Chrono Trigger: Square Soft’s Time-Traveling Masterpiece

This game is amazing and I love it more than some family members.

Long ago, in the days of the SNES, Square Enix, then known as Square Soft, released three of the greatest RPGs of all time. Even today, these games stand at the top of the genre. Final Fantasy 6 may be overshadowed by FF7, but that doesn’t make it any less incredible. The Secret of Mana remake was… fucking awful, but the original is still a ton of fun!

But fuck those! Those two games are stupid! Neither of them matter! Cause Square then decided to make Chrono Trigger!

I can only imagine their thought process. “Hey, let’s make an RPG about time travel! We could have a fantasy level, a post-apocalypse area, hey, why not go back to prehistoric times? And you know that guy who drew that Dragon Ball thingy that the whole world loves? Let’s get him to do the art!” Do you think they realized they’d be making one of the best games of all time when they did that?

Story: Thwarting the Oldest Evil Plan in History. Literally.

How can a game simultaneously take place in the eras of the dinosaurs, medieval knights, and the post-apocalypse and still have a coherent story? A damn good one, at that!

The game opens up in AD 1000, with the Millennial Fair. During the festivities, Chrono, our main character, meets a girl named Marle and enjoys the celebration with her. Capping this off is a demonstration of his friend Lucca’s greatest invention: a teleporter. Unfortunately, when Marle steps up to test it, she gets sent through a strange gate! When Chrono pursues, he finds himself in AD 600! Now, trapped in the past in the middle of a demonic war, Chrono must find Marle and bring her home!

That alone sounds like an awesome game, right? Well, guess what? THAT’S JUST THE FIRST CHAPTER, BABY!!

After returning home, shenanigans ensue that I shall not spoil because they’re amazing, which results in Chrono, Marle, and Lucca all escaping into the apocalyptic future! There, they make a terrible discovery: in AD 1999, a monster named Lavos emerged and destroyed the planet! Eager to stop this terrible future, Chrono and friends vow to use their time travel abilities to stop Lavos!

The main plot is absolutely nuts and I love it!! It hops from time period to time period at a rapid speed, introducing tons of fun characters and creative twists! Seriously, just as I thought I had everything figured out, the game dropped a whole new load of information on me! It’s a wild ride that’s enjoyable from beginning to end!

The best part is, without a doubt, the characters. Each one not only has a distinct and memorable personality but they each have their own stories! Marle has to bridge the gap between her and her father! Lucca struggles with the guilt over the accident that got her mother paralyzed! Frog is the apprentice of a hero, too cowardly to uphold the legacy his mentor gave to him! Robo is a machine turned against his creators and given feelings! They’re all so damn wonderful!

And these stories aren’t just reserved for backstories! Oh no! Each one sprawls out into a whole playable questline! They’re not only a super satisfying break from the main story, but they’re also super rewarding! You want a character’s ultimate weapon? Finish their story, get attached to ’em, and earn that shit!

There are, unfortunately, two exceptions to that rule. The first is Ayla, a cavewoman whose entire story is encompassed in the main plot (I do love her to death, though). And the second is our blank-slate protagonist: Chrono himself.

Although he does star in my favorite side quest in the entire game. Which I won’t spoil. Just… take my word for it.

Characters aside, it’s amazing just how tightly crafted this story is! Events that occur in one time period could have a dramatic effect on another, which makes everything feel tightly connected and gives each action a sense of real significance and weight! This is how you tell a time-travel story!

Oh, and did I mention how cool the setting is? Because my God, this is one of the most fleshed out and interesting worlds on the SNES! The world is so fleshed out, so goofy, so fun that it makes exploring an absolute joy!

I could go on and on about how good this game’s story is for literal days, dude! It has some genuinely powerful emotional moments, memorable twists, god damn man, the story is so damn good!! I love this shit more than most modern triple-A games!!

Presentation: Oh my God the SPRITES!!!

Thank you, Dragon Quest. Thank you for giving Toriyama the game-making experience to make this game look so fucking good!!

All of these sprites are still so nice to look at! Each of the main party members has an incredibly distinct and memorable design! Every time point in this world stands out, both in comparison to the others in-game and others of their ilk in that genre! All of this just looks so damn amazing, dude!!

Now, to be fair: it is still a SNES game. The animations range from wonderful to very limited; a great number of the spells boil down to a few sprites and flashing colors. It still has that old SNES charm, but it definitely shows the limitations of the hardware.

But you know what wasn’t limited by the hardware? THE MUSIC!! Christ on a bike is it a crime for a video game soundtrack to be so good?! Legit, the main theme alone is better than most modern music! Every single track is catchy, memorable, and perfectly fitting for each individual scene! From the somber to the dramatic, every piece of music is amazing!

Is it aged? Yeah. But I’d argue that it’s done so gracefully! This game still looks great, even today, just as most SNES games do!

Except you, Mode Seven levels. I can’t say I miss you.

Gameplay: Where do I even start?!

Is it hyperbole to call this game’s combat perfect? I don’t think so.

Overworld gameplay for Chrono Trigger is nothing new. You walk around the map, finding new areas on the overworld and talking to NPCs to get quests or buy items. The most interesting thing it does is remove random encounters; enemies will always spawn at a scripted point, which you can or can’t avoid depending on the point.

But that doesn’t matter! Forget the overworld stuff! Cause it’s in the combat that Chrono Trigger truly excels!

In battle, you can have up to three party members around at once. Combat isn’t turn-based, instead choosing to use an initiative system similar to Final Fantasy 5. Once the gauge is full, that character can move. If the whole party has a full gauge, you can swap between them at will.

Or you can do a sick-ass combo move!

See, each character has their own unique set of abilities, called Techs, and spells. On their own, they’re decently cool. Heal a party member, do an AOE attack, so on and so forth. But where it gets awesome is in the combos! If two or more party members can move, you can chain their moves together to get a bonus effect, like extra damage or an AOE buff.

For example: Chrono has a spin attack that hits enemies within a certain area. Lucca has a fire laser that hits in a straight line. Put them together and Lucca will ignite Chrono’s sword, giving his spin move extra range and damage!

The game is full of combos like this! Each character can combo with another, allowing for a huge amount of party customization! No one party member is better than another! Which group you have is entirely up to you! Hell, you don’t even need to have Chrono in the party!

Just don’t expect the enemy to play nice and wait. If you’re too slow, they’ll take another turn well before you do. You’ve got to keep an eye on everything. Buffs, debuffs, the enemy’s moves, your moves, literally all of it. For a menu-based RPG, combat is surprisingly quick and intense!

This is especially true during the boss fights. If you aren’t prepared, these dudes can and will wipe the floor with you! Get your best gear, level up, and put a strategy together.

Still, it isn’t perfect. Much like most RPGs, you’ll need to do a lot of micromanagement in the gear department, which can be a bit of a pain. The bosses range from ‘ton of fun’ to ‘I wanna fucking kill myself in real life to end the pain’.

In particular, the final boss kind of… sucks. A lot. It’s tedious, repetitive, and downright infuriating. It spent me, no joke, an hour to kill this bastard. And that’s not counting failed attempts. It isn’t hard; with the right strategy, it’s pretty easy. But giving a boss a ridiculous amount of HP and really annoying moves does not make it fun. Ultimately, it ends the game off on a real sour note.

The best way I can describe this game is ‘deceptively simple’. You can learn it super easily. But if you want to get the most out of it, you’ll need to do a lot of experimentation. The amount of depth hidden beneath the surface is absolutely incredible! It’s so deep that you could play it for hundreds of hours and still fail to find everything!

Which is exactly what I’ve done. Many times. And I will continue to do so until I’m an old man.


You know what’s really heart-breaking? The three SNES Square Soft masterpiece RPGs aren’t technically all available anymore. You can still play the original Secrets of Mana via the Mana Collection, thank God. But if you wanna play the original Final Fantasy 6, you can’t. The only version left is the shitty mobile-looking port.

You know what isn’t heart-breaking? You can still buy Chrono Trigger. No shitty mobile graphics. Just Chrono Trigger.

Sure, it’s the DS port, but that port kicked ass, so it’s fine!

Play Chrono Trigger! Do it or I’ll scream! Seriously, it’s only, like, twenty hours long and its fifteen bucks on Steam! It’s one of the greatest games ever made and you are missing the fuck out if you haven’t played it!

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