If we are speaking truthfully, Square Enix’s greatest RPG in its vast library is Chrono Trigger. This is of course with respect to any of their Final Fantasy games. That’s not saying that none of them come close to perfection as V, VII, and Tactics are fantastic titles, but Chrono Trigger is the only title they’ve developed that can be considered timeless.
And yet, since 1995, there has only been one sequel in the form of Chrono Cross.
In my mind, the lack of follow-ups has helped preserve the timelessness of Chrono Trigger. This is an infinitely repayable title due to its multiple endings and satisfying gameplay. It’s simple, but layered enough to where you can experiment to find the best combos. It also helps that Chrono Trigger featured some of the best characters in JRPG history. Who would’ve guessed that a Toad or a Robot would have such tragic backstories or that one of the central villains would become your most sought after ally. There were so many twists and turns in this time-hopping epic, I’m shocked that it didn’t turn out a mess.
Before the advent of DLC, titles were shipped either incomplete or fully loaded. Chrono Trigger falls into the latter category as it features multiple endings and multiple final bosses based off player choice. You could easily lose yourself in trying to discover all of its secrets and there were plenty. There is a secret developers room that can only be found if you beat the game a certain way. Hell, you can skip to the final boss when you start up a new game +, but be warned, if you aren’t prepared, you will die.
Player choice was generally found in the point and click or text-scrolling adventures of the time, so seeing it in a RPG on the SNES was refreshing and surprising. It was subtle as doing certain things in the past would affect the future. Characters would interact with you differently or it would completely change the layout of a level that was previously explored. You were implored to return to these areas as doing so would reward you with new items and gear. Grinding was always fun, because it never affected one character, it would open up new combinations between characters and helped make combat a lot smoother.
One of the aspects of Chrono Trigger I enjoyed most was just how bold it was. Characters were never generic, they felt fully realized and the world felt lived in. Even though Crono was your typical silent protagonist, his actions during key segments of the game spoke volumes about his motivations. This was a title that hit all the right notes during emotional moments and it featured zero voice acting. Reading text can be a grind at times, as was the norm during the 90’s, but the excellent music selection coupled with the action on screen made this gripe a non-issue.
Chrono Trigger was a trailblazer in a number of areas, but what I enjoyed the most were its cinematic cutscenes. These moments were usually before a big boss fight but when they occurred, they would elicit a number of emotions. From the courthouse scene to saving Crono on Death Mountain, there was a lot of emotion packed in those 2D pixels. If you played this title only once, you could probably remember one or two cutscenes and that says a lot about a title released over 20 years ago. My favorite being the first time you fight Magus, who just happens to be the most badass character in the game. It felt like the end because of how epic the score was, but this was just the beginning.
It goes without saying that there is no perfect title, but honestly, I can’t find any that truly stand out in Chrono Trigger. The only real negative I can think about is that it ends. But even then you can go back and boot up a new game plus to tackle the world as you so choose. I’m at the point where Square doesnt have to reboot the series or release a sequel. You can find this game anywhere and it still remains one of the best titles of all time. In an era where DLC hides the true ending of a game, that’s saying something.
Chrono Trigger is a Classic.