An eternal favorite of the Video Game Community came to the PC in February.
Normally I would cite similar titles here. While there is some Final Fantasy flavor, Chrono Trigger is unique. I am strongly biased, but any and all gamers should experience this firsthand at least once.
Bias Points: Original IP, Great Music, Great Story, Great Narrative, Vibrant and Responsive world, Memorable Characters, Nostalgia, Square at it’s best
It’s Chrono Trigger
Square-Enix has this odd tendency of releasing games with no advertising. For months I was inundated with news of the Secret of Mana remake coming in February and had clear headway that Final Fantasy XV was to follow in March. I budgeted accordingly. But, right towards the end of March, an odd swell picked up online.
Chrono Trigger had been released for PC.
My first thought, as always, was skepticism. A quick check proved this rumor mill to be valid. My next response was mocking anger. “Hold on… How are you going to put Secret of Mana on PC and just… sneak CHRONO TRIGGER onto the store later in the month? You finally put a legitimate, legal version on PC, and you sandwich it between a remake and a PC release of Final Fantasy XV? IT’S CHRONO TRIGGER!!!”
I had not enjoyed the game on the Super Nintendo. Back before digital marketplaces were common, I had resorted to an emulator to experience many games I could never find. At this point, I had never even seen a Chrono Trigger cartridge and if I had it would have been out of my price range. Similarly, I could not find the release for the PlayStation either. Atop all that, I was not so flush with funds as to purchase every system under the sun. This made legal acquisition untenable. I was elated to see it come to the PC but wondered why it would not have been advertised. And even though it is an older game, $15 for Chrono Trigger seemed really cheap. It seemed like there was a catch somewhere.
If you ask the community at large, the catch was that this version was released with a few problems. It was noticed right away that the graphics on this were, to say it politely, off center. Trees on the world map seemed to be uprooted, with the visuals looking like there were tree trunks rising above the forest. While I did not notice it myself, complaints also flowed freely in regards to how zoomed in the game was, and that the character sprites did not look correct.
It turns out that the version that was ported came from a more recent mobile version of Chrono Trigger. Within the Chrono Trigger community, it is the least favored version.
This caused me to look back on when I was first posting towards signing on as a Steam Curator. My review for the game Prototype caused some backlash. I rate it highly, a 7~9/10 considering for the story but could not recommend it on the platform as I cannot get it to play. I was told there were well-documented workarounds (none of which worked for me) and that I should ‘review a game based on its merits’.
And so, holding to my past stance, I considered all these points. Even though the community jeers, this version plays. From start to finish I had no problems with it running. I love Chrono Trigger but have not played a version at length since the SNES and I am completely happy with my experience. It IS Chrono Trigger.
Crono awakens to the sound of a pealing bell, signaling a call to the Millenial Fair, celebrating the longevity of the Guardia kingdom. Spurned on by his mother, he sets out to enjoy the day. Quickly, he comes into abrupt contact with a young girl who introduces herself as Marle. They set off to enjoy the Fair together, eventually making way to Crono’s friend Lucca as she demonstrates her teleporter.
A noted tinker, her device is a success, much to the surprise of the audience. Marle takes the second use of the machine, but something goes awry and she disappears, leaving only her pendant. Crono takes the jewelry up and recreates the accident to find Marle.
A small trek reveals a Guardia somewhat unfamiliar to Crono. He finds Marle, taken to the castle as it is believed she is the queen who recently disappeared. But soon after Crono meets Marle again, she fades entirely. Lucca catches up with a startling theory: They have traveled through time, and need to find the real queen lest Marle remains lost forever!
After a successful rescue, a stressful return home, and an eventful escape from the present-day castle, the trio of Crono, Lucca, and Marle find themselves stranded in a desolate future. The people there live in despair, the only world they have known subject to some great disaster. As the small band seeks a safe way back home, they come to learn the cause of this bleak future.
In 1999, a monster called Lavos would awake and lay waste to the planet. Armed with the confidence of being able to change the events in time, our small band set out to save the world.
I assume that some people are coming to this for the first time even though the game is so old. This reveals a bit more than I usually allow, but it gets to the heart of the tale.
To date, I say this game does more to show variation and player choice than most other titles manage even today. Sure, there are a lot of choices you make in modern games, but the consequences of those choices are negligible. Yes, Chrono Trigger has a narrative to follow, but at no point do you need to follow it strictly. I will detail that elsewhere.
The cast of Chrono Trigger are all memorable. They are distinct from each other as they are written and read, designed, and play. They each have time to shine, have back- and side- stories that flesh out their beings, and the quests normally provide boons that empower them.
Our (near) titular protagonist comes from a simpler time and is mute, being the typical Silent Protagonist. Even so, he comes off as being earnest and compelled to do good.
As the game proceeds, some characters are able to use magic. Crono has an affinity for Light(ning). Outside of this, he is clearly geared for offense.
Energetic and fun loving, Marle has a big heart. Some may call this meddlesome, but she holds such an overwhelming concern for others that it incites resolve from those that may stay on the fence.
Elementally, Marle makes use of Water but ordinarily in the form of Ice. While capable of healing, she leans towards offensive and battle buffs such as hastening characters’ turns.
While townsfolk look at her family questioningly, Lucca comes from a long line of smiths, craftsmen, and tinkerers. He intellect is quite literally ahead of its time, proved early on by being able to fashion ways through the timestream itself.
An expression of her determination, Lucca makes use of Fire in most all her attacks, magical and not.
A strangly noble (and bipedal, vocal) amphibian, Frog hails from the Middle Ages. His surprising appearance is surpassed only by his skill with a blade.
Like Marle, Frog’s elemental affinity is to Water, which is not so surprising. He is gentler and has the ability to heal the whole active party. This balances out his melee offensiveness nicely.
A resident of the desolate futurescape, model R-66Y Promoetheus is known as Robo in the protagonist group. He is literal and analytical. He is open to what cannot be computed and is a stalwart ally in all times.
As an artificial being Robo is incapable of using magic. However, he is effienct in that he can heal, attack with the rare Shadow element, or even go with Light(ning). His versatility can help keep the party balanced over longer battles.
When the hunt for Lavos turns primeval, the party meets the chieftain, Ayla. Noble before there was a word for it, she does what she thinks is best as a matter of course.
Born before humans realized magic, she is instead a physical powerhouse. Her physical attack potential is second to none. Notably, her Charm technique can convine enemies to foist over valuable items.
There is a character some would call hidden, one of immense power. The aide they provide is purely offensive. They are a go-to for all points on the elemental wheel, an empowered physical attacker, and valuable in nearly any setup.
Normally I do not discuss villains, antagonists, and bad guys in general in this segment, but Lavos is rather interesting.
Lavos is, to some degree, an ambient villain. It is there, lurking in the background at nearly all parts of the game. It is often alluded to, and yet you will come face-to-face with it more than once. You witness its destructive might first hand. If the story brings you to Lavos it is possible to best it then and there. But losing is often what needs to happen for the story to continue.
Additionally, Lavos is not necessarily malicious. It is a beast. It is following its nature. It did not choose to land on the protagonist planet specifically. But once here it goes about its cycle. It seems to directly influence the rapid growth of life to strengthen itself. But if it does this actively, it does so from deep near the core of the planet. It is a unique take on an antagonist, a true Force of Nature, that I am hard pressed to say I have seen the like of.
The ability to make changes to the point of spiting Fate itself rings supreme in this game. While the story is straightforward as you go from era to era, the sidequests often call for decisions to be made sympathetically.
A good example of this is a quest to reforest a desert. The effects of this will be seen in the Present, but call for you to slay powerful beasts in the Middle Ages. But for their den to be accessible, you need to encourage a woman in Antiquity to grow a plant she was ordered to destroy. And if you do this, the people in the Future, taken by despair as they are, hold onto the value of plants and can be seen with significantly more saplings than they had on your original visit.
The whole point of the game is to see a disaster and stop it. The Day of Lavos happens generations after Crono, Lucca, and Marle would live and die. They could do nothing and live happily. Rather they do what they can to save the world before it is threatened.
Mechanics (Controls and Handling)
Akin to Secret of Mana, the field controls for Chrono Trigger are very simple. There is no platforming, very little in the way of puzzle solving. Most of Chrono Trigger is a straight run.
The battle controls utilize Square’s Active Time Battle system. While only a little better than traditional turn-based combat, it allows for some variation in combat.
Each party member uses Techs, short for techniques. These are purely physical as well as magical arts. The majority of your party are able to combine their Techs in Double and Triple levels. For the Triple, most of the synchronisity comes from having Crono in the party, or by using special items.
I have loved, loved, loved this method, and I hate that it is not included more frequently in games. Most of the healers in the game can have more powerful Double Techs. While you need to make sure they are both ready to act, this often costs no more than the Techs used individually. As such, for the same resources, you can heal less frequently.
After the Nintendo DS version came out, play styles were expanded. To my memory, many of the characters played the same. There was some strategy involved with Special and Ultimate weapons. There is a wider variety to choose from. Do you stick with Robo’s old Crisis Arm, letting HP dictate for attack power or let him take a page from Ayla’s playbook with the new (to me) Apocolypse Arm, letting critical hits land for 9,999 HP of damage? Do you let Marle have a chance to get critical hits, or always do 777 points of damage even in the face of special defenses?
The stats top out at different points. Stats that are maxed out are represented by two stars. Sometimes this is 100. For Speed, this is 16. Even after hitting level 99, not all of your stats will be topped out. In most cases, your weapons and armor will round out what is needed. But for your “vital” stats of Strength, Magic, and Speed you can find Capsules (formerly Tabs) to increase each of these by one. Many can be found laying around the world. More can be Charmed mainly from bossess and other one-time enemies. But each New Game+ allows them to be recollected anew, eventuanlly ensuring every character can have at least these three stats maxed out.
At present, the only major problems I found were some issues with the text and, if you count this, the community complaints regarding graphics. The former made some cutscenes impossible to follow. For the most part this is not a problem. However, when this occurs during an Ending, it is more noticable.
The text would be revealed until perhaps halfway through segments of text, and then stop. Occasionally I could wait, and other times I had to manually advance the text.
As of this writing, Square-Enix put out a patch that addressed some of the more easily correctable concerns. There are now Original and High-Resolution character options. There are plans to address text issues as well as user interface upgrades to bring it more in line with pre-mobile iterations of Chrono Trigger.
I have played a lot of the games from this library. And recently Square-Enix has upset me. However, hope is being restored slowly but surely. The unveiling of Chrono Trigger on PC may have been a fumble. But Square-Enix is bringing it in line with expectations, lifting it to the bar expected. While I will likely not return to it for awhile, I look forward to coming back to a wholly nostalgic Chrono Trigger one day in the future.
If I focus and think back, I am fairly certain that Chrono Trigger was the measuring stick of replay value for a long time.
It was the first game that I knew of that offered New Game Plus. This was huge in my mind. Having played in arcades and games in which you started over if you died, saved games were a welcome step. In RPGs, the grind was “part of the fun”. So for a game to then encourage continued play and negate that grind was interesting to me.
By allowing you to keep your levels, your gear, pretty much everything except key items and money, it allowed you to put the game down, come back to it later and just enjoy the story. It makes beating Lavos at different junctures enjoyable without being grueling.
By the end of my first playthrough, there was very little that posed a threat to my party. The bonuses on my armor and accessories made me sturdy. My “Endings Run” of the game was all the easier because of my increased longevity.
For the perfectionists, additional playthroughs will allow you to net additional instances of the best gear, fortifying your party that much more. The inclusion of the Dimensional Vortices means using fewer Tabs/Capsules to max out stats. Now that it is on my computer I can revisit Chrono Trigger anytime and will be able to keep improving my characters all the while.
If you, like me, know Chrono Trigger from earlier ages and have not played it since there is new content to enjoy.
First, there are a pair of areas known as “The Lost Sanctum”. The same village can be accessed in two time periods. Side quests completed here can give access to new weapons, armors, and accessories. Some of these are swiftly replaced even by items found in the original game. These “lesser pieces” are excellent in bridging any gulfs you may find in trying to be tough enough to take on the traditional sidequests (Rainbow Shell, Geno Dome, etc.) Some are the best in their class and makes The Lost Sanctum worth replaying for the first several playthroughs.
Next, come the aforementioned Dimensional Vortex areas. Many disparate areas are strung together at random in the first half, with some original areas and previously unused music coming up in the second. Three time periods (those without Lost Sanctum entryways) can lead you into these areas.
What makes the items and accessories from the new content so potent are not the individual enchantments themselves, but that there are often two of them per item. For instance, take a look at Ayla.
In the original version of the game, choices would have been required. Do you opt for negative status immunity or swifter turns? The new Angel’s Tiara grants both. Begining at Level 96 maximum level Ayla’s power comes from critical hits. The Valor Crest, which is exclusive to her, combines critical hit rate with counter attacks. The latter is not the best in the game, granting a 50% Counter Attack rate rather than 80%, but the fact that this one accessory grants both is invaluable. The Regal Gown mitigates damage to such a high degree that only specific HP reduction attacks cause any worry. Another item worth mention is the Champions’ Badge, a better form of Frog’s Hero Badge. It retains the Masamune critical hit rate but simultaneously reduces MP consumption. This makes his Heal spell cost only 1 MP. It may not be the most powerful option, but it can be used every turn.
These items made my trip back through the game easier than ever. I wholly expected to need to make it through two playthroughs before being able to go about an Endings Run. Rather than that, I was able to do so immediately upon New Game Plus.
I am assuming that the Arena of the Ages was not included due to architectural reasons connected to the Nintendo DS of some variety.
Chrono Trigger is one of the most beloved titles in video games. Many people who grew up with the medium remember it fondly and point to this as an example of the scope of stories that can be told, even when the technical means were limited. Accessibility made it difficult to share with others legally.
I do not see Square-Enix refraining from mining nostalgic titles. It is lucrative. But I do hope they mind the feedback they are given. “We will pay anew for the games we love… IF you release them correctly.”
Square-Enix, you have a library of titles that people love. Take the time to format them correctly. Make sure it can get good word of mouth, and you will have a happy fan base.