Chrono Critique

7 Jan

My review of Chrono Trigger for the DS is up at Game Positive+. You’ll notice that I pretty much fall in line with the popular opinion: Chrono Trigger is a great game.


You’ll also notice that I offered a small bit of criticism here and there regarding the execution of the game’s plot and characters as well as the way the game deals with the tradition of random battles. I’d like to elaborate upon those complaints a bit here as I’m sure most people are already well aware of what Chrono Trigger does well. Spoilers ahead.

I mention that a few of the party members in Chrono Trigger are nothing more than glorified NPCs serving as mascots of their respective time periods. Ayla’s dialog has always been blunt and grating, fitting as she’s a cave woman from 65,000,000 BC. That doesn’t really mean it was a good decision on Square’s part to have her permanently join the party.

Her overall role was to be your tour-guide through pre-history so you could eventually discover Lavos’ origins on Earth. Chrono Trigger makes no attempts at telling an overall deep and sophisticated story, so it’s acceptable for Square to ignore the obvious difficulties Ayla would have with communicating and acting in time periods far more advanced than her own. They’re not excused, however, from trying to justify Ayla’s permanent position in the party. She’s incredibly strong and rarely ever left my party once I realized how well she worked with Crono and Marle. Still, I would groan at every cutscene where she would utter her ridiculous caveman interpretations of what was going on. Square should have left Ayla in pre-history where she had a purpose, unlike Robo who would have been better off as a secret character if anything at all.

Robo is like a super-advanced version of Ayla, offering his robotic interpretations of the plot, complete with beeps and boops. Unlike Ayla, though, Robo serves no purpose in the overall plot other than a small distraction. Robo basically exists to be a representation of the future for Chrono Trigger‘s chronologically diverse cast. He has his own sidequest at the end and plays a minor part in another, but there is really no justification in the plot for him. Magus would be Robo’s antithesis, considering he has every reason to want Lavos dead, but Square seemingly ran out of ideas once they allowed him to join your party.

Magus was a deep character before he joined you. He begins as one of your main enemies, but eventually emerges as what could be your ultimate ally once you delve past the surface. Unraveling Magus’ layers, however, leaves him a shallow, boring character as far as the plot’s concerned. I would just frown in disappointment every time I suddenly remembered that Magus was on my side now. He had so much ambition, then he became this lifeless place holder, kinda’ like Crono.

Yes, Crono is a bad character too. While he does have a reason to fight, he’s nothing more than a zombie. Silent protagonists can work in an RPG; just look at MOTHER 3. Chrono Trigger somehow stumbles with the concept, going so far as to kill Crono off and expect us to care. Crono’s death was nothing more than an annoyance. I didn’t even think he was dead at first, and I certainly never thought for one moment that I’d never get him back like Aeris in Final Fantasy VII. At least with Aeris, Square tried to make us care because she was a person (though I still can’t see anyway someone would actually cry for her). With Crono, the only reason to get upset is because he’s so good in battle. Compare that to Aeris who sucks and you can’t get back no matter how much effort you put into making her actually contribute in battle.

Overall, I enjoyed Chrono Trigger‘s scenario, but its overall plot isn’t incredible like most people will assure you it is. I’m just glad Square was smart enough not to make it the game’s main focus.

Another element of Chrono Trigger I think receives more praise than it should is the way the game deals with random battles.

For the most part, players put up with random battles, but they definitely have become more and more of a nuisance as the years have gone by. Chrono Trigger attempted to do away with random battles in a relatively stylish way, by having enemies usually appear on screen and seamlessly transition into battle right on the spot. This works well a good bit of the time, usually allowing the player to avoid or at least expect a battle, but a good portion of Chrono Trigger trades the annoyance of random battles for annoyance of forced ones.

The Reptite Lair is the best example of where Chrono Trigger goes wrong with its battles. Square must have gotten lazy on some of the more complex dungeons  like the Lair as many of the battles there are invisible, instigated as soon as you walk over a pre-set  area of tiles that you usually couldn’t have expected. This wouldn’t be so bad if many of these battles didn’t “respawn” while you were exploring back and forth.

Yes, you can learn how to avoid some of these, but that’s no excuse for nearly forcing monotonous battles onto the player. It definitely doesn’t offer a solid improvement over random battles, and I’m surprised so many people praise the game for it while neglecting to mention the often frustrating dungeon enemies.

I realize I was a bit harsh while elaborating upon these few flaws that don’t ruin what is an otherwise great gaming experience. Anyone who reads this blog regularly is probably aware by now that I just can’t stand unanimous praise for a game while neglecting its flaws.


6 Responses to “Chrono Critique”

  1. Radiation January 9, 2009 at 4:22 AM #

    I am sick of everyone complaining about forced battles in this game. Yes, there are forced battles, but if you hold L+R you can run from [i]98% of the battles in the game[/i]. Or some ridiculous number like that. Plus you can walk by most enemies anyway, although the parts in Tyrano Lair are stupid.

    And you can beat the game without leveling up at all anyway if you sell useless excess Ethers and only buying the important items. I got to the Future without fighting a single unnecessary enemy and beat the Guardian with my eyes shut. This game’s battle system is pretty retarded, too, if you notice if you have dead bodies in the way some enemies will ‘tard out and NEVER ATTACK THE LAST CHARACTER REMAINING because they have to walk up, it makes no sense and it’s stupid

    Misc. things I have to say:

    1. Upon playing this game again the less I like it and the less epic it seems, the characters are undeveloped and the different time periods are so short that I don’t get attached to any of them, people join your party for little-to-no-reason and your reason for saving the planet/exploring the future is nonexistent at best, bleh. still a great game, but by today’s standards it’s not amazing for a modern release, especially with how shitty the “new content” is, it actually makes the game WORSE even

    I am torn, CT used to be one of my favorite games but now it’s only my favorite in certain ways and not in a lot of other ways

    • chasmang January 9, 2009 at 4:38 AM #

      I don’t think being able to easily run from a battle totally excuses the way Square laid out some of the enemy locations in the game’s dungeons, but again, I still think the game is pretty great. I just felt those certain elements needed some attention.

  2. Radiation January 9, 2009 at 11:52 AM #

    Yeah, the “encounter rate” is still stupid but there’s still a viable option for avoiding battles which are easy as heck anyway, it’s not like loss of EXP matters that much besides HP gain, 50% of your attack stat comes from your weapon anyway. I don’t get this game’s difficulty curve.

  3. chasmang January 9, 2009 at 4:08 PM #

    Maybe I just don’t like the idea of running in RPGs. I rarely ever do it unless I’m actively TRYING to maintain a low level.

  4. Reid Young January 18, 2009 at 9:47 PM #

    Gotta back you up on the Magus thing, never thought of it like that before. When he became a member of the party, it was like he got his brain sucked out 😦

    I haven’t played the game for 5+ years, though, so maybe my thoughts will be different after I finish my re-play.

    • chasmang January 19, 2009 at 1:27 AM #

      Maybe that’s his way of still being “evil”: Rendering himself lame in the players eyes right when they finally get to use “the coolest character” in the game. 😛

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