By Drew D. / January 7th, 2021
|Original Release Date||JP: Mar 11, 1995
US: Aug 11, 1995
|Platform||SNES, PlayStation, Nintendo DS, Mobile, PC (Steam)|
Chrono Trigger, just reading the name or saying it out loud causes within me a flood of wonderful memories and emotions. For so many of us, Chrono Trigger is the epitome of games. And calling it the greatest of all time, masterpiece, or similar are all completely founded. With its epic story, excellent gameplay, unforgettable soundtrack, and endearing cast of characters, this masterwork of Square is still outperforming and outshining modern releases in and outside the RPG genre.
The year is 1000 A.D and the Millennial Fair is in full swing. Our hero, Crono, and Marle, a young girl he unassumingly runs into, participate in the unveiling of his friend Lucca’s newest invention, a teleporter. As Marle tries it for herself, the machine reacts with her unique heirloom pendant, causing a portal in time to open and flinging her 400 years into the past. Without a moment’s hesitation, Crono takes the pendant and has Lucca send him back to rescue Marle. Little do any of them know that these events are the trigger to a cascade of many more happenings that will ultimately bring about the end of the world. With past, present, and future all in jeopardy, Crono and his friends set out on a journey through time, filled with fateful meetings, perilous struggles, and dire consequences, all in the hopes of ultimately saving humanity from its catastrophic fate.
The story of Chrono Trigger is still one of the most engaging I’ve ever experienced, impressively standing strong and even outshining competition for 25 years and counting. The overarching conflict of preventing the end of the world is full of depth and is only further strengthened by the subplots and individual struggles specific to certain times and particular characters. As for its theme of time travel, though it’s a familiar one, what continues to impress me is the aspect of its manipulation, something we as players get to participate in through our direct actions in the altering of history and events. That, to me, makes the experience truly immersive, as the triggering of said events is mostly done by player actions rather than narrative exposition. The story in its entirety is full of depth and detail, tying together plot, subplots, and character-driven conflicts to produce a thoroughly intriguing, utterly satisfying adventure from start to its ultimate end.
As for its characters, Chrono Trigger truly has one of the most memorable casts in gaming. Though they share certain traits and behaviors at times, each has their own distinct personality which shines through their dialogue, reasoning, and actions. Crono’s courage and will are always on display, and Marle’s outgoing, energetic style makes her incredibly charming. Lucca’s inquisitiveness and compassion; Frog’s drive and sense of loyalty; Ayla’s pure energy and fearlessness; Robo’s ability to encompass and convey the best of human traits and emotions; I could easily write a paragraph or two for each of them. And yet, the opportunity to interact and immerse ourselves into their lives is the real gift. It has been reason alone for my repeated plays over the years. Lastly, it’s always a treat to discover or rediscover a unique conversation or interaction based on the active party you have at the time. Those little details truly take the experience over the top. With its vivid, charismatic characters and the sheer depth and detail of its story, Chrono Trigger delivers a narrative of legendary proportions.
In addition to its fantastic story and its wonderful cast, Chrono Trigger features solid, engaging gameplay. The extensive main campaign and the numerous subquests that add depth, backstory, and the occasional combat advantage, all come together to create a genuinely captivating experience from start to finish. As for its main component, gameplay features turn-based combat with a unique technique system. Each character will learn a set of techniques similar to skills and spells, yet further depth comes in the form of paired and group techniques that can unleash serious damage to enemies. As each character possesses an elemental affinity, as well as a specific attack style, the sheer number of combinations is not only staggering, but incredibly imaginative. I always find myself awed by how the dual techs are inspired by their character’s style and, sometimes, even their personalities. Ayla’s dual techs in particular come to mind, as her straightforwardness and her brute strength are the typical factors of how her techs look and hit. The clever variety in techs, the elemental aspects of them, and the different ways they can hit groups of enemies all keep combat fresh and immersive.
Outside of combat, the RPG elements, such as leveling, keep fairly consistent with enemy growth for a well-balanced outcome. I find the degree of challenge optimal, never requiring excessive grinding, which results in a flowing play pace. The bosses, in particular, provide enough difficulty to require a proper strategy to defeat and, upon said defeat, I always feel that sense of satisfaction you want from a respectable challenge. And of course, using the variety of techs and discovering what works best only adds to the fun. Taken in its entirety, Chrono Trigger’s gameplay is timelessly superb. An amazing main campaign, a set of subquests that offer legitimate backstory, subplot, and purpose to them, and combat that offers a good bit of variation all harmonize for an incredibly fun, fully satisfying experience.
Finally, what ties all of this brilliance in story and gameplay together into one complete masterpiece are Chrono Trigger’s spectacular aesthetics. Visually, Chrono Trigger impresses with its bold styles, dramatic use of color, and its attention to detail, capturing and expressing the fantasy and magic of its diverse characters and time periods. The sprite work is incredible, with its details that bring life to heroes and enemies alike. Through animations, poses, and the like, the strength of Crono and Ayla, the enthusiasm of Marle, or the compassion of Lucca and Robo is palpable. It all further adds to their memorable personalities. The detail that went into the environments is also impressive, and I’m especially awed with the plays on light and dark coloring to convey the tones of the time periods and their locales, as well as events unfolding within. The brightness and large color palette of 1000 A.D pairs with the lively atmosphere of the Millennial Fair. Contrast that with the muted colors of 600 A.D., that speak of a kingdom in turmoil. As for boldness, I love the striking designs of 12000 B.C that overflow with imagination and mystique, telling of an existence both fantastic and fleeting. Or, the lush green, pristine world of 65,000,000 B.C. and how its saturated colors and untouched nature speak of a time before calamity. The bold designs of enemies, too, shine in their ability to instill ferocity and power. Lastly, I love the animations and the greater usage of Akira Toriyama’s designs and artwork in later versions of the game. His artistry takes the visuals to another level, further exalting the already impressive aesthetics.
As for the audio, the soundtrack of Chrono Trigger is nothing short of masterful. Every score is a pleasure to listen to all on its own, and each fits the person, place, and event they represent perfectly. They contribute to the tones and moods of the events onscreen so well that they allow for a degree of immersion rarely achieved. It’s amazing how well the themes for crucial fights and turning points instill such emotion. I still get hyped every time I hear Frog’s theme and get goose bumps when listening to Magus’ theme. Joy, sorrow, fear, danger, from devastation and loss to love and heartfelt reunions, the soundtrack perfectly encapsulates it all, stirring our emotions in the most profound of ways. The aesthetics are wonderful as visuals and audio together bring greater vividness to an already spectacular game.
Chrono Trigger is a timeless masterpiece. To overpraise it, an impossibility; to undervalue, a sin. With its fabled story of epic proportions, its delightfully memorable cast, its strong gameplay, and its remarkable aesthetics, Chrono Trigger will stand as the quintessential RPG and remain in the hearts of all it has touched. Crono, Marle, Lucca; how could I ever forget you.
Review copy provided by author
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