Review: Chrono Trigger DS

Time capsule
By RYAN STEWART  |  January 13, 2009
4.0 4.0 Stars

A CLASSIC IS A CLASSIC: Yes, Chrono Trigger is an oldie — but how many games that have come out since 1995 are this good?

Chrono Trigger | For the Nintendo DS | Rated E 10+ for Everybody | Developed by Square and TOSE | Published by Square Enix
In keeping with the time-bending theme of Chrono Trigger, which has been newly re-released for the Nintendo DS, the following are snapshots of a gamer at three different points in his life: 1995, 2001, and 2009.

1995 | "Whereas a lot of my fellow gamers have moved on to the PlayStation, my inability to afford one may be a blessing in disguise: I got this great game called Chrono Trigger. It's from Squaresoft, the company responsible for the Final Fantasy series, and like those games, Chrono Trigger is an epic tale filled with memorable characters, like a free-spirited girl hiding her royal heritage, a sentient robot, a bumbling scientist, a man trapped in the body of a frog, and a primitive catlike cavewoman. The story requires its protagonists to travel through different eras, like pre-history, the Middle Ages, and a post-apocalyptic future. Plus for battles you get all these dual and triple techniques that only certain characters can use together, so there's a lot of strategy involved.

"The time-travel thing might seem like a gimmick, but it's implemented well. As you jump from era to era, you get to see how the environment and even some characters have changed over the course of thousands of years, and the game takes advantage of the narrative possibilities that result when characters from different æons come together. The designers have also included about a dozen different possible endings, so people can play it over and over, something I can think of only a few other games having done. I'll be playing this one for a while, I bet."

2001 | "They've re-released Chrono Trigger for PlayStation and added these cool anime-style cutscenes. That's amazing. The cartoonish æsthetic still looks better than what we get from games that came out a couple of years ago. And there's the emotional resonance of watching the quirky inventor Lucca gain confidence in her talents, the brave hunter gatherer Ayla struggle to protect her tribe from the encroaching Lizard-People, and Glenn the knight fulfill his destiny, even if he's been transformed into a frog. There's a sobering vision of the future where people are just hoping to hang on a little longer without food; you watch helplessly as the event that triggers the planet's doom unfolds. Your hero, Crono, may be the strong silent type, but the story takes him to some places where few other games will go these days. This Chrono Trigger is surprisingly melancholy and tragic, and there are endings that don't conclude on a high note. It's a bold story, and still one of the best games I've played."

2009 | "This new remake of Chrono Trigger is the exact same game I remember playing and loving all those years ago. They've even kept those cutscenes from the PlayStation version. They claim to have updated some translations, but I don't remember the original dialogue well enough to say. The combat is still enjoyably simple and the story still resonates. This game was years ahead of its time, and it's held up better than most of its contemporaries. Square may get a lot of flak for remaking its own games, but not much has come out since Chrono Trigger's original release that's this good. An unaltered classic is still a classic, and when a game is this fun, engrossing, and moving, I will play it every time I have an opportunity."

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