Sunday, 30 August 2009

Chronotrigger DS Review

Chrono Trigger took great delight in throwing out the tired cliché of level grinding with a load of other design choices that regularly get in the way of telling a good story. It was this common sense approach to game design that enabled the real soul of the story to come out and give me, without a doubt, one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had.


Japanese Role-playing games have long had a tradition of being a little difficult for anyone new to the genre to play. I'm by no means a freshman to JRPG's anymore, but every once in a while it's nice come across a game that doesn't beat me over the head with its difficulty curve.


But first I must confess to never actually playing this game when it originally came out for the Super Nintendo System (SNES) in 1995. From what I can gather the DS version is a faithful reproduction of this well-loved classic that adds just a few extra dungeons to the end of the game but maintaining the essence of the original product.



I really wish I'd owned a SNES on its release as Chrono Trigger is one of the best Role-playing games I've ever experienced.



If that's the case then I really wish I'd owned a SNES on its release as Chrono Trigger is one of the best Role-playing games I've ever experienced. It gets this praise for several reasons and loathed though I am to talk about game mechanics as a Soulful Gamer, they deserve a special mention here.


Every JRPG I've played, both modern original or remade classic, has always sucked a large amount of my play-time to the grind of levelling up. This is a mechanic that deserves its own very special post but I'll say here that it does a great job of destroying the one aspect of RPG's that I love the most - their story. Dragon Quest, Persona, Lost Odyssey, Eternal Sonata, Final Fantasy - these are all great games that do their very best to obscure the stories that drive them forward.



To obtain this level of depth and complexity without falling into cliché or over-complicated plot twists made Chrono Trigger a real videogame page-turner.



Chrono Trigger never made me suffer through this type of problem until the very end. By which time I had mastered the combat mechanics and navigating these final sections was easily manageable. Because of this I found Chrono Trigger's story flowing in such a lyrical and perfectly paced way, free from the constant random battles of other games that interrupt the plot and destroy the atmosphere of any created world.


Thanks to this the journey of Cronos through his country's history and future succeeds in its ambition and delivery. It's no surprise that other games have struggled to show such a command of their narrative when you have several different time periods to juggle. What I found most affecting was how all the various threads revealed themself in such a satisfying way by the end of the game. I had several moments of revelation as I realised who certain characters were that I'd met during my 30-hour playthrough. To obtain this level of depth and complexity without falling into cliché or over-complicated plot twists made Chrono Trigger a real videogame page-turner.


I was also surprised at how subtle the game handled my journey back and forth through time. This is one of many features that sets the game apart from any of its contemporaries - the small choices I made, even in the lowliest side quest, would still have an effect many years later. Experiencing this, especially when it involved actions I didn't think would matter, was a truly magical moment. It gave deep meaning to many of the choices I made and I felt the way it was never explicitly signposted made it all the more special. It was this subtle take on the concept of cause and effect that made the game a personal journey through the world - an effect rarely achieved by many other games.



It was this subtle take on the concept of cause and effect that made the game a personal journey through the world - an effect rarely achieved by many other games.



The overblown melodrama of many JRPG's with their clichéd characters and dialogue tends to obscure the real message or feeling the story is trying to infer. With the usual tropes absent in Chrono Trigger I found the narrative explaining the plot in plain and uncomplicated terms. Rather than make the story infantile it actually gave it a more mature tone, reminding me more of a classic fairy tale than a five volume epic. In my childhood these tales seemed simple and naive - but as I've grown older I can see the depth hidden by the plain words and how an ordinary story, like saving the world, can turn into an epic & classic masterpiece.


This is the magic in Chrono Trigger's storytelling and it made the collection of characters much more believable and tremendously likable than their simple sprites should suggest. From Frog's melancholic pathos regarding his past, Lucca's intelligence and steadfastness, Marle's devotion, Robo's human-ness to Ayla's bristling prehistoric sexuality. They all combined to give me a sweeping story about the consequences of our actions and how decisions we make can affect the world. Although simplistic in form, Chrono Trigger conveys its idealistic message is such a presentable and moving way that it deserves to be played by anyone who likes games or stories.


 


Originally posted on Gamepeople


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