Chrono Trigger DS
by evilpaul

Chrono Trigger. What is there to say about Chrono Trigger that hasn't...I'm kidding. Like many gamers approaching their thirties Chrono Trigger touched me deeply at an impressionable age. Now with a Nintendo DS release I can touch it back. On the touch screen! Get it? I have no idea where this pointless innuendo is going, so... anyway. I own and played about twenty minutes of the Playstation Final Fantasy Chronicles rerelease of Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV, but couldn't get into either. The several second loading time to get into the menu or transition from walking in the field to starting a battle had a lot to do with it. Did the new anime cut scenes make Chrono Trigger more amazing than the Super Nintendo original? I figured I'd never know.

But Square-Enix realized they hadn't rereleased it lately, so we got a 2009 rerelease and I finally got to find out. So going from the SNES version with no added anime cut scenes, the old Woolsey translation, and a complete lack of Pokemon rip-off mini-games to a dual screen remake with all those things how does Chrono Trigger DS pan out? Surprisingly well.


The most obvious change with the DS version is that the game spans two screens. Given the choice between "Classic" which looks the same as the SNES version and DS Mode" which is less cluttered and more accessible the choice is easy for the latter. It's not really an improvement to the core game so much as it is just making the game more suited to the platform. DS Mode adds a few control options. You can do the "touch the corner of the screen to walk in that direction" thing that DS RPGs all seem to think is a really good idea despite being slower and less accurate than just using the D-pad. A useful touch screen addition is being able to jump directly into the part of the menu you want because there's buttons for it.

The anime cut scenes were the selling point for Final Fantasy Chronicles for fans of the SNES releases and the loading times were the deal breaker for most people who tried to play it. The DS keeps the former and, being on a cartridge again, dumps the latter. Unfortunately, the cut scenes really aren't very good. The video quality is noticeably pixilated with plenty of video compression artifacts. The MJPEG on the PSX version probably has the same problems, but this is 2010 now, not 2001, so I'm allowed to bitch about it. Quality complaints aside they still aren't very good. Crono's arms are grotesquely muscular. It's seriously off-putting. I know he kills giant shit with a sword, but those stills of character art depicting scenes from the game don't look like that. Why the hell do the anime cut scenes have to? Doing something like animating those existing stills Adobe Flash movie-style would have been better looking and less likely to make me throw up in my mouth. The new cut scenes also redundant. In the scene were Frog uses the Masamune to open the path to Magus's castle you watch a lame anime cut scene and then see the same thing done in-game. The in-game version more clearly conveyed what happened and looked better. The in-game version also didn't have the terrible Crono arms. Let us never speak of Crono's terrible, terrible, anime cut scene arms ever again.

The new translation really doesn't stick out as being much different to me than the original. At least as I remember it. The only real complaint I have reading the new version is I don't like the font they used. It's like seeing a low budget, poorly translated SNES game's official release with single pixel thick anemic-looking font that some intern who speaks no English made *cough*FINAL FANTASY II*cough* versus a fan re-translated patch where they hacked the font stuff using computer magic and implemented an actual typeface like one you might find in print somewhere. That might be a little harsh, and there's possibly some screen resolution explanation, but there's no reason they couldn't try a little harder making pretty text in a game that involves reading a lot of it.

The DS rerelease also recons adds a new ending that ties Chrono Trigger in with its much maligned sibling, Chrono Cross. I didn't get it, but I did watch it on Youtube. Suffice it to say if you don't hate Cross (I don't) you'll probably think it's OK. If you hate Cross your Nerd Rage Meter will hit eleven. If you were disappointed you couldn't fight Lavos with Magus solo it fixes that. I'm content to pretend it doesn't exist.

There's also a Coliseum and Monster Raising mechanic new to the DS release. It's tedious and boring and I see no reason to bother with it. It even comes with a weird warning about it not saving properly.

The Cheese!

As I hadn't played Chrono Trigger in years I of course had to see how I could break the game or how much of the ludicrously overpowered endgame stuff it had going on. For the most part the individual character's Techs seem pretty balanced. Except Luminaire. Which I assume looks like FFVI's Ultima on purpose. There is a distinct lack of a Single Tech full-party Cure of useful potency for much of the game. But being so focused on combination attacks, that seems to be deliberate. (There's plenty of Double Techs that fill that apparent hole, hi2u Cure 2.)

The game dangles a bunch of way more powerful weapons and armor than you currently possess at ridiculous prices two or three times. Given the New Game+ replay carryover they only matter the first time through, but they're still surprisingly easy to get. Crono can get a stupid strong sword spamming Gato for silver points at the beginning of the game. (It's pretty time-consuming and not at all necessary.) Later on in 1000 A.D. at the village of demi-humans/monsters/whatever a shop offers great weapons and armor. But each cost something like twenty times more gold each than I had at the time from just normally playing without grinding. A quick trip to 65 million B.C. and selling off some weapons and armor you can get quick and easy by trading Feather, Fangs, Horns, etc, and I had some crazy strong weapons and armor from the Kill All Humans village that lasted most of the way to the end of the game. The Counterattack accessories also provide great cheesing potential. By the end of the game Crono can have a 70% Critical Hit Rate sword and a 80% Counterattack rate. Using Math and Science that means he rapes the hell out of any monster that touches him with crits more than half the time. And monster abilities that don't do damage, like Lavos's "changing time eras" thing, triggers it. Counters also don't activate the defense up abilities various monsters have. Counter is just delightfully cheesy and something that clearly wasn't tested very well.

The Verdict

It's interesting going back to Chrono Trigger after all these years. Being older and (allegedly) wiser and having played more games by the "Dream Team" members the elements each member contributed are much more noticeable. There's the Dragon Quest-like vignettes as you go from era to era and even village to village within eras. Villagers offer, "Air Slash stops Hurricane Wing!" advice, and it... somehow makes sense. The "Character theme"/leitmotif music from 16-bit Final Fantasy is used to great effect. All the pieces really fit. My biggest complaint would be that it feels fetch questy at times, but that could just be Whiny Gamer Fatigue setting in after playing for far too many hours straight.

If one entirely ignores the Monster Raising/Coliseum stuff I'd say Chrono Trigger DS is the definitive version of the game to play and own.


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