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The Greatest Console RPG ever made
on May 20, 2002
Chrono Trigger remains the greatest console RPG ever made. The version on this new CD compilation is identical in play to the original, but includes several animated cutscenes (done by Bird Studios, producers of Dragonball/DBZ and owned/operated by Akira Toriyama, who did the character designs for Chrono Trigger as well) which are themselves worth the price. (In point of fact, the price itself is interesting; the compilation of Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 4 costs less than either of them did separately when first released.)
Chrono Trigger centers around the adventures of Crono (yes, that's the correct spelling), a young man whose only apparent unusual feature is skill with a sword; otherwise, he lives a rather ordinary life, getting his allowance from his mom, taking care of his pet cat, and, as the story begins, looking forward to the Millennial Fair. At the Fair, he meets with a pretty blonde girl, Marle, who wears an interesting pendant, and who as a stranger to his town asks him if he'd be nice enough to show her around a bit.
Things get strange when they visit the exhibit area of one of Crono's friends, Lucca, who's an eccentric inventor. Her invention mysteriously reacts to the presence of Marle's pendant, and Marle vanishes, leaving the glowing pendant behind. When Crono decides to follow her wherever she's gone and bring her back, he's catapulted into a time-spanning adventure which will take him from the present to 65 million years in the past, and thousands of years in the future, and eventually to confront a world-destroying monster which may, at the same time, have been responsible for the creation of Crono's own civilization. Along the way he will learn secrets of his world's history, gain new powers, and gather allies, ranging from the super-strong cavegirl Ayla to the technologically advanced machine-man Robo.
Chrono Trigger's greatest claim to fame was, and is, that it boasts many possible endings, all quite different, based on what decisions you make during the game. They're not all easily predictable, either, and at least one or two are rather creepy. It's also interesting in that, after a certain point, you no longer have to keep Crono in your party (most games have a set viewpoint character that you have to keep around). It's quite possible to finish the game with *ANY* combination of available characters.
Gameplay is, in my opinion, superior to that of any of the Final Fantasy games. For one thing, it avoids the "eternally wandering monster" phenomenon which makes overland travel in the FF series so damnably frustrating, while still allowing you to wander freely across the land and visit places, looking for clues, new things to buy, and new friends and allies. For another, the combat sequences are much more active than those of other RPGs of its same era, and include special techniques -- both for individuals AND ones combining the techniques of two or three characters at once. Once you beat the game, you have the option of using "new game+", which allows you to start with the same power, and most of the items, that you'd gained along the way the first time. This is useful for those trying to play through again, since it allows you to zip through combats which, the first time, took many minutes to complete. (it does, however, introduce a bit of cognitive dissonance, especially in the early parts of the game: "How the heck are they throwing ME in jail?! I have enough power to level this entire CASTLE by myself!")
The soundtrack of Chrono Trigger is unbelieveably good. Somehow, through the miracle of MIDI, the original game had 3 full CDs worth of music crammed on it, and the skill with which the MIDI was composed and produced made it sound, at the time, very nearly orchestral. Even today the sound isn't bad, and the re-done, fully orchestral version is amazing. Each major character has its own theme, and they're all excellent. Chrono Trigger's soundtrack still rates as one of my absolute favorites.
If you like console RPGs at all, this is one that you absolutely MUST buy, and keep enshrined somewhere. Now available as part of "Final Fantasy Chronicles", there's even more reason to own it, since it's cheaper now than it was when first released!