Chrono Trigger DS

Before the merger of Square and Enix, the creators of the Final Fantasy series, including Hironobu Sakaguchi, and some of the creators of the Dragon Quest franchise, including scenario writer Yuji Horii and character designer Akira Toriyama, banded to produce an RPG called Chrono Trigger back in 1995. In 2001, the game received a port to the Sony PlayStation, and in 2008 a port to the Nintendo DS with an updated localization and some new features. Chrono Trigger DS proves to be the definitive version of the game.

While some have praised it as revolutionary in its time, Chrono Trigger was in actuality an amalgamation of elements taken from prior RPGs. Chrono Trigger, firstly, took a hint from EarthBound and featured visible monsters in dungeons (although the various overworlds are encounter-free), some of which are easily avoidable, but many of which seem mandatory. Upon triggering an encounter, the player's party of three active characters squares off against a number of enemies with a variation of the Active Time Battle System featured in the Final Fantasy series beginning with that franchise's fourth installment.

Once a character's active time gauge fills completely, three options become available: normally attacking the enemy, using an MP consuming Tech, or using an item. The player can also hold the L and R buttons to attempt escape akin to many Final Fantasies, though odds are the player will want to duke it out with the enemy. Winning a battle nets all participating characters experience for occasional level-ups, Tech Points so they can gradually learn new Techs, money to buy equipment and items from shops, and the occasional item. As characters' Techs advance, they become able to use Combo Techs that consume two or three characters' MP (Chrono Trigger was not the first RPG with combo attacks, that honor going to Phantasy Star IV).

The battle system in Chrono Trigger works decently for the most part, with fights moving at a decent pace, albeit somewhat marred by the fact that all characters' gauges stop whenever enemies attack, not to mention the inability to swap characters in the middle of battle. There are also some Techs based on a character's current location on the battlefield but no means to move them around to achieve better results for said skills. The various forms of the final boss can also be somewhat difficult, although the last few battles are certainly manageable with a little grinding and doing late-game quests.

Chrono Trigger was not the first RPG to feature time-travel and exploration across various eras, either, that honor going to SaGa 3 / Final Fantasy Legend III. New features to the DS port include a monster arena minigame where the player can raise a creature by sending it to various eras to increase its stats and have it fight one-on-one against another monster for rewards, and minimaps on the bottom screen for dungeons. Control in other areas is adequate for the most part, with easy menus and shopping, in spite of some occasional Guide Dang It moments and the fact that the game retains the dated JRPG convention of save points, with no quick-delete-save.

There weren't many games prior to Chrono Trigger that featured multiple endings (perhaps Castlevania II: Simon's Quest), but Chrono Trigger does certainly deserve some credit for having more different endings than any other game in its time. The main plot itself is solid for the most part, with a reasonably-developed cast of characters (except Crono, a classic silent protagonist), and the clear goal in mind of stopping Lavos from wreaking havoc upon the world in the year 1999 A.D. It is also somewhat odd that the eras use B.C. and A.D. in a Christ-less universe (Chrono Trigger could have used B.C.E and C.E. instead), but the story nonetheless helps the game far more than hurts.

The DS version also features a largely-new translation that nonetheless preserves some parts of Ted Woolsey's script for the Super NES and PlayStation version, which is mostly solid, with things such as Frog's Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe excised from the dialogue. The localization steam still keeps the change of Gradleon / Grad and Leon to Masamune / Masa and Mune, with Masamune being a more appropriate name for Crono's katanas rather than one of Frog's normal swords. Still, like the plot, its translation helps the game far more than hurts.

Chrono Trigger for the Nintendo DS retains Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu's soundtrack, which still sounds great even today, although there are a few areas without music. The graphics have aged fairly well, still looking good even on the Nintendo DS, with the DS version including the anime cutscenes added to the PlayStation port, although there are some minor ways they could have been better, for instance, by having characters face diagonally instead of just up, down, left, and right. Ultimately, an excellent-sounding and looking game.

Finally, the game is about twenty hours long with sidequests, although things such as the extra dungeon and the New Game+ (indeed an innovation) can definitely stretch out playing time.

Ultimately, Chrono Trigger's port to the Nintendo DS was largely a solid translation, in spite of some minor faults retained from prior versions of the game. Even so, the game remains a solid, if somewhat derivative, experience, and is still superior to even its own sequel Chrono Cross. With the creators of the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy series now under the same banner, moreover, one would think that a revival of the franchise would come about, and with this port showing that Square-Enix still somewhat cares about the series, a new installment might definitely be a possibility.

The Good:
+Solid battle system and control.
+Excellent plot with multiple endings.
+Great music and graphics.

The Bad:
-Some things hard to find without a guide.
-Not as innovative as many think.
-The sequel isn't as good.

The Bottom Line:
Still one of the best JRPGs.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo DS
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Difficulty: Moderate
Playing Time: About 20 Hours

Overall: 9/10

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