In the early days of console gaming, Japanese RPG’s set the bar for the entire genre, an influence that is still spoken of today. One of the most stunning and ground breaking entries was Chrono Trigger. It took the style of Final Fantasy and crafted a richer narrative with resonant character that stood out from the clichéd knight/mage/thief trappings. The addition of time travel as a mechanic helped to broaden the scope of roleplaying games forever. However, sometimes memory outweighs reality, and our old favorites don’t always shine quite as bright as we like to hope.
Chrono Trigger’s story is fairly common knowledge by this point. The hero Crono takes on ultimate evil while time traveling through time collecting various heroes to assist him. What separated Chrono Trigger from the pack at the time were the multiple endings, and the ability to replay the game with your upgrades and abilities, something we see fairly often these days.
As with all of the ports to the PSN, Chrono Triggers look is incredibly dated. Shown on an high definition TV, the pixilation is even worse, and almost painfully blurry at points. Fortunately, the animated cut scenes, which at the time were almost revolutionary, are still there, and look great. Yet the bulk of the game will be difficult to look at. For those going back to the game, it’s an easy issue to overlook, but for anyone being ushered into the game for the first time, it could be difficult to get into. Fidelity issues are especially apparent when compared to the DS version.
Chrono Trigger also gives you a lot of down time. Using the PSX game as the template for this port means that all the original bugs come with it, meaning that load times can becomes a serious detriment to long term game play. Even pausing the game leads to a load of up to 8 seconds, which can add up to a great deal of impatience over the course of a 40+ hour experience.
The meat of Chrono Trigger isn’t in the trappings; it is in the battle system. Shucking the random battle motif of its predecessors, Chrono Trigger allows you to see your enemies, lending a strategy to traversing the world that you never saw in other RPGs of the time. The wait-and-plan style of battle feels classic, but engrossing. There is a great deal of diversity to character building and battle, and revisiting the old school strategies makes for a more cerebral, and ultimately rewarding, experience.
My favorite feature of the game is the time aspect. Once you’ve completed enough of the main story to reach the time hub, which happens in an hour or two, you have to option to enter the final battle. In theory, you can beat Chrono Trigger in a couple of hours. Your ending will be greatly changed, but it is certainly an option. Or you can choose to explore to your heart’s content, fleshing out the stories of each character, finding new gear and strengthening your party. Play as much or as little as you want to. There is a beauty to this set up, and every time you pass by that gateway, there is a choice to be made. Given the gravity and attention choice gets in current games, it’s surprising to see how a single option can weigh heavier and cause more anxiety than choices that span multiple games. You’re never directed on what to do, and the increased pressure is felt throughout the game.
Taken as a full experience, these blemishes are really a trifle however. After a few hours, load times and glaring pixels fade away, giving way to one of the most immersive and memorable RPG’s ever to grace consoles. The experience crafted from tiny sprites and limited resources still manages to rival the giant entries so common today, and Chrono Trigger does so in an unassuming and innocent manner. For those that can get into the classic style and function, there is a breathtaking experience waiting, and for those that spend their youth glued to the adventures or Crono, there is little doubt that it will recapture their heart.
|Classic style and elegant gameplay|
Story and characters withstand the test of time
|Technical shortfalls and lengthy loading|
can take you out of the experience