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Mini-Review: Chrono Trigger

Chrono TriggerThis article was originally published at on December 16, 2008. 

Once upon a time (say, 13 years ago) famed RPG powerhouse Square released Chrono Trigger for the Super NES. The game's engrossing tale of a spiky-haired young man, his platonic inventor friend, a rebellious tomboy princess, a humanoid frog knight, a clunky robot from the dim future, and a spunky cavegirl with reptile issues that team up to travel across time to defeat an evil planet-devouring parasite from outer space became a 16-bit classic. The game has commanded high prices on the used game market and an ever-growing legion of loyal fans over the years, and now the adventure is back for the Nintendo DS for a whole new generation of fans to discover (and for the rest of us to enjoy all over again).

The new DS version of Chrono Trigger retains the look and feel of the original Super NES edition of the game. There are no 3D revamps or updates here, but there are a few changes that enhance the experience. Hero Crono and friends now run by default instead of slowly walking from place to place. The short animated clips from the Sony PlayStation re-release of the game are included here and the script has been reworked slightly. The original censorship from the 16-bit era is gone, meaning that the Mystics are now known as the Fiends, the main characters no longer get drunk on "soda," and other such things.

Chrono TriggerThe DS's dual screens are put to good use here. Players can choose to play in Classic Mode or DS Mode. Classic Mode is what you'd expect; the game plays out with the same interface as seen in the original game. DS Mode assigns menu functions to the touchscreen, meaning that it's possible to jump right into, say, the equipment screen or the technique screen without having to pass through other menus. Certain status information and battle commands appear on the touchscreen during fights, leaving the top screen uncluttered just for the action.

Fans of the original Chrono Trigger who think they've seen it all by now will have some new aspects of the game to explore, too. A new side-game mode, the Arena, allows players to adopt monsters and train them to fight other monsters against friends with local wireless multiplayer in an experience that is part Pokemon and part Sonic Adventure Chao Garden. This mode is completely optional and has no bearing on the game's storyline, so if you're someone like myself who really never got into the whole virtual pet monster skirmish thing, feel free to pass on the opportunity and instead focus your energies on the game's new in-story dungeons, the Dimensional Vortex and the Lost Sanctum, and all of the slayable beasts within. There's also an assortment of unlockable character artwork and other goodies to check out, but it's difficult to appreciate the high quality of the material on the small DS screen.

Chrono TriggerMaybe my years of replaying Chrono Trigger now and then are to blame here, but it seems as if the game is easier in this iteration. I could just have the battle strategy down to a science at this point, but I've been able to plow through most of the game without any trouble. I remember the solutions to most of the puzzles, sure, but it's the fights themselves that are over much faster than I remember. I made it all the way to Death Peak late in the game before my party died for the first time, something that is completely unheard of whenever I replay the old Super NES version of the game. Do the heroes do more damage this time around? Are the monsters weaker? Whatever the case, something's up here that will make the game a quick play for those familiar with the game's sequence of events. Some may consider that a plus, however, as now it's even easier to finish the game once and unlock the New Game+ option needed to explore the game's thirteen different endings (one of which is exclusive to the DS version of the game).

After all these years Chrono Trigger still stands as one of the best RPGs ever made. The memorable characters, time-twisting storyline, and catchy music show why this game has been held up high by its fans. The new additions and enhancements are just the icing on an already tasty cake, but if you'd rather skip that material and play the game as it was originally presented, feel free. Consider this one highly recommended. Chrono Trigger does not disappoint.