Generally speaking, you either love JRPG's, or you hate them. It's tough to live with a foot in both worlds. Every now and again though, a game comes along that's so amazingly, awesomely perfect, you can love it no matter how much you hate its genre. Chrono Trigger is one of those games. It's a masterpiece, and just about anyone who's played it knows exactly why it's still considered one of the best games ever made, despite being almost 20 years old -- which is pretty good for a video game. If you're looking for a mystical and beautiful medieval fantasy world, illustrated by an incredible artist and sprinkled with beautiful plots, characters and themes, you simply must play Chrono Trigger. Here are six of the best Chrono Trigger features.
#6 The Playtime
JRPG's can last an eternity, and this has its upsides and downfalls. I mean, you're getting your money's worth with a game that takes over 100 hours to beat, that's for sure. But in a time when adults are gamers just as often as children and teens are, sometimes it's nice to be able to actually finish a game. To actually complete it. Not having to spend all your time sneaking in play session between responsibilities, and to play something else -- or replay it. A game that's in between these two extremes becomes pretty desirable.
The thing with Chrono Trigger is that there's a lot you can do, but in no way have to do. and that's really great. It usually takes about 24-30 hours to beat this game, and that's a good amount of playtime. It's nicer than the eight to nine hours one gets from more recent games: you get more bang for your buck. "But it's not very long, especially for such a good game with such a complicated plot," you say. Worry not! because if you truly want this game to keep on keeping on, you can do all the side quests, explore every cave, every dungeon, every forest, grind, get really expensive weapons, solve riddles to get to bonus stuff … there's quite a bit to do. This bonus stuff, which is awesome and useful and adds a lot to the game's already rich plot, brings it up to a good 50+ hours of game time. So, whether you like your games lasting a week or a month, Chrono Trigger can easily fit the bill.
#5 The Characters and Their Growth
Everything starts off seemingly simple and easy in Chrono Trigger. You're a boy going to the fair. Surely nothing mind-numbing could happen. Nothing that could alter the course of history, change relationships forever, lead to the personal growth of a huge cast of characters and inevitably save the world, right? Oh no wait, literally all of that happens. Everyone starts off almost as tropes. They're the nerd, the action girl, the princess, the self-loathing ex-hero. The cliché anime protagonist. Despite the rather large ensemble of characters, they each get their own storyline, and they're all very well-balanced.
It's common for a JRPG to have a massive cast -- it gives the player choice in what kind of battles they want to fight, whether they play offensively or defensively, and if they want to try something brand new. It's fairly common that these characters see almost no growth, except for the protagonist, their love interest, and maybe their best friend. Now, don't get me wrong. lots of JRPGs do balance their characters well -- a couple of Final Fantasy games pull it off, for example. Chrono Trigger rocks it. The characters all get their time in the spotlight, they all get to learn things about themselves, past, present and future. They grow from childhood into strong, world-saving adults, and it's epic.
#4 The Beautiful Cutscenes
If you don't know Akira Toriyama by name, you'd be wise to look him up. You won't be disappointed. The freelance artist made the elegant cutscenes for Chrono Trigger. This game came out back when graphics weren't astounding. A lot of what made a game beautiful was proper use of colour palettes, clever design and details like its soundtrack. The characters didn't always look like people, more like weird squiggles. If you really wanted to, you could probably claim that it was all very Picasso-esque. In reality, it's just that game creators couldn't go that far with graphics yet. So Chrono Trigger one-upped all the games being made at the time by placing hand-animated cutscenenes into the game. That way, we all knew what the characters looked like, and not just on a top-down angle! Not only were these drawings beautiful, they were made by that dude who did character designs for Dragon Ball Z! Could these beans be any cooler?!
#3 The Massive Time-Travel Plot
Time travel plots are confusing and awesome, but for a writer, they can be daunting: one wrong move and everything goes wrong. Especially now that the internet exists. People who sit around looking for holes in your plots can just make a quick post on Reddit or Tumblr and suddenly the world knows about your huge mistake -- even though in reality this kid doesn't even have five Facebook friends to rub together. Admittedly, Chrono Trigger existed long before Reddit. But time travel is still quite the feat to write properly. Especially when you're giving someone the ability to leap through time whenever they feel like it.
This isn't Back to the Future, where we watch Marty do what he needs to do, with absolutely no input from the audience. We gamers are bounding back and forth between past, present and future. So the universe Square Enix created had to be able to support the fact that we're going to do just that, just for fun. It had to be foolproof. This is an easy task to fail at, but Chrono Trigger features a time travel plot that has gotten little to no flack over the years. Despite the world being detailed, and the characters learning and changing throughout multiple time periods, they kept it simple yet open, enough that there are no real holes in the plot. This is incredible, especially when you think of the gaming system Chrono Trigger was made for, and how little it was capable of, ultimately.
#2 The Action Combat System
Chrono Trigger's combat system was groundbreaking. Nowadays, action in combat is pretty shrug-off-able. You run through a world, shooting whatever, or whoever gets in your way. But, back in the day, many games were turn-based. You attacked, your enemy attacked, you attacked … and so on. Chrono Trigger changed this formula completely. If you timed things right, if you picked the correct moves, you could fit in a couple attacks by the time your enemy got his bearings. And not only that, if you wanted to avoid combat altogether, you could (or you could at least try to). Plus, when you entered a battle, you didn't get whisked off to another area that only kind of looked like where you had just been: you fight right there, on the spot. Maybe this is a small detail, but when a game's this good, the details just drive the awesomeness home. It keeps you playing in the moment, and it just goes to show how good the game design is.
The #1 Chrono Trigger Feature: The Soundtrack
Chrono Trigger features a dream team of designers: a couple of Square's best designers, made famous for Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, Akira Toriyama, and Nobuo Uematsu. The latter name is the man behind so man amazing soundtracks, such as Final Fantasy and, of course, Chrono Trigger. From the very first seconds of the game -- whether you watched the intro or skipped it, you get to hear the astounding beauty that is Nobuo's music. What's awesome about his soundtracks is that they fit every mood, every situation. If you're in a dire battle, action packed music plays, if you're at the fair, playful, jubilant music plays.
Soundtracks meant a lot back in 1995, when your other senses had to support the rough visuals. Not only did the Chrono Trigger soundtrack perfectly supplement this, it was detailed music, with a diverse range of sound s and instruments (synthesized instruments, but still instruments). It went above and beyond what a soundtrack could be. It's probably physically impossible to play Chrono Trigger and not have the soundtrack on your iPod or MP3. Like every other portion of this game, it's just that good.