When it comes to Chrono Trigger gamers usually fall into one of three groups: they cherish it, wish they played it, or have no interest in RPGs whatsoever. Unlike other RPGs Chrono Trigger isn’t bogged down with a heavy story rife with political intrigue and war. The plot in Chrono Trigger is light. Crono, the silent hero, stumbles upon his quest to save the world bit by bit first by saving Marle, the Princess of Guardia who gets warped back into the middle ages. In the opening act you learn techniques by earning TP from non random fights with Imps and skeletons. It’s been awhile since I fired up Chrono Trigger outside of my New Game + data and veterans might be surprised how weak Crono is at the beginning of the game. Chrono Trigger isn’t really challenging, but replaying the game feels more rewarding when you actually have to fight instead of blasting enemies with powerful double techs like Frog Flare. After you save the future you still unlock New Game + which is the key to more surprises like secret endings and a developers room. Yes, Chrono Trigger is still as good as it was thirteen years ago and it’s still a blast to play.
Square Enix carefully brought Chrono Trigger to the DS and it mostly feels just like the Super Nintendo version. This is something Square Enix should be proud of since Chrono Trigger on the DS doesn’t seem to lose anything in the hardware transition like the series of Final Fantasy Advance ports on the GBA. As another bonus Square Enix included the anime movies from the slowdown ridden PsOne version and slightly cleaned up the translation too. However, the translation isn’t notably improved like Dragon Quest IV or Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions. It’s mostly the same script with a touch ups rather than a rewrite. Perhaps Square Enix didn’t want to fix what wasn’t broken.
However well crafted Chrono Trigger is on the DS, it’s still a port. I liked having all of the commands on the touch screen since it makes the top screen less cluttered, but the amount of new content is disappointing. The Arena of Ages feels tacked on and boring to play with. The problem with the monster arena is it’s mostly passive. You don’t have to actively raise or care for your monster and during battle you just suggest commands. I spent some time battling monsters and rising to the ranks just to get new items, but you don’t need these to complete the game either. Getting too many items early on makes Chrono Trigger way too easy and broke the level of difficulty. Beginners may appreciate this, but Chono Trigger is a pretty easy RPG without monster battles. Fortunately, you can completely ignore the monster arena all together which is good since it feels tacked on. Square Enix could have done a lot with the DS’ wireless communication too. I would have been happy with multiplayer bike races or a server where players could upload ghost data and battle parallel Cronos. But watching two monsters fight just didn’t cut it especially since it was just done before with the DS remake of Final Fantasy IV.
The Lost Sanctum is empirically a series of fetch quests with one neat boss to fight. Right before the finale Chrono Trigger has a lot of fetch quests so Square Enix could have neatly put the Lost Sanctum into the game without players minding them much. But you have to climb the same mountain Lost Sanctum over and over again which makes beating the Lost Sanctum feel like a chore. The only worthy gameplay addition is the Dimensional Vortex which leads up to a new ending. Out of all the new content Chrono Trigger fans will probably appreciate the DVD extra-like bonuses the most. You can browse through concept art, listen to the soundtrack, and cycle through a gallery of techniques.
These new features don’t take away from the overall Chrono Trigger experience so if you never played Chrono Trigger before the DS version is the one to get. And if you never played Chrono Trigger you should get it unless the thought of playing an RPG makes you queasy. On the other hand lets say you own the Super Nintendo release and maybe even purchased Final Fantasy Chronicles the amount of extra content doesn’t justify spending an extra $39.99 on Chrono Trigger. While I love Chrono Trigger and enjoyed playing it on the go the game I’m torn on the price. Chrono Trigger DS would be more appetizing at $29.99. Sure the DS version is better than the Super Nintendo release and it costs way less than buying a copy of the original over eBay prices. But, Chrono Trigger DS isn’t a full remake like Final Fantasy IV and its not like there is an RPG drought on the DS.
Images courtesy of Square Enix.