14 years later and it's still the best game ever
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Because CT was very successful, and because Square Enix just remade all older Final Fantasy games a ridiculous amount of times, they thought it would be a good idea to remake another game and that due to it's high reviews, and they had to remake Chrono Trigger for the Nintendo DS in 2008. In 2009 the game finally made it to Europe, officially. Although I'm often sceptical for those remakes (why can't them release originals instead ?), I can finally say that I'm a hardcore fan of a game that was released, so that's a good thing. A remake must satisfy two rules to be worth buying. First it must not ruin anything that was good in the original in any way. Second, it should add new content that is significant and don't feel displaced. Chrono Trigger DS does follow both of these rules.
Note that I assume you already have some idea about what Chrono Trigger is. If you don't, please check my review for the SNES version, which will go into details about how good the story and gameplay is. I will focus this review on the remake only.
First of all, I'm very glad that during gameplay the graphics and the sound are intact. The font had changed to become smaller (which is good because the screen is smaller too), but that's pretty much the only graphical change I've noted. And that's a good thing, because the graphics are absolutely awesome ! They are probably some of the best 2D graphics in the top-down perspective ever made ! Because most games stopped to use the top-down perspective after the PlayStation / N64 area came (games were either 3D, isometric or side-view 2D, which cannot be compared because not the same thing). The GBC was inferior to the SNES graphically so it couldn't compete with it, and the GBA would be the only competitor, but developers somehow forgot the way to do 2D top-down graphics between 1995 and 2001. The only competitor could be the Golden Sun games for the GBA which have awesome graphics. Being surpassed by only two games in 14 years is really some accomplishment not many games can claim.
The sprites are so detailed that they look exactly like on the artwork, and animate smoothly. Some of the best spells/techs are still absolutely awesome to watch. The backgrounds are detailed too, but they're not up to the modern DS standards, but anyway that doesn't matter because they looks very good. I'm very glad Square Enix did not remake this game with 3D graphics like they did for FF3 and FF4, because the DS have weak 3D capabilities, and they would probably end up with lame results. So thanks Square to have keep the original 2D graphics.
The only complaint I'd have is for the fake 3D in the motorcycle minigame. On the SNES that cheap fake 3D was the standard and the only thing the console was capable of in the 3D department, so there were nothing to complain about. But on the DS, it really looks horrible to have such cheap fake 3D when the console is able to render actual 3D graphics ! They should have quickly remade that scene using some true 3D graphics at least for the characters.
While the gameplay happens on the top screen, you also get a map on the touch screen which is nice. The menu has changed to a different interface that uses both screens, and after you get used to it it works very well, there is nothing to complain about that. You can access to the sub-menus directly by touching the screen on icons if you want. In battle you can choose between new and old interface, which is a good thing. I choose new because it frees the top screen from the battle menus. I remember it was an annoyance in the original how much the menu would hide some large area on the screen. Now it's fixed !
For the sound it's exactly the same as on the SNES, and I'm very glad about that. The FF5 and FF6 advance games really sounded like insults to their SNES counterparts with horribly aggressive instruments, and I'm very glad to see CT wasn't doomed to the same fate, because the soundtrack of Chrono Trigger contains not only some of the best game music ever, but some of the best music ever composed by humanity. You need external headphones to get good quality with basses tough, which is in my opinion preferable to the "aggressive slapping bass method" used in FF5 and FF6 advance. There is even 5 brand new pieces of music in the game, and this is awesome !
What is a very good thing to note is that they re-translated the game to get some things cleaned up and more detailed. The story of CT is really awesome while being simple enough. With the new translation it seems more clear at some places, but some items and tech were renamed weirdly. Overall I prefer the new translation for cut-scenes, but the old for items, tech and enemy names. That's somehow subjective tough.
Unlike the FF-advance games, the new content, other than the few improvements stated above, is really worth mentioning. The best content comes first : You get some awesome FMV cutscenes, and with orchestrated music ! This is SO sweet !
Then they added a new detailed bestiary with a list of what any enemy can do to attack you, a new arena where you can build a monster to fight against other monsters (for some reason I didn't find it that entertaining), and a bonus mode. This mode features original artwork of the protagonists, a music player, a big library of all items, equipment and all techs and combos with screenshots is available. Finally there is a list with all endings you completed with screenshots, and a view mode where you can explore all maps of the games with the touch screen and see the treasures you could have possibly missed.
That's not all, there is 5 new areas to visit, that are cool, don't feel too much out of place, contains new treasures and I won't tell more because it could be a spoiler.
The Bottom Line
In most RPGs it's great to beat it once, but you have no reason to return doing the whole quest. At best you'll just load your last saved game and try to kill the final boss again to watch the ending again, or just go to some places to remember the good times when you were actually playing that game actively. But Chrono Trigger is an exception to that. Because cutscenes vary in function of who you have in your party, and because the battle system is so awesomely good while being very simple, and because not 2 battles engage the same way, the game is incredibly fun to play again and again even if you know everything already.
So in fact, everyone, from the guy who never played a video game in his life, to the hardcore fan of the SNES version and beat it 20+ times while being very sceptical to the remake, must absolutely get this game for the DS, to either discover or re-discover it. There is no excuse not to buy the game. Unlike the FF advance games, nothing that was good before was ruined, and there is actual new content worth mentioning. The new dungeons don't feel completely out of place like they did on the FF advance games. There is new FMVs and new pieces of music, and a bonus mode any fan of the game will love.
The only excuse you may have to not get this is that if you played the SNES version and hated it, then you probably won't like it more on the DS because it's the same. Even if you don't like Japanese RPGs at all, at least borrow this game from someone and see how you like it, because it's really the best of the genre in my opinion, so you may completely change your mind after seeing it.