Chrono Trigger DS

April 24, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Posted in DS Review, Game Review | Leave a comment
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Square’s classic SNES RPG gets a chance to shine on the Nintendo DS. Has the ultimate time-travelling adventure stood the test of time?

Title: Chrono Trigger

Format: DS

Developed by: Square

Published by: Square Enix

Genre: RPG

When Chrono Trigger was released on the SNES way back in 1995 it was a true landmark title, not just in terms of its technical ability or gameplay innovations (more on those later) but also because of its core development team which consisted of some of the most notable figures in RPG gaming all under one roof. This so-called ‘Dream Team’ was aptly named – the father of the Final Fantasy series, Hironobu Sakaguchi sat at the helm, while Square recruited Dragon Quest designers Yuji Hori and Akira Toriyama to lend their years of expertise to the project, which ultimately became one of the greatest games of its time. That Chrono Trigger still sits high on various media outlets’ top 100 lists is a testament to the team’s achievements. Sadly it never got a release in PAL territories; if you thought Europe got a raw deal now, just imagine how bad things were in 1995 – very few RPG epics actually mad it to these shores back then. But now, nearly fifteen years later, Chrono Trigger finally gets a PAL release and the chance to enthrall an entirely new generation.

Chrono Trigger’s finely crafted story has been oft copied but rarely matched for pacing, detail and characterisation. One of the reasons for the Dragon Quest games’ continued popularity, despite little innovation in gameplay, has been due to the wonderful stories and the depth of the characters and Yuji Hori’s influence in this department is plain to see. Despite the grandiose themes of time-travel and saving the world, the story never loses sight of the human element. The relationships between heroes Crono, Marle and Lucca and the main antagonist Magus are as complex as you are likely to see in gaming, and their development through the game is handled with great care.

In terms of gameplay, Chrono Trigger was responsible for creating or at least popularising many key innovations in the RPG genre. It was one of the first RPGs to do away with random battles, with enemies being completely visible, and instead of cutting away to a separate battle screen each fight took place in the game world itself. While the battle system was still effectively turn-based (utilising the same active time battle system as the Final Fantasy games from IV onwards) character and enemy placement was important; multiple enemies could be hit from one attack if they were close together for example. Your characters could also combine special attacks (known as techs) to unleash more complex attacks or healing moves. In this DS remake, battle options and stats are now kept on the touch screen so the action remains uncluttered, and can be controlled with the stylus or with traditional buttons.

One of Chrono Trigger’s other unique features which can be seen in a lot of games today are the multiple endings and the subtle way your choices in the game affect little parts of the plot. At the beginning of the game you get to explore a town fair, which has a few mini-games and a couple of side-quests. What you choose to do during this early section plays a small part in one of the later plot twists; recent titles like Fable 2 and Fallout 3 have made a big deal about player decisions changing their plots but Chrono Trigger handles this a little more subtly as it never lets on there are implications for your actions.

It must have been tempting for SquareEnix to have given Chrono Trigger the same 3D update awarded to some of its other back catalogue from the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series, but thankfully every pixel of the original remains intact. Even now, it looks and sounds like a masterpiece and has lost nothing in its translation to the DS. Each world contains an eerie sense of familiarity as you travel between the same locations set in different eras and Toriyama’s character designs are simple yet expressive, even on the smaller screen. The score is still one of the most popular amongst gaming music fans and the many tunes composed by Yasunori Mitsuda later Nobou Uematsu (Mitsuda fell ill during the development) have been recreated by Uematsu-San himself to guarantee they sound as good on the DS’ tiny speakers as they did back in 1995.

Altogether this remake should come highly recommended to both fans of the original and those gamers who either weren’t born or weren’t interested at the time of the original release. Chrono Trigger’s impact will undoubtedly be weathered for first-timers raised on polygons and bloom lighting, but it still stands as one of the finest experiences in gaming history and a real treasure.

9/10

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