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August 11, 2020 5:01 PM   Subscribe

25 years ago today, Chrono Trigger was released for the SNES in North America. An almost permanent fixture in the top of any Best SNES Games list, Chrono Trigger featured character designs of manga artist Akira Toriyama, an incredible (and interesting) score by Yasunori Mitsuda, and a sprawling adventure covering the dawn of civilization to the end of it and many points in between.

Time travel let the game tell some interesting stories within the story , and even once you beat it, a New Game+ feature let you dive back in and take advantage of bending time to get all sorts of different endings. Of course, like almost every SNES RPG, it was not without translation confusion.

Even if you never played it, it's never too late to try. So sit back, grab a Toma Pop, and beat up the best singing robot in gaming.
posted by Zargon X (22 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
As good a reason to replay it as ever. I actually wasn't a super big fan of Chrono Trigger at first (huge FFVI fanboy here), until I replayed it and realized how well it did... pretty much everything. And decades later I still think of some cool story idea and realize I'm just thinking of a subplot or event in the game.

I went down a rabbit hole recently over the translation differences and would be curious to play it again with a patch just to see how it hits differently.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:07 PM on August 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

I replayed it just recently on PC and it held up wonderfully! It was amazing how much of it I still remembered.
posted by allegedly at 5:20 PM on August 11, 2020

I'm not a big RPG player, but I adore Chrono Trigger. The pacing and variety in the story are great, but I particularly love the combo system. It is so much fun to mix-and-match your party to get different moves. I wish more games had that.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 5:30 PM on August 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I don't have a lot of easily-accessible childhood memories, but I do remember talking about CT at the school cafeteria table that summer.

I've used some version of Nu as my username/avatar since.. maybe 1999? 2000? I recently went trying to find if there's anything really abhorrent about Toriyama, because if so, I should probably finally divest myself of it.

Pretty sure I have some other comments in my history talking about the design brilliance of the boss progression.

I think this might've been the first game soundtrack I downloaded off IRC.
posted by curious nu at 6:27 PM on August 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I rented this three times back to back to finish it. Listened to the Nintendo Power Line walkthrough several times while I was at it! Must have been through it a half dozen times since, experimenting with different parties and such. The quality-of-life improvements over many rpgs of the time is incredible, in addition to the awesome music and art.

I kinda like that it has a couple really weird spinoffs and no proper sequels. It's a complete work.
posted by StarkRoads at 6:55 PM on August 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Still one of the best video games I've ever played, and my gold standard for engaging RPG stories. And I *hate* time travel. Loathe it. Least favorite sf/f device ever, ever, ever. Chrono Trigger rules.
posted by Scattercat at 7:20 PM on August 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with everyone's positive opinions on this game. This should have been in the SNES Mini/Classic. Not sure why it wasn't. Always seemed like a noticeable gap to me. That and SimCity and Turtles in Time.
posted by FJT at 7:40 PM on August 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Coincidentally, I am literally listening to the soundtrack for CT as I write this. It's so good -- it's burned into my brain. You can find more traditional audio format sources of the music, but you can also find players that will play the SPC chiptune files (which are easily discoverable online) for that authentic feeling.
posted by TheKevinFlynnEffect at 7:55 PM on August 11, 2020

This lengthy write-up of Chrono Trigger discusses how the structure of the story itself is used to enhance the themes it is trying to explore. Thanks for the post. I haven't thought about this game in a long time.
posted by Groundhog Week at 8:21 PM on August 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Literally the only console game I ever played until the end and one of the very few that I ever played at all. That year I was living in Albuquerque with a very gay guy who would wake up in the morning when I got off work, we'd smoke a bowl and watch Sailor Moon and Gargoyles before I went to bed. A sorta beret wearing goth dude with a pet wolf (no really, an actual wolf in the house), his girlfriend and my cat named Lick .... (inherited from a couple of lesbian friends so... figure it out). We would sit around for hours and hours watching the goth dude play Chrono Trigger. It was the ultimate entertainment between bong rips. Occasionally they'd sit around and watch me playing Doom mods. But once the goth dude finally finished the game, the rest of us took a play through. I guess it was sorta spoiler cheating a bit to know the basic theme, but I'm not sure it mattered that much because it's not like you can remember everything or get the same random numbers. But it was a pretty awesome time,and a pretty awesome game that I totally enjoyed watching and playing over months. Two thumbs up from not even a console gamer of any sort.

gawd, I was 25 then.... getting old.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:24 PM on August 11, 2020 [6 favorites]

The battle system is good but not nearly as dynamic as promised. By the mid game most of your good combo attacks are either single target only or full screen effects, and the game is effectively a race. The idea of waiting for your opponents to align for combos didn't end up mattering much, and your own character placements were very static.
posted by pwnguin at 8:29 PM on August 11, 2020

I agree with others calling it a gold standard, and I agree that the structure of the game is so brilliant and really reinforces the theme. I find this game so perfect that I don't feel any need to play other RPGs.
posted by watermelon at 8:53 PM on August 11, 2020

The battle system is good but not nearly as dynamic as promised. By the mid game most of your good combo attacks are either single target only or full screen effects, and the game is effectively a race. The idea of waiting for your opponents to align for combos didn't end up mattering much, and your own character placements were very static.

This is true, but it's also one of the first JRPGs to go all-in on puzzle bosses, which lets them paper over some of the weaknesses of the combat system by asking you to use it for something other than doing the most damage.
posted by Merus at 7:20 AM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

I drove myself mad looking for one.
posted by Chronorin at 8:14 AM on August 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


Not in Chrono Trigger. But it's (eventually) a plot element in the PlayStation sequel Chrono Cross.
posted by DiscountDeity at 8:22 AM on August 12, 2020 [4 favorites]

One of the best features of Chrono Trigger is that enemies actually show up on the screen before fights so there are no random encounters. You can even avoid most fights by carefully navigating around the enemy sprites. I tried playing FF6 a few times but randomly being in battle while you were just walking around just isn't any sort of fun for me. I I think Chrono Trigger gave me unreasonable expectations for 16bit jrpg quality of life stuff. The only other jrpgs I have ever played to completion (Earthbound and Mother 3) also have this feature. Random encounters are just not fun.
posted by Television Name at 10:25 AM on August 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

I spent a productive summer playing though Chronotrigger. It was my first experience of a JRPG. Remember that I had to get a dualboot doohickey for my SNES, to boot up the US-version of the ROM on my European console.

I love that game. It had my straight away with the description of the main character as the "boy with a radical haircut". The melancholy that permeated the later stages of the game really got me too. It was probably the first time I've been deeply moved by a game.
posted by Rabarberofficer at 11:40 AM on August 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

I spent a summer playing this at my aunt's house. Good memories and a magnificent game.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 10:25 AM on August 13, 2020

Oh man, I remember getting made fun of for playing this game during school hours in hs. (Apparently it was nerdy to play old games on my laptop? I don't know. This was in like 2011. I was so puzzled by the judgment)

Around that time I was thirsty for games and short on cash, so I downloaded a ton of old Nintendo ROMs because I knew how and they were easy to emulate on my shitty laptop. One day I looked up a few lists of "best SNES games" and found Chrono Trigger. I was so surprised that a game made back in the 90's had so many of my favorite RPG themes - choices, an ensemble of characters, and multiple endings! I'd never played a JRPG before and it took a little bit for me to get into it and make it through the first dungeon (the cathedral in 600 AD) but by then I had kinda gotten a feel for the setting and hell, I wasn't about to let Marle get written out of time. The Dragon Tank (first real boss) took me a little bit, I still wasn't great on the combat system and I died so many times I bookmarked up a guide on Gamefaqs to help me through it. The trial back in 1000 really hooked me, though- a game this old holding your choices against you later in the plot? Hot damn. Man, I remember stalling out on the Guardian boss in the future, on racing the guy across Lab 16, and on Giga Gaia...but that handy Gamefaqs guide helped me through it. I played a lot of Nintendo classics during that time - Super Metroid, Majora's Mask, Super Mario World - but Chrono Trigger is the one that sticks in my mind and that I love to replay. Still one of my favorite games of all time. (Note to self- I still have the Mother 3 translation patch that I need to put to good use!)

Another thing to note - the Nintendo DS port, which I had the opportunity to play more recently, has different (better?) translations from the SNES edition and some additional content. Personally, since I played the SNES translation first, I have to say there's a certain charm in the weird enemy names that gets lost. But it's probably the best, most complete version of the game out there.

And since nobody's mentioned it yet, I wanna plug Chronotorious! It's a remix album of the soundtrack from various artists. Rocking on Heaven's Door is a standout but i have a weakness for Dethfrog as a recovering metalhead. I downloaded it on a lark one day (I think I was looking for the soundtrack) and promptly forgot about it until it came up on shuffle one day and blew my damn mind. The music still makes me feel so many feelings. Ahhh, good times.
posted by scruffy-looking nerfherder at 10:35 AM on August 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Every so often my brain still goes "It's a soda drinking contest!" or "The Green Ambler might try something!" or even "Catillac, you're a sure bet!"
posted by Occula at 1:09 PM on August 14, 2020

On top of great music, graphics, themes and gameplay, it has great pacing and can suck you in its world. Now that all RPGs need to be min 80 hours long with neverending tutorials, I appreciate it all the more.
posted by ersatz at 2:33 AM on August 15, 2020

I used to play CT at least once a year, oftentimes more -- but its been awhile since I've gone through it, so I started up a game this morning.

It's always such a refreshing surprise. Folks above have mentioned the general vibe and colors, and we've alluded to the systems interplay, but just from a straight story perspective the game jumps right in. Within 3 hours - and probably more like 2-ish - you've been in three different time periods, plus the End of Time, and you've been introduced to the main quest: find a way to defeat Lavos and save the future. I forgot how straightforward this quest is, even through the routes you take are windy. "Save the Princess" is essentially the tutorial! At that timestamp you'll also have met most of your available party characters, saving only Ayla and optionally Magus. Really significant departure from its contemporaries and.. well, I don't know how common that is these days! Haven't played a new JRPG in well over a decade. I'd be curious to know what the main-line pace is today, if you don't faff about with extras.
posted by curious nu at 6:46 PM on August 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

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