Chrono Trigger
Box Shot
Chrono Trigger
Platform: Super Nintendo
Publisher: Square
Designer: Square
Genre: RPG
Players: 1
Published Date 1995
Reviewed by: Rupto-pack

Chrono Trigger. The very name represents the pinnacle of the Super Nintendo's technical power and the best it has to offer in its wide array of RPGs. And rightly so. It was released near the end of the system's long and fruitful life, and pushes graphics, sound, and special effects to their limits. Mix in an engaging story, interesting bonds between characters, and an immersive atmosphere, and you have the epitome of what a good RPG should be.

As the game begins, you are Crono, a young white guy with spiky hair. A bit typical, but he serves the purpose. It's 1000 a.d. and the whole country is holding a millennial fair in your city, celebrating in particular the defeat of an evil wizard Magus 400 years ago. At the fair you literally bump into a sassy blond girl Marle (all the characters can be renamed,) who drops her strange blue pendant. Be a gentleman and pick it up for her. Together you'll go see your friend Lucca's new invention, a telepod. But when you try it out, the blue pendant reacts and trips open a time gate, sending you back 400 years to the Middle Ages, the time when Magus was strong and hadn't yet been defeated. As the story unfolds you'll be leaping across the ages like frogs on lillypads, changing the past and seeing effects on the future. Some of your party members will have to solve mysteries that have persisted for generations, rescue missing ancestors so they themselves don't cease to exist, or deliver items from one era to another. Visiting the future however, you find a shocking turn of events. The world has been laid waste and the human population decimated by the emergence of a powerful creature called Lavos. It becomes your ultimate goal to destroy Lavos and learn the truth of its origin.

You can have three people in you party at a time, but eventually you'll have a total of six to choose from, possibly seven depending on choices you make in the story. Most of the traveling takes place on an overworld map. The character sprites here are quite small and it's sometimes difficult to tell where you can and can't go. The world has a unique look in each era. Sometimes landmarks stay the same, sometimes they're radically changed or gone. Exploring, interaction with townspeople, and combat take place in a closer-up view which is richly detailed and colorful. All the characters have many animations and expressions. At some points in the game you can even make them dance or act like chickens. It's graphically similar to another favorite old Square game of mine, Secret of Mana. The magic spell effects can be downright psychedelic ( I especially like the Frog Squash,) and the sound effects throughout the game are unique. Though much of the soundtrack is not really to my taste, it's appropriately sad when the story is sad, scary when the story is scary, or light-hearted when the story is light-hearted. The melodies are memorable, and they move the action along well and stir the right emotions at the right time.

The combat system is interesting. After bumping into an enemy (they can often, but not always, be avoided) your party lines up against the opposing monsters and a battle menu appears. From it each character can select Attack, Tech, or Item. "Tech" refers to special attack techniques or magic spells, and you can combine your spells or techniques with those of other party members for super-attacks. The fighting takes place in real time, but each member must wait for their attack gauge to fill before their menu pops up. This can be frustrating, like when you want to do a triple-combo attack but have to let your party get beat up while waiting for all three gauges to fill. Once you've made your move, the meter has to fill again.

Chrono Trigger does everything a traditional RPG should do, and does it very well, from the interesting plot twists and characters with secret identities, to the bosses that simply morph into a more powerful form when you think you've defeated them. The ending (well, actually there are over ten) even has a poignant mix of sentimental sadness and humor. The game took me close to 35 hours, and I must admit I got lost a couple times and dawdled, so some may say it's too short, but I felt it was just right. Some of the endings aren't unlocked until after you beat the game once, so that adds some replay value. My only gripes are the slight awkwardness of the overworld map and having to scroll through menus in real-time as the battle rages around you. But all in all this is simply as good as it gets for SNES RPGs.