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Chrono Trigger: Final Smack

Let’s say you’re not a JRPG player. Let’s say you’re not even an old school gamer. You don’t know what I mean by SNES. But you like games and you want to make them. PLAY CHRONO TRIGGER NOW. It’s an exemplary game. Mention it to your gamer friends and they will undoubtedly tell you at the very least that they remember it being very good. More likely they will say how it was a seminal game to them, and sparked a love for that crazy genre that lasts until today. Chrono Trigger deserves this praise, and this is coming from someone who once proclaimed the entire field of JRPGs as crap. Everything about the game is well-done, with only minor snags in an otherwise flawless experience. Gushing follows.


  • Battles are simply amazing. With a handful of elements, they have created literally hundreds of unique feeling combat scenes. They are also genuinely challenging in places and remain so as you level up. You must use strategy to defeat them. This continues to the very last battles, with one the most satisfyingly difficult final bosses I’ve seen in a game in a while. This game is a model of good battle design.
  • On top of the basic battle mechanic being great, there are a number of mini-game moments that experiment with other mechanics in the service of the story. The game is just filled with nuggets of fun, and nothing in the game is throw away. You can’t help but feel the diligence throughout.
  • Chrono Trigger knows how to use its SNES look. There are beautiful tiles and beautiful sprites. And there are some simply gorgeous in-game cutscenes. You will be impressed by how much power they can get out of simple color changes, and how emotive such small characters can be.
  • Speaking of the characters, all are well sketched and they actually express pathos. The narrative is extremely tight, especially given that it centers around time travel, and it even manages to make JRPG obsession with robots compelling.
  • That’s the gameplay, the art, and the narrative. What more do you want?


  • The sound is okay. There are some good songs at points, but it’s no great shakes and doesn’t add much to the experience.
  • In the original version, you had a way to switch around the interface if it was blocking you in battle. In the modern version, that control has been disabled (or at least I couldn’t get it to work), so the interface will sometimes block your view of the opponents. Do yourself a favor and do the battles in DS view to avoid this problem.
  • You will remind yourself why games moved to more frequent save points when you forget to save once and then have to replay twenty minutes worth of content to catch up.
  • There are a couple of confusing and frustrating moments around specific mechanics they try, and … oh forget it, I’m nitpicking.


Go out the first chance you have and buy this game. Everything you are thinking about JRPGs is wrong. If nothing else, this is some of the best battle design I have ever seen in any game. But that’s just one piece of an all-around excellent experience.  I am being very measured when I say this is one of the best made games I have ever played. Consider it an essential part of your game design education.

Posted in Hardcore, Reviews.

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3 Responses

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  1. Patrick says

    I thought I’d add that in the original SNES version, the Omen actually had a smooth flow into the final battle, as you’d fight the Mammon Machine, then Zeal, then her masked head and two hands version on top of the Omen, then that segues into the recapitulation of all the boss fights, then the Lavos eye, then the Torso Lavos, then the humanoid Lavos. I haven’t played the DS version but maybe they nerfed that, figured it’d be too much of a session, I don’t know. I thought it was a hell of an ending, but that there are three sequences of varying length to the final battle, and that the final battle is available from early on in the game, was an extremely interesting choice that hasn’t be replicated since. Also there was an option in the original (again, don’t know about the DS) to replay with all your gear (I think you missed the rainbow sword, Crono’s best weapon). With this mode there were a lot of possibilities opened just from being stronger, including killing Lavos at the start of the game, and there were a range of new endings available based on this. Brilliant recombation, it’s like a casual version of Planescape: Torment.

  2. Philip Tan says

    > That’s the gameplay, the art, and the narrative. What more do you want?

    Music… but Chrono Trigger delivers on that too. So, yeah!

  3. Gar says

    IIRC the “Y” button on the DS will move the enemy stat box from the top of the screen to the bottom, so you can see enemies up there.

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