In our continuing quest to conquer our backlog, we offer up a look at Chrono Trigger.
SNES-era RPGs hold a special place in my heart. Secret of Mana/Evermore, Illusion of Gaia, Final Fantasy VI, Earthbound…some of my favorite console games of all time come from the early to mid 90′s. Despite this, in a weird twist of fate, I barely put any time into Chrono Trigger as a kid. I know, I know…major party foul. Well, there it is: aside from a passing weekend at a friend’s house, I never played Chrono Trigger. That is, until I was given a copy of the DS version over the holidays last year.
One of my top priorities was to try and experience it through the eyes of an 11 year old, the same age I would have been when it was originally released. Within the first pixelated moments, I was transported back to when I spent more time gaming than doing anything else. Lemme tell ya, it’s weird feeling nostalgic about a game that I have no nostalgic attachment to! Naturally, there’s a limit to how authentic that feeling can be, but for the most part, it was there.
It’s impossible not to be impressed by the grand scale of the narrative on display here. Transcending time and space, Chrono Trigger’s story hits every bullet point required to be described as “epic”. It truly makes you feel like you’re but a single pebble on a mountain, only permitted to catch a small glimpse of the entirety of reality. With that in mind, I feel like the story itself is what makes this one an epic…the presentation? Not so much. I found it really hard to connect with what was happening in a “here and now” way, and only realized the severity of my in-game actions long past their actual occurrence. This delayed response made navigating the game world tricky, as I was never sure how I felt about a plot point until I was three steps further ahead. Since I played it in my late 20′s rather than my early teens, the scope and scale may not seem as big a deal as it would have been back when it was first released, but that’s how these sort of things go. Still, even though my enthusiasm about the story was delayed, there was still enthusiasm!
While I may not have realized how good the story was while I was going through it, the strongly developed and wide variety of characters is something that hit me immediately. From the very first moment that I saw Chrono sleepily rolling out of bed, I felt like I knew him. The emotion and depth his little sprite conveyed was truly fantastic. From Lucca, to Marle, to Frog, to all the rest, the whole cast felt like they were fully-realized people that had, at one point in time, actually lived. I didn’t just want to advance the plot or find them better gear: I truly cared about what happened to these characters. Their lives, past present and future, were immensely important to me, something that I think fuels the unbridled love people express for this game. This especially holds true when I consider how many rabid Chrono fans played this game during their youth; I can only imagine how much of an impact characters of this magnitude would have had on me as an 11 year old.
I’ll admit, the music was just sort of there for me. Given my strong nostalgic ties to music from games that I played in my youth, I think this is due to me only hearing the soundtrack recently. I fully recognize that it’s a masterfully arranged collection of tracks (which isn’t surprising, given the talent responsible for creating it), but it just plain didn’t affect me as deeply as it seems to have affected others. Nostalgia is an odd beast, no?
This is a damn fine looking SNES game. The sprites are detailed and colorful, the environments wildly affect how different portions of the game feel, and the animations (especially Chrono’s famed sword-sheathing animation) are fluid and smooth. This didn’t really surprise me, given Square’s knack for coaxing amazing visuals out of the SNES’s meager hardware, but there it is all the same. The little details in the environment are what struck me the most: beeping lights, swaying trees, steam escaping from pipes, storms blowing across ruined plains…true, they were done with the pixelated flair common of the era, but the environment’s visual personality really did it for me, helping to melt away the outside world and upping the immersion factor.
All things considered, I’m extremely happy that I finally set aside the time to go through this RPG classic. I may not have the same intense memories for it that so many other gamers do, but now I can at least appreciate it the way millions of others do.