Chrono Trigger Title Screen Review

Chrono Trigger Review: A Newcomer’s Experience with a Retro RPG Classic

Be sure to continue the fun with our Chrono Trigger 25th Anniversary Celebration by checking out all our other posts. Check back frequently for updates!

As someone who considers himself to be a bit of an RPG buff, the fact that I’ve never played Chrono Trigger has been one of my gaming shames for over two decades. Now that I’ve finally had a chance to experience this classic and restore my gamer cred, I’ll get right to the point: Chrono Trigger is an all-around great RPG that combines the best of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.

Overview

Chrono Trigger is a turn-based RPG that was developed by a dream team of creators whose accolades include establishing three Japanese mega franchises: Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Dragon Ball. The game was originally released in 1995 for Super Nintendo and subsequently has been rereleased on a variety of other platforms.

The story of the game follows a boy named Crono whose chance encounter with a mysterious young woman during a mundane trip to a local fair serves as the springboard for a time-traveling adventure to save his planet from destruction. Throughout his journey, Crono visits different time periods, both past and future, and recruits a colorful cast of characters to aid him on his quest.

Warning: If a beautiful stranger suddenly wants to be your best friend, something weird is probably about to happen!

Most RPGs that I’ve played and loved have been a mixed bag of components (story, battle system, world design, etc) in which a few of these elements have been the amazing shining stars that make the game great, while the other parts just get the job done in the background. For example, the Witcher games have a really engaging plot and setting with fairly mediocre combat distributed throughout. What makes playing Chrono Trigger such a fascinating experience is that while no one aspect of it is mind-blowing, every component of it is high-quality and comes together to form an exceptionally well-rounded package.

Mechanics

From a gameplay standpoint, Chrono Trigger offers a couple of welcome upgrades compared to other SNES RPGs. First and foremost is the use of on-screen enemies rather than random encounters. It is really nice to be able to clear a room completely of enemies and then be able to explore it uninterrupted.  The fact that these battles happen on the main game screen rather than a separate battle screen helps make the transition between exploration and combat much more fluid.

As for the battle system itself, I was initially somewhat underwhelmed by it, but over the course of the game it expanded in interesting ways and I ultimately came to really appreciate it. The “Tech” system makes party composition very important since each character’s abilities interact with others differently. This had the effect of making a given set of three characters really feel like an interdependent team rather than just three individuals performing their own specialized jobs. The use of elemental weaknesses also had a little bit more depth than the traditional “use the water spell against the fire boss” trope, which was definitely appreciated.

Chrono Trigger‘s battles take place in the environment rather than a separate battle screen.

I was also glad to see that the difficulty curve remained fairly smooth and consistent throughout the entire game. Generally, every time I hit a wall with a boss, the solution was to revise my strategy rather than just grind: this is a sign of a well-balanced game. Outside of combat, progressing through the game is a fairly linear affair, but that’s perfectly fine as it helps maintain the pacing of the game. The only gameplay element that wasn’t particularly strong was the mini-games.

Chrono Trigger is a fantastic RPG, but it’s not a great racing racing game.

The challenges that involved racing, timing, or precise character movement were often unwelcome obstacles to proceeding through the game; when playing on a cell phone, they handle clumsily with a touch-screen, and when playing on a device with a proper controller, they still weren’t particularly fun. Thankfully these sequences are few and far between.

Aesthetics

In addition to the gameplay, Chrono Trigger is well-rounded artistically. The graphics and music are a great display of the SNES’s technical capabilities and continued to impress for the entire duration of the game. The overall plot of Chrono Trigger is fairly straight-forward by modern game standards, but I’m sure it would have really stood out back in the 16-bit era. Narratively, where Chrono Trigger really succeeds is in the individual character moments. The combination of distinct character animations and strong writing during character interactions and backstory scenes really does a lot to give personality to each member of the party.

An iconic scene from one of the campaign’s early boss battles

In my experience, the best RPGs and fantasy/sci-fi stories make the party of characters feel like a quirky slightly dysfunctional family, and Chrono Trigger absolutely nails that feeling. However, sometimes this presented a dilemma for me as only characters that are active party members get to speak during most cutscenes. Thus, I was often torn between selecting party members based on combat strategy versus picking the characters I most wanted to contribute to the dialog. I realize that the game is probably set up this way for replay value purposes, but for my play-through, it meant that some of the less vocal characters like Ayla and Robo often ended up getting sidelined even though they were fun to use in battle.

This game may have came out last century, but it’s still a looker!

Final Thoughts

After all these years, it feels really good to have finally experienced this classic game and see first-hand why Chrono Trigger is revered by RPG fans to this day. Chrono Trigger brought together the best minds in JRPG design of the 16-bit era and the game they delivered still holds up marvelously today.

A piece of advice: If you ever go somewhere and the ground starts doing this, leave immediately!

If you consider yourself a fan of RPGs and haven’t had the chance to experience this 90s masterpiece, don’t be a chump like me and put it off for nearly a quarter-century, go grab your phone, PC, or whatever other device you may have that can run it (Samsung smart fridges, maybe?) and embark on this century-spanning adventure!

Geek to Geek Rating – 5/5

Release Date: August 11, 1995
Price: $14.99 (Steam), $4.99 (Android, iOS)
Rating: E 10+ (Everyone 10+)
Platform: PC, Mobile, Nintendo DS, Playstation, SNES

Be sure to continue the fun with our Chrono Trigger 25th Anniversary Celebration by checking out all our other posts. Check back frequently for updates!

Capsulejay

Capsulejay

Capsulejay wears many hats for the Geek to Geek Media Network: - Twitch Streamer - Commissioner of E-Sports - Anime Club Czar

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