Before Final Fantasy VII changed everything for Japanese role-playing games in North America and beyond, one title is a touchstone for many gamers who love the genre and that game is Chrono Trigger. Initially released way back in 1995 for consoles, it received its Windows port in 2018.
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Chrono Trigger Review
A combination of everything great about Squaresoft and Enix, Chrono Trigger was made by a “Dream Team” of Japanese RPG developers including FF’s Hironobu Sakaguchi, Dragon Quest’s Yuji Horii, and artist Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Quest fame.
The plot was crafted by Masato Kato with work on the soundtrack done initially by Yasunori Mitsuda and then finished by Final Fantasy’s famed Nobuo Uematsu. An epic tale involving time travel and the end of the world, the game combined fantasy and sci-fi elements in a novel way that both gave each period of time its own distinct feel as well as distinguished the aesthetic from stablemate Final Fantasy VI, itself a steampunk-esque epic that involves similar themes of apocalypse and a motley cast.
Graphically speaking, the game was bright and vivid, employing animated sprites for enemies in place of the fixed portraits found in Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy games and giving the heroes a similarly robust range of movement. Utilizing a combat system that emphasized teamwork, Chrono Trigger’s battles were engaging and just different enough from standard JRPG fare to make it worthy of mention. This style would later make an appearance in Konami’s Suikoden series to great effect.
Unlike the FF series, Chrono Trigger makes its enemies visible on the world map so there are no random encounters in the game. This similarly limits grinding opportunities but that mechanic actually takes more of a backseat here.
The story is always front and center such that, even while doing a side quest here and there, the game maintains a sense of urgency and flow that few have done before or since. Carried by a strong cast of characters that you will remember long after the game’s completion, Chrono Trigger is memorable in the sense that a good book or a great movie is: Everything comes together in a cohesive experience that is impossible to imitate.
And that’s the only drawback to Chrono Trigger. While playing the game you get the sense that this is something special and, likely, never going to happen again. Though Square and Enix have since joined forces into one company, the thought of a sequel to Chrono Trigger remains a distant dream.
The Bottom Line
Where does that leave modern gamers? As a title that is so foundational to so many things that came after it, Chrono Trigger is not only a bit of history but a foundational piece of RPG gaming as well.
Final Fantasy VII popularized JRPGs to an extent no one thought possible, but Chrono Trigger helped break ground long before that game came out. Now that we live in a world where it is not uncommon to hear someone talk about FF, Dragon Ball Z, or Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger’s place in history becomes that much more unique because it literally existed in a land before time where these titles are concerned.
- Amazingly fun combat system
- A story for the ages
- Characters, music, and lore you will fall in love with time and time again
- There will probably never be another game like it
- Classic JRPG obscurity in places
- If you don’t like a story, then you should move along