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Chrono Trigger (SNES)

93
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.2
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Oleg Roschin (164803)
Written on  :  Jun 06, 2006
Platform  :  SNES
Rating  :  4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars4.6 Stars

14 out of 16 people found this review helpful

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Summary

Time! There's so little and so much of it...

The Good

After the three Final Fantasies for SNES, it was hard to believe Square could produce a game of the same quality for the aging console. And then "Chrono Trgger" appeared - a unique, almost mystic experience of time travel, story about the evolution of mankind, and subtle, fine gameplay.

"Chrono Trigger" plays and feels a lot like Final Fantasy, so an inexperienced player might mistake it for a kiddie-oriented version of it. But despite the childish outfit, "Chrono Trigger" manages to distance itself from Final Fantasy and to show its own, remarkably original and attractive personality. "Chrono Trigger" is widely recognized as one of the best Eastern RPGs around, and its success is not accidental.

"Chrono Trigger" is not a childish game. Anyone who claims otherwise should try games like Grandia, not to mention Zelda games, which are to "Chrono Trigger" what Peter Pan is to Alice in Wonderland. Although the main hero seems to be a child, it is clear he only looks like a child - Crono is nothing more but an empty form, into which the player can put his own personality and any content he likes. The magical atmosphere of the game is partly achieved by the fact that its heroes are not entirely developed, "mature" personalities, but almost fairy tale-like figures, which reveal themselves as fascinating once you get to know the game's unique world.

The manner of storytelling is different in "Chrono Trigger". Unlike Final Fantasy, where the main focus of story were the clearly outlined main plot and the complex relationships between characters, "Chrono Trigger" is more of an impressionist work. Of course, it also has a great deal of masterfully presented intimate, personal scenes - for example, the stories of Robo and Glenn. But it emphasizes the atmosphere, the immediate feeling rather than objective story-telling. Probably for this reason the main character of the game is speechless - so that the player would find it easier to identify himself with him and to follow the story as seen from his perspective. The story is not seen through Crono's eyes; it is being told regardless of the perspectives of the main characters. This is one of the most important differences between "Chrono Trigger" (as well as its wonderful sequel Chrono Cross) and Final Fantasy.

Although the story is not as emotional as those of "mature" Final Fantasies, the pure storytelling technique is so brilliant in this game, that it even outdoes some of its great comrades in certain aspects. The story is revealed piece by piece, carefully unfolding more and more layers, connecting small puzzle pieces and combining them into a whole. Events that seemed unclear and disconnected before get explained later, one by one, so that the player always stays in suspense and never loses interest in the story, because each time he gets an answer for his question, another question pops up, and many more still remain unanswered.

The sheer scope of the game is majestic. The heroes travel through seven different time epochs, witnessing pseudo-historical events and participating in various conflicts. They visit the stone age, with its cavemen and dinosaurs, ice age, where the earth is deserted and the world is controlled by a race of magicians, typical middle ages with their noble knights, kings, and queens, a grim, dark futuristic world of ruins, where humanity dwells in isolated "domes", and the earth is possessed by an evil outer force, etc. The setting of "Chrono Trigger" belongs to the richest and most interesting ones ever seen in a video game - instead of one setting, there are seven here! The idea of time traveling is absolutely fantastic, it allows to create a suspenseful, intriguing plot ("So if the future is so bad, why don't we travel to the past and change it?"), to introduce many various environments, and to tie all seemingly loose plotlines into a fascinating tale.

The gameplay is simple, addictive, and effective. Each party member has unique skills (called "techs") and magic. After spending some time fighting together with another character, he (or she) learns "double techs", which are possible to execute only when both characters are ready to perform an action. If three people have learned appropriate single techs, they can even learn a more powerful triple tech, which requires all three characters to be available. Since character gain not only experience, but also tech points from battles, leveling up is not as tedious and as boring as in so many other RPGs. It is interesting to experiment with different party members and to try out various double and triple techs. The game is very fluent, locations change all the time, regular enemies are not annoying, and there are no random battles (all enemies have fixed positions), which leaves plenty of time for exploration once an area is cleared out. It is not the most difficult Eastern RPG I have ever played, but it is definitely not too easy. Boss battles are quite tricky, and strategy is needed for most of them.

One of the very best parts of "Chrono Trigger" is its non-linearity. The game is very unlinear for an Eastern RPG - there are plenty of side quests, some optional areas, it is possible to choose when to confront the final boss, and there are many different endings, depending on the decisions taken by the player throughout the game. At a certain point, the player has to decide whether to kill an important character or to let him join the party; at another point, he has to rescue the main character, but he can also choose not to do so and to confront the final boss without him. After the game is finished, a cool New Game+ option becomes available: maintaining all the items and the stats from the previous game, the player can re-play "Chrono Trigger" from the beginning, and fight the final boss very early in the game (which was previously impossible because the characters were much too weak), adding more possible endings to the list. Few Eastern RPG which give the player so many subtle choices.

The music of "Chrono Trigger" isn't likely to disappoint fans of Final Fantasy soundtracks - it is as emotional, as profound, a true lyrical masterpiece. As for the graphics, they are perhaps even better than in Final Fantasy VI. This is the culmination of 2D art - only brand new visual technique could come afterwards.

The Bad

Most of the criticisms directed against "Chrono Trigger" are highly subjective. Some of the characters can be classified as "annoying" or "silly", depending on the taste of the player. Personally, I don't find any of the characters annoying, even though the game certainly doesn't have the ultimate character cast in existence. "Chrono Trigger" has a lot of very attractive sides, so its weaknesses don't really bother a dedicated player. But I suppose it won't do any harm if I say that most of the dialogues of "Chrono Trigger" is of the standard, silly Japanese RPG kind, the battle system tends to be simplistic, there is a definite "light" edge in the game which is not to everyone's taste, and the characters lack the immediate emotional impact of their Final Fantasy brethren.

The Bottom Line

"Chrono Trigger" deserves every bit of the critical acclaim and the mass success it has had. Sometimes it's hard to explain what exactly makes a game great; a particularly strict player would probably find some things to criticize in it, such as the rather simple gameplay and the lack of "mature" tension between characters. But above all, "Chrono Trigger" masterfully uses the time traveling concept, which constantly keeps the game fresh, exciting, and fun; with a story that has quite some twists up its sleeve, and a good deal of non-linearity, "Chrono Trigger" stands out as a definite classic of the genre.