When the creator of the Final Fantasy franchise spearheads a new video game project with the visionary of the Dragon Quest series and the artist of Dragon Ball and Dragon Quest, chances are you will end up with one of the greatest video games of all time. Indeed, Chrono Trigger on the Super Nintendo quite possibly stands as the pinnacle of the 16-bit era’s amazing Japanese RPG offerings because of its exceptional storytelling, revolutionary gameplay, stunning graphics, and captivating soundtrack.
Chrono Trigger unfolds in a universe resembling Earth, or rather multiple Earth-like dimensions since the entire game revolves around the fascinating concept of time travel. The story centers on Crono and his unlikely run-in with Marle, which sets of a chain of events in the past and future. As a result, the story’s main characters frequently journey through time, visiting an historic age where primitive humans and dinosaurs roam the earth, the Middle Ages in which knights and magic dictate society, and a post-apocalyptic future where humans struggle to survive among sentient robots.
The brilliance of Chrono Trigger lies in this seemingly simple gameplay element. Because the main cast of playable characters hails from different eras, the story is beautifully woven throughout the different time periods. Additionally, changes in the past inevitably influence the course of the future. This creates a powerful sense of responsibility for the player, as they decide and shape the fate of the inhabitants of the distinct worlds.
For instance, at one point in the game, players have the option to leave behind Robo, a friendly robot and dependable party member from the future, in the year 600 AD to achieve a specific task. After having achieved his goal four centuries later, Robo is able to rejoin the party in 1000 AD and consequently journey back to 600 AD to see his past self labouring away for future generations. Chrono Trigger masterfully executes the concept of time travel.
Constantly shifting between different time periods thus leads to a complex narrative that inevitably requires multiple endings. Depending on both the order of taking on quests, the era in which the quests are resolved, and certain characters joining or not, Chrono Trigger offers twelve substantially different finales – some good, others plain awful. From a contemporary standpoint this seems logic, but in a game released in 1995 having multiple outcomes was a revolutionary concept, offering substantial replay value.
Because the party members are so integral to the story and its progression, Chrono Trigger makes the player care tremendously about the available companions. The story of Frog, for example, and his ultimate redemption with the help of Crono and friends displays character development and growth rarely witnessed in other games, or even different media forms like books and movies. One could even argue that Frog therefore is the real star of the game.
Another distinctive feature setting Chrono Trigger apart from contemporaries and even more recent JRPGs is its unique battle system. Instead of relying on random encounters, many enemies are visible on the map or lie in wait to ambush the party. When contact is made with these enemies, combat commences immediately, eliminating the need for a separate battle screen. This approach offers a rapid and immersive way to brandish swords and flash magic in a dynamic turn-based fashion at opponents.
While not overly complex or challenging, combat is highly satisfying. Much of its appeal lies in the double and triple techniques that players can unlock by combining different party members. These techniques allow for fun experimentation when facing various creative enemies and formidable boss encounters. Consequently, it is advantageous to periodically switch out companions to explore new and powerful combinations.
Chrono Triggers elevates its wonderful story and engaging combat with top-tier visuals and a fabulous soundtrack. While the game boasts some of the highest graphical fidelity on the Super Nintendo, it is the enchanting music that truly propels Chrono Trigger to new heights. With distinctive and memorable tracks for every era, region, and most characters, the game offers an unprecedented wealth of music that lingers with players long after having finished the game.
“Frog’s Theme” by Yasunori Mitsuda
In summary, it should come as no surprise that Chrono Trigger is often hailed as one of the best RPGs, and quite possibly the finest RPG of all time. It stands as a captivating work of art that reflects the creators’ deep affection for the genre. The game excels because of its riveting time-travel narrative and profound character progression, complemented by impressive graphics and an enchanting musical score. Approaching its 30th anniversary, Chrono Trigger has undeniably passed the test of time and remains an amazing game for the ages.