Monday, August 2, 2010

Retro Monday - Chrono Trigger

Most gamers out there have played at least one JRPG at some point in time. Usually mentioning an RPG gets an immediate "OMG FINAL FANTASY VII IS TEH BESTEST" response and that usually results in my ears bleeding while I have a knee-jerk reaction of imbedding my foot in someone's rectum. These things happen. Regardless of which older JRPGs you've played, most of the time it's the same thing in every playthrough no matter what you do outside of getting a character's ultimate weapon or finding a picture of the main characters in swimsuits (oops, I spoiled Lunar 2's ONLY side-quest). One retro RPG, however, dared to give you nearly a dozen different endings, lots of extra quests, mess with time, and even go on to complete the game without your main character. That game, of course, is none other than the legendary Chrono Trigger.

Chrono Trigger came out on the SNES in 1995. Back then was a good time for JRPGs on the 16 bit systems. Final Fantasy IV and VI were on the SNES during that era, of course, and Working Designs was bringing over the Lunar series among other Sega CD gems, but even the lesser-known RPGs were filled to the brim with quality ideas. This was also a time when Squaresoft and Enix were two different and competing companies, with Enix putting out a couple of my favorite games at that time, Robotrek and Illusion of Gaia. Back to Chrono Trigger, though. Chrono was a story of a young boy that, like most RPG characters, got sucked into events way over his head. It started off with a chance meeting with disguised royalty while visiting his geeky friend's fair exhibit and ended up with a journey through time and space to save the world from destruction at the hands of a parasitic alien. When I look back at the synopsis, yeah, it does sound that corny. But it's also a story of development and probably my favorite JRPG storyline of all time.

A few days ago I decided to start playing through the game again and, even though it's definitely got that boring JRPG feel that I've slightly grown out of, the game remains one of the more consistantly fun titles I've played from that genre. It's one of those RPGs that doesn't take itself TOO seriously (though more seriously than, say, Breath of Death VII on XBLIG) with its over the top sci-fi/fantasy plotline. Where it does tug a bit on the heartstrings, though, is the development of the non-Crono characters (silent heroes annoy me) and relationships. Frog's dilemma of revenge or forgiveness with Magus, the temporarily secret identity of Merle, and the way that the main three characters (Crono, Merle, Lucca) develop a strong friendship to name a few things are the moments that people carry with them long after they finish this game. Few other RPGs out there develop the cast as well as Chrono, due to either having such a shallow cast and quest or, with many games, having too many characters. Final Fantasy VI, for example, had 14 characters, and really you didn't care about anyone that wasn't Terra, Locke, or Celes. The mere cast of 7 in Chrono (and one of those being completely optional) forces you to pay close attention to and, in the end, love each of them.

When I play the game now I know I can't help but look at it through the eyes of that 13 year old I was when I first rented it. Even still, there's something about Chrono Trigger that keeps it as my favorite RPG of all time. Maybe it's the amazing soundtrack by Yasunori Mitsuda. Maybe it's the multiple endings. Heck, it could very well be the simple idea that I, like everyone, wish I could travel through time. I could have told you any of those answers a week ago and any would have been right. Now, I really do think it's the attachment to everyone in that game; something that makes me sad knowing events from Chrono Cross.

These days your only, er, legitimate hope of playing Chrono Trigger is with the DS remake or by hunting down the SNES and/or PS1 versions of the game. I recommend the former as the PS1's loading times were horrible and the SNES memory battery is possibly long dead. All this could be fixed if SquareEnix simply released the game on the Virtual Console (I'd gladly pay $10 bucks), but we all know Nintendo doesn't care about that anymore.

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