Revisiting Trigger, part three

I’ve been procrastinating on part three of my rhapsodic waxing re: Chrono Trigger, but then Joystiq had to go and link me. Now I’ve got guilt. Alas, this will be the last of these for a while, regardless of guilt; my next two weeks are pretty much slammed, and I haven’t made it any further into my replay than is chronicled here. Between my review of Heroes of Mana due tomorrow and the release of Phantom Hourglass Thursday and our upcoming online exclusive first look at _____ _ and the fact that I’ll be penning the next EGM cover story (eep), I don’t really have a lot of Trigger Time. Or, uh, any other time, really.

But enough about my woes. Let’s talk about whoas.

The Village of Magic

Throughout the process of writing these CT blogs, I’ve found myself constantly wrestling with the urge to say “This is where the game really begins!” I guess that’s a good sign, as it suggests the game evolves organically; players are constantly given new options, new abilities, new story twists. Does the game really begin when you fall into the first time gate? When you enter the cathedral? Once you bust out of jail? Once you’ve reached the future? At the End of Time?

Let’s go with the End of Time, if for no other reason than it’s really the last time you can really make the claim that “it all begins here!” legitimately. I mean, we’re five hours into a 20-hour game, you know? Besides, in the End of Time, you’re informed of the three-member party mandate, granted the gift of magic, and given the freedom to move freely through time. So yeah. This is where the game really begins!

The End of Time means facing off against Spekkio (the Master of War, not to be mistaken for Kratos or Nic Cage), which unlock the party’s magical techniques and make additional double techs available, which is good. It also means that anytime you come across a Time Gate, both sides of the gate become linked by a platform in the west portion of the End. Having leapt from the far-flung future, the party suddenly has the option of leaping to the distant past (like, way distant — 60 million years, give or take) or back to the comfortable safety of 1000 AD. “Comfort” being a relative term, no doubt, what with the party being hunted as terrorists and all.

Another reason you can make the case for this being the “true” beginning of the game is because it’s where the game’s mildly non-linear elements start to poke their head through. There’s not actually much point in traveling to 60 million BC just yet, since all you can do is wander and fight, but the option’s there, which is certainly more than most modern console RPGs allow. Ultimately, though, the way forward is by heading home, sort of. By way of some monsters’ closet. (There’s a joke about bottling screams for electricity in here somewhere, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.) And through the Heckran cave, packed with creatures vulnerable only to magic.

Now it is the beginning of a fantastic story! Let make a journey to the cave of monsters!

The Hero Appears

After you visit old man Melchior for some important foreshadowing and Antipode the Heckran into submission, there’s not a lot to do in the present besides head to Leene Square and leap into the time gate, linking it to the End of Time as well. (I also recommend stopping along the way to snag the old man’s lunch. Now that the trial’s over and done with, to hell with anything so mundane as morality or consequences.)

The next leg of the game is, in an entirely roundabout way, a quest to recruit Frog. With the rescue of Queen Leene, Frog’s gone totally emo, hiding out in a hole in the woods and sulking about how he’s not worthy to be a hero. Meanwhile, as he feels sorry for himself, evil runs amok and countless thousands suffer and die. I mean, yeah, being cursed to look like a frog sure sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. Being physically revolting hasn’t stopped Carrot Top from living an upbeat life, for instance.

Granted, you don’t immediately realize that you’re trying to talk Frog into joining your party (and/or spending his inactive hours standing beneath a light post in a timeless void); that objective sort of develops out of the story. The team heads back to 600 BC to put a stop to Magus, whom they believe created Lavos as part of his war on humanity, and in order to do that they have to fight past Zenan Bridge. Along the way they learn about the “legendary hero,” who appears to be a kid of some sort but actually turns out to be a poseur who swiped Frog’s stuff. And of course, here they have their first encounter with Magus’ general Ozzie, leader of a triumvirate of tone-deaf, evil fiends.

Yes, Ozzie, Flea and Slash, aka Vinegar, Mayo and Soy Sauce — say what you will about Ted Woolsey’s translations, but I’ll fight a heavy metal pantheon over a bunch of condiments any day. The generals are clearly where the dev staff said, “Alright, Toriyama, these guys are all yours,” which is why they look like hybrids of DragonBall characters and sound like they should be refrigerated after opening. And I’m OK with that.

Of course, Ozzie turns out to be as much of a chicken-wuss as the so-called legendary hero, making Frog seem pretty noble in comparison, even though the latter is moping in a hobbit hole and listening to Dismemberment Plan albums (on vinyl, no doubt, for maximum pretension value) as he weeps softly to himself. He’s so self-involved he doesn’t even notice when Crono lightfingers his prized treasure, the haft of the ancient sword Masamune. Which is, curiously, a broadsword rather than a katana, indicating that Woolsey’s localization liberties weren’t always spot on. The blade of Masamune, by a totally crazy coincidence, is hidden away in a cave in the mountains where the not-so-legendary hero is seen scurrying to safety when the party arrives.

The trek through the Denodoro Mountains really plays up some of the more unique elements of the gameplay. For instance, you’re kinda boned if you don’t bring Lucca along; she’s the only character capable of using fire spells, which are necessary to weaken the nastier breed of mountain goblin. The need to soften up foes with a particular style or element of attack is seen throughout the game, but this is the first time it really plays a crucial role; if you don’t burn away the goblins’ hammers, they deal double damage and take only a fraction of the full power of your attacks.

Equally unique are the battle setups. While Chrono Trigger doesn’t inflict random encounters upon players, there are certain fights that simply can’t be avoided. Even then, the game tries to keep them interesting. Enemies are usually visible on screen before a fight, and sometimes you can skip right past them by behaving certain ways. The small dinosaurs near the time gate in 60 million BC, for instance, will fight if you run into them as they’re patrolling their turf, but if you stand still as they run past they’ll brush right up against you without going aggro.

And then there are those stupid freelancers, the sword-slinging crow dudes in the mountains; although they’ll fight you directly, they greatly prefer to antagonize other monsters by throwing rocks at them, provoking them to attack the party. It’s annoying, but definitely clever. Almost every battle in the game has a “story” to it, whether its the roly-poly pink guy being attacked by Gremlins in the hills north of Guardia or goblins being teased into violence by rogue freelancers or a sleeping guard in the cathedral. The preludes to battle make each area feel as though each encounter was carefully considered without bogging the pace down with excessive dialogue or cinematics.

Did I mention already that this is a great game? Yeah, OK then.

The Rare Red Rock

Once the upper half of the Masamune is collected (requiring the player to defeat its spirits, Masa and Mune, next in the line of bosses capable of turning combo techs against the party), Frog is still all despondent. So Crono hauls the broken sword to Melchior who sends the team a-fetch questin’ in the prehistoric past in search of a long-lost red stone necessary for the blade’s reforging.

This introduces the party to Ayla, a welcome break from the typical weakling RPG female stereotype. No healing magic here, and no furtively smacking an enemy with a puny staff or rod for a fraction of the hero’s damage; Ayla has the best physical growth stats of any character in the game and is usually the first character to start hitting for quadruple digits. Also, her combo techs with Crono are pretty much capable of destroying anyone’s face. And to top it all off, she’s somehow mastered the art of hairstyling, depilation and lipstick application, despite her inability to form a grammatically correct sentence. In short, she was Square’s first female bodybuilder.

Actually, that’s probably an unwise joke to make, since I’m pretty sure any female bodybuilder reading this could snap my body into three tiny pieces. Just, uh, just kidding. Ah ha hah.

Like any floozy worth her salt, Ayla has a raging party to celebrate the appearance fresh meat. Crono and his crew get totally wasted and wake up with hangovers, which is pretty impressive since Nintendo’s 16-bit censorship ensured they were slugging back “soup.” Once they each down a V8 and a raw egg, they discover that the neighboring fraternity totally staged a panty raid while they were passed out and swiped Lucca’s gate key in the process.


Next (in a few weeks): Footprints! Follow! | Thanks as always to VGM for the images.

53 thoughts on “Revisiting Trigger, part three

  1. Awesome. You’re making me want to go play Chrono Trigger again. Currently I’m enjoying Chocobo Tales, though, which is so CUTE.

  2. “No healing magic here.”

    Uh, what about her Kiss ability? You can argue that it’s a Tech instead of full-on Chrono Trig magic, but that’s splitting hairs.

    Side note: My preferred party was Chrono, Frog, and Ayla. Her double-tech with Frog, Slurp Kiss, is easily one of the most disturbing healing moves in the game, yet it costs barely any MP, and their triple tech with Chrono is awesome.

  3. Kiss isn’t magic. Sex is perfectly natural. Except when it involves mutant frog-things.

    SNES all the way.

  4. I’ve always been partial to Crono / Robo / Frog, myself – they get grotesquely overpowered by the end game, and there’s plenty of healing there. Plus, you get that great double-tech with Robo and Frog where Robo drops the big elbow off the top.

    The next bit will likely contain my favourite part of the game: the hunting grounds, where you can rack up the goodies and then trade them in for ridiculously advanced weaponry (since Ayla apparently is too dumb to figure out that her tribe has laser weapons and robot parts lying around the hut, you have to wonder how she lasted as long as she did).

  5. Gotta go with 3D Attack(Crono/Frog/Ayla) over Triple Raid(Crono/Frog/Robo). Because it’s 3D. I mean come on. Also, Falcon Hit is ridiculously good.

  6. Yeah, Falcon Hit and the occasional heal spell are basically all you need to win every single late-game boss encounter.

  7. “any female bodybuilder reading this” Yeah… I’m sure that’s a huge demographic…

  8. Crono/Ayla/Marle. Between Falcon Hit and Cube Toss, your only problem in the end game should be occasionally refilling your MP (and that’s where all those elixirs Charmed from the ape monsters come into play).

    It’s not that I hate a challenge, but after the 30th time you’ve gone through the ending…

  9. Am I the only RPG player who didn’t try to break the system in all the SNES classics?

    yes? okay.

  10. I’ve started re-playing through this myself (first time since 199X!) though I’m doing the Japanese version this time on the Su-Fami. Reading the text in the boxes of your screen shots makes me curious how much was changed in the two versions. Besides the 3 bosses you’ve already mentioned, I’ve noticed mostly proper nouns so far (Melchior is “Bosshu” and the sword Masamune is “Grandolion”. Magus is an improvement over the Japanese which is just “Maou,” or Demon Lord, even when he’s in your party, poor guy.)

    Did the US version have the beer drinking contest at the Millenial Fair? I feel like it did.. it was definitely “sake” in this version. Square Japan is all about the underage drinking I guess.

    Also, if Ayla’s the first Square female-body builder, what others are there? (I ask only because I know you can tell me).

  11. I’m drudging my way through the PS version just for the few cutscenes with hand-drawn animation. I’m about to head to 65 Million B.C.E. for the Red Rock and I’m starting to wonder if these (fairly brief but infuriating) load times are even worth it. I’ve seen, like, two cutscenes and they weren’t exactly mind-blowing.

    How much do I love this game…?

  12. Literally, in terms of the game, it begins when Lavos crashes into Earth? I started watching the Chrono Trigger anime once. I stopped in the middle, but only because it was dumb.

  13. What’s wrong with The Dismemberment Plan? ;_; But seriously, that’s a more obscure reference for a moper to listen to.

    As for favorite party, I always went with Crono-Marle-Frog. Arc Impulse is nice, Spire looks cool, and you get some nice curing with the girl and the frog with their spells and Double Cure. But that’s what’s so nice about the game, with so many people having a different favorite party, it’s obvious any combination will work.

  14. I was also a big fan of Chrono/Frog/Ayla. Every time I replay this, I start to use a different combination, but eventually crack and go back to my old team.

    I really need to play this game again…man, I hate this power you wield over me, Chrono.

  15. Did the US version have the beer drinking contest at the Millenial Fair? I feel like it did.. it was definitely “sake” in this version. Square Japan is all about the underage drinking I guess.

    It was a soda drinking contest in the US version. Also, I used to love playing Ayla/Marle/Luca for the Charlie’s Angels reference potential.

  16. Usually, I would go with Chrono/Frog/Marle. Arc Impulse, Ice Water, X-Strike and Ice Sword2 are just so awesome it hurts. For the Black Omen, I would switch Frog with Ayla, just to Double Charm every single monster for Speed Tabs, Megalixirs, Gold Studs, Nova Armors, Prism gear and the like.

    After Crono is no longer compulsory, I just team everyone up and have fun with the wacky combinations.

  17. Nothing is wrong with Dismemberment Plan. I like them! But I dated someone who listened to them a lot while she was sad so it’s imprinted in my mind as the kind of thing you put on when you’re in the mood to cut. Uh, not that she cut. Anyway. It was an off-the-cuff remark like, oh, pretty much everything in this entry.

    I’ve played through the game with every possible party permutation, but I always go back to Crono and two ladies. Unless I don’t feel like being totally cheap, since Luminaire is disgustingly powerful — then it’s the three-lady team. Frog and Robo are just kinda… I dunno. I guess I balk at characters named after their most obvious features. I don’t rename Marle “Ditz” or Lucca “Nerd,” for instance.

    I only made it two minutes into the CT anime, personally.

  18. I normally went with Chrono, Lucca, and Marle too. It’s a very conventional but very satisfying party to play. Everyone has their own area of expertise. You always feel like you made a good tactical decision. You’ve got battle guy, healer, and spell slinger. Fun. Not to mention you’re ready for nearly any configuration of monsters when you’ve got ice, fire, and lightning.

  19. I noticed that I almost never used Crono once he was no longer compulsory, probably because he was always few levels ahead of everyone else and the novelty of being able to use any combination of characters was too much to resist.

    I never had a ‘preferred’ team, but Robo-Frog-Lucca would be my favorites. But the most powerful team would probably be Crono/Ayla-Robo-Magus because it covers all bases – Crono/Ayla for raep physical damage, Robo for healing and good damage (phys and mag), Magus for omni-elemental capabilities. You just have to make a choice between extra lightning magic and a third nuking spell or stealing and status+HP healing.

  20. Actually, forget ‘extra lightning magic’. Replace it with ‘75% critical with ultimate weapon’. True to form this only occurs to me after I make the post.

  21. “Am I the only RPG player who didn’t try to break the system in all the SNES classics?”

    /raises hand

    I usually go with Crono/Frog/Magus or Crono/Frog/Marle.

  22. OK, you’re recollecting Chrono Trigger and in this installment you mention some indie rock thing called The Dismemberment Plan and do not mention the Chrono Trigger soundtrack itself.

    This shall not stand.

    I guess we can expect mention of [i]The Little Mermaid[/i] when we make it to the Ocean Palace?

  23. >Kiss isn’t magic. Sex is perfectly natural. Except when it involves mutant frog-things.

    Oh god, you just reminded me of Slurp Kiss. A kiss-with-tongue between frog and human that super-heals everyone. Captain Subtext would have a field day.

    >Also, if Ayla’s the first Square female-body builder, what others are there?

    Tifa, at least.

  24. I guess we can expect mention of [i]The Little Mermaid[/i] when we make it to the Ocean Palace?


  25. I really should mention that he most important role Chrono Trigger’s played in my life is that its theme tune happened to be very effective at pushing out earworms. You know, when a song gets stuck in your head? I’d start remembering the theme tune to Chrono Trigger, and because it loops, it pushes out whatever’s stuck in my head then jumps out itself once it’s finished.

    I had Toni Basil’s “Mickey” stuck in my head for years before I played Chrono Trigger. It saved my life.

  26. ReyVGM: Actually you can only do that after you’ve eaten a piece of food (which has been laying around unrefrigerated I might add), so the impression I got was that Kirby was regurgitating the digested food into his friend’s mouth (or vice versa, if the helper ate the food first), like a mother bird feeding her babies. Something to think about the next time you’re trying to eat something that’s been pureed.

    On the topic of Chrono Trigger parties: Crono with a gold stud equipped. The other two slots are mostly inconsequential, although I do like Ayla and Marle. Double charm for the win, and they can both heal. Not that you need it much when you’re throwing Luminaire (and Confuse/Cyclone for those annoying magic-resistant enemies) all over the damn place. Before you get access to the gold stud, I still like to bring Ayla and Marle along, although sometimes I replace Marle with Frog if I feel I’m going to need more physical presence.

  27. Unrelated, but I can’t be arsed to write a separate email for this: in the Metroidvania section, Chakan the Forever Man might deserve a spot on a technicality. There’s only two items that open routes forward, but they are still there, and the rest of the game plays pretty much like the rest of them.

    Youtube has an amusing series of videos where a guy plays through it. Looks unplayable as hell.

  28. “Unplayable as hell” is accurate. If you can beat Chakan without the infinite potions cheat then I salute you as a gamer god.

  29. Now, when we say “CT anime”, are we talking about the animated cuts in the PS port, or a full-fledged series?

    From the PS version, I’ve only seen the scenes showing the fall of Guardia, and Lucca finding Kid in the forest. This was back when the GIA was still running, by the way.

  30. Chrono Trigger consumed my free time for many years. I think the 99 Black Rocks I had speaks for itself. Very much a fun game to play through on the SNES, but kinda painful on the PS1, with the load times and all. Either way, it’s still one of those awesome games that transcends time (no pun intended) and remains awesome even after this long.

    The only thing that’s bugging me about this review is where the Hell Parish power skill leveled Robo to have Shock before fighting Heckran. Nuu’s get boring after a little while, man. And judging by your max HP, your character level isn’t that high. Not trying to insinuate anything, but that’s a lot of AP to go through that early in the game.

  31. Ohchristalmighty! I tried with all my will power, but it was for naught. I barely got past the two minute mark. What might have possessed anyone to believe people would want to watch that trash?

  32. There is something magical about hearing Gato/Gonzales sing the silver point song though. Just skip ahead to 7:20 to hear it. The rest of the show is pretty terrible.

  33. “The only thing that’s bugging me about this review is where the Hell Parish power skill leveled Robo to have Shock before fighting Heckran.”

    Shhhhh…. cheats to go through the game faster…

  34. “The only thing that’s bugging me about this review is where the Hell Parish power skill leveled Robo to have Shock before fighting Heckran.”

    “Shhhhh…. cheats to go through the game faster…”

    It’s a secret to everybody.

  35. Fanboys DEMAND a Toastyfrog/Reptite House crossover comic!

    Crono/Marle/Lucca is tradition, guys. Tradition. There’s nothing quite like the not very efficient Main Guy and Two Love Interests in an RPG–see also, the team of Duran/Liesz/Angela in SD3. Neither team works well, but it just feels right, and the weaknesses they create give the team personality, you know? Other than Antipode, Marle really doesn’t work well there–she’s a healer, but the only multi-target head is Aura Whirl, which doesn’t quite cut it and demands you take off your best damage dealer from the attack. But it just feels right for her to be there, just as Duran/Liesz/Angela is the only choice a red-blooded American male can make.

  36. I somehow managed to watch the whole thing. I didn’t want to, but I felt some sort of obligation to do it. The only thing I liked was the reference to the Mop.

  37. >Also, if Ayla’s the first Square female-body builder, what others are there? (I ask only because I know you can tell me).

    Well, Sif from the Romancing Saga remake was quite brawny. Come to think of it, she was also in the original Romancing Saga back in 1992, which would make her Square’s first female bodybuilder.

    Which means that Parish lied to us.

  38. “The only thing that’s bugging me about this review is where the Hell Parish power skill leveled Robo to have Shock before fighting Heckran.”

    “Shhhhh…. cheats to go through the game faster…”

    Or he could’ve just grabbed a few screencaps from Video Game Museum.

  39. Or he could’ve just grabbed a few screencaps from Video Game Museum.

    You do realize who you’re admonishing, right?

  40. I always thought comment threads were populated by ‘original author’ and ‘anonymous idiot’. Or, at least, that’s the impression I get from the way everyone else acts in comment threads.

  41. “I suppose you will find out in a few days!”

    Hehe… looking forward to it. If not C4, then my money’s on Fallout 3. Any takers?

Comments are closed.