SNES, PSX, DS
It’s sometimes mind-blowing to look back at the past and consider the versions of you which have existed thus far. One such example is a 15 year old boy who once thought RPG’s were totally lame. I mean, who wants to just tell characters what to do and watch them attack? Not me! And managing stats? Boring!
That was me, at least until I played Chrono Trigger for the first time.
Video games were well into the next generation of polygons and voice acting by the time I finally got around to Chrono Trigger at the turn of the new millennium. I was turned onto the game by a friend who was obsessed with it (rightfully so), and who could know, when I asked to borrow that little gray cartridge of his, that I would quickly become enamored with this most time-consuming of game genres?
It all started in a faraway land at the dawn of another millennium. Chrono Trigger opens at a millennial fair celebrating the year 1000. Here players are quickly introduced to three of the main characters: silent protagonist Crono, stalwart inventor Lucca, and adventurous princess Marle. As Lucca showcases her new teleportation device, Marle volunteers as a test subject, and is subsequently sucked into a wormhole, setting the game’s events in motion.
When Crono and Lucca take on the duty of rescuing their new friend, they have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. They’re journey will take them through many other time portals, to past and future ages beyond their imagining. From a floating magical kingdom with a brutal class system, to a genocidal prehistoric conflict, to the very end of time itself, Chrono Trigger never lacks for scope, and as the player slowly learns of the calamity that ties all of these disparate timelines together, the story slowly coalesces into a glorious whole.
Aside from the unique premise, and the immense possibilities it offers, Chrono Trigger is also peopled with some of the best and most beloved characters in gaming history. A brave knight cursed with the form of a frog, a steam-powered robot from the future, a prehistoric warrior woman, and, if you play your cards right, the most badass, scythe-wielding warlock that ever lived. The fact that this motley crew of mismatched avengers is animated by none other than legendary Dragonball Z creator Akira Toriyama gives them oodles of personality, and coupled with the brilliant characterization and sharp writing of the narrative, this game offers one of the most wildly innovative and satisfactory experiences available.
Innovative, you ask? That’s right, because even the gameplay of this adventure set new benchmarks. The first, and most startling, is the fact that you can actually see (and avoid) the enemies you’re about to encounter. Generally RPGs up until this point, and even for over a decade after, would incorporate so-called “random battles” where the player would alternate between exploring and engaging in battles based on a preset algorithm in the game engines programming. Chrono Trigger side-steps this trope completely, and the game is much more engaging because of it.
Furthermore, there is no change in graphics, settings, or angles when a battle begins, instead the game goes through a seamless transition, and the battle menus simply appear before the player. This feature allows for the spell of immersion to remain cast upon the player as the game travels between exploration, story, and battle sequences.
On that note. Chrono Trigger is also home to a fantastic battle system which allows players utilize the talents of all of their characters into Tech Attacks. This allows several characters to act at once, creating a new attack that could not be done by any of the characters on their own.
On top of this already meaty package, Chrono Trigger also offers one of the most listenable soundtracks in the history of the medium. Composed by talented veterans Yasunori Mitsuda and Nomuo Uematsu, these gorgeous and colorful melodies will stick in your heart and mind long after you’ve completed the game.
Ultimately, Chrono Trigger would be the catalyst for literally thousands of hours of gaming for this player. As the first RPG to ever suck me in, it is directly responsible for my subsequent addiction to the genre, and the hundreds of hours that it can offer in a single title. If that means I see a lot less of this summer than maybe is good for me, well, the trade off is more than fair. After all, if Chrono Trigger has taught us anything, it’s that we can always come back and change our destinies later.