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Chrono Trigger (DS) artwork

Chrono Trigger (DS) review

"Itís always difficult to cast an objective eye over a game more than a decade old, especially one as celebrated as Chrono Trigger. Nostalgia often has the effect of wearing rose-tinted glasses, but I think this revival on the DS (a full fourteen years later) really does prove Chrono Trigger to be an all-time classic. Ironically, itís the additional new bonus dungeons and arena mode that leave the most to be desired. "

Itís always difficult to cast an objective eye over a game more than a decade old, especially one as celebrated as Chrono Trigger. Nostalgia often has the effect of wearing rose-tinted glasses, but I think this revival on the DS (a full fourteen years later) really does prove Chrono Trigger to be an all-time classic. Ironically, itís the additional new bonus dungeons and arena mode that leave the most to be desired.

The story is just the way you remember if you played it back in the SNES days; Crono and friends are on a time-and-space bending quest to save the future from a parasitic alien that will plunge the world into disaster if left unopposed. Stories involving time-travel in any media are notorious for being patchy and difficult to follow, but if thatís a rule, Chrono Trigger is definitely the exception. Even with an unprecedented thirteen different endings (including a brand new one that establishes a link to the Playstation sequel Chrono Cross), everything fits together neat and tidily thanks to the New Game+ feature. This allows you to start again with all of your character levels, techniques, and most of your items from a completed save.

By the time you get to the end, youíll have swept through five different time periods spanning from 65,000,000 B.C. to 2300 A.D. and have accumulated up to seven weird and wonderful characters. Some, like the damsel-in-distress Marle and geeky-inventor Lucca, are a little bit clichť (not to mention Crono, the eternal mute), but never to the extent that they become unbearable. You canít expect the whole cast to be as creative as an honourable frog and a crazy cave-woman.

But after powering through to see just about everything the game has to offer in 2008, the most impressive thing is how concise and streamlined it feels. The dreaded dungeon crawls, infested with random encounters and short of save points, that curse most modern RPGs are non-existent. Although the level designs are a bit simple, they work and youíll rarely, if ever, find yourself grimacing as you plod on through a dungeon. Considering all the places you visit, the characters you collect, and the battles you fight, itís hard to believe it all fits into a twenty, twenty-five hour period. This makes it ideal for busy gamer who doesnít have time to regularly play for marathon sessions; the pacing is excellent and you wonít feel lost even if you do only play in short bursts. And in case youíre curious about the thirteen endings, you donít need to play start-to-finish for all of them; when you play a New Game+ you can choose to fight the final boss at any time, and itís when you decide to that determines which ending you get.

Combat will be familiar to any regular RPGer as Chrono Trigger uses the time bar system that is now a standard in the genre. Having two screens means there is less clutter this time around; the action unfolds on the top screen and all the menus (complete with touch screen functionality) reside downstairs. Alternatively, you can play it the way it was on the SNES if youíre a purist.

Back in the day, the battles were a great showcase for the smooth animations and varied character models. Youíd expect them to be the weak link now, but theyíre not. If youíre into flashy 3D, textures, and all that stuff youíll obviously be disappointed. But if you like the 2D old-skool look, youíll really appreciate the preserved visuals. You could argue Square-Enix has been a little bit lazy when you consider the impressive Final Fantasy III updated visuals, but thatíll just depend on whether you belong to the 2D or 3D camp. If there is one thing Chrono Trigger possesses that has almost inarguably stood the test of time, itís the soundtrack. Yasunori Mitsudaís score is epic and sweeping just like it always was; itís a shame the DS speakers are a little tinny, but they wonít stop you from appreciating the numerous classic tunes.

Itís been easy-sailing so far, but the stand out disappointment is easily the extra content. Firstly, the arena mode: a few hours in and youíll gain access to the Arena of Ages, a place that exists outside the confines of time and acts as a place to train and battle monsters. Sounds familiar, doesnít it? But the arena is at best a super-simplified take on Pokemon. You have very little control over both training and battling, and it all feels a little bit detached and pointless. The upshot is that you can win some nifty items (including some equipment youíd have to wait longer for in the main game) and battle your monster against a friendís in local Wi-Fi, but it still isnít anything to sing and dance about.

The two new quests are a bit more exciting than the arena, but still feel rushed. The Lost Sanctum is essentially one very long fetch quest that results in you saving a village from destruction. New equipment and a couple of challenging bosses are a nice addition, but you will be pissed off after repeatedly climbing up and down a mountain where the enemies respawn. Remember what I said about grimacing? This is probably the one exception. The Dimensional Vortex is a lot more fun, particularly as it concludes with that brand new ending, but it still feels like wasted potential to me. Only available on a New Game+, the vortex forms a gauntlet of random environments from the main game, before sending you to an original area with the chance to pick up some more new equipment and fight some more tough bosses. It all feels like a chore (particularly since it initially involves running through environments youíve already visited), but it does at least pick up near the end with that new ending and a very powerful new boss.

Although the new content is a bit hit-and-miss (more miss sadly), almost everyone is going to be buying this game for the original experience. It doesnít matter whether you fancy a trip down memory lane or are experiencing Chrono Trigger for the first time due to geographical inconvenience, itís still a classic thatís managed to keep its charm.

PAJ89's avatar
Community review by PAJ89 (January 02, 2009)

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zippdementia posted January 03, 2009:

You should come over to my place and we'll marvel together at how similar our views are (and how awesome we are, besides).

Seriously, this is like my review rewritten, and I love it. Not because of that, it's actually a damn good review that says some of the things I said a little better (dare I say).

Thumbs up.
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EmP posted January 03, 2009:

Welcome back, man. About bloody time, too.

Nice to see you've lost nothing in your absence; solid review.
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PAJ89 posted January 04, 2009:

I just read through your review, and yeah, the similarities are there. Great minds think alike :) Thanks for the compliment.

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