Chrono Trigger for the PlayStation might not be the best way to experience the game, but despite some technical issues, this is still a fantastic JRPG.
Even if you play a lot of games, some of them are easy to miss. Time constraints, the responsibilities of the adult world and not being aware of the existence of a specific title means that you can spend a lot of time without playing it, even if random people on forums keep bringing it up. Chrono Trigger isn’t a hidden gem (in fact, quite the contrary,) but if you, like me, managed to stay this long without having played it, I’ll gladly assume the role of the random person from the internet and recommending it to you. No fan of the role-playing game genre should miss Chrono Trigger, but unfortunately, there are better versions to play than the PlayStation one.
In Chrono Trigger, you’re put in the shoes of Chrono, a mute teenager who has the difficult task of saving the world. Soon enough, you’ll meet all the other members of your party, including the local inventor Lucca, the princess of the kingdom Marle, a frog called Frog, a futuristic robot who’s searching for his past called Robo and cave-woman Ayla. The story is not that important, but what you should know about it is that once you meet every member of your party, you’ll be able to travel through time and this creative mechanic is put to great use, since you’ll see the same environments, but in different time-lines.
Even if the story follows some cliches, the gameplay’s refreshingly unique and it’s easy to see why. You still fight enemies to level up, but there are some surprises here and there. The game uses the Active Time Battle system from Final Fantasy IV, but apart from being able to perform regular attacks and summoning flashy spells, you can also team up with other party members to perform special attacks called Tech. These vary from character to character and you unlock more attacks as you level up and naturally, Tech are much more powerful than regular attacks.
Some special attacks have a specific range which means that if you pay close attention to the position of the enemy and attack at the precise time, you can strike several enemies at the same time. For instance, some attacks damage anything standing in a straight line which you can use to your advantage. Apart from regular and Tech attacks, you have spells that consume mana and while there’s nothing peculiar about them, you can combine them with the other attacks in creative new ways, especially during boss fights.
Something that caught everyone by surprise back when Chrono Trigger came out was the lack of random encounters. Every enemy you fight in this game is visible in the environments and the world map doesn’t have any enemies which means you can explore it without having to run into foes. The battle system is pretty simple and whenever you encounter enemies in the battlefield, a fight will take place right there and since enemies are visible, you can run into them on purpose or dodge them if you want to.
The visual aspect is also worth mentioning and will probably catch the attention of anime fans. The characters were designed by Akira Toriyama (of Dragon Ball and Dragon Quest fame) and they fit this fantasy universe quite nicely. Additionally, the PlayStation version of the game features some attractive animated cutcenes and even if they don’t have any voice acting, they still look terrific even in this day and age.
Unfortunately, the PlayStation version of Chrono Trigger isn’t the best way to experience this game. For starters, it’s plagued with long loading times. Whenever you open the menu to manage items, switch characters or when you want to check out your inventory, the game loads for a long time and this is more than noticeable. There are also some significant pauses after cutscenes, special events or fights which definitely hurts the experience. You might get used to this after a while, but that doesn’t make it more acceptable.
In the end, fans of old-school JRPGs will have a terrific time with Chrono Trigger. This is the kind of game you can play for 20 hours just to complete the story or hundreds of hours if you want to do all the optional missions or extra content found in the new game plus mode. The sheer number of side-quests is unbelievable and dedicated players will have a lot of fun with those. Like most classic RPGs, Chrono Trigger is sometimes repetitive, long and plagued with cliches, but the game also feels fresh and unique in terms of gameplay, visuals and music and that’s worth praising.