Chrono Trigger DS
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Square Enix
As someone who didn't get into console role-playing games until Final Fantasy IX was released as a Platinum title here in the UK, it's fair to say I was oblivious to the popularity of Chrono Trigger for a couple of reasons. The first of which was my ignorance to the genre and as you all know, living in the UK I had no chance of playing the game on either the PAL PlayStation or SNES. Many critics and fans alike have long claimed Chrono Trigger to be one of the finest RPG titles of all time, so after getting into the genre and enjoying so many titles over the years, I've always felt as though I was missing out on something special. Thanks to Square Enix bringing one of their most cherished RPG's to the DS however, I'm not missing out any longer.
The main character in the game is a young man named Crono and at the beginning of the game he decides to attend the Millennial festival in Leene Square. Crono was late getting out of bed however and he rushes to the festival in an effort to make sure he can see his friend Lucca and her father show off their latest invention. In his haste Crono bumps into a girl named Marle (who unbeknownst to him is actually a princess). Marle tags along with Crono as they go and see Lucca's latest invention, a teleportation device, but it all goes wrong when Marle is accidentally transported four hundred years into the past. The storyline itself is rather refreshing. Even though the now typical spiky-haired hero is present and correct in the shape of Crono, the storyline differs substantially from the typical kind of RPG storyline with its themes of time travel and acquiring different party members from those different time periods. Actions in one time period can also affect events in other periods too, which adds a surprising twist to the gameplay.
It's not just the storyline in Chrono Trigger that I found surprising. For an RPG that's well over a dozen years old there are some rather modern concepts here. I was surprised to find that there are no random battles and you'll see your enemies on the screen (and in most circumstances you'll be able to avoid them if you wish, although this will cause you to miss out on the experience gained from battling). Over the last few years we've seen quite a few RPG's do away with random battles (which can be annoying at the best of times). The battle system used in Chrono Trigger is the famed ATB (Active Time Battle) system. This is a turn-based one that, as you are probably aware, has been used to great effect in plenty of Final Fantasy RPG's. Up to three party members can participate in battle. Given the age of the original Chrono Trigger I was surprised to find combo attacks in the game involving two or three different characters.
Some alterations have been made for this DS version of Chrono Trigger. Graphically the game hasn't really been touched, which some may find disappointing, although care has been taken to make the game feel at home on the DS. The game plays out on the top screen and the bottom screen is used to display the world map, menu buttons and dialogue choices. You'll get to interact with your inventory here too and you can perform such actions as equipping your party members and saving your game by using the stylus. You don't have to use the stylus however, as you can simply press the X button and interact with the menus in the usual fashion. You can choose to have a Classic style battle screen, which essentially places all of the combat choices on the top screen, or you can select the DS battle screen option which places all of the combat choices on the bottom screen and uses the whole of the top screen to display the action. To be honest I thought the default DS battle screen setup was much better and that the text on the Classic style battle screen was just a little too small. The game's English script has also been improved correcting any errors that were present in the original English version.
There have been some additions to this version of Chrono Trigger too. There are a healthy collection of new items to acquire such as the Hawk Talon, Judgement Scythe and the Promethean Mirror. New enemies such as the Chrysosaur and Snowbeast are included too. New dungeons have been included and there's even a new ending to enjoy which should spice things up for those who have played through the game before. It should also be mentioned that the game features multiple endings which increases the replay value quite nicely. Perhaps the biggest addition is the inclusion of a multiplayer mode for two players (which requires a copy of the game for each player). In truth the multiplayer mode, entitled Arena of Ages feels tacked on and has nothing to do with the general game. You can adopt a monster and use it to fight against other trainers' monsters for the chance of gaining some useful items. As disappointing as this multiplayer mode is, it does nothing to detract from the overall excellence of the single-player game.
We've already mentioned that the game hasn't received the graphical facelift that some would have hoped for but there's nothing to fault with the game's presentation. The 2D visuals have aged extremely well and whichever way you look at it, it's a fine looking DS game. The character designs in particular still look great. It's also a game that's been tailored superbly to suit the DS. The game presents no problems at all for deaf gamers. The dialogue is exclusively in text with the speaker's name being placed alongside the dialogue. All tutorial messages are shown in text. The game manual has been well written and should answer any questions you have about the game should this happen to be the first RPG you're playing on the DS. Incidentally this is an ideal RPG if you're a newcomer to the genre in that the game is very accessible, the storyline engaging and the overall difficulty level of the game is nowhere near as punishing as some of the games in the genre.
Not having played any previous version of Chrono Trigger, I was a little concerned that I wouldn't appreciate the game as much as those who have a bleary-eyed nostalgia for it. I needn't have been concerned however as Chrono Trigger stills stands as an RPG classic today. There are some minor disappointments here however. Some will be disappointed that the game hasn't received the graphical makeover that some of the DS remakes have been given (Final Fantasy IV springs to mind as a game that received a beautiful graphical makeover) but the complaints are few and far between. Essentially, Chrono Trigger is the best RPG for the DS to date and for most of us here in the UK it's the first opportunity we've had to play one of the most impressive games in the genre on any system.