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Classic Video Game Reviews: Chrono Trigger

Updated on June 26, 2011

Chrono Trigger is one of the best games of all time. Although this game can't boast impressive the number of sequels that Final Fantasy can, and although its graphics and technology can't stand up to games in the Halo series, Chrono Trigger stands as one of the best-conceived and all-around best put-together games of all time.


Chrono Trigger: Release

Chrono Trigger was released in 1995 for the Super Nintendo. Since then, it's enjoyed a number of re-releases. The first occurred in 1999, when the game was ported to the Playstation. The game was again released for Playstation in 2001 as a part of Final Fantasy Chronicles. A version of Chrono Trigger was released for the Nintendo DS in 2008. Recently, yet another port was announced, this one for mobile phone. It is uncertain whether this latest port will be available in the United States, or whether it will only be available in Japan.

Chrono Trigger: Legacy

Chrono Trigger has sparked two official sequels, although only one of these has had widespread distribution. The first, titled Radical Dreamers, was released in 1996 in Japan. This game was a text-based adventure which was available on the the Super Famicom's Satellaview add-on. Radical Dreamers was never available in North America or Europe. The second sequel, Chrono Cross, was released in 1999 for the Playstation. This game elaborates on many of the same themes of Radical Dreamers, and it can be seen as a rewrite and a replacement of the previous sequel.

While it is hardly a household phrase, Chrono Trigger has enjoyed a great deal of critical acclaim and a large and devoted fan base. In 2002, the IGN Readers' Choice Top 100 Games of All Time listed Chrono Trigger as #2. Gamespot has similarly listed Chrono Trigger as one of the greatest games of all time.

Even though there hasn't been a new Chrono game since 1999, interest in the series has hardly dropped. Chrono Trigger has been included in most-wanted sequel lists by Game Informer, Famitsu, and EGM.

In addition to the official sequels, Chrono Trigger has inspired a number of fan-made games. Some of the most notable of these are Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes and Chrono Resurrection. Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes was designed as an “interquel” which takes place between the action of Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross. Unlike Chrono Cross, it follows the original party. Chrono Resurrection was meant to be a remake of Chrono Trigger featuring 3D graphics and improved sound.

Both of these projects were closed down before they were entirely finished. Square Enix issued cease-and-desist letters to both teams. However, samples of gameplay are available on Youtube.

References to Chrono Trigger can be found in Bryan Lee O' Malley's Scott Pilgrim books, in World of Warcraft, and even on NBC's Heroes.

Chrono Resurrection

Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes

Chrono Trigger: Plot

Chrono Trigger has one of the tightest-woven and most balanced plots in the history of gaming. The story follows a boy named Crono and his group of friends. When we enter the story, Crono is living with his mother in the peaceful Kingdom of Guardia. It is the morning of the Millenial Fair, a festival celebrating the thousandth anniversary of the foundation of Guardia.

At the festival, he meets a girl named Marle, and the two decide to enjoy the fair together. They visit a science demonstration being held by another of Crono's friends, Lucca. When the demonstration goes horribly wrong, Marle and Crono find themselves thrown 400 years back in time to the Middle Ages. Crono has to find and save Marle, and this begins an epic quest through time.

In addition to the Middle Ages, Crono and his friends visit the far future (2300 AD), the prehistoric a prehistoric world of cavemen and dinosaurs (65 million BC), an apocalyptic 1999 AD, the lost magical kingdom of Zeal (12000 BC), and even the End of Time. In nearly every era they visit, a new character joins the party. However, this is done in a smooth and natural way, and it never feels forced or unnatural.

Each of the characters is interesting, and because the game only features seven playable characters, it is able to go in-depth and allow the player to really get to know each of them. Each character has his or her own set of side missions which throw further light on the character's motivation, history, and personality. These side missions show where the characters come from, and they allow the characters to achieve personal victories and experience real growth. Unlike many RPGs, where the sole purpose of performing side quests is to get new and powerful items, Chrono Trigger's side quests serve to deepen and enrich the story. Of course, the new and powerful items that you get at the end of these quests is also a nice bonus.

As the game progresses, Crono and the rest of the party move from one crisis to another. The solution of one problem will introduce the next problem, or it will give a hint about the next place to go. This keeps the game moving in a natural and organic way, and it also helps to keep players from getting stuck.

As the game goes on, the problems and concerns expand smoothly, lending a believability and a natural sense of progression to the game. At the beginning, all Crono is worried about is enjoying the Millenial Fair. Next, he is concerned with saving his new found friend, Marle. As the game continues, the scope expands and Crono and his friends find themselves engaged in a battle to save all of mankind.

While most plots that involve time travel end up spinning out of control and ending up losing focus, Chrono Trigger's time travel actually helped the game to be more tightly scripted. Actions performed in the past affect the future, and this makes the game feel much more interconnected. For players to progress in the game, they must go back and forth through time, revisiting the same areas in different eras. They frequently encounter the descendants or the ancestors of people they have already met, and they are able to see what effect their interactions have had in those people's lives.

Although multiple endings have become relatively popular in RPGs, they were pretty revolutionary when Chrono Trigger was first released. The Super Nintendo release of Chrono Trigger featured 13 unique endings. Which ending the player received depended on what choices had been made and what things had been accomplished during the game. Even within these endings, there was quite a capacity for additional, smaller changes, depending on what choices the player had made. The DS release added an additional ending which served as a tie-in to Chrono Cross.

Chrono and Marle's First Meeting
Chrono and Marle's First Meeting | Source

Chrono Trigger: Gameplay

The gameplay of Chrono Trigger is fairly straightforward. It is similar to many JRPGs of the time period. Like the Final Fantasy games that came out at the time, it featured a turn-based battle system. During the battle, each character had a bar that gradually built up. Once the bar was full, the character could attack.

However, there were some important innovations as well. Unlike the majority of RPGs, Chrono Trigger did away with random battles. Instead, enemies appeared on the main screen, and battles were sparked when the player walked into them. At this point, instead of cutting to a separate battle screen as is common in RPGs, the characters in Chrono Trigger simply pulled out their weapons, and the fighting began.

The magic system in Chrono Trigger was also different than in many RPGs. As in most games, the characters could learn different spells and techniques. These special attacks were learned as the character obtained “tech points” from battles. However, unlike most games, these techniques could be combined with other characters' to create more powerful spells. Double and even triple techs were possible, and each character's list of techniques was unique. This made each party slightly different, and it called for different techniques and a different strategy when one changed parties.

Ice Sword: A Chrono/Marle Double Tech
Ice Sword: A Chrono/Marle Double Tech | Source
Crono | Source
Marle | Source
Lucca | Source
Frog | Source
Robo | Source
Ayla | Source
Magus | Source

Chrono Trigger: Characters

Crono is the main character in Chrono Trigger. As in many RPGs, he is left as a silent protagonist, never speaking except in one of the game's optional endings. He has bright red, spiky hair, and he wields a katana. Many people have compared his appearance to Goku's from Dragon Ball Z. In fact, both characters were designed by the same person, Akira Toriyama. Later in the game, he learns lightning-based magic.

Marle is the princess of Guardia, although she initially tries to hide her royal heritage. She and Crono meet at the Millenial Fair toward the beginning of the game. Marle fights with a crossbow and uses ice magic. Her attack power is relatively low. However, she has powerful healing and support spells. In the ending of the Playstation release of Chrono Trigger, Crono and Marle are shown getting married.

Lucca is a self-described science whiz. She is a genius with machines and robots, and she designs much of the technology that allows the party to travel through time. Lucca fights using a variety of guns, and she learns fire magic as the game progresses.

Frog is a character whom the party encounters in the Middle Ages. He was once a knight but has been turned into a frog by the dark wizard, Magus. In the original Super Nintendo release, Frog spoke in an over-the-top (and frequently ungrammatical) Shakespearean vein, with many “thees,” “thous,” and “perish the thoughts.” In the DS release, this has been altered to more closely fit the original Japanese. Frog fights using a broadsword, and he learns water magic as the game moves on.

Robo is an anthropomorphic robot whom the party finds during a trip to a dismal and dystopian 2300 AD. When they find him, he is broken down and non-functional. However, Lucca is able to fix him, and he joins the party, even standing against other robots to protect them. Robo is not able to learn magic. However, he does learn a number of useful attack and healing techniques.

Ayla is a cavewoman from 65 million BC. She is one of the strongest characters in the game, even though she fights unarmed. Although Ayla is unable to learn magic, her powerful attack techniques makes her a very worthwhile character. She is also the only character in the game who is able to steal items from enemies.

Magus is a wizard who, due to temporal anomalies, has lived in both 600 AD and in 12,000 BC. He is the only optional character in Chrono Trigger. Magus and Frog have a history of conflict. At a certain point in the game, Frog has the option to engage Magus in single combat. If he does so and defeats Magus, it is implied that the Frog turns back into a human after the end of the game. However, if the player chooses not to fight Magus, Magus will offer to join the party. Unlike the other characters of Chrono Trigger, Magus is able to use all types of magic, including shadow magic, which is a combination of the other elemental magics.

Yasunori Mitsuda
Yasunori Mitsuda

Chrono Trigger: Music

Chrono Trigger 's soundtrack was composed primarily by Yasunori Mitsuda, although Nobuo Uematsu and Noriko Matsueda also composed some tracks. Uematsu is best known for his work as main composer for the Final Fantasy games, and Matsueda is best known for her work on the Front Mission games and Final Fantasy X-2 .

Although Mitsuda has worked on a number of soundtracks since, including Chrono Cross , Xenogears , Xenosaga , and Deep Labyrinth , Chrono Trigger was his first real chance to work as a composer. Prior to this, Mitsuda had worked as a sound technician on games such as Secret of Mana .

Mitsuda's music brought a wistful, ethereal and compelling quality to the game. The music he wrote for Chrono Trigger showed influences from jazz and folk music, as well as orchestral music and pop/rock. The mood of the music shows great depth and breadth, and it accurately mirrors and enhances the mood of the plot.

The music of Chrono Trigger is hailed as one of the greatest RPG soundtracks of all time. It has enjoyed a great deal of acclaim, both from critics and from fans. It routinely appears on lists of the best video game music, and IGN stated that it featured “one of the best videogame soundtracks ever produced.”

The soundtrack has enjoyed a healthy amount of interest, even in the fifteen plus years since Chrono Trigger was released. The music has been sampled and rearranged extensively by fans, and even by some professional musicians.

In Conclusion

Chrono Trigger was a groundbreaking game when it was first released. It boasted some of the best graphics seen on a console RPG to that date. It featured beautiful music, an engaging plot, and interesting and likeable characters. Although a long time has passed since it was released, Chrono Trigger remains an enjoyable play. Younger gamers who have happened to miss this game should give it a try. It is among the best that classic gaming has to offer. And after all, good storytelling never goes out of style.


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    • RolyRetro profile image


      7 years ago from Brentwood, Essex, UK


      I loved this game, a crime it was never officially released in the UK on the SNES, and we had to wait for the DS version to play. I had a converter for my SNES so could play the US import, and I must say it is even better than Zelda, which is saying something.

      Great hub, voted up and followed!

    • DanielBing1 profile image


      8 years ago from New Hampshire

      I pretty much ** every stat possible in CT. The Hardcore fans know what I'm talkin' bout.

    • Christian H. profile imageAUTHOR

      Christian H. 

      8 years ago from College Station, Texas

      @J. Robbins--Hey, thanks! Yeah, Chrono Trigger's awesome.

    • profile image

      J. Robbins 

      8 years ago

      Awesome! I have just begun playing Chrono Trigger, and I really love it! The battle system is different than the Final Fantasy system, and it feels really hands-on. This is a very informative article.


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