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   Chrono Trigger DS - Staff Review  

This Is Heavy, Doc
by Mike Moehnke

Click here for game information
PLATFORM
DS
BATTLE SYSTEM
5
INTERACTION
4
ORIGINALITY
3
STORY
4
MUSIC & SOUND
5
VISUALS
4
CHALLENGE
Very Easy
COMPLETION TIME
20-40 Hours
OVERALL
4.5/5
+ Has aged like fine wine
+ Immense replay value
+ The SNES's zenith for graphics and sound
+ Entertaining and amusing story
+ New and improved translation
- Other new things are not much fun
Click here for scoring definitions 

   One of the most acclaimed and fondly remembered Super Nintendo RPGs is Chrono Trigger, the dream project that brought Akira Toriyama and Yuji Horii from Dragon Quest together with Hironobu Sakaguchi from Final Fantasy. The resulting game was not perfect but met with near-universal acclaim. Aside from a PS1 port, Chrono Trigger had not been re-released, thus making Square Enix's business gurus see an opportunity. Chrono Trigger DS had a chance to make a great game even better, and it fails at this. The core game is strong enough to survive this missed opportunity with flying colors, however.

   On the millennial anniversary of his kingdom's founding, Crono goes to the celebratory fair. He literally bumps into a girl named Marle, and they get along splendidly while exploring the fair's attractions. Crono's friend Lucca is testing a fascinating matter transferring device at the fair, yet it malfunctions when Marle demonstrates the device and it turns out to be just as good at time traveling. The tale Crono, Marle, and Lucca get thrown into involves the desolation of the world in the future, the conflicts of the human race in the past, and a whole lot of paradoxes thanks to the very nature of time travel. For 1995, this plot was top-notch, and it holds up very well.

   Combat in Chrono Trigger is similar to the Active Time Battle system of Final Fantasy IV-IX. Enemies and player characters will act as allowed by their speed statistics. Chrono Trigger fights take place on the field without switching to a separate battle screen, and the positions of enemies and characters sometimes dictate what techniques can be performed by all participants. Player characters also have double and triple techniques, usable if the characters know the base techniques that make up the combination, that are often more powerful than two or three individual attacks would be. Victory in battle awards experience, money, and Tech points: Tech points that accrue to let characters learn new techniques. Battles are also set (though they can frequently be run from) instead of being random and are varied enough to remain engrossing throughout the game, with new opponents that require different tactics popping up constantly.

Poor giant frog - you can go back to the Naruto dimension now. Poor giant frog - you can go back to the Naruto dimension now.

   Equipment and items are handled in a user-friendly manner. The effect of items is displayed prior to use, equipment is very easy to manipulate and can even be placed onto characters in the shops. The interface does have one irritating flaw, and that is the inability to sell accessories which pile up as the game goes on. Selecting targets in battle can be nerve-wracking thanks to enemies still taking actions while one navigates the menus, but it is possible to freeze time's passage when a menu is open if desired.

   For 1995, Chrono Trigger possessed excellent graphics. Judged on the basis of its origin, visuals are still very good. Characters and enemies have multiple animations inside battle, use of color is good, spell animations are impressive, and environments tend to have good variety. The music is not dated in the slightest; Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda composed one of the most memorable RPG soundtracks for Chrono Trigger, and despite a few tracks sounding a bit different, the overall impression remains overwhelmingly positive.

   Replay value in Chrono Trigger was always a draw thanks to its New Game + feature enabling the player to start the game over with equipment, items, and levels retained. The purpose of this feature is obviously not to increase the challenge (the game is not difficult unless one actively avoids combat), but to allow hunting for additional endings that are frequently bizarre and funny. Finishing the game for the first time will take somewhere between twenty and thirty hours, but defeating the final boss using New Game + can be done twenty minutes after starting. The enormous replay incentive adds value to a game that is already very entertaining.

Johnny Johnny's not The Man anymore. How strange.

   Chrono Trigger on the DS differs from its original SNES incarnation in several ways. None alter the game greatly, but the most noticeable changes from 1995 are:

  • i) FMV sequences at certain plot points. These date from Chrono Trigger's PS1 incarnation and were clearly grafted on later, as they replicate events depicted via the sprites. They're superfluous but fun.
  • ii) Touch screen controls. These work adequately for players who prefer to use this method, and can be ignored by those who wish to keep the action on one screen. Related to this change is the display of a map and enemy names on the bottom screen regardless of whether it is used for touch screen controls or not.
  • iii) A new translation, and the ability to enter six characters for names instead of five. Certain lines that were nonsensical in the original have been changed for the better, Frog's speech is very mannered instead of Elizabethan, numerous subtleties have been unveiled, and the whole thing can be deemed an improvement.
  • iv) An arena for monster fighting. This is diverting for a minute or two and then ceases to entertain.
  • v) A new dungeon in two time periods. This place manages to increase the fetch quest count in Chrono Trigger by double digits.
  • vi) Another new dungeon that opens up after finishing the game once. Fewer fetch quests and more monster mashing palette-swapped opponents awaits.

   The additional playable content in Chrono Trigger DS is extremely disappointing, since it manages to be repetitive and boring instead of adding much to the game. Such a lack of vital new content means that this version of Chrono Trigger is inessential for anyone possessing the original. To anyone who has never played Chrono Trigger, however, this is an excellent method of doing so. The core game has aged well enough to make it worth a spirited recommendation regardless of the unnecessary new content, which can be ignored. Chrono Trigger's still got it.

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