I really tried my best to not mention the Back to the Future films when writing this review, but I just couldn’t do it. Chrono Trigger and those films simply have too much in common, thanks to the similar theme of teens traveling back in time. Both the films and the game take a goofy, simplistic approach to time travel, and both are plagued by inferior follow-ups (great Scott!). Fortunately, Chrono Trigger, an old SNES game, has aged just as gracefully as the Michael J. Fox classic. That’s all well and good, but for some inexplicable reason, the Playstation port is plagued with a problem that didn’t exist in the original.
“Great Scott!”The protagonist, Crono is a run-of-the-mill RPG hero, with no lines of dialogue and impossibly spiked hair. His spunky inventor friend, Lucca inadvertently creates a time warp (she manages to do this without a Delorean and a flux capacitor), which sends the kingdom’s tomboyish princess into the past. This begins the inevitable princess rescue, but fortunately, it doesn’t take long to find her. One thing about Chrono Trigger that’s still effective today is how it skillfully plays with RPG stereotypes, such as the aforementioned princess. There’s even a stoic warrior, but in this case he has the form of a frog that speaks Shakespearian English. Another memorable character is Magus, one of those pseudo-asexual villains clad in black. Each character, despite being familiar archetypes, breathes life into the storyline.
The sequel The Chrono series has been remarkably popular, but for some reason, there’s only one official sequel to the game: Chrono Cross. Reviews for this ambitious game are mixed, and even people who love the Playstation game find things to hate about it, and vice-versa. Currently, there are no details on a follow-up. Check out our review here.
The heroes jump from era, such as the ice age, middle ages, and the prehistoric era. The root of the plot is stopping the apocalypse, which the heroes witness when they travel to the future. All that’s left in that time period is a handful of people and a barren wasteland. Of course, rescuing the world is a task that requires various subplots and quaint travels in time. For a while, observing the changes in each time period caused by Crono and his gang are quite enjoyable, but towards the end of the main story, things become a little muddled. Eventually, so much is happening that it becomes uncertain, and sometimes illogical, where to go next. At least this only happens for a small portion of Chrono Trigger, and the rest of the storyline is memorable, even after the dozen-plus years since its debut.
One of that best parts of Chrono Trigger that the RPG genre really hasn’t become common place until recently is a lack of random battles. Most fights can be avoided by dodging the monster on screen. When Crono and his posse need to unsheathe their weapons and put up their dukes, the battle system doesn’t disappoint. The active bar, which is similar to that of many games in the Final Fantasy games, makes the turn-based brawls move at a speedy place, with the party of three characters always in anticipation of their next attack. Different characters move at varying speeds, so utilizing the proper group of fighters for the situation at hand helps overcome the goofy-looking enemies.
“The abysmal load times make the opening of each battle excruciating.”While the fights move along at a brisk pace, the abysmal load times make the opening of each battle excruciating. Remember, this is a port of an SNES game, and for some reason, the simplistic visuals take an obnoxious amount of time to load up. These load times also hinder moving from area to area, and it really starts to annoy after a while, despite the game only taking around 15 hours to complete. Some nifty extras for the PSone version include some brief anime sequences and other less substantial things, but I would certainly trade all these extras for acceptable load times that don’t make me check my watch.
Although the load times put a hamper on this otherwise fine title, it’s easy to appreciate the extra freedom that Chrono Trigger gives you, which was impressive when it was first released. First, the party doesn’t need to consist of your main character, so any party of the seven characters can be made. This customization, although extremely limited by today’s standards, works well since different parties mean different team-based attacks can be used. Finding the right party can even unlock deadly triple techs, which helps take out any baddie that wants to mess. More freedom is granted with the ability to challenge the final boss at nearly any point in the game. Beating this creature before the end of the storyline is madness, since this baddie isn’t a pushover. Defeating the boss at different points in the storyline unlocks one of the dozen endings. Some of these endings are goofy and just for fun, but the best part is that when Chrono Trigger is completed, a new game can be started where your characters are just as jacked as they were when they beat the last boss. This makes another playthrough in order to get a different ending less time consuming.
Chrono Trigger is still, at its heart, an extremely linear RPG, despite being able to take on the boss at any time. Having your hand held from area to another grows tiresome, much as it does in most RPGs, but things are remedied late in the game with a plethora of nonlinear side quests. These missions help flesh out the characters, such as the heroic frog and four-eyed inventor. Even after all these years and a flawed sequel, Chrono Trigger is still a gem, due to these fun side quests and interesting time travel. There are a few welcome additions to this port to the PSone, but the load times are frustrating, and they shouldn’t even exist considering the meager graphics. If possible, stick with SNES version if you need a fix of old-school RPG. Otherwise, proceed with caution when dealing with this otherwise first-rate game.
Note: This review covers the Playstation version of Chrono Trigger. Check out our review of Final Fantasy IV for the other game included in this package.