Nearly a decade ago, Squaresoft released Chrono Trigger, to unsuspecting gamers and subsequently set up a series fan base exceeded only by Square’s other big-name franchise, Final Fantasy. From the moment Chrono Trigger was released, it was lauded by many as one of the best RPGs to date, and it still to this day occupies prime real estate atop many RPG gamer’s favorites list. Chrono Trigger even transcended the genre, inspiring those evasive to RPGs to give this title a try, much like Final Fantasy VII would do a few years later. For many, Chrono Trigger was the first RPG they played, and because of that, Chrono Trigger remains a classic of the genre, and for many, an exemplar of the genre itself.
Why did Chrono Trigger commend such praise? There are many reasons. Chrono Trigger was released near the end of the Super Nintendo’s lifetime and took full advantage of the hardware to craft an aesthetically pleasing title prettier than most the 16-bit era would ever see. For those more interested in story than graphics, Chrono Trigger eschewed a tale of time-travel instead of the traditional, medieval-type setting. Were you tired of all the random battles popping up in other RPGs? Chrono Trigger had none. All of these little nuances helped to make the game someone would enjoy playing; a game that wouldn’t frustrate or tire you out near as easily as what most other titles did at the time. As an effect, you came to immerse yourself in the narrative and the goings-on of the cast, eager to further the storyline and see what happened next. Battles, while not altogether revolutionary as the rest of the title, still got the job done well enough. However, Chrono Trigger wasn’t an RPG that stood out from the crowd because of its battle system, like some titles hinge themselves upon nowadays (Grandia). Chrono Trigger centered around it’s story, and it’s the story that Chrono Trigger is known for.
That very story begins rather normally, with the main protagonist, Crono, asleep in his bed while balloons pop and seagulls cry, celebrating the First Millenium. Crono is woken by his mother, and he then sets off to the Millenial Fair. Crono stays to himself, enjoying the festivities until his fateful collsion with the princess of the Guardia Kingdom, Marle. What happens next, when Marle enters the teleportation exhibit, sets the tone for the rest of the narrative. When our ever-dutiful hero, Crono, see Marle vanish into thin air, he goes after her through a time warp. At that very moment, amidst swirls of blue and Mode 7 effects, the game lets you know you’re in one for one hell of a ride. After exiting the warp and finding yourself 400 years in the past, you learn of what the purpose of your presence is there: to change the future by changing the past; starting with saving a royal ancestry, and then further blossoming into ultimately thwarting the destruction of the planet. Chrono Trigger’s narrative remains the strongest link in the overall product, a link that outshines even Chrono Triggers other exemplary efforts in various other aspects.
Battles play out more player-friendly than most as well. Whenever Crono encounters an enemy on the screen, the characters pull out their weapons and immediately the ATB bars begin to fill. There are no wait times at all. That itself is more than any average RPG, past or present, can hope for. Flashy effects preceded other battles in other titles, and while visually appealing at that time, they did nothing more than delay the actual battling for a few seconds. Chrono Trigger realized that it was more important to keep the gamer occupied with actual interactivity than simple, non-interactive viewing of said effects. Battles themselves played out easily, with commands of either Attack, Magic, or Item. In special cases, Tech Attacks, or combos executed by two or more of the three characters, became available to spicen up the simple but satisfying battle system. Boss battles are plentiful and never difficult to the point of frustration. The interface used to input all of these commands in the battle system, while not something to write home about, works well enough. As a plus, however, they are customizable in the options menu, so there’s sure to be some theme that fits your playing style.
In the aspect of character development, Chrono Trigger performs admirably. While lacking an FF-caliber main character progression, the main characters still grow and develop throughout the course of the epic enough for you to notice a change from when you were first introduced to them. What is done so well, though, is the personalization of the huge cast of supporting faces. Each supporting character, be it Queen Zeal or the castle chef, has a distinct and pervasive personality that makes the story all the more enjoyable. Consequentially, Chrono Trigger also satisfies by making one of the most common drudgeries of a customary RPG, talking with the townsfolk, an altogether experience that really isn’t a hassle or hindrance to the story progression or overall flow of the game.
One thing most people are quick to notice is the aural aspect, specifically the music, in Chrono Trigger. The music presented is both easily recognizable and some of the most appealing tracks ever to grace any title, even out of the RPG genre, ever. To create such a great soundtrack within the limitations of the SNES hardware is not only commendable, but also corollary to the scope of the game itself. A game as great as Chrono Trigger deserves an equally great array of music to supplement it. The music stays with you so much, in fact, that it’s shouldn’t be surprising to find yourself humming to it, like I am now, nearly a full decade later.
To improve on an already incredible game, Squaresoft went ahead included more than 10 different endings available by playing the game through a second time and challenging the final boss at different intervals throughout the adventure. Thus, in effect, making Chrono Trigger a game best played more than once. And, for once, the rolling of the credits didn’t signify the end of a game’s life as your prime gaming attention. With so much more to accomplish, your first “plus game” felt like no more than a continuation of the previous narrative you’d just completed. Because of this, Chrono Trigger is one of the most played games in the genre. It would have been fine had there not been extra endings, the game was good enough on itself to merit a few more playthroughs.
Chrono Trigger, in full, exemplifies a true RPG. It has what it takes to make the gamer, above anything else, happy. So many little things helped to make it more than just a quick RPG that you forgot about after completing it. It took bold new steps into uncharted narrative territory and still made it through with flying colors. Chrono Trigger is what all RPGs aspire to be compared to, and it is what should be, without hesitation, considered the very title that RPGs are associated with. If you haven’t played this landmark title, it’s highly suggested as one of the best, if not the very best, of what the genre has to offer you. A classic.