So, during the weekend I went home, and while I was there I downloaded four games for my 3DS, which by now I have all beat. They are Four Swords Anniversary, Mega Man 2, Super Mario Land 2 and Art Academy - first semester. Anyway, finally ready to post my Chrono Trigger review (even though gameSpot hasn't acknowledged the Wii Virtual console version yet).
Difficulty: Just Right
Time Spent: 20 to 40 hours
Travel through the age to save the world from Lavos.
Chrono Trigger has made me realise something about myself. Until now I have thought that turn-based RPGs just aren't for me. I might like some of them, but I'll never really love them. Chrono Trigger made me realise that it isn't so much that the genre doesn't work for me as it is that the other turn-based RPGs I've played just aren't good enough.
From the moment I discovered Chrono Trigger's existence, I've been hearing so much great things about the game. I've heard so much praise, but I've always been a bit doubtful because it is an RPG. Even as I downloaded the game from the Wii Shop Channel I kept trying to unhype myself. I told myself that I shouldn't be disappointed if it wasn't as great as people said and that it would probably be one of those games I liked, but didn't love as much as everyone else. As it turns out, I was blown away.
It is hard to pin down what exactly does it for Chrono Trigger, everything just works perfectly. The game starts off in the year 1000AD, when your character Crono goes to a perfectly innocent carnival then end up bumping into a princess and then stumble upon a rift in the time-space continuum that sends him and his friends back to 600AD. From there on you travel into various different eras, from the post-apocalyptic future in the year 2300AD to the dinosaur age 65 million years BC. You'll companions include a robot from the future, a cave woman from the past and a sword-wielding Frog named Frog. You soon discover that the apocalypse happened (or will happen, depending on your perspective) due to the creature Lavos and you and your friends decide to change history and take him down.
Of course, there are some logic flaws in the game, because you can hardly have a time-travel game without it, but in general it treats the time-travelling concept really well. The aesthetics of the different time periods is well executed. From the slight environmental changes between the year 600 and 1000 to the less developed language of the cave people (who consider "Ayla strong" a proper sentence). The ruins of a society with advanced technology in 2300 are really well done.
I wouldn't call the main story that good, but the game makes up for it with interesting characters and societies. At one point in the game you reach a crossroad where you can go fight the boss, but several different side-quests open up. These quests teach you a lot about the different characters and really make you care about them. They are definitely not the kind of side-quests that are just worth playing for the loot.
(SPOILERS THROUGHOUT THIS PARAGRAPH) One of the most memorable quests for me was when Lucca, a girl interested in robots and science in general, goes back in time by herself to a particular point in her childhood. Her dad is an inventor and their house is full of machines. When Lucca was younger there was an incident and her mom accidentally started the machines and ended up losing her legs. Lucca was too young to interfere and turn off the machine. However now that she is back in time, she (that is you), can do something about it. However you must solve a puzzle and if you take too long, you fail. I remember this one particularly because I did fail. I knew the password to turn the machines off was Lara (the name of Lucca's mom), but I didn't figure out where to enter it. When I read a walkthrough afterwards it turned out that I had to press the buttons L, A, R, A on the controller. That I failed really made me understand how Lucca had to be feeling and it made me emotionally involved in her story.
The game was revolutionary back in the time because it had several different endings depending on which side-quests you did. It also has a new game + feature so you can start the game with all the same equipment and you can go beat the final boss right away if you choose to. It is really neat.
Chrono Trigger absolutely nails the music. Of course, since it was originally on the SNES the sound quality is outdated, but the tracks are so unique and so beautiful that it hardly matters. At one point in the game I suddenly had to put down the remote, lean back and enjoy the music, because it was such an amazing soundtrack. More specifically it was Glenn's theme (youtube it).
Good characters and music can get you far, but if you really want to go the distance, a game must also have good gameplay, and that is where I feel most RPGs fall flat. Chrono Trigger on the other hand has a great combat system. You have three people in your party at a time and they all have bars that must fill up before they can attack (how fast depends on their speed). You can use basic attacks, but it is the techniques that makes it interesting. Techniques can either hit single targets, or all targets in a line, all enemies in an area or straight up all enemies. The most interesting part though, is the combined attacks. Two characters that are ready to attack can combine techniques. For instance Crono and Marle have Aura whirl, which is Marle's healing move, but with Crono's cyclone attack spreading it out so it hits everyone (don't ask me how that works). They also all have magic attacks that can be combined. As you approach the end you can even learn triple attacks to deal massive damage.
One thing I particularly like is that the game doesn't have random encounters. The enemies are there and can be seen before you fight them and when you beat them they go away. They might respawn when you leave the area, but it is still way better than random encounters in my opinion. I don't know if it is because I occasionally didn't find the way and thus walked around and fought enemies, but at no point did I need to go grinding to level up, which I'm really happy about. I also like that most times you buy weapons they are actually a notable improvement.
Beyond all that there are so many small details and so many memorable moments that adds to the experience. I like that you can hold down B to run from the get go. Ayla has a "stealing" move called charm that lets her trick a gift from the enemy. I find it funny that when the enemy is immune to the attack, the description says "it was the thought that counted".
So in case you need me to sum it up, let me say it like Ayla would:
Game great. You buy!