Enix has added a new dungeon as well as a battle arena where you can raise your own pet monster and pit it against a non-player character's or friend's pet over local Wi-Fi.
Chrono Trigger follows young Crono, a silent, spiky-haired individual who, thankfully, is quite handy with a sword. He attends the Millennial Fair to see his friend Lucca and her new invention; on the way, he bumps into a tomboyish young girl by the name of Marle. Without giving away too much of the story, the three of them, along with a cast of other colorful characters, end up on an adventure that will take them through time and possibly alter the course of history. Even better, multiple endings to the game ensure that the outcome can be different each time you play.
Part of what made Chrono Trigger so much fun the first time around was the fighting system. Instead of waging random battles, enemies are seen onscreen and you initiate the fight by approaching them. The game uses an active time-battle system, which means that enemies will continue to hit you while you're trying to figure out what commands to input. You have the option to switch to a wait mode, which pauses the game when you make a selection. Each character has a gauge that fills automatically, so you'll know when your character's next turn will be. All the playable characters in the game come with their own tech skills--special abilities that cost magic points to use. As your characters get stronger, they'll learn dual techs and even triple techs that they can perform with their party members to unleash a more powerful attack. As the game progresses, some characters will even gain the ability to use magic. If you're playing in the touch-screen mode, you can use the stylus to choose among attack, tech, and item; but if you're used to turn-based RPGs by now, you'll feel more comfortable using the D pad and A button during fights.
Those familiar with the story may remember a place called the End of Time, which acts as a gateway to all the different time periods. The new battle arena, the Arena of Ages, can be accessed from this point, as well as from the main menu. You'll have to load your current save file to enter, since everything that takes place there will be tied to your game (more specifically, to your bank account). The Arena of Ages is where you can train your very own monster and put it up against an NPC opponent or a friend who also has a monster that's ready for battle. The stable master at the arena will allow you to choose one of four round blobs with arms and legs to start off with. Each color of monster--red, blue, yellow, and purple--is attached to a particular element: fire, water, light, and shadow, respectively. Their affinity can change depending on the items you give it, but what you're trying to do is to train it by sending it off to a different time period so that when it comes back, it'll be stronger. Each time period will increase different stats, so you'll have to advance through the main story for your monster to have access to them. You can purchase various items from this area to give to your monster, both to train with as well as to use in battle.
Before entering your monster into a fight, you have to choose what tier you want to participate in. The fees go up depending on the tier, but the prizes are better. You're also facing tougher opponents, so be sure to go in prepared with items. When you're monster is fighting, you don't give any commands. All you do is watch the fight unravel and provide your bubbly pet items to use, whether they're healing items, enhancement items, or attack items. You can give it only one at a time, so choose wisely. You also need to build trust between your pet, which increases its chance of using the item. The bond between you and your pet will go up with every battle, so it's smart to balance your training with your fighting. With only one copy of the game, we weren't able to play against a live opponent, but the general concept should be the same. This is a somewhat bizarre new addition to an RPG and a simple distraction for those who want something to do on the side. It's not mandatory, but it seems that you could potentially get some good items out of it.
Chrono Trigger on the DS should bring back fond memories of 1995 with its 2D visuals and glowing soundtrack. The tunes really make an impact, and you can always go to the extras menu to listen to each track that you've come across. Akira Toriyama's artwork is also included in a gallery, and you can watch the full-motion videos again and again. A bestiary and item encyclopedia are also included for your convenience, and having the touch-screen option really helps organize information regarding your characters and their techs and items during the game. Be sure to check back for our full review when Chrono Trigger is released on November 25.