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Chrono Trigger (SNES) artwork

Chrono Trigger (SNES) review

"There are many facets of this time traveling quest that make it one of Square's finest masterpieces, from lovable characters to an amazing soundtrack, but no one particular piece takes the center stage and begs for your attention above any other. Chrono Trigger is in a state of old school RPG equilibrium; it's balanced just right."

Chrono Trigger asset

I can't pinpoint any one moment that exemplifies why I love Chrono Trigger. It'd be a tough call were I forced to do so, and if it came down to picking a scene or being shot, then I'd have to grit my teeth and prepare for the bullet. There are many facets of this time traveling quest that make it one of Square's finest masterpieces, from lovable characters to an amazing soundtrack, but no one particular piece takes the center stage and begs for your attention above any other. Chrono Trigger is in a state of old school RPG equilibrium; it's balanced just right.

Chrono Trigger doesn't try to be a playable sci-fi/fantasy novel, though it does tell a great story. Here a young swordsman and his time traveling companions--consisting of a naive princess, a plucky inventor, a sword-wielding anthropomorphic frog, a robot, a cavewoman a la Daryl Hannah, and a purple-haired magician--attempt stymie a cataclysm that destroys their world in the year 1999. Along the way we learn to care for our cast of lively characters. We feel for Frog when he reveals his backstory as a bullied child turned guardian knight and come to respect Marle as she matures and attempts to fix her broken relationship with her father, the king. Brief backstories and character interactions give the characters some depth beyond their basic archetypes. However, we never feel overloaded with such complicated character development that we could write an essay on any given party member. The lack of deeper development leaves enough space for other elements, plot and gameplay, to mature while satisfying our want for enjoyable characters.

Square wants us to roll with the punches and have a good time rather than rack our brains questioning the plausibility of the story. Instead of dwelling on plotholes and paradoxes created by time travel, they expect us to suspend our disbelief for the sake of enjoyment.

It's not hard to sit back and enjoy the ride when you see where the odyssey takes you, from prehistoric times to a desolate future. Chrono Trigger contains a wide variety of locales, each with its own feel and personality. There's a great mixture of lush greenery and ominous darkness, from hidden valleys to dark fortresses, with strong atmosphere boosted by the stellar soundtrack courtesy of Yasunori Mitsuda. And not only does the soundtrack give life to the scenery, but to the scenarios. Triumphant events feel epic, boss battles become desperate struggles, and somber notes draw out solemn emotions during serious scenes.

Call me pedestrian for thinking that graphics and sound can make a difference, but they helped set excellent moods for scenes that made Chrono Trigger adventurous and memorable. I enjoyed the uplifting music that played when Ayla makes her first appearance, bursting onto the scene to rescue her soon-to-be-friends from a pack of depraved dinos. The epic meeting between Frog and his arch nemesis at the top of a malefic castle would not have been the same if not for the now classic dark theme music of said villain, nor without shadowed and demonic surroundings. Same goes for all those desperate moments escaping a convoluted royal prison, going toe-to-toe with a gruesome boss on the wing of a giant plane, ascending a forbidding snowy mountain littered with horrific mutations and death traps, or battling a queen corrupted by vanity. Each scene serves only to make the adventure more memorable.

What memorable and adventurous RPG is complete with a solid battle system? To maintain the adventurous aspects of Chrono Trigger, Square deployed a quick and simple battle system that helps maintain a strong pace. There isn't a lengthy transition from the field screen to a separate battle screen. Enemies appear on the field and you fight them right there, seamless and without transition. Your opponents aren't limited to a single frozen sprite, but can move about the field. Your placement in relation to theirs becomes key to battle. Your characters have several different special abilities called Techs which can hit multiple targets based on their position. Crono's Cyclone, for instance, will damage an enemy and any others in its vicinity. Battle becomes about waiting for enemies to gather in just the right way and using just the right Tech to end it quickly and keep moving. At victory, there's little fanfare or time wasted. You're right back into the game, free to explore and progress. Battles are not the pace-killing nuisance that they are in lesser RPGs.

What's neat about the Tech system is that characters can team up and make Dual and Triple Techs, each with its own hit range and elemental attribute. This promotes experimenting with different combinations of characters, finding out which ones are appropriate for various situations. Pairing Frog and Ayla, for instance, gives you access to a powerful healing Dual Tech called Slurp Kiss, which greatly heals all party members--ideal for bosses that can utterly nuke you.

The experience shouldn't take very long to complete, and the sense of grief you feel at the end of an RPG should set in right as the closing credits roll. Square had one last ace up their sleeve, something to help dull the melancholy of polishing off this fine adventure. By finishing Chrono Trigger, you unlock 'New Game +', which imports all of your items and levels into a new adventure and allows you to view all of the other endings. This is also handy for anyone who wishes to experience the game again, but doesn't want to take the time or effort to grind and rebuild characters.

The ride has to end sometime, though. If you have the fortitude, you'll eventually witness all of the endings, perform every hidden task, search every nook and cranny of Chrono Trigger. The quick and simple gameplay makes it more than possible, and the charming atmosphere, stellar soundtrack, and outstanding adventure will see to it that you stay the course. Yes, Chrono Trigger is a voyage well worth taking, and one that won't be forgotten any time soon.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Featured community review by JoeTheDestroyer (September 25, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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pickhut posted September 25, 2011:

I've never played Chrono Trigger. I remember the hype surrounding the game in magazines when it came out and the fan following afterwards, but that's it. With that said, you do a good job making it sound like an entertaining rpg that's fast paced and has variety. I had no clue there was a new game +, so that actually makes it sound like a fun game to replay. Enjoyed reading the review!
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JoeTheDestroyer posted September 26, 2011:

Thanks, pickhut!
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SamildanachEmrys posted September 26, 2011:

Ah, informed opinions on Chrono Trigger. Since it was never released here, CT has always mocked me with its sterling reputation. Sigh...
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jerec posted September 26, 2011:

It wasn't released on the SNES in Australia... and the PS1 version didn't make it here. But we got the DS version, and oddly, it's on the Wii Virtual Console. Awesome game. One of the only times I played a rom all the way through.
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EmP posted September 26, 2011:

I imported the PSX version, which mocked me with its awful load times. Is this review good enough to make me brave them? It's a fantastic review, but, no.

16 bit games shouldn't have ludecrious load times!
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overdrive posted September 26, 2011:


That's like how my first exposure to Final Fantasy V was through the PSX port (that came with VI, as well). Nothing says "enjoying a classic RPG" like running through it as fast as possible because any minute now the damn thing is going to crash. But waiting for the game to load back up after hitting reset after a crash gave me plenty of time to think about how humorous it was to port two Super Famicom games to another station EXACTLY like they were on their original system, with the exception of inserting a handful of cinema videos. And I guess at least VI had a viewable bestiary, as well. And a lot more crashes and glitches.

Anyway, good review. Interesting. You reviewed Super Mario Brothers right before I reviewed SMW 2: Yoshi's Island. Now you reviewed Chrono Trigger while I'm replaying Chrono Cross to review that. If your next review is a Tales of... game, I'll be really freaked out.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted September 27, 2011:

Thanks, everyone.

I don't blame you for not touching the PSX version. I played maybe ten minutes of it and had FF6 PSX flashbacks and quit for good. At least it came with a functional copy of FF4.

Never had problems with FF5 crashing on PSX, and I played through it recently on a PS2.


Does that break any laws of nature? I played an SNES game ported to PSX on a PS2. Should I be worried about interdimensional rifts in my house or anything?

My main problem with FF6 via PSX was the constant loading. Like executing a blitz with Sabin, he'd have to stop sometimes two or three times in the middle of the blitz to load the graphical effects and such. That and it seemed like it took a year for battles to load.

Anyway, good review. Interesting. You reviewed Super Mario Brothers right before I reviewed SMW 2: Yoshi's Island. Now you reviewed Chrono Trigger while I'm replaying Chrono Cross to review that. If your next review is a Tales of... game, I'll be really freaked out.

I thought that, too. I kept saying to myself, "Everyone's going to think we're all Nintendo fanboys on this site." As for your eeriness... Well, I am replaying Tales of Phantasia on GBA to review it, soo....

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overdrive posted September 27, 2011:

Yeah. I think it might have just been my copy. FF VI crashed occasionally, too. And the loading could get to be tedious. I thought my PSX was going to explode during the one part where a couple characters are falling down a waterfall fighting fish monsters.

So, we've both done recent Super Mario reviews. You've done a Chrono game review and I'll be doing one in a week or two probably. And I'll have a Tales of Vesperia one this week while you're playing Phantasia. Yeah. That's creepy. I'll have to find unpredictable, wacky games to play for a bit!

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