The day begins with a bell clanging off in the distance. You open your eyes to find your mother standing nearby. She pulls open the drapes to let the sun cascade in, and reminds you not to sleep too late, that you have a fair to get to. You jump out of bed, head downstairs, greet your cat, and head on your way. Little do you know what's in store for you. A trip to a fair, a day of entertainment, turns into a remarkable adventure, over landscapes and time, meeting new people, finding things and making discoveries. Solving problems small and large, and in the end, the future of the world itself.
Chrono Trigger, at its core, is an RPG, with many elements you'd expect to find in most any RPG. You have your magic, your swords, your armor, your experience points, all the core aspects that one would expect. Your party, as you progress, can be made up of three people, although you'll have a wide variety of members to choose from by the end. Each of the members that can make up your party have their own particular strengths and weaknesses. They have special attacks, special moves, and combinations with other characters that can only be formed if you have certain members in your party. Who you choose to make up your party, and the style you choose to approach battle with, is entirely up to you.
All enemies are visible on-screen, and whether to engage in an encounter or avoid it is most often left up to you. When you engage an enemy, the creatures will spread out on screen, as will the members of your party. Battle takes place in a turn-based manner, similar to many other RPGs, with turns being based on a battle meter that fills up at a rate related to one's statistics. When it's your turn to attack, you're presented with a number of different choices. You have your normal attacks and normal spells, of course. Regarding spells, some attack only one enemy, some attack a group, and some have other properties. For instance, in battle your characters and the enemies will be moving around on screen. Depending on where you and they are located, certain spells have different properties, such as being able to attack all enemies on a given straight line. Likewise, enemies may have attacks based on this, such as being able to pick you up and throw you if you get too close. All of these factors are things you will have to take into consideration in a battle.
Regarding this game's story, that's one thing that should be taken into particular note before heading off into the game, particularly for people with a vast supply of RPG experience. The story in Chrono Trigger is the height of what one would call cliche. The beginning of the storyline is actually given away in the game's manual itself. From your "save the princess from a monster" mission, to the "save the world from destruction by a horrible creature," to most other things in between, nothing is going to surprise you, no plot twists, nothing unexpected. If you like "deep" plots, things which make your mind ponder and keep you attached by how riveting they are, odds are you're going to find Chrono Trigger a spectacular disappointment. This isn't to say the story is bad, as I'll be going into in a moment. Just, if that's what you're expecting from a game's story, you're not going to like this one. That aside, however, Chrono Trigger doesn't try to hide the fact that its story is cliche, and just works with what it is that it's trying to do. After all, what's so wrong about wanting to save a captured princess? It's alright to save the world from destruction, even if the person destroying it doesn't have some convoluted reason for doing so. It's perfectly alright to like a character who doesn't say a word through the entire game.
As well, the large part of Chrono Trigger's storyline is based around time travel. That is, while you start out the game in 1000AD, you'll be traveling back to prehistoric times, ahead to an age of machinery, and everywhere in between. Instead of getting caught up in all sorts of issues that would arise from "real" time travel, Chrono Trigger just goes with a simplistic take on it, and works with what it's doing. Tell someone to plant a tree in the past, and there will be a forest there in the future. Make someone's ancestor generous instead of stingy, and their descendant will be generous as well. Stuff like that, where one isn't particular concerned with how things would "really," play out, just a more simple "cause and effect" view on things. Again, if you're looking for some complicated, thought-provoking take on time travel, you're not going to find it here. So, that's the story and presentation of Chrono Trigger in a nutshell. Either you think it's dull and boring and have lost interest, or you have no problem with it and want to move forward.
The graphics in Chrono Trigger are absolutely stunning. While the general world map that you move from area to area on is nothing particularly special, once you enter an area, things really start to shine. Forests are full of dense trees, small shrubs, little touches and details here and there. Beautiful palaces decked out in carpets and draping, shelves of books and tables and everything all around. Derelict ruins, with holes and cracked walls, torn carpets and spirits. Barren frozen wastelands with snow whistling overhead and ice-covered trees. There is a large variety of different areas you'll encounter and explore, each full of beautiful scenery, intricate little details, and everything just blends together. As well, the music fits the areas perfectly, lending mood and feeling to wherever it is that you're exploring. Whether it's lively up-beat music, morose and downcast tones, snow and ice, or wind whistling through trees, everything fits perfectly. Music changes to fit the mood: battle music is quick and driving, and there's just a wide variety of different things you'll encounter, which add greatly to the feeling.
What really makes Chrono Trigger stand apart from other games, though, isn't so much that it does things differently, or does things that haven't been done before or anything like that. What it is, is that everything that it does, it does to perfection. Again, it's not going to try to surprise you with its storyline, or come up with a battle system that's dramatically different from anything that had been done before or anything like that. It takes what it does, tweaks it to fit how it works best in the game, and it produces an adventure that is just a dream come true. If you're looking for something new, something different, something surprising, again, you're probably going to come up short here. If you just want something that does what it does, and does it well, you're going to be very happy here.
The other thing that really makes Chrono Trigger special is the depth of the game. In theory, you can "beat" the game a few hours in, without experiencing the large majority of the storyline. Or, you can skip the side stuff and just make your way quickly through. You can just stick with a core group of three characters, and never try anyone else out. You can be happy with just one ending, instead of seeing what else there is. Essentially, you can trample over the roses, instead of stopping to smell them. If you take the time, however, there is much to see and do, and many different ways to go about doing it. Whether it's simply getting a different look at battle by taking along different characters who have different styles, or as dramatic as getting a completely different ending to the game, there are many reasons to stop, explore, discover, and do it many times over. While you can only have three characters at a time, again, there are many different choices for who can make up that group of three, and who you have can impact the game. From something as simple as getting a different dialogue from someone you meet along the way, to opening up a completely new sidequest, there are many reasons to take different groups of people through the game.
The other thing is that there isn't just one ending to the game. A variety of things can adjust little things about the endings, or give you completely different ones. Things such as who you talked with, what you said, what sidequests you completed, or at what point you beat the game are all going to have different effects on your ending. There are around a dozen completely different endings for you to experience, giving you plenty of reason to play through this game many times over. Even if you're not trying for something as large as a new ending, just going through with people with different fighting styles, and different dialogues with characters, can give a completely new look on the game. Even once you beat the game, you'll have many reasons to go back through and play it many more times. Not just because of the differences though, but also simply because, it was fun and you'll want to do it again. Even if you do it exactly the same way you did the previous time, it's still very enjoyable.
So, in the end, what is it that makes Chrono Trigger so great? Why would I start off this review by talking about what a perfect game was? Chrono Trigger is this game - this great, wonderful, perfect game - because of taking everything that it does, doing them so very well, and mixing them together into one game so beautifully. For me, Chrono Trigger is an amalgamation of everything that I would want in a game, everything I could've ever hoped for, done to perfection. That is why Chrono Trigger is what it is to me. It's everything I wanted in a video game, and it's all of them done perfectly. I hope that I have done an adequate job in describing what all of these parts are, so you can make your decisions for yourself whether these are what you want in a video game, and how they sound to you. If it sounds at all interesting to you, if these sound like parts which you like and the way in which they're done sounds interesting, then you should at least check this game out. While you might not have the same level of love for it that I do, at least you might find a game which you find to be enjoyable, and which you can form pleasant experiences out of. Or, you may find the game you have been looking for, the collection of everything you want, done just the way you wanted it to be done. For me, that's what this game is. Everything I hoped for, everything I wanted. Chrono Trigger has been my favorite game for many years, is still as much fun today as it was when I first played it, and figures to stay that way for the foreseeable future. My favorite game ever, and hopefully some day yours as well: Chrono Trigger.
The Best Game Ever: 1/1