New Games Plus: Wake up, Crono edition

Sonic Unleashed (again), Age of Empires 2 for the DS, King of Fighters Orochi Collection for Wii, and a Neopets game.

And now that those are out of the way, we have one more release coming out this week: The Best RPG Ever*, Chrono Trigger. I don’t even know where to begin; the game’s been around for 13 years, and if you’re reading this site you almost certainly know who made it, the circumstances behind its creation, the fact that we’re never ever going to get anything quite like it again. Various permutations of the three behind CT — Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yuji Horii, Akira Toriyama, Masato Kato and Yasunori Mitsuda — have tried teaming up to other games, but the results always seem to be somewhat less than fantastic. Even if Square Enix were to try to make a sequel, the magic wouldn’t be there. Face facts, fans: it’s not happening again.

That depressing reality aside, this remake also gives me pause for reflection. I was but a young manchild when Chrono Trigger was released, and frankly I had no idea what it was. In fact, I’m not even entirely sure when I first played it. I used to live in Albuquerque, NM, and there were two places where I would rent games from: one was a Hastings-type establishment (it might have actually been Hastings, come to think of it), and the other was a small comics, cards and toy shop called Noble’s Collectibles. Among their other efforts to provide nerdy goodness to the denizens of Albuquerque, they also rented video games out for a dollar a day; you could rent a title for as long as you wanted, and they wouldn’t get too crazy on you if you returned the game late — in fact, late fees were just the same dollar per day. I used to ride my bike up to Noble’s and spend my hard-earned allowance on the games there, because this was the only way I got to play the new ones.

One summer day, after returning Maximum Carnage (I like red carts, what can I say), I decided to rent a game that I had seen several times but had never committed to trying. The game’s boxart featured a weird bear-thing with pink wings on a black-and-purple background. After falling in love with everything about the game, I quickly began hunting for others like it. I didn’t have to look long before I found another game by the company with a slightly familiar feel to it: Chrono Trigger. I paid the friendly neighborhood comic book nerd three bucks for the rental and biked home, anxious to play my new find, unaware that I had just picked up one of the most entertaining RPGs ever created.

Thankfully, it was summer, so I didn’t have any school to worry about; my best friend was away at his Dad’s house, too, so I had nothing to do except play my vidya games, and play I did. That first experience travelling back in time, the trial, finding Rick Robo — all amazing. But then I did something taboo in the brotherhood of rental gamers: I started a New Game + playthrough with somebody else’s file. I blew through the game so fast I didn’t stop to think about things like strategy. I was a kid on a mission to defeat Lavos, and nobody could stop me. And defeat him I did; I kicked the living crap out of him, many times over the course of the summer.

Eventually, I decided to start a new game on my own without the crutch of somebody else’s data. And for a while, things went well — that is, until I reached the Heckran cave after visiting Melchior’s home, which proved to be my downfall. I tried over and over, eventually becoming so pissed off that I stopped playing the game altogether. I actually still have a $13 late fee on my Noble’s tab because I was so angry at the game I forgot it was there. Years later, Chrono Trigger was rereleased in the Final Fantasy Chronicles collection, which I purchased within a week of its release. Everybody bitches about how horrible that version is, but honestly, I didn’t care — in fact, I still don’t. It was through the PlayStation version that I finally beat the game from scratch, and I was proud enough to start a New Game + and beat it several times again. When all was said and done, I think I earned eight of the endings. I even had a memory card dedicated entirely to Chrono Trigger files.

Now that the DS version is coming out, I don’t really know what to do. As much as I’d love to make the money and time appear from nothing, I don’t think it’s possible to devote as much time as I believe is necessary to playing Chrono Trigger the way I want to. That doesn’t mean I won’t get it, I just won’t get it right away. The game’s 13 years old, it’s not like it’s going anywhere; besides, I have my memories, and those still bring a smile to my face.

*May not be the best RPG ever, but it’s pretty damn close.

28 thoughts on “New Games Plus: Wake up, Crono edition

  1. Whee! Fun times, Rei. This is exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to see ’round here.

    (on a side note, I cannot be your live friend because you are too popular. I’m a sad panda)

  2. Chrono Trigger isn’t even close to the best. Its a good game, but to compare it to Fallout 1 and 2, KOTOR, Ultima 5, Phantasy Star 4, Dragon Quest 4, Baldur’s Gate 2, Wizardry and the like is pretty wrong.

  3. I think a good question in finding out what game of genre X is beloved would be to find out how old the person was when they first played it, how many other games of that genre had they played by that point, and how recently they have replayed it. (Since if 80s cartoons are any indication, nostalgia and age plays a huge part in determining what someone thinks is awesome. Of course these days Internet groupthink plays a big part too. Some places will praise Chrono Trigger as one of the RPG genre’s shining stars, another will say Fallout is. And both have a tendency to dismiss the other side. OMG CONSOLE VS PC RPGS! ITS THE INTERNET’S VERSION OF DEMOCRATS VS REPUBLICANS!! :P)

    Ya know what the really sad part is? Its not all that far from the truth. I need that super numchuck slapping Ogre from the recent Futurama movie to slap people in both camps.

  4. I remmeber a Far Side comic where all the animals of the forest say where they were when they heard Bambi’s Mother got shot, and just like that, I’m pretty sure EVERY gamer knows the exact circumstances to their first Trigger exposure to this day.

  5. To Captain Rufus:
    I didn’t really play PC games, well, ever. I played some freeware games here and there, but that wasn’t until the PS1, almost PS2 days. But since I first played Chrono Trigger, I’ve also played: Fallout 1, Fallout 2, KOTOR, and one of the Wizardry, and I still have to say that I enjoy Chrono Trigger more than all of them. PC RPGs and SNES JRPGS are similar enough to be called RPGs, but different enough that you can like one and not the other. You were clearly a PC gamer, so it’s obvious where your coming-of-age titles lie.

  6. Reading that I wrote “sequel”, I realize that’s not the word I was looking for. I know about Chrono Cross, but that’s hardly a sequel. What I meant was that a game like this won’t happen again.

  7. My first exposure to Chrono Trigger was buying a used SNES off a friend who was hoping to scrape up some cash for the new-fangled PlayStation. For $100, I got the SNES and 4 games: Link to the Past, Lufia and the Fortress of Doom, Final Fantasy 3, and Chrono Trigger. What a haul, eh? Those other three went by the wayside for a few months once I gave Chrono Trigger a whirl. Despite many flaws, many of which aren’t just nitpicks, I haven’t found a game yet that matches Chrono Trigger. Perfect game, no, but I have no problem calling it the best… so far.

  8. Chrono Cross is one of those games I beat the ever-living crap out of back in earlier days, only to now realize what a steaming pile of excrement it truly is.

    It makes me wonder how many truly awful games I dominated back in the day, wasting countless hours in a masochistic quest for 100% completion. Donkey Kong 64 immediately comes to mind.

  9. Console RPGs and PC RPGs aren’t even the same genre. How about Chrono Trigger is the pinnacle of JRPGs, and we leave it at that?

    It’s like arguing whether POP: Sands of Time or The Secret of Monkey Island is better, just because Sands of Time is sometimes called “adventure” these days by people who don’t understand genres.

  10. My first experience with Chrono Trigger was a bit underwhelming. I borrowed it from a friend immediately after playing Final Fantasy III, and I didn’t like the three party battles, lack of playable characters, lack of customization and terrible animation in the fights. It wasn’t until the PSOne version came out that I put it into proper context and came to really enjoy it, even though I still like Cross better.

    I still hate the way the battles play out though. They’re so stilted and ugly. It really irks me that the battle timer stops whenever anyone acts. I wish the DS version had an option to speed that up. I don’t know why I’m the only person who has a problem with it, because I never see it brought up anywhere else…

  11. I just realized I’ve spent half my life playing this game. Ok not every minute, but I was 13 when I got it. It’s still my favorite game ever.

  12. Well, my RPG background? I’m really gonna date myself here. There really weren’t any console RPGs when I got into the genre. Dragon Warrior (Quest), Ultima Exodus, and Hydlide (shudder) didn’t show up in English till 89 or so. I don’t think many people at all played Phantasy Star by that point, but outside of me I never knew anyone who even owned a Master System. (And I only bought mine to play Phantasy Star. Which I don’t think I ever actually found or played on an actual Master System. I didn’t even play it at all till the early emulation days, and my cart has only been in a Power Base Converter. I never finished it till the GBA port. I’d love to play the PS2 remake but Sega hates us like Gollum hates Bagginses and it just won’t happen. :( )

    My first RPG was Ultima 1 in early 88, followed up by Bard’s Tale in the Spring. Christmas of that year would see me get a pile of Commodore 64 RPGs. Ultimas 3, 4, and the superlative 5, Wizard’s Crown, Bard’s Tale 2, Shard of Spring, Wizardry, and a few more whose names I have forgotten. Early in 89 I played my first console RPG, Dragon Warrior, and finally got to play the AD&D Gold Box series. That Christmas belonged to the Genesis which was RPG free at the time. By the summer I got a hold of its first 2 RPGs, Phantasy Star 2 and Super Hydlide which was actually somewhat popular in the niche category of Genesis RPGs. (Most Genny owners wanted to know what games other Genny owners have. They usually expected this list to be comprised of mostly sports games.)

    That Christmas was the multi system RPG Christmas with Sword of Vermillion, an AD&D Gold Box title, and Dragon Warrior 2.

    Honestly outside of Ultima 5 most of what I would consider the best RPGs have all been in the last 10 years or so.

    I didn’t play Chrono Trigger till Winter 96, where it was being played alongside such titles as Ultima Underworld, Might and Magic World of Xeen, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, Vay, and Phantasy Star 4.

    I had already played dozens of RPGs by that point and while I found it to be very good, it didn’t wow me the way it seems it did the rest of the RPG community for some reason.

  13. Well, I too had played dozens of RPGs by the time I got to Chrono Trigger. I suspect most people here had. But that doesn’t change the fundamental truth, which is that RPGs do not get much better.

  14. Chrono Trigger was what I bought as a consolation prize when it turned out that Secret of Evermore wasn’t out yet. Happiest accident of my gaming life.

    (The second happiest was Suikoden, in all of its horrible boxart glory. Yes, the busty witch caught my eye.)

  15. Another great result of a Masato Kato and Yasunori Mitsuda teamup (issue 17) is the great album Kirite. It’s awesome even if I can’t understand Kato’s 50-page story that came with it.

  16. I know one thing, and that is, if I were to have made my decision on whether to purchase Chrono Trigger based on the U.S. commercials, I would have ended up buying some crappy fighting game instead.

    Dodged one heck of a bullet there.

  17. Best console RPG for sure, but Crusaders of the Dark Savant will always hold a special place in my hear (note: avoid the “Gold” edition at all costs).

    I’m currently playing DS Chrono. I had forgotten how painless and fast the combat is. Why can’t all RPGs have such seamless combat? Why must it always be so tedious? Why are there still fucking random encounters with invisible enemies?

  18. Chrono Trigger get!
    I just ordered my import copy from Canada, as it’s not out in Europe until next year.

  19. CT is a fantastic game, and one of the best ever. But the VERY best? That’s a hard one to say. Final Fantasy VI, Dragon Quest IV and V. Hmm… And then there’s PC games, of which Gothic II is the best NO MATTER WHAT PEOPLE THINK. Yeah, Fallout 2 is close.

  20. Hey, since we all want to call Game X BEST EVAR, how about this?

    Defend why its not only great, but what makes it better than other games. Even if others disagree, its a good path to understanding and knowledge.

    And given the day, knowledge is something to be thankful for!

    (Unlike my job who even when I am normally scheduled as off for a day usually schedules me for the holidays since people don’t stay the heck at home any more. And I just got a couple new games from Freeverse for my Mac at 50% off. I now want to invade Poland and make “witty” comments. I will have to wait now and that’s just terrible. :( )

  21. Can we not do this thing where we take someone’s offhanded remark as some sort of challenge/invitation to commence chest-thumping about subjective nonsense?

  22. Chrono Trigger is chocolate dipped nostalgia at its best. I spent a whole month saving for it after my 8th grade year and loved every minute of the game. I played it again earlier this year for the first time since owning an SNES and I still loved it. It was one of those games that had a huge impact in my formative years. Chrono Trigger, I love you!

  23. Kurt, I think it’s unfair to slam Chrono Trigger, on any level, for its battle aesthetic. It looked the way it did because of the nature of its approach to battles. CT’s battles had no transitions and occurred right where you encountered your enemies in the field, and characters and enemies were all animated. This comparison to FFVI isn’t fair because FFVI had the benefit of having its battles in a separate realm of gameplay from field exploration. Its battles were also primarily static, allowing it to utilize big, beautiful sprites. The enemies in Chrono Trigger might not be as impressive as fighting artwork from Amano’s FF catalogs, but hey, at least they moved.

    Also, on the subject of characters, I think CT clearly demonstrates quality over quantity when compared to FFVI. FFVI might have had twice as many characters, but a lot of them were decidedly peripheral (if not, downright extraneous). Chrono Trigger’s cast was much smaller, but the characters were much more intimately involved with each other and the story itself.

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