In the Year of Our Ceiling Cat Nineteen and Ninety-Five, Square released a little game called Chrono Trigger. The story is simple – young adventurers save the world – but with a twist – by porting through time. Due to its epic nature, branching storyline, and multiple endings, Chrono Trigger is widely considered to be one of the best RPGs of all time.
Wikipedia rightly describes the Chrono Trigger developers as the “dream team” – Hironobu Sakaguchi, Kazuhiko Aoki, Kazuhiko Aoki, and composer Nobuo Uematsu. Yuuji Horii and artist Akira Toriyama. Masato Kato wrote most of the plot and composer Yasunori Mitsuda scored the game with Uematsu finishing it when Mitsuda became ill.
The art is classic Horii and Toryiama – anime figures, large foreheads, and bright colors. The DS version includes the well-received anime cutscenes from the 2001 North American PlayStation release, now without load times! Unlike the recent Final Fantasy remakes, however, the art hasn’t been given a total 3-D makeover. Instead, the sprites have been polished up a bit and given more fluid animation, but the original distinctive art style is there.
Like the original, Chrono Trigger DS uses an Active Time battle system, meaning that each character may only act when their timer is up. Different characters have different physical and magical attacks, including advanced physical attacks called “techs”. What Chrono Trigger added to the RPG genre was the concept of cooperative techs – combining up to three characters’ techs to create double or triple attacks. Notably, there is no apparent slowdown when using even the flashiest of techs.
The DS version has two play modes – “DS Mode” and “Classic Mode”. DS mode allows you to use both the touchscreen buttons for controls, and Classic mode is a play setup identical to the original SNES version. There are other features exclusive to each mode, such as a DS Mode option to toggle between ‘Walk’ and ‘Run’.
The DS version adds some new dungeons, including the Dimensional Vortex and Lost Sanctum. The first of these is only available when player’s complete the game, and leads to a new, fourteenth different ending. The second is another endgame dungeon for folks who love to grind their way up as high as they can.
Finally, the DS version offers an unneccessary arena system. Apparently believing that all JRPGs must have a Monster Hunter element to them, Squeenix makes this feature available the first time you save the game. When you enter the arena, you get the option of controlling a small malleable creature known as a Smidge. You can send your Smidge to any of the seven periods of time to train them, and then you can battle other trainers, er, players, via DS wireless.
Useless arena aside, this is a very faithful translation of a beloved original. Like Dragon Quest IV, the source material still holds up over a decade later, and the DS developers respected that fact. As a result, like Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger on DS is an excellent game with everything you remember and nothing substantially screwed up by modernization.
For being an amazing RPG now available in pocket-size, Chrono Trigger DS gets 5 Weiners out of 5.