Review: Chrono Trigger (SNES)

One of the truly greatest RPG experiences ever created

Soon after Chrono Trigger appeared on the Super Nintendo in 1995, it quickly became regarded as one of the most unique and impressive RPG releases to hit the system. Not only was it developed by a who's who of some of the greatest role-playing designers in the industry, the finished product showed a level of polish that few fans of the genre had seen. While it came late in the life cycle of the console, it's gone on to become one of the most collectible RPGs available for the system and a game that still draws rave reviews from role-playing fans even today, almost fifteen years later. Now, after a rather significant wait, the epic RPG has finally arrived on the Virtual Console service.

In many ways, Chrono Trigger plays much like the 16-bit Final Fantasy releases, namely in how your party travels around a world map. While you won't encounter enemies while on the map itself, once you enter many of the areas, you'll quickly find enemies bad guys in your way. You'll also find that time travel plays a big role in the game as well, and it's one of the many things that gives it its unique narrative flow. But for all of the travelling you'll do, it's the battles that make up the meat of the experience and offer quite a unique spin on the turn-based battle system used in the Final Fantasy series.

Chrono Trigger takes the ATB, or "Active-Time-Battle" system from Final Fantasy VI and improves upon it even further. Now you can perform attacks called Techs, basically specialised moves that can dish out powerful hits on enemies. You can also team up with a party member or two and put these powers together to perform Double and Triple Techs for really devastating results. These very much come in handy with some of the stronger enemies and bosses you'll face throughout the game. As with Final Fantasy VI, magic also plays a key role in Chrono Trigger, as find out soon after beginning.

One of the main unique points in Chrono Trigger is that you can now see your enemies before they attack – if you want to fight, you can, and if you'd rather not and they don't sneak up on you, you can always avoid them. Keep in mind, though, that fighting enemies is an important part of the experience as you need to do so to level up your characters and earn money to buy stronger weapons and armour. The inclusion of techs and the ability to see your enemies really adds an entirely new level to an already impressive Final Fantasy-style gameplay system. Couple these features with the ability to move back and forth through time, not to mention thirteen different endings, and you have about as much gameplay variety as can be squeezed onto a single Super Nintendo cartridge.

Graphically, Chrono Trigger is among the best-looking games ever made for the 16-bit console. Not only does it sport some of the best looking Mode-7 effects seen on the system, it also has a level of colour and detail that's just not present in any other SNES RPG. Ever single area and time period has its own distinct trademark look to it, and it really gives the game a feeling of being even bigger than it already is. Impressive details abound in every single area; even the characters offer some extremely remarkable animations that make them much more expressive than the standard for 16-bit titles. Even holding its own next to games with rendered graphics, Chrono Trigger is easily one of the best looking releases for the system and a good example of just how graphically impressive the Super Nintendo system can be.

Square has always had a knack for bringing some of the best soundtracks to their RPGs, but they've truly outdone themselves with the score in Chrono Trigger. It has some of the most beautiful music you'll ever hear in a video game. From the softer ballads to the up-tempo battle tunes, there's just so much aural intensity throughout the game. Every piece composed for each area carries a distinctive mood that always seems to fit the scene perfectly. In truth, there's not a mediocre track included, and you'll soon find that the music just keeps getting better and better the further into the game you progress. It's easily one of the most amazing audio performances ever created for a video game and a fitting addition to such a well-rounded package.

Conclusion

Chrono Trigger is, and will always be, one of the most unforgettable RPG experiences ever to grace a video game console. Even the first time you play it, you'll immediately know that you're experiencing something special that you're not likely to forget. Not only is every area top tier, it brings so many new ideas to the table that give it its unique look and feel. It might have been a long wait for the Virtual Console release, but it was certainly well worth it, and yet another testament to how truly remarkable a system the Super Nintendo console turned out to be for RPG fans.