Chrono Trigger at its heart is fairly similar to the many other RPGs of the SNES area, but with some notable points worth mentioning. The qualities familiar to anyone who has played RPGs before is the process of forming a party, fighting enemies to gain experience, money, skills and spells, buying equipment and items to use with the party and increase abilities, going through towns and talking to people and gathering information and all of that. Notable to Chrono Trigger that isn't in all other games is the fact that most enemies are visible on screen, and engaging in a battle or not is most often an option left to the player. As well, enemies are only present in certain areas, with a world map traversable free of worry of encounter with any obstacles. On the world map, the characters can wander around and see small versions of different places, such as houses or particular landmarks, which can be entered. Upon entering these locations, the characters can then explore, fight enemies, talk with people, and other things such as that, and is where the primary action in the game takes place. Again, much of this is stuff that is familiar to those experienced with RPGs, and is much of what makes the genre what it is.
Another thing that Chrono Trigger has in common with many RPGs, is that the end goal is to "save the world from a horrible destruction." In the process of doing that, Chrono Trigger spans different eras of time, with the characters being able to pass back and forth between time periods, addressing different issues taking place within those periods. Chrono Trigger's approach to time travel is fairly straightforward and not bogged down by too many complications, although still more interesting than just "Encountering a problem in one time, going back and changing one thing, and then coming back and having it changed." There are many things, though, which can be done in one time period which will have an effect in other time periods, from the dramatic to the more discrete. Still, for the most part traveling between the different time periods is a smooth continuation of the story, with there being a specific reason to go to a particular time period, and with goals and tasks to accomplish while there.
With Chrono Trigger as a game, both in the SNES original and the DS version, describing what makes it the game that it is, isn't so much describing what it does different from other games, but in how it takes the things that have worked in other games and perfects them. Exploring the different time periods, with their different locations and tasks, is an absolute joy, as the landscapes and environments are wonderfully detailed, the music is enchanting and perfectly fits everywhere, the battles are smooth and fit in with everything else going on in the surroundings, the people are interesting and engaging to talk with, and everything just comes together to create a spectacular whole of a game. In addition, the different characters available to play with in the game, with not all of them possible to have in the active party at the same time, creates some interesting possibilities. Different characters have different abilities and strengths, making for different battles and arrangements. In addition, many of the characters have a variety of different things they might say in particular circumstances, creating a different reaction for many scenes with the different combinations. As well as this, there are over a dozen different endings depending on what one does within the game, and how and when one chooses to beat the game, creating even more reason to play through the game time and again. Chrono Trigger takes everything that makes RPGs what they are, and which create a love for the genre, and works them together into an absolutely spectacular game.
Of course, that same general description of the game is true for the SNES version as well. This isn't as full a review as could be given to the core game itself - and for anyone looking for more details on the main game itself, the reviews for the SNES version are definitely worth checking out as well. For those who could easily choose between either version and don't place a significant value on the portability, though, what is there in the DS version which would make it worth finding over the SNES version, or worth playing in place or in addition to that version? The same great game is there, but there are a variety of changes, additions, and modifications which make looking at this game more involved than just an either-or option.
The main point to being on the DS as opposed to the SNES, aside from the portability, is the two screens and the touch-screen. Chrono Trigger for DS makes use of some interesting uses of both of these options. The game itself has the option to be completely playable either fully with the touch-screen, or fully using just the buttons, giving the best of both worlds to everyone with a preference for one or the other. With the touch-screen option, characters can be made to walk by pointing at a place on the screen, menu options can be selected by pressing on them, and battles can work fluidly with the enemies on one screen and options on another. Meanwhile, with making full use of the buttons, everything can be controlled exactly as it was in the SNES version, the controls and layout of the main screen being done exactly the same.
Regardless of the control option one selects, there are still advantages to the DS layout. In particular, when exploring different areas, the bottom screen displays a map of the area. For the overworld, this map is similar to the one available in the SNES version. Inside of houses or other areas, however, the map displays a full view of the area, letting one see what there is in the place and where to go, with an indicator of where the group is located. In other areas, such as places with monsters, the map starts out blank, slowly unveiling as the area is explored and uncovered. Uncovering a map like this is valuable for a variety of reasons. In particular, it allows it to be seen where in an area has yet to be explored, and when an area has been fully explored. As well, it quickly allows a view of the areas that have been explored and which have not. Having a map like this may seem a simple addition at first, but, it proves both to be very useful, and a goal in itself to uncover every area that is visited.
In addition to the new options presented by the two screens and the touchscreen, there are yet more additions to the game, both small and significant. Among the most notable are the addition of two new tasks to be completed in the game, and one separate area, one available from the beginning, one available part-way through, and the last at the end of the game. Without particularly spoiling either of them too much, they provide some interesting stuff to do in the game, especially for those who have already played through the main game countless times and are looking for something new to be done. The first of these areas opens up in two different time periods, and involves traveling back and forth between the two accomplishing different tasks. This area, while fairly involved, comes off as rather disappointing, as it ends up being little more than a bunch of "fetch quests," heading off into the same couple of areas a bunch of times to do different things, and back and forth between the time periods within quick succession. This area has the feeling of much potential but a low amount of realization, as the tasks given in the area could have been much more interesting if spread out over the course of the game and involving different areas, and with the new areas being less repetitive and just running back and forth over the same places so often. As well, the areas, even though "new," are mostly comprised of scenery and music used in other locations, and so doesn't feel quite so much "new," as just a bit of rearranging. Still, it's something different - and completely optional - and that's always welcome. The other new area to the game, presented after the main quest has been completed, has the party venturing through a number of new or different places, with some significant benefits to the party, and some interesting revelations for the game. Plus, a song that was on the official soundtrack for the SNES game but which wasn't included in the actual game itself is used in one of these areas, which on its own makes it a worthy addition.
The third significant addition to the game is with a monster arena, providing an interesting side diversion to the main goings-on in the game. The arena is available from the title screen after starting a game, and from a particular area within the game later on as well. When first arriving, a couple of different monsters are available to select, which can be raised and used in battle. The monster battles on its own in the arena, but it's possible to select different items to aid it or give it some general directions. There are a couple of different levels at which one can choose to battle, with stronger opponents and better prizes higher up on the list. As far as prizes, winning yields items which can be equipped or added to the inventory for use in the main game. This can have the effect of providing stronger equipment or items than would regularly be available at a particular point in the game, which can be of significant benefit. After battling, the monsters can be sent out to train while one resumes the main quest, with the choice of different eras to send the monster to, and different items to send it with, which result in different gains to the monster while it's out training.
In addition to these significant changes, there are also some smaller, but still noteworthy, changes. One is that the translation for the game has been re-done. While the general feel of the script is still the same, of course, the changes can be off-putting for those who have played the game so many times that they know what is supposed to be said in each dialog box and are caught by the differences along the way. It's not any worse really, just different, and takes some getting used to. Another change in the game is the addition of some movies during the game. These movies depict scenes that take place in the game regularly, and often are followed by the actual in-game scene of what happens. While these movies seem a bit out of place, break up the flow of the game, and add length to the scenes, they're still an interesting addition to the game. As well as all that, there are many changes in different options on the menu screen, which are both very interesting and useful. One of these, a very simple option but one of particular joy for this game, is a music player. This allows one to listen to any of the tracks that have been encountered in the game at any time. Considering how beautiful the music in this game is, that can easily provide plenty of enjoyment on its own. In addition to this, there are also lists of all the items, techs and enemies in the game, along with information on all of them. These are very interesting additions to the game, providing some handy information, and also providing a challenge for completionists who want to try to find everything. As well for completionists, when every area in a time period has been uncovered, there is a map of all of the areas including the location of every treasure on the map, which can be fun to look through. None of those additions are particularly significant on their own, but all contribute to make for a very interesting package of new things available within the game for those looking for something new.
In the end, what it comes down to, is that, if one loved Chrono Trigger, and ever felt upset when one had to be away from it, Chrono Trigger DS is an absolute must-purchase. Even for those who want something new in the game, as opposed to just the same old but portable, there are plenty of new additions in this game to make for many different things to experience along the way. While not all of these changes and additions are necessarily good, it's still something different in addition to the spectacular core of a game which is still there. Really, the only thing that keeps this version of a game whose original version was perfect from being perfect as well is not only that some of the additions weren't as good as they might have been, but that some really didn't work well and had a negative impact on the game. Would it have been better to just leave the game alone entirely or only make the minor changes that they did? Probably. Still, it is interesting to take a look over the new stuff, especially for those who have gone through the game countless times already and might be looking for something a bit new. Not to mention, really, even though there are some issues with the new stuff that has been brought to the game, the core of the game is still there. It's still the same spectacular game which it has always been, and is now available in a portable form. For anyone who hasn't had a chance to try the SNES version for one reason or another, the DS version is a fine way to experience the game also. As well, for those who simply can't stand to be away from Chrono Trigger for even a second, Chrono Trigger DS ensures that never has to happen again.