The rebirth of a legend

After almost 14 years, countless overwhelmingly positive reviews and a status that borders on legendary, I can tell you there’s not much I can say about Chrono Trigger that hasn’t been said already.

After almost 14 years, countless overwhelmingly positive reviews and a status that borders on legendary, I can tell you there’s not much I can say about Chrono Trigger that hasn’t been said already.

The game was an instant smash when it was released in 1995, peaking during the twilight years of the SNES.

Fans and critics alike loved the concept, which took the masterminds behind Japan’s twin role-playing colossi, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, and fused them together to create a sprawling, time-traveling epic. They loved the execution even more.

Six years went by. Square decided to re-release the game for the Playstation One, complete with a vastly improved translation and an assortment of flashy new anime cut scenes from the game’s character designer, Dragonball’s Akira Toriyama. Gamers everywhere went ga-ga, myself included.

Now, with the treads of the Square-Enix remake machine running arguably past full power as they have since 2006, Chrono Trigger is back for round three, this time on Square-Enix’s perennial favorite, the DS.

This new, travel-friendly edition has all the bells and whistles included with the PS One release, plus a touch screen mode that unclutters the game’s battle screens, an improved (read: more nuanced) translation and a goofy monster battling mini-game reminiscent of Dragon Quest VIII‘s monster arena, among a few other surprises.

And while I could spend this review saying what’s already firmly been established—that Chrono Trigger is without a doubt one of the best RPGs ever made, as many so fervently believe—that would be a proverbial waste of breath.

What I can tell you is this: When you have a host of next-gen games at your fingertips and you still find yourself gravitating towards a 14-year-old game that made its debut before today’s run-of-the-mill gaming technology had really even been in use, you know it’s something special.

The remake angle is not a new concept for Square, who have been re-releasing past Final Fantasy games and other titles since well before they gave Chrono Trigger another chance in the limelight.

But unlike even past Final Fantasy reworkings, Chrono Trigger has arguably retained its damn-near immortal status not just because it’s good, but because it’s a game with personality and character.

Sure, there are plenty of games that have great characters or an engaging story, but few can pump the kind of blood into a tale like this one does—a tale of friendship, heroism and good old fashioned good and evil.

Like revisiting a classic film, the straightforward charms of both the game’s characters and game play will bring a smile to the face of even the most jaded gamer, something few games can pull off this well, even today.

So, can you really improve on a classic? That seems to be the question that Square-Enix is driving at with the changes pumping blood through this new iteration.

The new translation is, for the most part, a much deeper and subtler script that adds to the overall experience, if in a slightly superfluous way.

The PS One’s translation was perfectly fine, and in some cases even better—for example, the decision to eliminate Frog’s quasi-Shakespearean mode of speech, present in the PS One edition a la Vagrant Story or the PSP’s Final Fantasy Tactics redux The War of the Lions, is a definite tragedy.

However, this is a minor complaint amidst a host of new or improved features.

The DS edition’s touch-screen capabilities are a nice touch, as is the handy and ever-present map that occupies the lower screen. The sweeping score remains an aural treat, and the anime cut scenes, ported over from the PS

One release, look cleaner and (for the most part) sharper than ever. Even the little pauses that cropped up in the Playstation edition after winning a battle have been (seemingly) reduced, and drastically so.

And while it’s important for those of you who haven’t played Chrono Trigger to know that it plays like a game that was made in 1995, that shouldn’t be a deterrent. In all likelihood, games wouldn’t be the same today without the important innovations Square first unveiled here.

Aside from the game’s engrossing clockwork narrative, Chrono Trigger set precedents with its multiple endings, unique battle system (goodbye, random battles) and new “game plus,” a concept that allows you to take your leveled-up characters and play through the game with them again. All of these concepts have since been used in countless other RPGs.

The best form of praise I can give the game, or perhaps the most paid attention to, however, is that it’s still a blast to play. Now that Square has seen fit to re-release it for the next generation of gaming tykes, I only hope they too can look past age and experience firsthand all the heart and soul this game has beating inside it.

Chrono Trigger may be well into its own twilight years now, but believe me—it’s still got it.