System: Super Nintendo
Released: 27 September 1995
Review Date: 5 December 2003
Review by: Quantum Human
I don't know how "old school" a later SNES game is, but since there's no SNES section, this is going here.
I consider Chrono Trigger the first serious RPG I ever got my hands on. Sure, before CT I had played Tecmo's Secret of the Stars and HAL/Ape's EarthBound (which, by the way, kicks ass), my CT-and-Lufia era was the beginning of my true RPG obsession. Chrono Trigger, to me, is the pinnacle of all role-playing games to date. And no, I don't feel like arguing with you die-hard FFVII fans out there about graphics and sound. While FFVII has everything an RPG needs, from pixels to plot twists, Chrono Trigger is the essence of the RPG experience. So let's move on.
Ah, the glorious days of Chrono Trigger... upon first powering up this game, one is greeted by the Square logo and a ticking clock pendulum that morphs into the Chrono Trigger clock logo. Nifty for a game about time travel, isn't it? Anyways, the character - generically named Crono - wakes up at the turn of the millenium, where his whole village is having a party. He meets a beautiful girl at the Millenial Fair, who, of course, immediately gets herself thrown back in time and almost immediately after that turns out to be a princess. (Why are princesses always rebellious and yet accident-prone?) Well, it turns out that a certain pendant of Princess Nadia - excuse me, Marle- a certain pendant of Marle's caused the whole time warp-y thing, so our brave protagonist Crono immediately sets out to rescue her. And so begins the journey of a lifetime. Let's break it down.
First point that must be made: it's Super Nintendo. Again, I don't want to hear FFVII fans (or Halo fans or Blue Storm fans or anyone else, dammit) whining about how the graphics from CT are, like, all pixellated and stuff. Technology changes. That being said, CT's graphics are excellent. The character sprites are, if not photorealistic, at least a damn good approximation considering that it's SNES. The techniques and attacks are well animated - my personal favorite, Luminaire, is an unmistakable predecessor of Cloud's Ultima - and the maps and other layouts are decently detailed. While some things in the game are undeniably goofy (that damn giant frog attack, playing Follow the Leader against Crono's clone, those funky blue Nus), you can't have any doubt that this is a serious, well-made game when you look at it.
Insert SNES technology disclaimer here. Moving on. CT's sound was written by the best. The score is 100% original and 100% Yasunori Mitsuda, the composer-god of game soundtracks. I've heard recordings the orchestral versions of these songs, and they are positively unholy. There's only so much you can do with the limitations of the platform, but I have never found myself complaining about the quality of the sound. I've found myself complaining about hearing a certain song one too many times over the years, but never about the sheer beauty of the music. Crono's and Frog's themes alwaysd make me want to strap on my sword belt, Robo's and Lucca's themes just give me the impression of owning the universe, and "The Day the World Revived" has actually made me cry. (Geek alert!) Magus' theme is better than that silly Darth Vader any day, and who could argue with the minor-chord melancholy bells of Schala's theme? One of these days, I'm buying the OST discs.
Well, well, well. Look at that. Gameplay. What is there to say about Chrono Trigger's gameplay? On the most basic level, CT is a tried-and-true Square Active Battle System RPG - you know, with the little bars and wait times and stuff. But without even leaving the arena, the quirky ins and outs of CT's battle system make it shine. There are the usual commands, of course - Attack, Item, Run, etc. The real fun, though, is in the Tech command. Techs are the things that use MP. The game, though, differentiates between pure Techniques and actual Magic. Only some characters - Crono, Frog, Marle, Lucca, Magus - can use magic, but the rest certainly aren't left out. Generally, given a Technique and a Magic attack with the same MP use, the Magic will be stronger, 'cause, you know, it's magic. But wait, there's more. One of the coolest damn things about CT is their use of Single, Double, and Triple Tech. Certain combinations of characters and moves can be melded to produce much more powerful and often specialized attacks. For example, the Single Techs Lightning 2 (Crono) and Leap Slash (Frog) become the Double Tech Spire, wherein Frog thrusts his sword into the enemy and Crono turns it into a lightning rod, or Rollo Kick (Ayla) and Robo Tackle (Robo) turn into Spin Kick, having Robo literally throw Ayla at foes. Even more fun, though, are the armageddon-esque Triple Techs, which require all three members of the party. There are actually a lot of these, but you have to find hidden items to use the ones that don't have Crono in them. The most generic - and yet usually most helpful - of the Triple Techs is Crono, Marle, and Lucca's Delta Force (Lightning 2, Ice 2, Fire 2). It's basically a giant electro-pyro-freeze-o explosion that blows stuff up. A lot.
Yes, I know that was far too much babbling about CT's battle system, but what can I say? It's just that good. The rest of the game definitely lives up to that high standard, though it's harder to describe only through words. CT is in many respects a game that must be experienced to be truly appreciated. It's against my philosophy of gaming to give this a perfect score - to me, there's always room for improvement - but I just haven't found anything yet that can top it.
Sometimes, it's just nice to have a game that's not so bloody complicated, with hundreds of button combinations and mega-killer-super moves that take half an hour to link together. CT has a solid, simple interface, without all of the bells and whistles of some games. It's not quite one-button, but it could be fairly easily. The game's menus are easily understood, and the fight system is basically intuitive. On the world map, movement is simple; up, down, left, right. The regional screens offer infinite movement, rather than grid-based, and that movement is entirely controlled by the D-pad and one other button, which allows you to run. Control across the board responds well and isn't unnecessarily complicated. Couple simple-yet-powerful controls with the game's player-friendly systems and setup, and there isn't much to complain about. The controls are nothing remarkable, just good, dependable, old-school pure player-machine interface.
How can you pass up a game like Chrono Trigger? RPG fans have always known that the programmers at Square create the greatest games in the universe, and CT is one of the pinnacles of those games. Top tier of the top tier; in a word, amazing. CT is one of those perennial games that just can't be overdone. No matter how many systems are made, and how far technology advances, some games just won't die; games like Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Super Mario Brothers... and Chrono Trigger.
Lovingly rendered, once cutting-edge and now just damn cool
Musically minded players may be in danger of erecting an altar to honour Yasunori Mitsuda
Industry benchmark, without question
Pure gameplay; nothing between you and your character
Overall (not an average): 9.5 of 10
A serious contender for greatest RPG in the known universe. .