Third Time's a Charm
Square Enix has long shown a penchant for re-releases and ports, but Chrono Trigger is one game whose long absence from circulation has always been a bit of a mystery. This long-awaited re-release of Chrono Trigger adds in a fair amount of new content while polishing up much of the old with a new translation, new dungeons, and even a new ending. Chrono Trigger DS isn’t a particularly mind-blowing affair, and the new additions will probably cause some die-hard purists to scream a bit, but on the whole, it’s a remarkably solid and entertaining game with a lot to offer both old fans and a new generation of gamers.
As many already know, Chrono Trigger follows the adventures of Crono, a young man living in the year 1000 AD, in the kingdom of Guardia. During the country’s Millennial Fair, held to commemorate a thousand years since the kingdom’s founding, an experimental teleporter goes haywire, ripping open a portal through time. What follows is a fun but lightweight story full of memorable, fairly well-developed characters. On the whole, the plot is relatively simple, and this largely works in the game’s favor; too often stories about time travel become needlessly complex and difficult to understand. The lack of an underlying theme or message does make it a bit hard to take seriously at times, but overall, Chrono Trigger presents a fun, easy tale.
|Though a bit dated, the visuals still pack quite a punch.|
One of the biggest changes to the game in general, and the story specifically, is the new translation. The original translation of Chrono Trigger that appeared in the game’s SNES incarnation has long been faulted for being inaccurate, and this new work does appear to fix most of the inconsistencies. A few of the more memorable lines from the SNES translation have been included; Ozzie is still in a pickle, and indeed, the black wind does still howl. For the most part, the new translation remains consistent with the personalities and history most fans are familiar with, which is a good thing given that the new content in Chrono Trigger DS is likely going to cause a few internet explosions.
Chrono Trigger DS adds in a variety of new content, including a monster arena where players train and battle critters, a new area near the end of the game with a bevy of new sidequests, and an interesting and somewhat unexpected post game dungeon that helps tie Chrono Trigger more closely to Chrono Cross. On the whole, the new plot elements are implemented well and help explain away a lot of the inconsistency between the plot of Chrono Trigger and its sequel. The gameplay additions are a bit less Earth-shattering, especially given that the game is already very easy, so the extra equipment, items, and other aid a player can obtain by completing them comes off as a bit unnecessary.
Chrono Trigger‘s combat system is a sort of hybrid between Final Fantasy‘s Active Time Battle system and the position-focused combat of a tactical RPG. When the player comes into contact with monsters, the game switches over to combat mode, with the surrounding area becoming the battlefield. Each character has a time gauge that, when filled, allows them to take an action. Characters have only basic attack, Tech and item options available to them, but the wide variety of techs helps to keep things interesting. The combat system, and the special techniques of characters in particular, focuses on area of effect moves, inclining players to pay attention to the formation and location of enemies. The inability to move your own characters does remove a bit of tactical complexity, but this is really only a problem with moves whose area of effect is limited to the area around a character, of which there are few. It’s a solid system that provides some interesting situations, but the game is balanced so favorably towards the player that it’s rare to find a genuinely challenging battle.
Chrono Trigger DS brings a fairly strong shift in the way the game is controlled, giving players the option of using a variety of new and sometimes odd additions, or allowing them to stick with the tried-and-true interface of the original game. The new interface makes the most of the touch screen, giving players menu shortcuts, a map, and perhaps most surprisingly, the ability to control characters entirely through the touch screen. By pressing a direction on the touch screen, players can move the characters much as with a D-pad, with distance from the center of the screen determining walking speed. It’s a bit awkward at first, and definitely takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s accurate enough. Menus are a bit more onerous when used with touch screen control – many buttons, particularly the ones that scroll through the long lists of items players are bound to collect during their adventure, are small enough that it isn’t hard to miss them. Given the pace of battles later in the game, it can be a bit of a problem.
With a soundtrack that consistently ranks at or near the top of lists of favorite OSTs and has inspired countless fan remixes and tributes, it would be fair to say that Chrono Trigger has one of the most influential game soundtracks ever. The music works exceptionally well as a counterpoint to the events on screen but stands up remarkably well on its own. It presents a great combination of simple but strong melodies backed up by some surprisingly complex background work, resulting in a memorable soundtrack with a very wide appeal.
|Some enemy entrances are actually quite inventive. Watch out for ambushes.|
Created near the end of the SNES’s lifespan, Chrono Trigger has some of the most detailed sprite work to be found on the system. The game owes most of its overarching visual style to the work of Akira Toriyama, who was responsible for character design. His artistic style comes through a bit more strongly on this remake thanks to the reuse of the animated cutscenes which first appeared on the PSOne iteration of Chrono Trigger, and the high quality of these cutscenes despite the lower visual power of the DS is impressive. On the whole, Chrono Trigger‘s visuals are beginning to show their age a bit, but the large amount of detail that they present helps to stave off most issues.
The game on average isn’t particularly challenging, especially since some fans have literally spent years of their lives figuring out how to break it. But even players who don’t actively seek to undermine the balance of the game will find that, with a little attention to maintaining their equipment, it won’t be particularly difficult to simply breeze through most battles. With the new content, the amount of time to complete the game jumps from around twenty-five hours to perhaps thirty or thirty-five, which isn’t a huge jump, but it’s enough to be noteworthy.
Chrono Trigger DS is a very smooth port which adds in some interesting, though perhaps not essential extras. Chrono Trigger‘s strongest points are its characters, endearing plot, and its wonderful soundtrack, and although time has begun to wear on it a bit, it’s still a remarkably solid game. Gamers looking for a complex, challenging combat system or a particularly deep storyline will probably not find Chrono Trigger DS quite as mesmerizing, but on the whole, it should find a fairly wide appeal thanks to its overall high quality.