Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chrono Trigger (DS) Review

1995, 1999, 2008 SquareSoft

Back in the '90s, there were a lot of RPGs that were released for the Super Nintendo console. This is one of them. I had no idea this game existed until sometime in 2004 or 2005 on the internet. It seemed quite interesting. I was very impressed when I saw ShiryuGL's gameplay footage of it on YouTube; after that I just knew that I had to play the game; and when I looked up that it was gonna be ported to the DS back in 2008, I was excited because I was gonna get a chance to play the game for the first time. And when I purchased the DS game (with the two-track soundtrack), it gave me a very lasting good first impression.

The story goes like this: in 1000 A.D., a Milennial Fair was taking place to celebrate the one-thousandth year of the Guardia Kingdom. There is an occurence at the event that turns this everyday visit at the Fair into the most sprawling and huge adventure ever witnessed in RPGs. Throughout the game, Crono and friends will go throughout time: whether it be the past, present, or future. Eventually, you find out that an evil entity named Lavos is gonna destroy the planet in 1999 A.D., and it's up to you to prevent such a thing from ever happening. If you change something that happened in the past, it'll have a permanent effect on the future, helping you on your quest. The plot's very well-done, and the atmosphere is also just as great. There are many expositions ranging from forests, to castles, to mountains, to caves, and so much more.

Chrono Trigger is a turn-based RPG, with the Active-Time Battle system that was first introduced in Final Fantasy II/IV [NA/JP]. Basically, the character will make his or her move once their bar is completely filled up, and the enemies and/or bosses can still attack you even if you did not make your move yet. You can decide whether to use physical attacks or tech attacks. Some tech attacks have magic. What's cool is that, throughout the game you will learn new tech attacks, and what's even cooler is that fact that you can combine tech attacks with one or two other members in your party to form up double or triple techs. One example being the X-Strike where Crono and Frog strike at the enemy simultaneously forming an X shape, causing lots of damage; and another is the Ice Sword, where Crono and Marle combine Crono's sword attack with Marle's icy powers. Seeing it all happen is very amazing, and some magic can either hurt certain creatures or heal them. The boss battles aren't always going to be simplistic, and many of them will require a bit of strategy. In the locales, you can move in all eight directions, and you can only see three party members on the overworld and locales, like in one of SquareSoft's other SNES RPGs Secret of Mana. Speaking of which (and I noticed this in FlyingOmelette's website prior to playing both games): Crono and Marle look a lot like Randie and Purim from Secret of Mana. The resemblance is quite uncanny, and the animators for both games were not the same. You have the choice of either engaging in battle with the enemies or you can just avoid them, except for ones that will try to approach from behind or are mandatory. There is so much that occurs in the dungeons, and there are many areas which are long. If you see a sparkling object in the locale, that means it's your saving spot. You can also save anywhere in the overworld (when you see your characters as tiny). You can decide whether to make your characters run (normal) or walk (hold down the button).

This game has one of the best soundtracks ever heard in an RPG. Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uemastu (of Final Fantasy fame) have done a fantastic job. All songs are very well-composed and atmospheric, and it works so well in the game's many areas. The theme that plays in the forest is very relaxing and ambient, the castle theme is good, and there is this one theme that is so intense that you can feel the sense of urgency during that situation. Lavos' theme is both menacing and sad at the same time. The boss themes are also spectacular, as they sometimes change. The ending theme for this game, and the ending theme from Super Mario Galaxy, are in the running for best ending music ever composed. The sound effects are done well, too. There were four songs that were exclusively composed for the PlayStation version, and a couple of unused SNES songs, and they can all be listened to on the DS version. All good songs, especially that one PSX song which I love listening to every now and then.

The visuals are very pleasing to the eyes. The characters' animations are really fluid, and all the areas are so well-detailed. The forest is one such area: the lush foliage of it is astounding. There is also a lot of variety in it all. There is also a lot of color-layering effects and a tiny bit of Mode 7 every once in a while. The effect used during the time travelling gives you a sense that you're going in time, with the psychadelic effects. There are also areas that are quite colorful. The characters were drawn by Akira Toriyama (of Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball fame), and the art-style is very recognizable. The PlayStation version incorporated some FMV (full-motion video) cutscenes inbetween certain scenes, and they were brought over to the DS version as well (though you have to option to disable it if you want).

The game starts out easy, but then it gets hard the more you get into it. There will be certain times when certain enemies and/or bosses will attempt to wipe out your party in one blow, or reduce a member to only one health point. But, the more you level up, the more you become more powerful in both offense and defense. The boss battle with Lavos took me forever to take down on my first try. As I said before, strategy is key in some (boss) battles. There are some enemies that cannot be damaged physically, and some enemies where a certain magic heal them. If you beat the game for the first time, you can start a New Game + mode, where you can start the game over again with all your acquired experience points, items, and weapons in the first game. Unfortunately, once you start New Game +, all difficulty will be alleviated, for the most part. Although, that's a very minor gripe, as the game has a lot of elements that more than make up for the lack of difficulty once New Game + has been started.

Chrono Trigger is an RPG that is a very enjoyable experience from beginning to end. It's got one of the best gameplay elements and best soundtracks ever, plus one of the most engaging plots in video game existence. There are uplifting moments, intense moments, sad moments, and shocking moments every once in awhile. The time travelling aspect allows you the freedom to travel in time to help the future. This game has the most amount of endings I've ever seen in a video game (thirteen), and they can be accessed by doing things in a certain order, before you do something major, by fighting Lavos. The majority of the endings can be accessed by playing New Game +, and that makes up for the lack of difficulty once New Game + has been started. You can fight Lavos either at the end of the game, or at any time prior to that (though I absolutely recommend doing the latter option while playing New Game +). Some endings are emotional, some are funny, and some are random. There is this one ending that is so rare, that it is worth seeing it to believe it. I'll never forget the first time I beat this game. There is never a moment in the game that feels anticlimactic. It's one of the best turn-based RPGs out there, and one that has one of the biggest replay values ever in an RPG.

9.5/10

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