Finally gave Chrono Trigger a Chance

Last year I finally sat down and did something I’ve put off since I was a teenager. I beat Chrono Trigger! Now as a kid I had no idea what CT was, so I missed out on its release. I didn’t play RPGs back then anyway, and it’s not something I would’ve ever asked for anyway. Kid me was all about Mario and MegaMan on the SNES, with games like Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger being completely foreign concepts to me. Heck, I didn’t even realize Pokemon Red was one of these “RPG” things! So yeah, not something I would’ve played; however, when I was a teenager things changed.

Getting a PS2 was my gateway into RPGs, with Kingdom Hearts being my introduction to Final Fantasy. Of course I figured I wouldn’t be able to play the FF series (at the time), but my friend Keith helped me change that! He’s the one who let me barrow Kingdom Hearts 1, and he lead me to try out Final Fantasy IV and VI. But to go along with these games, he also introduced me to Chrono Trigger. I’m pretty sure I was 14 at the time, and with my limited RPG experience, I had no idea what I was doing. My friend said it was such a great game, but it didn’t really give me a reason to play it…

So I didn’t…

I remember I got to the point where I met Frog, and then quit shortly after! Not that the game was bad or anything, but I had no motivation at the time to keep going. Other friends kept telling me how good it was, but all I could think was “I want to play the game with Cloud” or “how am I going to get the money for Kingdom Hearts 2?” It just wasn’t my priority to beat Chrono Trigger. And then the years went by!

Jump ahead, and college me really got into JRPGs. I went through nearly every major release, as well as many (MANY) lesser known titles. I even bought Chrono Cross to play on my Vita, but again I dropped it because I got stuck and felt like I was missing out by not playing Trigger. So it got shelved, and time once again marched on. Until 2023!

Finally sitting down to play Chrono Trigger was a weird experience. I remembered the intro from when I was a teen, but I also remembered why I stopped playing. Today I still have the same issue from back then — there’s so many games I could be playing, and CT didn’t seem to offer me what I’m looking for from a JRPG… But that’s weird to say! This is considered one of the greatest games of all time, and should be EVERYTHING I want from one! So I did something I didn’t do way back when. I kept going.

Overall, I completely get why the game is considered one of the greatest! In 2023 it might not be as impressive as it was back in the day, but it’s clearly the beginning point of a lot of systems we’ve gotten used to today. It’s insane the amount of things the game tried to do, while also keeping a core focus. The cast of characters is simple and not that “deep” overall, but each character has their own side story that helps flesh out both the character and the world itself. The main story is a time traveling adventure with multiple versions of the world map, and sometimes this time traveling is actually used to change the story in your favor! Overall the world actually isn’t that big (only a handful of areas), but it’s these different versions of the world that help it feel larger overall. Then there’s the fact that the final boss can be fought at any time, with different endings based on when you fight it. It’s the first time a game like this ever tried something along these lines, and overall it does it pretty well!

Again, CT isn’t too ambitious, and it never feels overwhelming with what it does. It’s roughly 20 hours to do everything (minus all the endings), so it never overstays its welcome. There’s also so many side stories, that are full on stories, so the game rewards you for exploring and finding new things to see. It’s one of the thing that makes the game charming, and I did really enjoy going through each one. As a kid I’m sure I would’ve spent countless hours searching all the timelines, but as an adult I used a quest checklist to make sure I didn’t miss a thing! Some of them had unique gameplay or puzzles to go along with them, so each one was a surprise to play through. Again, I enjoyed each one! 

My favorite part of the game though has to be its battle system. Enemies are on screen and walking close to them triggers the battle. I’ve always preferred this system over random encounters, so seeing CT kick it off was a nice surprise! Attacks and skills can combo together to create unique special moves, with different characters offering different ways to combo! Gives you a reason to constantly mix up your party, and keeps the gameplay from getting stale. Sometimes attacks will also trigger extra environmental damage, such as being knocked into a wall by a heavy hitting blow. Again, something you didn’t see in JRPGs at the time! Helped make the game even more unique, and added to my enjoyment of the battle system.

Overall, I did really enjoy my time with CT, but I feel as if I should’ve played it when I was younger. It was a short unique time traveling adventure, but it’s still not fully what I look for in a JRPG now days. I’m the type of person who loves thousands of lines of dialogue, talking to every NPC in town over and over again, and watching cutscene after cutscene. Yeah I enjoy tactical gameplay, dungeon crawling, and just RPG gameplay in general… But that’s just a part of the experience for me! There’s so many games out there now days that have "everything" I want, that it's hard to for me to spend my time on Chrono Trigger instead. Trails in the Sky made the Trails series one of my all time favorites. Tales is one of my all time favorite action RPG series now, and I really enjoy the tactical gameplay of the SMT series. Then you have the life sim aspect of Persona 3-5 -- which not only has a high focus on story, but dungeon crawling and gameplay. These are games I love and keep playing over and over again! But all of these games came long after Chrono Trigger, and it’s clear how influential the game was for said future titles. So it really isn’t fair for me to judge it for what it doesn’t do, especially when it did so much, and did it all right!

So my feelings for Chrono Trigger are not easy to explain at all. 

Am I happy that I finally finished it? Yes. Did I enjoy my time with it? Considering I spent every lunch break for a month playing it… Heck yeah! Do I wish I spent that time playing something else? I honestly don’t know. I feel like with other games I would’ve taken a break or got burned out playing every single day (especially considering it took up my whole lunch break). While I love sinking 80 hours into a world, sometimes it does start to drag when you find it taking up ALL of your free time. With CT on the other hand, I didn’t get bored and I kept coming back day after day! My lunch breaks didn't feel wasted, and a few nights I found myself staying up until 3AM just to push through a section. So yes, while it isn’t my favorite JRPG, I liked every second of it. It was missing a lot of things I enjoy out of JRPGs, but I really liked what the game did have! And I feel like that’s the reason why this game is so loved. Is it perfect? No. Was it unique for it's time? Absolutely! Did it give players a reason to explore and uncover it's secrets? Yep, and it was rewarding to do so. It's a short game, but nothing overstays it's welcome because of that. (And of course the constantly changing gameplay helps as well.)  I just wish I would’ve been able to experience it back when it first released, or if I would’ve actually played it back when I was 14. While I'm able to see the game for what it is today, and see how much it influenced the world of JRPGs moving forward... I feel like it would've had a bigger impact on me if I hadn't played hundreds of JRPGs at this point. But that's my fault, and not the game's.

Anyway, Chrono Trigger was a nice month long adventure for me, and I don’t regret a thing. It’s not the only classic JRPG I’ve missed out on though — so this is just the start of my long road ahead. One that I’m looking forward to!

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