What’s the deal with Chrono Trigger?

chronotrigger I hope I don’t invite the wrath of Chrono Trigger fanboys, but having heard so many great things about Chrono Trigger and missing out on it during its Super Nintendo glory days, I thought I’d give the DS version a shot (I was a Sega Genesis fanboy in those days, building my chops on games like NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat, Madden and Street Fighter. Ironically, I’ve owned every other Nintendo console, except the one many consider its best, but I digress).

In the end, I was sorely disappointed.

The game’s story is very solid and the characters are well developed and really likeable. I also like the fact that there’s the possibility of multiple endings depending on what happens during the game. Rarely do I actually go back to play through a game again just to get all the endings, but I appreciate the effort and thought that goes into giving gamers their money’s worth.

So all that sounds pretty good right? Then I actually started playing the game, and became increasingly frustrated by the battle system and inventory management. If it’s an action-RPG, make it an action RPG. Don’t give me this hybrid, turn-based/real-time action bullcrap. If I attack an enemy before it attacks me, my attack should hit first. Not after three of the enemies get in their strikes without any advance notice. If it’s real time, make it real time! I know there was an option to switch the battle style to a more classical mode, but that was even more disorienting and annoying.

I also thought the fighting itself was too repetitious. Maybe RPG strategy has advanced greatly in the past 15 years, but it felt a bit mindless and unchallenging (from a strategic standpoint, not from a difficulty standpoint). But maybe I feel this way because I’ve played too many strategy RPGs recently.

But I eventually sort of got used to it. Except when it took me several seconds cycling through a character’s attack to find one specific attack (or usually it was to find the heal command), during which the enemies would get in a few more hits on a character, killing them. Same thing with inventory management. It’s a bloody mess. I spent too much time cycling through an unorganized list of crap, never able to find exactly what I need when I wanted.

“Now where’s the hi-potion…”

*Character gets hit

“Not the low-potion, not panacean, where the hell is the hi-potion?”

*Character gets hit again


*Character gets hit again, dies

“Where is the Athenian water…”

*Lather, rinse and repeat

The worst part of all this is, let’s say, you had Marle queue up a Heal spell (or dropping a potion) on a dying Chrono, and before you the spell is cast, Chrono gets killed. Marle should be able to get her move back and do something else, like toss an Athenian water on Chrono and bring him back to life right? NO! She LOSES her move. How does this make any sense!? So not only did you not get to cast that original heal spell, that character becomes a eunuch for a turn. Great.

But to be honest, the game wasn’t that hard, and I actually only died maybe a handful of times. But then I got to the last boss, Lavos. Spent the first 20-25 minutes whomping all his inferior forms, and then got to his final, or pre-final form. What happens? He casts a @$%#ing confuse all spell and slowly, but surely obliterates my guys. And not only are they useless when they’re confused, even when they’re not confused, Lavos is getting two attacks in for every one I get. But just when I’d recovered from the confuse spell and was starting to get the upper hand, he casts another @$%#ing confuse all spell and kills my group off.

Let me just say, confuse attacks (and its just as obnoxious cousin, charm) are the biggest load of shit in RPGs. I can live with poison, I can live with crap like darkness and berserk, but confuse is a lame deus ex machina that games resort to to make an easy fight, unfairly difficult.

At that point I tossed the DS aside, cursed the hours I’d wasted on it and went on YouTube to watch the endings. Two can play at this cheating game.

Would I recommend this game? If you’re an old-school RPG fan (and somehow haven’t played it already), totally. If not, I would give it a lukewarm recommendation for its story. As pissed off as I was in the end, I admit that it’s not a terrible game. It was an engaging experience with flawed gameplay, IMO. I just can’t fathom how people consider it to be an all-timer.

5 Replies to “What’s the deal with Chrono Trigger?”

  1. I am fanboi. Taste my wrath! *throws wrath and flails arms around*


    Just to set a few things straight: one, it’s not a hybrid battle system. It’s (technically) a turn-based RPG through and through, only that active time means if you can’t react fast enough, the enemy will get extra hits in. And the queue that happens when you choose to Heal a character, but they die first, is simply because the enemy attacked before you. You will not be getting back your turn. That’s what a queue is; you must wait before it is executed. You’re probably just pissed that it happened more often than not. Part of the strategy in CT was not attacking the instant you got your turn to attack. Unfortunately, these opportunities are extremely short lived as well.

    Looks like you just got the short end of the stick because all the old fogies (like me) hyped up your expectations from it.

    Oh well. Just move on to better games. LIKE VALKYRIA CHRONICLES. LAWL. Sorry.

  2. I did also complain about the battle system the first time I played it on the SNES. The supposedly-active time bar stops whenever someone makes a move. Square’s older game Final Fantasy VI (III at the time) doesn’t make the bar stop, giving the “illusion” of a hybrid battle system. Whatever the case, both are still turn-based. That minor nitpick didn’t retract from my enjoyment of this game.

    Besides, the randomness of the battles can be fun at times. At times you wish some enemy won’t unleash a crippling attack on your low-HP character, and so if the enemy attacked someone else instead, you would scream “lucky!” and you live another day.

    bluemist’s last blog post..Life lessons from a bishoujo male lead

  3. @ipsod – yeah, part way through I realized it was better not to queue up my moves in advance and try to make a choice at the exact moment. but i think more often than not, I’d miss the moment, or my tactic would have to change on the fly, which screwed me up as I’d get lost in the labyrinth of attacks/spells/inventory. But yeah, my view of the game is most definitely prejudiced by all the great things I’ve heard about it. I guess sometimes the hype pays off and sometimes it does. 🙂

    @bluemist – lol, the randomness is only fun when you’ve got a save point nearby. otherwise it’s madness! :-p it’s funny you mention FFVI. I haven’t played VI, but I was just thinking the battle system was similar to FFX-2 – which was another battle system I couldn’t quite get the hang of.

  4. i understand everything you’re saying, and agree with a lot of it, although i still think this is among the very best games. one thing is that this came out before real-time and action-rpg’s, when everything was turn-based, and it was very groundbreaking. like the use of space on the battlefield to hit some of the enemies or not use distance weapons, all very new. as for the confuse spell, that’s easy. there are a ton of armors late in the game that prevent status effects. do your hwk.

    repitition, menu stuff, all true. but the best part of the game was all that there was to do, sidequests and mini games. this was all very new at the time as well, and CT did it those better than many games to this day. im sorry you didnt like it, but surely there have to have been better RPG’s made in the last 14 years.

    1. I will admit that if I compared Chrono Trigger to some of the older RPGs I played, it does compare pretty well. I’ve never been a big fan of the “classics” so it’s probably not fair for me to compare it to some of the newer games today.

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