Lovable cast of characters
Vibrant, beautiful world
Avoids the pitfalls of most JRPGs
The game has aged exceptionally well
Long load times on the Playstation version
English translation has some corny dialogue
May be too easy for hardcore JRPG fans
Chrono Trigger will be turning twenty this year. I’m ashamed to admit that up until about a month ago, I had never even touched it. Luckily, the PSN gods decided to have a sale and knock the price down to $5. Let me tell you, it was $5 well spent. I totally understand why people consider Chrono Trigger a classic – because it’s damn near perfect. Not even the Playstation version’s infamous load times were able to hurt the experience I had with Chrono Trigger.
So why did it take me this long to play Chrono Trigger? I’ve had every console capable of playing it, so I really had no excuse. I guess the big reason is the simple fact that I’m not a fan of JRPGs. I can count on one hand how many JRPGs I’ve enjoyed that don’t rhyme with “Lokemon.” I find the grinding to be annoying, the stories to be cliche, the characters to be irritating, and the excessive length to be unnecessary. Chrono Trigger is a rare treat of a JRPG because it skillfully avoids falling into the typical JRPG trappings, and that’s one of the biggest reasons I adore it.
In general, Chrono Trigger plays like your average JRPG. There’s turn-based combat, a neat little overworld, party management, and things like that. As I mentioned though, there is very little grinding in Chrono Trigger. So, if anyone is looking to play a game where you fight endless waves of enemies in order to prepare for the next boss, move along. Personally, I’m overjoyed to play a JRPG that doesn’t rely on grinding, even if it makes the game “too easy” (which seems to be a common excuse among the hardcore JRPG crowd). The game doesn’t need to be difficult in order to stand out. It stands out because of its fascinating characters, simple-yet-effective story, and unforgettable gaming world (the game’s opening sequence with the circus is considered iconic). This isn’t to say that the gameplay is too simple. On the contrary, there is still plenty of thinking required. What I’m saying is that the gameplay isn’t overly complex, and I’d argue that it’s more geared toward people like me than people who have played every entry in the Dragon Quest series five times. The multiple endings were also considered revolutionary. Turns out Telltale isn’t the originator of decision based games. Chrono Trigger also keeps track of your every move, and at the time, I imagine it was mind blowing.
The aforementioned “simple-yet-effective” story needs to be talked about. You can’t write a Chrono Trigger review without mentioning the story. Long story short, Crono (the protagonist) finds a way to time travel, and after traveling to the future, he learns that the world will be wiped out by a hulking creature that goes by the name of Lavos. As a result, Crono teams up with the various people he meets in various time periods in order to take down the creature. The story is hardly complex, especially compared to most time travel stories. Still, it stands out because of its simplicity. A lot of JRPGs are very guilty of having convoluted stories, but Chrono Trigger makes sure to go easy on your brain but still keep you entertained. I can’t really explain why the story works so well. It’s something that people need to experience for themselves.
So let’s talk about those fascinating characters, shall we? Part of the reason why the story is so engrossing is because of the colorful cast of characters. Every single character in this game made me smile at some point – even Frog. They don’t fit the typical JRPG stereotype. Sorry guys, there’s no angsty Cloud Strife-esque character to be found here. Every character, in one way or another, is fascinating. The time-travel mechanic allows every character to act differently. Ayla, the woman from 65,000,000 BC is completely different from Robo, who, well, you can probably guess when he’s from (it’s the future). The English translation does have its flaws, but it doesn’t ruin the experience at all. I was still able to fall in love with the characters despite the sometimes annoying dialogue.
From a technical standpoint, Chrono Trigger stands the test of time. Sprite-based graphics have a huge advantage over 3D graphics in that they tend to age very well. I can play Pokemon Red without my eyes bleeding, but if I try to play the original Metal Gear Solid, I pray it will magically get prettier. In other words, Chrono Trigger looks fine. The art style is memorable, and the colorful backgrounds enhance the visuals even more. The game’s score is often considered one of the best in video game history, and I can see why. This is a game I don’t want to play with the volume off. I thoroughly enjoy every little song I hear on the game, and that’s an important thing to note because I usually find the music in games to just be a kind of ambient sound. With Chrono Trigger, I actively tried to listen to the songs.
As I stated earler, I do have to warn people that the Playstation version of the game suffers from some lengthy load times. This is due to the conversion from cartridge to disc not going over so well. If you play it on the PS3 or Vita, you can change the disc loading speed, which speeds up the load times, but from what I understand, they’re still noticeably slower than any other version. It didn’t bother me as much as it bothers a lot of people, but it is something to look out for.
All in all, I’m furious that it took me this long to play Chrono Trigger. I never thought that a twenty year old game would have this big of an impact on me, largely because I didn’t play it when it was in its “prime,” but it’s hard to say whether or not Chrono Trigger really had a prime. It seems as if Chrono Trigger is permanently in its prime. Chrono Trigger has, perhaps, aged better than any game I’ve played. If it were released for this first time this year, I would probably feel the same way about it. If you, like me, haven’t had the opportunity to play Chrono Trigger, get off your butt and get to it. It’s an absolute classic that needs to be experienced by everyone.
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