It’s weird for me to think of any game, or rather any creative work as a masterpiece. There is usually some noticeable flaw in a work that detracts from even the best experiences. Games are certainly no exception. They have obvious flaws, but while they can be considered clear negatives, they have far more positive traits that create an overwhelmingly enjoyable experience. Chrono Trigger is one of the few games that has earned the title of being called a true masterpiece.
The Role You Play
You mainly play as Crono, a typical hero and the silent protagonist of Chrono Trigger. He typically fights with a katana and can use sword techniques and lightning-type magic. He is joined by a motley crew of characters who join him on his adventure. These characters include a trouble-making princess named Marle who fights with a crossbow, a gun-wielding genius inventor named Lucca and a talking frog knight named Frog. Each character learns their own unique abilities and can combine their abilities with others. This allows them to form dual techniques and even triple techniques. Each one has their own unique effects depending on the makeup of your party.
The story begins with Crono visiting the Millennial Fair. While he is there, he inadvertently bumps into a young lady named Marle and the two end up exploring the fair together. From there they ends up checking out an exhibit being put on by Crono’s friend, Lucca: A teleportation pod. The pod reacts strangely to Marle’s pendant and sends her 400 years back in time. Lucca finds a way to send Crono through the hole in time to follow her. However, the events of the past have been distorted by Crono and Marle’s arrival. It is up to Crono and his friends to correct the timeline and right and other wrongs they may find.
The gameplay mostly centers on Chrono Trigger’s very unique turn-based combat system. When each character enters battle, they enter a formation that changes depending on their location, party size, and the number of enemies. This style of battle allows you to use techniques that can hit different groups of enemies depending on each of their positions. That ability also varies throughout the battle as enemies are defeated or move around the field of battle.
There are also plenty of battles that require you to plan around enemies that have certain strengths and weaknesses. Some are resistant or invulnerable to physical or magical attacks. Others are strong or weak to a particular element. Occasionally, enemies will have their own special battle conditions like only being able to be damaged with magic or regular attacks.
As unique as the combat and story are, progressing through Chrono Trigger is mostly linear and straightforward. It is usually easy to know where to go in the game as indicated by chapter names given to the save files. There are opportunities to break away from the main story to grind for skill points to learn more techniques if one so desires. There are also side quests near the end of the game that provide more powerful equipment. However, they are not necessary for completing the game. Overall, Chrono Trigger takes about 15-20 hours to complete.
Chrono Trigger has one of the most incredible soundtracks of the Super Nintendo library. The music has to cover a very broad range of settings across multiple time periods, ranging from the present day to a medieval past to a dystopian future. For each time period, there are tracks to cover a broad range of tones, from upbeat to sad to tense. There is a bit of overlap here and there, but it all manages to convey the tone it needs to. It also manages to match well with the game’s setting. That is a hard feat to accomplish with the many that come with a game about time travel.
Chrono Trigger offers the ability to finish in a variety of different ways. It was the first game to implement the New Game+ feature. Depending on what point in the game you defeat the final boss, it affects the ultimate outcome of the world. Because the story is largely about time travel and so much happens over the course of the story, a lot can change if certain plot points are not resolved, therefore you have the ability to save the world whenever you choose and usher in the future of your choosing. Some of the different endings range from unusual to flat-out ridiculous.
The Talking Parts
There is plenty of dialogue throughout the game that both builds up the word and helps tell the story. Depending on which characters are in your party at any given time, they will contribute to the conversation in their own way. This is matched with each character having their own set of expressions and body language. Much like how characters make use of space in combat, they also move around and make use of the space when engaged in dialogue to make conversations feel more lively and filled with emotion.
Z…We’ve Reached the End. Anything Else?
While Chrono Trigger did a lot to set itself apart from other games during its release, the best way that it did so was by making a strong first impression with its cover art. Before Chrono Trigger, most video games, RPGs specifically, released in the US with anime-inspired cover art got altered into something more American looking. However, Chrono Trigger’s cover was concept art by character designer Akira Toriyama. Some of the ideas on the cover were changed for the final game, but Toriyama’s artwork was prominently displayed and visible on US store shelves and promotional material that got mailed to most US households. This massive exposure helped to give legitimacy to the medium as a whole and propel Toriyama’s legacy.
There is nothing about Chrono Trigger that does not work incredibly well. The characters are all well written and designed, the music is an absolute feast for the ears and maintains its freshness to this day, the worlds are all well thought out and it all ties into an incredible story. Every element of the game constantly synergizes with the other, creating an incredible adventure from start to finish. It is a true masterpiece in every sense of the word.
Final Score: 10/10
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