Released by Square in 1995 for the Super Nintendo (although it didn’t see a release here until the 2009 DS remake), Chrono Trigger often sits squarely at the top of “best RPGs ever made” lists. It was the baby of Sqaure’s “Dream Team”: Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi; Yuji Horii (creator of Enix’s Dragon Quest series); and Akira Toriyama, an acclaimed manga artist famed for his work with Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball. With the recent surprise release of the game on Steam, I dove back into the world of Chrono Trigger to figure out why people continue to sing its praises; twenty-three years on.
The game tells the story of Crono, who meets a young girl named Marle at his hometown’s Millennial Fair, a festival held to commemorate the start of the year 1000AD, this game’s present. When a teleportation device made by Crono’s best friend, Lucca, goes haywire and sends Marle back centuries into the past. Crono jumps straight in after her, kick-starting an adventure that spans the ages.
You know how there’s always one team member that wasn’t very good? Chrono Trigger doesn’t have that
Like any RPG, you’ll be doing a lot of fighting. Chrono Trigger’s battle system is one of its strengths. Every character can attack, use a spell or technique, or use an item. Sounds simple, but the system is deep without being complex. Everyone learns their own techniques, many of which can hit multiple enemies depending on their positions. Battles are far from static. Enemies shuffle around the field and knock you around. Positioning is key, and sometimes it’s worth waiting for that perfect moment as the enemies align to hit them all at once. Several party members can team up for flashy special attacks. You know there’s always that one team member you bench because they weren’t good? Chrono Trigger doesn’t have that. Every single team member is strong in their own unique way, and every team member learns combination attacks with everyone else.
One of the key elements that make Chrono Trigger tick is the beautiful visuals. Everything from medieval castles, the prehistoric past, the desolate abandoned factories of 1999 is rendered in gorgeous spritework; Toriyama’s distinct artstyle lends loads of personality. The story is excellently paced and packed with some truly emotional, memorable moments. There are even key points where a player’s actions can influence how the story unfolds; unheard of in 1995 and still executed brilliantly today.
The story is excellently paced and packed with some truly emotional moments
Looking at my cart, my first blind playthrough took me 19 hours; short by genre standards. This short length works for with Chrono Trigger’s legacy; New Game+. Chrono Trigger was the first game to incorporate a New Game+ mode, and it remains one of the few to use it well. There’s about a dozen endings, all dependent on when you beat the final boss. NG+ opens a lot of these doors, making it a blast to replay.
Chrono Trigger holds up beautifully and will do for years to come. Everything is finely crafted and polished to a shine. The battle system is deceptively simple, but allows for deep, involving fights. The artstyle remains unique to this day, and every element looks great. It is perfectly paced, with never a dull moment or the need to grind. The story remains focussed; every sidequest is dedicated to seeing your team grow. The short length and NG+ mode make every single playthrough a joy. Chrono Trigger is one of those games that’s timeless.