|Platforms||Nintendo DS, Super Nintendo, PlayStation|
|Genre||Classic Role-playing Time Warp|
|Score||10 Gameplay: 10
Fun Factor: 9
|Buy from Amazon|
Chrono Trigger for the Nintendo DS is the second port of this classic Super Nintendo role-playing game. You guide a group of time-traveling heroes through different time periods to save the world from the alien parasite, Lavos. I'll get my biases out of the way right now and say that the Super Nintendo version is my favorite game of all time. Out of the hundreds of games I've played, Chrono Trigger stands as the undisputed number one. So I had very high expectations for the 2008 portable port of the 1995 original, so let's just get to my review to see if it lives up to the hype... and see if the game has stood the test of time.
All scores are out of 10.
Chrono Trigger is the pinnacle of classic 2D RPG gameplay in my opinion. No random battles, a deep tech/magic system, and an entertaining world to explore and interact with. Generally the highlight of playing a new RPG is learning its magic and ability system. Chrono Trigger is a great example of SquareSoft doing it right. Everyone has a static list of abilities they can learn, and they're all unique. Techs are learned pretty generically, just participate in the battle, but once you get them, you're able to combine with other party members' techs. This makes for some awesome battles where you're unleashing big, dramatic attacks on one or more enemies. Thankfully, none of the attacks take too long to perform and the battles move along nicely.
One of the lowlights of playing a new RPG is discovering there are random battles! This happened to me just a few months ago when I played Mistwalker's Lost Odyssey. Hironobu Sakaguchi worked on both titles, more than 10 years apart, and somehow it seems that Lost Odyssey is a step back in terms of gameplay. You can see the bad guy on screen 90% of the time before you fight them in Chrono Trigger, and even if you can't see them, nothing is random. Events are triggered by entering an area or crossing a threshold, you're never surprised once you're familiar with the setting.
I'll get into this a bit more later, but there's a few new dungeons at the end of the game, but unfortunately, there's really nothing new in terms of gameplay. Well, there's a lot of fetch quests, which is something the game smartly ignored originally. There's also some dungeons that you're fighting through for no other reason than to get to the end. More thoughts on these ahead.
Fun Factor: 9
If this was the original SNES version of Chrono Trigger, it'd be a 10 easily, but I had a little argument with myself over the fun factor score of the DS port and I have decided to give it a 9. Besides the fact that playing games on the DS is awesome because you can just close the lid whenever you feel like stopping, there's a couple issues I have with the game. For one, the new content is pretty awful and an incredible waste of time. If you're a hardcore Chrono Trigger fan, I wouldn't say, "don't play it," because I heard basically the same things before I played the new content and I still did it. Instead, just be aware that you will be finding yourself yawning and closing your DS quite often.
First off, we have Lost Sanctum, a reptite centric series of fetch quests that will have you bored out of your freaking mind. For the next four hours, you will be going back and forth between the same two time periods, going through the same set of areas, fighting the same bad guys over and over and over again. There's this rat that you will literally fight about 30 times over the course of these quests. At this point in the game, you are like level 50 and can destroy rats in one hit, but yet you are FORCED to fight this rat again and again. The rat runs around a tree or bush, and even if it's way on the other side, simply entering its area of running will trigger a battle. It just screams of bad level design and poor testing. Shame on the new team. The rewards for doing these quests is actually not too bad, you get some new items that just make your characters that much overpowered in a game that is not that difficult in the first place.
Secondly, the Dimensional Vortex, a series of three longer-than-normal dungeons (at least for Chrono Trigger). There's a few new enemies, and some interesting maps, but other than that, there's nothing really that interesting going on. You fight through each dungeon only to fight a clone or something of one of your characters, there's no explanation behind it. After you beat that character, the equivalent character on your team gets powered up more, and like I said before, it's pretty unecessary in a game like Chrono Trigger.
After the Vortex, you get to do battle with the new final boss. After going through the Sanctum and Vortex, there is simply no challenge to this guy. You're so incredibly overpowered it's a joke. After the battle, you get an ending that could have been written in some fan-fiction.
So as you can tell, I'm not that impressed by Chrono Trigger DS's new content (and I haven't even talked yet about how they just had to mess with item and tech names). The game's core content, however, is still as brilliant as ever. Thankfully the Lost Sanctum and Dimensional Vortex are completely optional, and personally, I don't ever see myself playing them again.
Graphics and Sound: 10
It was a beautiful game in 1995 on the SNES, and it's still a beautiful game in 2009 on the DS. Sharply drawn sprites, luscious backgrounds, and a score that will be stuck in your head for a decade. I could go on and on about how this game shines in this category... but let's stick to the transition to the DS. During battles, moving the status information to the bottom screen frees up a lot of room to showcase the techs and magic. The menus have also been redesigned to make some common inventory management easier. I'm not a big fan of the FMV cutscenes, but at least you can turn them off. I decided to play the game with them on because I never played the PSX Chrono Trigger port all the way through. What's kind of messed up about them is that as soon as they end, the regular in-game equivalent of the scene is then played. They're usually better too.
Moving to the smaller screen doesn't mean Chrono Trigger loses any of its visual charm, it's still as strong as ever. The music and sound effects are also pumped out of those tiny speakers pretty well. Since the presentation really hasn't suffered at all, I can't stop myself from giving it a 10 in this category. At least they didn't change Frog's sprite along with his dialogue.
So Chrono Trigger gets a new translation after all these years, I guess someone at Square-Enix isn't a fan of Ted Woolsey or something. Not a lot has changed, but the most notable difference is the removal of Frog's medieval accent. That means his first line, "lower thine guard and thou art allowing the enemy in," becomes something lame like "if you don't pay attention you'll get hit!" A lot of the item and tech names have also changed without any real explanation, but most of the locations and character names have been left intact thankfully. Crono is still Crono, Marle is still Marle, and so on. Slightly disappointing is that Square had a real opportunity to clear up some of the Entity discussion at the campfire scene, but did nothing except change the wording around. At least they got rid of Gasper's mysterious line about a friend in trouble.
The original story is of course a masterpiece in my eyes. It's extremely well-paced and brings you to a variety of magical and imaginative places. Most of the characters are a bit flat, but a few like Magus really shine and their backstory makes you put some pieces together. Chrono Trigger's strength lies in its time periods and the plot that is woven between them all. A floating paradise in the sky to the dark, dystopian, apocalyptic future highlight the writers' imagination.
So even though one of the original writers, Masato Kato, was still on board for the port, the new content is almost devoid of any story whatsoever. As I said before, the first dungeon is just a series of fetch quests and the second is simply a trio of dungeon crawls. Would it have killed them to add a bit of something new? Investigate the entity a bit? Go deeper into Magus' childhood? Learn about the fall of Queen Zeal? Square does throw us a bone with a new final, final boss that ties the game a little better to Chrono Cross, but honestly there was nothing new in there that fans hadn't put together already.
There are a couple of issues with this port, but they will mostly only bother you if you've played the game before. Chrono Trigger is a superb game on any platform, but it feels right at home on the Nintendo DS. Smooth gameplay, an engrossing story, and an epic soundtrack. That's really all there is to say. Play this game, no matter what. Whether you love or hate RPGs or consider games released before 2000 to be too old to enjoy, I truly think you will enjoy this game.