Sunday, 23 December 2012

Chrono Trigger (SNES)

Super Adventures at Christmas 2012 - Game 5:

Chrono Trigger Super Nintendo Title Screen
Here's one you might have heard of. Today I'm checking out Chrono Trigger on the Super Nintendo, considered by many to be one of the best RPGs on the system. I've got no strong feelings about it though myself, mostly because I can barely remember anything about it.

Chrono Trigger (PS1)
People playing the later ports of the game get to watch this pretty well animated anime-style intro video showing off all the game's characters as they go around fighting evil and whatever else RPG heroes do. You know, I've never seen the Dragon Ball cartoon but even I'm getting deja-vu from this.

Chrono Trigger and the Dragon Ball series were both based on the design work of manga artist Akira Toriyama, who was also the character designer for the insanely successful Dragon Quest series. Apparently he's a good luck charm for RPGs.

But unlike practically every other 16-bit console, the Super Nintendo never did get its own CD drive, so the original version of Chrono Trigger couldn't actually have any animated video clips like this. To be honest though it's not a massive loss.

Hah, I've had so much trouble in so many games trying to fit my dumb name ideas into the space provided, so it's nice to see I'm not the only one struggling.

In Japan his name is spelt the same as in the game title (basically Kurono), but in this English version poor Chrono here is just going to have to spend the rest of his life known as 'Crono', as it has been decreed that no one in this world shall have more than five letters in their name.

Crono's story begins as he's woken up by his mother on the day of the Millennial Fair, which already ticks off about a half-dozen entries on the The Grand List Of Console Role Playing Game Clich├ęs. To be fair though this game was so influential I get the feeling that list is going to basically turn out to be a Chrono Trigger novelisation.

Crono's mom reminds him to go see his friend Lucca, who's invited him up to see her new invention. Unfortunately I'm not actually Crono, I just play him in a video game, so I have no idea where this person is or how I'd even recognise them.

Whoa, straight out of the front door onto the world map! It took me six hours to get this far in Final Fantasy VII. There isn't actually a separate town map to walk through, as all the buildings are accessible from here instead.

Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
Speaking of Final Fantasy games, FF6 came out a year before this and uses the magic of SNES Mode 7 to give the world map a bit of 3D perspective as you walk around, while Chrono Trigger's world goes back to the old style of just displaying a flat background. Honestly, I think Chrono Trigger wins this round though, as it's way more interesting to look at.

Also no random battles! I can wander anywhere I want without being hassled by attention seeking monsters.


SOON, AFTER A BIT OF TRAVELLING.


Well this place definitely looks like an inventor's house, but Crono's friend Lucca isn't around. So now I've got two choices: I can either go to the Millennium Fair where she'll almost certainly be, or I can wander the entire continent from town to town checking every house along the way instead.


LATER, AFTER A LOT OF TRAVELLING.


After several hundred miles of walking, past mountains and across deserts, I finally reached civilization once again. No sign of Lucca, but I did find a man offering money to people who break into his house and agree to humiliate themselves in front of his family.

10G free cash! Totally worth the trip.

I thought Crono seemed a little taller than the average Squaresoft 2D turn-based JRPG hero, and when they're side by side he's clearly a giant. He could step on one of the NES game heroes and not even notice.

It's funny how the sprites were practically the same scale for six years. I like how the only difference between the Final Fantasy 1 and Final Fantasy 2 fighter class hero is that they part their hair differently.

Oh, and just to put this into perspective, six years later Square's JRPG characters looked like this:

Final Fantasy X (PS2)
At first I was a bit annoyed that Crono's practically mute, but hearing Tidus again has given me a new appreciation of silent protagonists.

I actually like the voice actor generally, but damn this character really grates on me.


EVENTUALLY.


Anyway after collecting my 10G exploration reward, I headed all the way back to the Millennium fair and ran into a mysterious girl with a mysterious pendant who definitely isn't Lucca (because she's called Marle). She begged me to let her tag along and of course I agreed because it's always handy to have another fighter in the team, plus I'm not that much of a bastard.

But just out of curiosity I reloaded a save and this time told her to fuck off. But it turns out that option's only there to make you think that you're actually making some of the decisions. In the end the only possible choice is to take her with you.

Well I found where Lucca is, but I'm not allowed to meet her until she's finished setting something up. So I guess I'm supposed to wander around the fair trying stuff and spending money until I stumble across the trigger the next part of the story. I really hate it when games are vague like this. I prefer to know exactly what I'm supposed to do... so I can ignore it and go around trying stuff and spending money.

Though I like this shop. It's fast, straightforward, shows the effect of new gear, uses words instead of vague icons, and I can even equip items without leaving the screen.

No complaints about the menu either. Well, except for the vague icons.

It turned out that visiting the shop was all I needed to do to open up the path to Lucca's experiment, which turned out to be... not actually a time machine. Which surprised me.

Though that didn't stop it from tearing a wonky hole in the fabric of space and time and dragging Marle inside. I walked up to nick her mysterious pendant, which had been left behind for some mysterious reason, but Lucca assumed I was volunteering for a rescue mission and sent me off after her.

It's apparently very important that I jump into the portal right now, despite having no possible way to get back.

Well I've no idea where the portal took me, but there's no sign of Marle, and the natives are hostile. Fortunately Crono is a JRPG main character and always carries a sword around just in case.

Weirdly, all battles actually take place on the actual level in this, there's no swish transition to an alternate battle map. I can't move characters around once a fight's started though, as it has a classic Final Fantasy style menu controlled battle system. I'm not a magic user, but I can spend MP to use Techniques which work the same way. Though with only 8 MP I think I'll be sticking with the 'Attack' option for the time being.

Uh? Okay I think I'll try not to bother these guys. They seem happy enough doing their thing.

There's no random encounters in this and all the enemies are visible on the level, so it's possible to actually walk around fights. Well run actually, as the game has a sprint button (thank fuck). Though the enemies all come back if I leave the area and return.

Hmm, I'm definitely getting the feeling some time travel is going on here. Either that or I've fallen into a parallel universe where roof tiles are a different colour.

Despite only having a minute's head start, Marle is nowhere to be seen, so I guess I'll just have to go door to door until I find her.


SOME ADVENTURING LATER.


It turns out that the portal sent me 400 years into the past, and I eventually found Marle hanging out in the King's castle disguised as the Queen. They apparently look so much alike that even the King is fooled.

It seems that the real Queen Leene has gone missing, but now that everyone thinks that she's been rescued, the search parties have been called off. Meaning that just by being here we've changed history so that Leene is never rescued, which is bad news for the timeline.

My inventor friend Lucca eventually showed up at the castle and explained the situation. Marle is actually Princess Nadia in disguise, a direct descendant of Queen Leene! Or at least she was until she was Back to the Future'd out of existence along with 400 years worth of her ancestors.

But if she never existed, how was she able to come back in time and prevent her existence? Plus why does Crono and Lucca still remember her? In fact why are we even here chasing someone who we haven't met and who never went into the past? Bloody time travel...

With no idea where Queen Leene might be, I was left to wander around the world map again, looking for anything suspicious. Like... a church full of evil nuns perhaps. (Lines like "My what delicious, er... I mean, delightful looking humans!" were a bit of a giveaway.)

Fortunately a noble frog called Frog came to my aid and we made short work of the counterfeit convent. Though I'm not sure about his accent. I realise we're 400 years in the past, but how come he's the only person here who talks in ye olde English?

Anyway time to storm in through the secret door and save the Queen!

After a bit of a nap, that is. Health potions are cheap enough, but MP doesn't regenerate in this, and I ain't storming a monster hideout without a full tank. Plus it doesn't hurt to get a few more level ups just in case.

It's weird how I find grinding far less tedious than repeating a boss battle twice.

It's also strange to play a classic Square JRPG with all the enemies already on the map and no sudden woosh waiting every dozen steps or so to take me off to a separate battle screen. It's also nice that there's a bit of room to explore down here. Sure there's only one path to the exit, but that doesn't mean I always have to follow it.

EVENTUALLY, DEEP BENEATH THE SINISTER CHURCH.


We've found the kidnapped Queen and Chancellor! Wait, what? What the fuck's a Yakra?

Whatever, I've got a level 7 crew here with full health and MP, and a pack full of potions. This shouldn't take long.

Here's one thing the Final Fantasy games don't have: Double Techniques. If I wait until a pair of characters both have a turn ready, I can attack simultaneously with both of them to pull off more powerful techniques, with each combination of characters having their own special move.

So I'm going to have to put more thought into who I bring out with me when I'm actually given a choice, so I get pairings that works well together.


EVENTUALLY, BACK IN THE PRESENT DAY.


Defeating the evil Chancellor saved Queen Leene, which saved Marle, and so the three of us were free to return back to the present with Lucca's handy new time gate opening device. Happy ending! Except for Frog disappearing with all the gear I lent him, the bastard.

But my celebration was cut short when Crono was arrested by the present day Chancellor for kidnapping Marle. Man, I just have no luck with chancellors.

The trial actually went pretty well, as the best evidence he could throw at me to attack my character was that I refused to tell a little girl where to find her missing cat at the fair (he's a silent protagonist though, c'mon).

I was proven innocent but I still ended up with three days solitary confinement for running off with Princess Nadia. Which wouldn't be so bad, except the Chancellor secretly upgraded it to a death penalty.

So now Crono's trapped in here with a save point, a health/MP restoring drink that he refuses to take with him and a mysterious package left by a friend... which turned out to not contain a file, lock pick or explosives. And of course they took all my weap... oh hang on, nope all my gear is still here. Weird.

Incidentally I was all set to whine about the save points needing me to go into the menu to save, but they actually don't in this. I just activate them and the save option comes up. Doesn't even pop up with an annoying message. Again Chrono Trigger beats Final Fantasy VII!

Hey that wall on the right is at an unsual angle for a classic JRPG, I wonder if it's actually meant to be perspective, as it doesn't match the right hand wall of my cell. Either way these graphics look awesome I reckon, I especially like the way the torches light up the surrounding...

Oh right, I'm meant to be escaping from jail before I get executed aren't I? Well I'm still armed so I'm pretty sure I can take these two well trained, well armed knights in a fight (seeing as I'm a teenager with fighting spirit). All I need to do is annoy them enough to get them to open the door for me.

Let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out let me out...


SOON, AFTER THEY LET ME OUT.


Oh shit, the Chancellor has a steampunk Dragon Tank guarding the prison! Fortunately Lucca came to rescue me (again) and with our powers combined I can use my Flame Whirl Double Technique on its ass. Well, it's head... gotta attack the components in the right order of course.


A SHORT, HEROIC ESCAPE THROUGH A TIME GATE LATER. 


Well this is awesome, now I'm a fugitive from my own time, trapped in a distant post apocalyptic shithole where no doubt I'll be hunted down by an evil cyborg future Chancellor for some dumb reason or another.

There's no way we're going to survive here for long, and going back will just get me executed, so I'm going to need to find another time gate somewhere.


SEVERAL FUTURISTIC DUNGEONS LATER.


Hey I've found an operational computer system down here. With Lucca's genius for computers we should be able to... oh no, don't let Marle press a button. She's already managed to wipe herself from existence and make us fugitives from our own time in an uninhabitable wasteland; I'm not sure how she can make this shitty situation worse, but I'm confident that if anyone can find a way it's her.

Oh... wow she found a video explaining how the world ended, giving us a fighting chance to save it now. You did good Marle, now never do anything else again.

Turns out that a giant lava porcupine called Lavos broke through the planet's crust and annihilated the world's cities with a shower of nuclear needles. All I need to do is kill this guy, and the world is saved. Three hours in and I seem to have finally encountered the main villain of the game.

To the time portal!

Uh, I think I must have taken a wrong turn in the time vortex, because I definitely wasn't aiming to land on floating slice of Victorian London.

The gentleman by the street lamp explains that this is the end of time (which doesn't really explain anything), and that I got dumped here because I brought too many people through the time gate (I found a cool robot for my team). But this actually works out great for me because there's another bloke here who can give me magic powers, and a row of portals that can take me all over time. Pretty convenient actually.

The man tells me that I need to return to my own time if I want to have any chance of saving the future, but only in a group of three. The other person must be left stranded at the end of time... bye Marle!

This present day gate opens up on a different continent (in a cupboard), so I'm safe from that bastard Chancellor for now. But now that I'm a master of space and time, why bother screwing around here when I can just take on the final boss directly?

Chrono Trigger Lavos Battle
Oh right, because he's as big as a building and 10 times my level. I gave it my best shot (actually I just kept tapping the attack option, taking out his two sidekick pods first, then slashing him in the face), but sadly this was over before it even began.

Chrono Trigger Game Over But the Future Refused to Change
Oops. Well it's game over for me, but I suppose Marle's still around to save the day. If not having a sword disqualifies her from being the hero she could go find that Frog guy again and make him the new sword wielding protagonist. Might as well use all that equipment he stole from me to do something useful.


It probably won't come as a huge shock to learn that I liked Chrono Trigger. It looks and sounds great for a SNES game, the interface is slick and user friendly, and I really struggled to find anything to whine about. It's been a very story driven game so far, but I spent far less time stuck in cutscenes than in something like Final Fantasy VII. I'd be given a few lines of dialogue after I completed a task, then let loose again to sort out the next crisis. FFVII was just so keen to involve me in drama between the characters, while this is like "Fuck yeah, time travel! Let's go save the world!"

I wasn't that keen on the battles though, which is a bit of a shame seeing I spent most of the game exploring dungeons, but I suppose that's more because I've gotten tired of the standard JRPG turn based combat rather than any flaw in the game. I got through most fights by just tapping attack until it was over, then topping up my HP with potions afterwards. In my defence, with limited MP and an almost guaranteed boss fight at the end of each area, it didn't exactly encourage me to use Techniques.

But yeah, gold star for this one for sure. I can't believe it took Square fourteen years to get around to releasing it in Europe. It was apparently the third best selling game of 1995, were they honestly worried it would bomb?


Feel like saying anything about Chrono Trigger? Comments are welcome.

4 comments:

  1. Chrono Trigger was probably my favorite game for YEARS. Nowadays I can't say I have a favorite any more, but CT was at or near the top of the list from 1995 until probably 2010. Glad you liked it. It's a lot better if you've got access to the Nintendo Powers that covered it, as they made it infinitely more intriguing to me.

    Also, grats on having my new favorite blog. It's a lot like mine in content. Check it out, if you'd like: www.coronajumper.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I'm coming into these classic Nintendo games without the benefit of nostalgia or Nintendo Power, but I'm hoping it gives me a slightly different perspective on them. Well the first hour or so of them anyway.

      I'm sorry to hear that this is your new favourite blog, but I'm sure you'll come across a better one soon. You weren't lying about your site being a lot like mine though, and older too! Yet another blog I've inadvertently imitated.

      Delete
  2. Absolutely great game!

    Thanks for the review. Now you just need to review the SNES Lufia games (especially Lufia II), although you may have to play 4-6 hours of it to get to the REALLY good stuff - The Ancient Cave!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've never played it but i always loved their ilustrations. So much TOriyama in the air!

    ReplyDelete

Semi-Random Game Box